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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Federal Police

Australian Federal Police

CHAIR: Welcome back to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee consideration of supplementary budget estimates. I formally welcome officers from the Australian Federal Police. Do you have an opening statement?

Mr Negus : No, Chair, I do not.

CHAIR: We will go straight to questions with Senator Humphries.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Could I start by getting a picture of the current staffing levels across the AFP? How many sworn police, protective service officers and unsworn staff are there?

Mr Negus : As at 29 September 2011 there were 6,703 staff in total for the Australian Federal Police. Of those we have 3,243 sworn police officers, 952 protective service officers and 2,508 unsworn staff for a total of 6,703.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Could you provide us on notice with a breakup of how those three categories of staff are distributed between different states, national operations and the ACT? That does include the ACT, I assume.

Mr Negus : That does include the ACT, yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: And how many obviously are posted overseas as well?

Mr Negus : Certainly.

Mr Wood : I just mention that some of that data is in the annual report that was tabled in parliament on Friday. We will re-present it, but there is material available in the annual report as well.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The figures in the annual report would not be as late as 29 September would they?

Mr Negus : They would be 30 June.

Senator HUMPHRIES: 30 June, okay. Again, taking these figures in 29 September, how do we stand with the commitment to increase the number of sworn AFP officers by 500 positions—the commitment made by the government in 2007?

Mr Negus : Currently, we have recruited 318 of the 500 that were promised in that federal election commitment.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So if I deduct 318 from the 2,343 you mentioned before then that will give me the number of sworn officers the AFP had as of 2007?

Mr Negus : No, it is not quite that simple. We have redistributed the number of sworn versus unsworn internally over the last couple of years. We have been working on those ratios to provide more front-line police back on the beat. During the period from November 2007 at the time of the election we have actually increased our sworn police numbers by 547. But 318 of those would relate to the new policy initiative of the 500.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you are saying some of those 547 have come by redistributing existing resources within the AFP. You cannot turn unsworn officers into sworn officers, though—can you?

Mr Negus : Some of them have in the context of what is happening at airports. We have taken protective service officers, for instance, and they have transitioned into sworn police officers as we have moved after the Beale review to the all-in model at Australian airports. The Australian Federal Police will take responsibility for those, so there has been a component of that.

To put it in some context: our numbers since 2007 have increased overall by 336, so almost equivalent to the 318 I mentioned about the new policy initiative. However, internally we have redistributed whether they were unsworn or protective service officers. Another 211 of those are now sworn police officers than were before. So there are a couple of things at work here all at the same time around the same endeavour, to get more sworn police out on the front line.

Senator HUMPHRIES: For an unsworn officer—not a protective service person—to become a sworn officer they would have to go through the normal recruitment and training process that anybody entering the AFP college would have to go through, would they not?

Mr Negus : Yes, they would. We do have some people who join as unsworn members and then they basically transition across. Likewise for the protective service officers; it is slightly truncated but there is still a 16-week recruitment program to give them the skills to be sworn police officers.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay. I would appreciate a kind of flow chart that shows me how you have taken the position in 2007 and translated to the position today where you say there are an additional 547 sworn officers. In essence, I want to know where they have come from, and I particularly want to know how many of those positions have been created by virtue of taking what were protective service officers and redesignating them as sworn officers.

You say there is a truncated process whereby they can become fully sworn officers in the sense in which you are referring to it here. What proportion of that 547 would those sorts of people make up?

Mr Negus : Deputy Commissioner Drennan might have exact figures, but I think it is in the low 100s—120 or 130 people have transitioned across. As we do this, you may recall that there is a five-year transition plan for the AFP to take over control of the airports in the context that it was state police who were the community police at airports. The AFP will now recruit and train its own people to take over those roles. And whilst it is a five-year transition, we are in the second year of that and we have so far done about 120 or 130 people.

