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Monday, 20 May 1957

Mr CRAMER (Bennelong) (Minister for the Army) . - 1 move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to permit the integration into one service of the two law enforcement agencies of the AttorneyGeneral's Department, that is to say the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard. The Commonwealth Investigation Service is a civilian or plain-clothes detective force charged with the general responsibility of investigating offences against Commonwealth law. It was established by administrative action in 1917, and its officers are employed under the Public Service Act. The executive and investigational staff numbers 54. The Peace Officer Guard is a uniformed constabulary established under the Peace Officers Act 1925. Its primary function is protecting Commonwealth premises and property. It numbers approximately 650 and operates outside the Public Service Act, under the Peace Officers Act. The bill seeks to amalgamate these two agencies in the Commonwealth Police Force.

Although in constitution and function the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard are now quite separate, an administrative link exists between them, since the Director of the Commonwealth Investigation Service is also appointed superintending peace officer, and his deputy director in each State is appointed a deputy superintending peace officer for that State. In recent times, demand for the services of the Commonwealth Investigation Service has been far greater than can be expeditiously met by the existing establishment, which is small, and which has no readily available source of competently trained people to draw upon. Moreover, the extension of the field of Commonwealth activities since the establishment of the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the wide range of matters now falling to the officers of that service for investigation is making demands upon skill and ingenuity which can only be expected of properly trained officers of the highest ability. All these things are emphasizing the necessity of having within the Commonwealth a properly planned Commonwealth Police Force which, by its system of recruitment and training and the avenues of employment offered, will not only ensure the availability at all times of an adequate force of investigators to carry out the needs in this field of the Commonwealth, but will also attract the best available investigators. The divided authority under which the Peace Officer Guard and the officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service are employed and the different fields and methods of recruitment have in the past placed severe limitations upon the extent to which the two services can operate towards a common end.

This bill establishes a Commonwealth Police Force and empowers the AttorneyGeneral to appoint persons to be Commonwealth Police Officers. The officers appointed will not be subject to the Public Service Act and their terms and conditions of service will be such as the AttorneyGeneral, with the concurrence of the Public Service Board, determines. The officers will nevertheless continue to have access to the Public Service Arbitrator, and the bill makes no change in this regard. The AttorneyGeneral, as he has been under the Peace Officers Act, will be responsible to Parliament for any determinations he makes. The consequences of the establishment of the Commonwealth Police Force are that the functions now performed by the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard will become the functions of the Commonwealth Police Force and the personnel of those services will be merged administratively into the Commonwealth Police Force. The resources of the two existing organizations will be able to be employed more efficiently and with more flexibility than has been possible in the past, and proper training facilities established to ensure a higher standard of efficiency in the officers.

I have mentioned that the officers of the Commonwealth Police Force will not be subject to the Public Service Act. The basic reason for placing the whole force outside the Public Service Act is that the conditions of recruitment, the conditions of promotion and the conditions of service under the Public Service Act are inappropriate for any police force. No police force anywhere in Australia serves under a public service act and a public service board of commissioners.

The outstanding characteristic of the Commonwealth Public Service is the sharp line, difficult for an officer to cross, between the fourth, or general duties, division - that is to say, the division which includes the artisan and the tradesman and a large body of unskilled workers - and the third and higher divisions, which comprise the clerical, administrative and professional ranks. The requirements for entry into the fourth division are, obviously, much lower than those for the third and higher divisions. From the point of view of the Public Service Act, peace officers and investigation officers would fall within the fourth division. The administrative posts in the Commonwealth Investigation Service, however, are in the third division. It is, therefore, difficult to get recruitment into the Peace Officer Guard or the lower branches of the Commonwealth Investigation Service because the barrier between third and fourth divisions operates as a hindrance to promotion, no matter how competent the officer as an investigator might be.

So far as the larger body is concerned, the Peace Officer Guard, the bill really does only two things. First, it gives them a new name. Second, it opens to them possibilities of promotion and transfer to the upper investigation and administrative ranks, and some permanence of employment which at present is, in effect, denied to them. The powers, responsibilities and duties of the guard, under this bill, are virtually unchanged from what they are and always have been under the Peace Officers Act, Lest there be any doubt «r misunderstanding as to what these are, let me add that, in relation to Commonwealth law, a peace officer is clothed with all the powers, privileges and immunities, and is subject to the same duties and responsibilities as a constable or other officer of the police of a State or Territory is subject in relation to State or Territory law. This is the effect of clause 6 of the bill.

I emphasize at this stage that the establishment of the Commonwealth Police Force has no effect upon the responsibilities of the police forces of the several States or Territories under the laws of those respective States or Territories. Moreover, the responsibilities of the State and Territory police, in relation to Commonwealth law, are in no way taken away by this measure. So far as the Commonwealth Investigation Service is concerned, the bill merely removes the investigators outside the Public Service, thus opening up to them opportunities for advancement to the top of the service, which are not at present available to them.

As honorable members are aware, a number of departments, such as Social Services, Repatriation, Customs and the' Postal Department, have their own departmental investigation services. The duties of these agencies involve a number of special departmental functions which are really outside the range of what is ordinarily thought of as a police job. Honorable members are assured that the autonomy of these agencies of other departments will not be affected in any way by the creation of the Commonwealth Police Force. However, the Commonwealth Police Force, being the principal investigational and law enforcement authority of the Commonwealth, will be required, as has been the case with the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard, to foster the cooperation and co-ordination of action of these other investigational agencies so as to bring about a more efficient and economical working in the conduct of the investigations into offences against Commonwealth law. The best method of achieving co-ordination will, of course, be left to the interested departments and the Public Service Board to arrange through consultation, but examples of the field intended to be covered are the training of personnel and the exchange of information concerning offenders, type of offenders and methods used.

I should, perhaps, refer particularly to clause 10 of the bill, which makes provision for the appointment of special police officers. A similar clause has stood as part of the Peace Officers Act since 1925. Its primary object was to meet national emergencies. However, departmental records do not disclose any instance of its operation for emergency purposes. But throughout its history, it has been a useful method of giving to selected officers of the specialized departmental investigation services the powers and protections of constables by enabling them to be appointed as special peace officers under the 1925 act.

This bill seems to me a relatively minor but exceedingly sensible administrative change within the Department of the Attorney-General. Nobody who is familiar with the history of the two agencies affected ought to see any dangers in the bill. The activities of the force will be the subject of an annual report by the Attorney-General to Parliament, and by this means, and through the Estimates, parliamentary control of the force is assured. I commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.

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