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Police union criticises Afghan plan

Brendan Trembath reported this story on Monday, December 7, 2009 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Federal Police Union today accused the Prime Minister of attempting to
save face by sending police instead of troops to Afghanistan and so putting officer's lives on the

When he met the US President Barack Obama last week, Kevin Rudd said Australia would not send any
more soldiers to Afghanistan but he did offer to increase the number of police officers. The police
association says it wasn't consulted and has no idea how many officers will be asked to put
themselves at risk in Afghanistan.

Brendan Trembath has our report.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There are more than 20 Australian Federal Police in Afghanistan. They're training
the country's national police force and assisting in attempts to disrupt the opium trade, a big
source of funds for the Taliban.

The Australian Government's decision to send additional police to Afghanistan has been questioned
by the Australian Federal Police Association's chief executive Jim Torr.

JIM TORR: We've got no idea how many of our people are going to be expected to go to Afghanistan.
Will we get to the point where you join a police force and you are ordered to go to Afghanistan?
This is what we don't know and what we're concerned about.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: He was surprised when the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made this announcement last

KEVIN RUDD: In the future we'll be increasing our police training effort in Oruzgan province and
also at national command level in Kabul.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Mr Rudd did not say how many more Australian police would go to one of the
world's most dangerous nations.

A spokesman for the Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor says it's premature to speculate about
the makeup of the Australian contribution because it's still before Cabinet's National Security
Committee. The spokesman says risk assessment is part of the decision-making process.

But Jim Torr from the Australian Federal Police Association is still worried.

JIM TORR: We're lucky not to have lost people in Afghanistan. We are not convinced of the risk
assessment process the Government have been through. Let's remember, you are dealing with a police
force not a military force.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: He suggests that sending extra police is a face-saving gesture, done instead of
increasing troop numbers.

JIM TORR: Police and military, they are both noble professions but they are very different
professions and we wouldn't want to think for a moment that our members are being substituted for
military roles and you know, it is worth noting, AFP has, quite often has 10 per cent of their
entire workforce overseas at any one time. That is unprecedented for a police force.

There is no police force in the world like that. Look if it is a war fighting environment, then
that is a job for the ADF. If it is a peacekeeping, structure-enhancing, training to establish
independent local law and order, that is something that the AFP can rightly help in. We are just
not quite satisfied with this open-ended commitment.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Well, how can this whole situation be resolved?

JIM TORR: Well, one; we would have preferred a higher degree of consultation on the issue in the
first instance. Mr Rudd was very consultative with us in the lead up to the last election when he
was the opposition leader. Now I certainly don't expect a phone call from him but in relation to
his ministerial colleagues, we have worked constructively with the Government all the way through.
We have got some opinions and some ideas and some questions. We've got questions.

Do you want the AFP to be a gendarmerie a quasi military-style police force. You know, subject
partially to military command. If that is what this is moving towards, well then tell us because
the AFP has evolved a heck of a lot in 30 years. It is time we took a fresh look at where we are

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In that 30 years though the Australian Federal Police, they have served in places
like Cyprus, you know, it is not a safe prospect. So how is this that much different?

JIM TORR: Look we have served in many dangerous places. I was turning my mind to it and there are
some countries in Africa that we have served in that, I don't want to have a contest of most
dangerous locations but we have certainly served in other locations that are as dangerous as
Afghanistan but they have been very small numbers of people. Here we have got an open-ended

ELEANOR HALL: That is Jim Torr the chief executive of the Australian Federal Police Association
speaking to Brendan Trembath.