I should say—and I will pass back to Deputy Commissioner Drennan in a moment—that over the last two years we have had a seven strategic principles strategy within the AFP. Part of that is in reinvigorating our investigations capability. We have looked at, really, where we can save things like supply costs across the board and reinvest that back into staff. Accordingly, we have been able to put more police on the front line while still actually providing them support to do their work. So there has been a conscious strategy about changing the dynamic of our budget to invest more into people and to have more sworn police doing those front-line activities.

In tabling our annual report last Friday we achieved some substantial results during the year, and that was very much as a result of that strategy in putting more people out there doing the work on the front line.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I am glad you are taking a positive approach to all of this, but it could also be said, could it not, that this is the product of a decision to make budget cuts in the AFP and that to maintain front-line operations you have simply had to reallocate resources in the way that you have described?

Mr Negus : Every year we face an efficiency dividend and pay rises that have to be funded internally, so it is about finding that balance. But we have managed to turn that into a positive and put more people out on the front line whilst absorbing those savings. Deputy Drennan, do you have those numbers?

Mr Drennan : Yes. To date there have been 97 protective service officers who have transitioned to sworn police officers and been deployed at airports. There are an additional 44 who are currently in the training college, and they will graduate before the end of this year. Of course, there are subsequent courses next year. So at the present time there are 97 who have completed their training and 44 still in training—a total of 141.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You mention that they were based at airports.. Do you mean that after they have made that transition from protective service officer to fully sworn AFP officer they are based at airports?

Mr Drennan : No. What has been occurring at the airports is this. You will recall that, following the Beale review, one of the recommendations was to move to a uniformed workforce at airports who would all be sworn police officers. What we had prior to that was two categories of police at airports. One was sworn police officers who were predominantly from states and territories, and the other was what we call counterterrorism first response officers, who were protective service officers. There are two types of work being done there. That work has now come together, so it is the uniformed sworn workforce there who will do both those roles. What is then occurring is that the protective service officers do their sworn police role, they go back to the airport and they take up those positions as sworn police officers. So the protective service officer role, the counterterrorism first response role, will eventually disappear at airports. The function will still be performed, but by sworn police officers.

Senator HUMPHRIES: These 97 who have made that transition are still specialists in respect of work at airports, aren't they?

Mr Drennan : They are deployed to the airport, but no; they are not specialists. They are sworn police officers. So in effect, once they have finished all their training and their on-the-job training, they can be deployed, as a federal agent or a sworn police officer could be, anywhere across the organisation into a sworn police officer role.

Mr Negus : We see great utility in having critical mass in many locations now where we did not before. For instance, in Tasmania we have only three federal agents, but there are probably between 20 and 30 at the airport. So now, with sworn police there, it gives us much more flexibility to have people support other operations and do other things that we did not have in the past.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Let us suppose there were a riot somewhere in Canberra tomorrow. Would you be able to take the sworn officers at the airport and deploy them to assist to combat the riot?

Mr Negus : We certainly would. They are certainly qualified and able to do that. They have all of the skills and legal powers that a normal police officer would have, but it is a matter of whether it would be appropriate in the context to do so.

Senator HUMPHRIES: What do you mean by that?

Mr Negus : We have a large building just down the road here where we could probably take some people out of non-operational areas who are also sworn police without taking them out of the airport environment.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I realise that. The point I am making, though, is that they are fully qualified sworn AFP officers able to do the same general range of tasks that any sworn AFP officer would be able to do.

Mr Negus : That is right and, whilst they may go back into the airport in the first instance, certainly in the long term I would expect that most of them would transition out into the wider AFP workforce, whether it be domestically or internationally. They have all of the opportunities available to them that everyone else has.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Just while we are on the airport, there was a report in the newspaper on 30 June this year about an AFP officer who supposedly lied about being an air marshal and tried to get into the plane's cabin on a Virgin Blue flight on 27 June. What can you tell me about that incident?

Mr Negus : I am aware of the incident. That happened here in the ACT, from memory. The matter was certainly reported to Professional Standards, and that is being investigated now. I am not sure of the actual status of that investigation but I understand it is ongoing. Obviously, if the allegations prove to be correct, these things are taken very seriously, and the alleged behaviour would be seen as extremely inappropriate. We will take whatever action is deemed necessary at the end of that investigation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Is the officer still at work?

Mr Negus : Mr Wood, who has professional responsibility for our Professional Standards area, says he understands that that officer is suspended, but we will correct the record after the break if that is not the case. My understanding is that he was suspended.

Senator HUMPHRIES: All right. Four months is a fairly long time to be conducting an investigation like that, particularly if someone is suspended—were they suspended with or without pay?

Mr Negus : He would be suspended with pay.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So any idea when we will be able to know what the outcome of that incident was?

Mr Negus : I will try and get some details during the session this morning. I am not 100 per cent sure. These things are treated very seriously. Obviously, there is a natural justice process and there is a process around investigation that must run its course. Four months is getting to the point where I would expect something to be happening, yes, but I cannot tell you the exact details. It may well turn out that there are criminal offences being considered as well, which could obviously extend the nature of this. It may take some time.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay. Just changing tack a little, what role would the AFP be asked to play with respect to issues surrounding the implementation of the new carbon tax? You would be aware that there are already questions that have been raised about the extent of fraud in relation to things like carbon credits and so forth in other places where such taxes are at work. Can you tell me whether the AFP has focused on what role it will play with respect to enforcement of the rules around the carbon tax.

Mr Negus : I will just pass to Deputy Commissioner Colvin to answer that question.

Mr Colvin : Obviously, Senator, we were aware that the legislation was passed by the parliament last week and it is quite a large suite of legislation. The responsibility for that is of course with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. With respect to AFP obligations, yes, we have been considering what obligations and commitments may come to the AFP as well as other agencies. Within the suite of legislation that has been put forward, there are a range of offences, some of which we would describe more as regulatory type offences, and the legislation as we understand it has, effectively, a regulation monitor within the legislation who would deal with a large portion of that. But obviously, on a broader scale, the AFP has Commonwealth responsibilities in relation to investigations of serious fraud within government programs, and that is something that we would need to consider in the fullness of time, once the scheme was implemented. We are working with appropriate agencies, including the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. In fact, at a recent Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies meeting, which is all Commonwealth law enforcement agencies, the issue was discussed, and the AFP, along with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, will be leading a working group to look at the possible implications of a change to the legislation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Fraud is usually quite a complicated area of investigation for bringing forward a prosecution. How many people work in the area of fraud investigation at the moment inside the national operations of the AFP?

Mr Colvin : I do have those figures, if you can just give me a moment. But the AFP operate a fluid model, so the figure that we would give at any given time can be increased or decreased according to what our priorities are. I do not actually have the number of personnel, but I can tell you that an AFP investigation team is generally in the order of five to seven people. I will get an exact figure for you. But within our broad crime operations, which pick up our fraud area, we have three teams in Canberra, two teams in Adelaide, three teams in Brisbane, a team in Cairns, a team in Darwin, a team in Hobart, six teams in Melbourne, one team in Perth and 13 teams in Sydney. So any work that would flow to us from a carbon pricing mechanism or exploitation of the legislation will be divided up amongst those crime operations personnel. We do not run a model that says, 'You're a fraud investigator.' You are a general investigator. If we have specific skill sets we need we may call on those, but in a more general sense we do not run a specific specialist model.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you tell us at this stage what kind of resources you expect to need to throw into that exercise?

Mr Colvin : No, not at this stage.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You say you have had discussions with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Is there some sort of formal structure, a working party or other mechanism, to describe the role that the AFP are expected to play?

Mr Colvin : There is. The working group commissioned under the heads of law enforcement agencies is yet to meet. I believe the officers are meeting at the lower level this week to start the process and put in place some rules and terms of reference for what the working group will do. Of course, we also have an outposted officer attached to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency who is able to help us work through some of those issues as well.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will come back to those issues perhaps at the next estimates and get some more information about how that is unfolding. I want to move to some questions about the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre at this point. There have been a number of incidents at Villawood, as I am sure you are aware. In April there was a rooftop protest that lasted for 11 days or so. Can you describe for us what the role of the AFP was in that particular incident?

Mr Colvin : On 20 April there was a major disturbance at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney. In this case the New South Wales State Emergency Service were the first responders to that incident. In total, throughout that incident, the AFP deployed 105 members over the course of several days to help manage the incident, and we are currently leading an investigation that has followed the disturbance with assistance from the New South Wales Police. I should say there is a coronial investigation as well concerning the arson that went on, and we are working with the New South Wales Police on that. Do you want me to take you through the events and the AFP's role?

Senator HUMPHRIES: If you can do so in two minutes that would be great.

Mr Colvin : It was a large incident. Perhaps I will paraphrase. The New South Wales Police and the New South Wales Fire Brigade were the emergency responders to that incident and, given the Commonwealth interest, they contacted the Australian Federal Police very early in the process. We deployed, as I said, up to 105 people over the course of the incident. Our focus along with the New South Wales Police was to return the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre to good order, so that Serco and Immigration could take over and run the facility, which is what we did. As for the rooftop protest, you would have seen that there was a range of people who accessed the roof of one of the buildings over, what was from memory, some nine days. We were only involved in the rooftop aspects in the initial stages. We assisted Serco and took over some of the negotiation. At the point where the immigration detention centre was restored to good order, or in our assessment returned to order such that Serco and DIAC could maintain control, we withdrew as did the New South Wales Police.

Senator HUMPHRIES: What did you say about the New South Wales Police?

Mr Colvin : Both the AFP and the New South Wales Police withdrew and handed control of the incident back to Serco and DIAC.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It was a nine-day rooftop protest. At what point did you and the New South Wales Police withdraw?

Mr Colvin : I can tell you that the event started on the evening of 20 April and there were people on and off the roof in the following days. We were in a position to assist and then take over management of the incident from the New South Wales Police at around 12.30 the following day, 21 April, by which time we were able to deploy sufficient resources to the site. We formally handed back control of the incident to Serco on 23 April, so two days later, at 10.40 in the evening.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The process went on for another week or so after you had withdrawn.

Mr Colvin : I am just looking to see when the clients finally did get down off the building. They came down of their own accord between 29 and 30 April.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So if you withdrew on the 23rd, it was about a week—

Mr Colvin : Correct.

Senator HUMPHRIES: At the public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Immigration Detention Network on 5 October, the New South Wales Police indicated that, had they been in charge of the situation, they would have taken the detainees off the roof but they did not do so because they did not have the authority to do that. Can you say whether the New South Wales Police put it to the AFP at any stage that it was a better approach to take the detainees off the roof rather than to leave them there for nine or 10 days?

Mr Colvin : I am certainly aware of the evidence that was given at the inquiry at Villawood. What I can say is that throughout this incident, both I at the deputy commissioner level, my assistant commissioner and a range of commanders were in regular contact with the New South Wales Police, and throughout the entire process we were at one with our view that it would be too risky to remove the rooftop protesters—risky for both the police and for the welfare and safety of the protesters. You will need to ask the New South Wales Police what they are thinking in terms of how they may have removed those protesters, but we are certainly very confident of our assessment at the time and the assessment of our tactical operators on the ground that to remove the protesters would have been far too risky.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You seem to be implying that you were at one with the New South Wales Police as the incident unfolded, but after the event the New South Wales police are telling the select committee that they thought that the detainees should have been forcibly removed from the roof. Did they or did they not put to the AFP that a better tactic at the time would have been to take the detainees off the roof?

Mr Colvin : I can say categorically that we were speaking with the New South Wales Police, and they did not put to us that there was a better alternative to take them off the roof at the time.

Senator HUMPHRIES: He said there were 105 AFP officers who were involved in the incident. You said that you came in on the 21st and withdrew on the 23rd. You are not suggesting that all 105 were involved over the first two days, are you?

Mr Colvin : No, the peak of our involvement, really, was on the evening of the 21st. There were a large number of tactical operators and public order management trained operators who assisted, with the New South Wales Police and Serco, in returning the centre to good order. You may recall that a number of what we described as agitators were removed from the centre, because we were not confident that the centre maintained the ability to appropriately housed them after this point, and they were moved on to the Silverwater Remand Centre. So our deployment fluctuated in that there would have been negotiators, investigators, tactical operators, public order management people—there would have been a range of officers.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Where did the 105 officers come from? Are they all based in Sydney?

Mr Colvin : No, in fact a large portion of our tactical operators and our public order management operators came from Canberra.

Mr Negus : To add to that, at the last estimates hearing in answer to a question from Senator Brandis we discussed the tactical decision-making during that process. We were receiving regular updates from the people on the ground and supported their judgment that the people be contained within the centre. There was a large fence around the centre, and they were on a rooftop. Our tactical advice was that it was too risky to go in and try to forcibly remove them from the roof when they were threatening self harm and there were a range of other negotiation tactics which were better suited to have that situation de-escalated. As it turned out—and I am aware of evidence provided by DIAC at the last estimates hearing as well—those negotiations continued to a point where they came down peaceably, seven days later, granted, without any injury and without any damage to further property.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The AFP presumably have primary policing responsibility in a situation in any detention centre around Australia, but I assume New South Wales Police play a role in supplementary assistance. Are they effectively sworn as special constables to come into a centre like that and assist the AFP? How does that work?

Mr Negus : It is a difficult situation which we are currently working our way through. A lot of it depends on where the centre is. In a place like Sydney where we do have a critical mass of people we are able to respond to some extent, but in more remote locations, and even Sydney to some extent, the New South Wales police will regularly be the first responders. Likewise, in remote locations in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, it could take a matter of a day or more for the AFP to get there.

We are currently working through with the state and territory police and with DIAC to enter into memorandums of understanding about where the responsibilities lie. There are some complicated legal issues around who can do what, and we are still working our way through that with some advice. But generally there is an understanding that, if an incident occurs, the first responders will be the state and territory police. We will then negotiate with them about who should take primacy for investigations. If it were a murder or a sexual offence or something like that, it is likely that the state police, because of their expertise in their areas, would take the lead. Other offences may well be left to the AFP. In this case, there were charges laid against people who had caused damage to the facility, for instance. Deputy Commissioner Colvin has been involved in those discussions and could probably give you a more fulsome explanation of some of the technical issues, but we are still working our way through that, with DIAC central to this in leading some of those negotiations.

Senator HUMPHRIES: To be quite frank with you, I am just a little surprised. Villawood has been there 20 years at least and probably a lot longer than that. There have been incidents there for a long period of time—perhaps more so recently, but it has been there for a long time and there have been issues there. We are only now developing a memorandum of understanding about how the various legal issues associated with restoring order in a place like that are handled?

Mr Negus : I can say from personal experience. I must say up front that certainly the public or the clients in those facilities need not worry about a police response. There will be one, but some of the other technical aspects are worked out in those issues as they unfold. We have been attempting to gain memorandums of understanding for probably close on seven or eight years. The landscape changes sometimes about this. We get some contradiction in legal opinion and legal advice between the states and the Commonwealth about who is responsible for what, and those discussions have been ongoing for a number of years now. We are closer than we have ever been, but we still have not yet settled on some of those things. But the reality is that on the ground when an incident happens the state police will respond and then we will sit down and discuss it. We have a very good working relationship with them about where we go from there.

Senator HUMPHRIES: This memorandum presumably will apply to all of the detention centres. It will need buy-in from the state police forces all around the country, won't it?

Mr Negus : Yes, it will. I think we will look to have separate MOUs with each of the states and territories and the Commonwealth and DIAC representing their interests from the detention centres. So it is a tripartite agreement, if you like, and that is what has caused some of the issues about making it as consistent as we possibly can yet also identifying and recognising some of the geographical differences with remote locations in Western Australia, for instance, and the Northern Territory. Those are the sorts of things that have caused some difficulties in getting this to the finishing line.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Would you say that there have been problems associated with dealing with these sorts of issues by virtue of a lack of such a memorandum?

Mr Negus : No, I do not think so. I think that operationally we rise to each of the occasions and we sort out the details through that process, but we are—as the state police are—after far more certainty about responsibilities and where they lie. I think we have a broad understanding, but we do not have any MOUs in place to make this as categorical as we think it probably should be. But, as I said, negotiations have been ongoing for a number of years now and it is a matter of trying to get it to the finish line.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You said you are doing a review into that incident starting on 20 April and there is also a coronial inquiry?

Mr Colvin : I have just been advised, contrary to what I said before, that there is a coronial inquiry. The coroner has made a decision in New South Wales that he does not require an inquiry, so we have an ongoing investigation. At this stage, our investigation has charged nine people, who have all been before the court and I believe they are next before the court on 9 November. I will say, though, that the investigation is ongoing and we are seeking advice from the Commonwealth DPP and external counsel about additional charges and additional people that may still be subject to charges.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you are conducting an investigation into who was responsible for the acts of disorder at the centre. Is that on top of an investigation about how the whole incident was handled by the department, by Serco, by AFP and by New South Wales police?

Mr Colvin : No, that is quite separate, and I am not aware of any particular inquiry of the nature that you are expressing. We always review our own procedures to see what we could have done differently or better and what worked and what did not. I think a more holistic look at how the response was managed would fall more into the type of work that the commissioner has already alluded to that is going on around the country to look at what the appropriate responses mechanisms are for various incidents. I would also add that what complicates this a little is that the legal footing for some of these centres varies, so an immigration detention centre may have a different legal status to an alternative place of detention. I am not trying to be evasive; it is just that each state and territory and each centre is different.

Senator HUMPHRIES: All right. Do you know if those nine people who have been charged already are still in immigration detention?

Mr Colvin : I do not know that. We could find out. I do not know that they would still be at Villawood as well. I think they were removed but I cannot be sure. We will take that on notice and find out.

Senator HUMPHRIES: There was a report on ABC radio at one point about comments by New South Wales Assistant Commissioner Carmine (Frank) Mennilli with respect to the lack of clarity about the legality of his forces going into Villawood should a fire or a riot eventuate. According to this report he said he had raised those concerns with the department of immigration just before the riot—I think that was the riot in April that we were referred to. Are you aware of any concerns that were raised with the AFP about the legal status of New South Wales police intervening in the eventuality of a riot or a fire?

Mr Colvin : As the commissioner has said, this is part of the work that is going on about the legal technicalities of who has jurisdiction and where that jurisdiction comes from. There is a legal working group that has been put together which the department may be able to say a little more about. They lead the legal working group.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I can see that the work is going on now about that; that is good and it needs to happen. As I said, I am a bit surprised it has not happened already, but it is good that it is happening. What I am concerned about are the comments by the New South Wales assistant commissioner that he was concerned at the time about the lack of clarity of the position and that he raised those concerns with DIAC. I am asking you if he or somebody else from the New South Wales police at the time of this incident raised those concerns about the legal position with the AFP.

Mr Colvin : I can certainly say that the New South Wales police have raised with the AFP, in a range of forums and on a range of occasions, their concern about the legal footing upon which they act. At the time of the incident I do not believe that we were focused on those issues and I do not believe that they had been raised. As the commissioner has said, we move forward and do what needs to be done. But it would certainly be the case that the New South Wales police have raised with the AFP on a number of occasions their concerns.

Mr Wilkins : Senator, it might be useful, because we are a party to this working group and that issue has been raised with us, if I get Mr Iain Anderson to tell you what the actual position is. The report you got was a little muddled.

Mr I Anderson : The position is quite clear in a lot of respects, although there are some areas where it is not clear. The clarity comes from the fact that the Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act does apply state and territory law as Commonwealth law to Commonwealth places, such as Villawood detention centre. State and territory police are in fact applying the laws that they are used to applying, which have been applied as Commonwealth laws in the detention centres. So it is quite clear what they do for the most part.

There are operational issues that were pointed to by the commissioner where they are not quite clear what is being required of them, and those issues need to be nailed down in the memorandum of understanding. But if there is actually a public order disturbance going on, if offences are being committed, then it is relatively clear that state and territory police have the power to act on those.

Senator HUMPHRIES: With respect, it was not clear to the New South Wales police because they told the select committee inquiry that they had raised serious issues about the legal situation at Villawood on 19 April, the day before this incident broke out. I assume something was happening there that led them to make these sorts of comments, but according to the assistant commissioner from New South Wales he raised this—he does not say with whom—with someone in the Commonwealth government on 19 April, the day before this incident occurred. If the New South Wales police have had this uncertainty—and, because there is no memorandum yet, there is still presumably some uncertainty about these situations—I assume that there would be uncertainty with other police forces as well, in other states where immigration facilities are based.

Mr I Anderson : The uncertainty that has been raised in the legal issues working group, including by New South Wales, is about situations where they are not clear on whether it is actually an offence situation. With people on roofs, for example, it is whether they have the power to remove people who are sitting on a roof if they are not actually committing an offence. That is a situation where they are not clear about whether they have the power. But the New South Wales police have certainly said to us that, where an offence is clearly being committed, they have no doubt that they have the power.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I just put it to you that, with an expectation that we are going to be dealing with significant numbers of people in immigration detention for the foreseeable future, this kind of memorandum—which as you say, Commissioner, has been in negotiation for seven or eight years—needs to be finalised very quickly, because we do not want uncertainty about these things.

Mr Wilkins : We are certainly cognisant of that. I think that, as the commissioner pointed out, we are getting towards a resolution of this issue. It obviously involves a number of states and territories, the AFP, a number of police forces and DIAC, and obviously we are involved in that too. I agree with you: it should be sorted out. But the point we are making is that some of the lack of clarity expressed in that report that you read out has now been cured. It was never a problem. There have been discussions with the New South Wales police, and I think some of that uncertainty that you were referring to there has been put to bed. But I agree with you that there is a need to sort this out and settle it with an MOU; I agree with that.

Senator PARRY: Commissioner, have you received the statement of interests from your senior officers, as you are required to do?

Mr Negus : Yes, I have.

Senator PARRY: I have asked in a previous format, but have you submitted yours to the minister?

Mr Negus : Yes, I have.

Senator PARRY: Very good. Thank you. I now move to some issues about ACLEI. The relationship with ACLEI no doubt remains strong. The tables on page 120 of the annual report—I will get you the number in a moment—indicate that, of the corruption issues which are handled by ACLEI, there were a total of 30 for the 2010-11 year. That is table B1. Table B3, on the following page, indicates that of corruption issues there are 70 outstanding and 15 finalised. I realise that some of those 70 are from the previous financial year, 2009-10. Can you give us a breakdown of which are 2009-10 ones, or can you take that on notice if you have not got that at your fingertips.

Mr Negus : Yes, we would have to take that on notice to give you the accurate figures. We do not have those with us.

Senator PARRY: Thank you. I do not know whether it might help for future reports if that could be an added table. I do not know how simple that is to organise, but it would assist.

Mr Negus : Thank you.

Senator PARRY: Can you indicate whether any prosecutions have resulted from the 30 corruption complaints or the 15 finalised ones.

Mr Negus : We are just testing our memory. Obviously these are things we would be briefed upon. There are a range of things, and they do go over a number of years. I should say, just to clarify this for the record, that where an allegation of corruption comes in, even from an anonymous source, those must under the act be referred to ACLEI in the first instance for them to make their own assessment. They regularly refer things that they see as less serious matters back to the AFP to investigate, with their supervision. We then notify them of the outcomes of that. I will take it on notice.

Senator PARRY: That is fine.

Mr Negus : But from memory there have been no prosecutions. You might have read in the papers in the last week or so of a matter here in the ACT, discussed by ACLEI in their annual report. I think the officer's name was Ty Carbone, and he was dismissed from the AFP for inappropriately disposing of some narcotics that were seized in a nightclub. That is one that has been recently publicised in the media. But I cannot think of any other matters that took us down that path.

Senator PARRY: In relation to some of the corruption issues, as you rightly say, when the Integrity Commissioner refers them back for the AFP to deal with when they are lower level, do they then slip back into categories 3, 2 or 1 or do they still remain as that corruption issue category?

Mr Negus : They remain on that level and then we report back ACLEI on the outcomes of those.

Senator PARRY: Could I now move to page 112 of the annual report. There were some deficiencies highlighted by the Ombudsman. The majority of these were in relation to the unreasonable delay in the resolution of complaints. Do you have any further comment to add to the annual report?

Mr Negus : Senator, I might get Mr Wood to run you through it. We have done a lot of work in the last 12 months. We did have quite a backlog of complaints and, going back to Senator Humphries comments, four months is quite a lengthy time for an investigation. I have to say that, unfortunately, the AFP had taken some time to resolve complaints, and that is not a good situation for the member under investigation or the person making the complaint. We have cleared a backlog of around 200 matters. We now have, I think, 10 on the books for resolution, which is a number we have not seen in probably many, many years. I will get Mr Wood to run through some of the observations of the Ombudsman and what we have done in response.

Mr Wood : The report from the Ombudsman, as it says in the annual report, relates to a particular period in time. Generally the reports we receive from the Ombudsman are historical and we are working closely with the Ombudsman for more current reports to be generated from within the Ombudsman's office. The current stats as at 17 October, as the Commissioner mentioned, indicated that the critical point of the process where we had a backlog that was causing concern for us and of course for the Ombudsman is the adjudication step, which is the step at which all the information available comes to a senior officer to decide upon the appropriate action to be taken. We had between 350 and 400 matters at that stage 12 months ago. Because the Commissioner approved the establishment of a panel of a number of senior executives who could make those adjudications, we were able to stabilise and prevent any further growth in that backlog. The Commissioner then also appointed a former senior executive of the organisation to come back and work full-time on clearing the backlog. As a result the figures have gone from 350 down to, as at last night, 10 at that adjudication step, which is a balanced figure. There would always be some at that point.

Mr Negus : I might just add, Senator, that in many ways in reviewing our professional standards regime the decision to have one person responsible for adjudication was about consistently and about someone who was appropriately trained and skilled to make those adjudications for the organisation. That was the head of our professional standards area. That may have been okay for an organisation of 2,500-odd people 10 years ago but now we are approaching 7,000 staff. Obviously the volume of work has meant that we really needed to review our systems, restructure and find a new way of dealing with this so that there were not inappropriate place. We have done that now and caught up on the backlog. So I think it is a very good news story in the context of the future. I do not think you will see those sorts of backlogs or delays occurring like they did in the past.

Senator PARRY: Could I now move to page 93 of your annual report and the relocation of headquarters. The successful move took place and I think the opening was in April. You made some comment in the report in relation to expecting the site to be fully operational by September 2011. We have just passed that date. Can you give us an update on whether the site is fully operational and successfully operating?

Mr Negus : The last piece of the puzzle to be completed was the triple C, which you might have seen on the news last night, that the Attorney-General opened yesterday. That took longer than we expected to be completed, but that was the final work to be done within the building. As I said, that opened formally yesterday.

Senator PARRY: I noticed somewhere else in the report that 48 vehicles have been reduced from the fleet as a result of the move. Are there any other efficiencies as well as the 48 vehicle reduction?

Mr Negus : I think just in the time spent we have condensed from 10 different geographic locations around Canberra into one. Whilst it is a big building and takes a long time to walk from one end to the other, it is much easier than getting into a car and driving to another location. I think we have already seen, firstly, time efficiencies in that regard and, secondly, the synergies between having our operational staff and our intelligence staff based one floor apart or in the same building. They are the sorts of things that have also delivered operational benefits. Similarly, we have all of our assistant commissioners in one location. Because we have such a diverse range of business units, having them work together, seeing those convergences across their business lines and having them able to communicate with each other on an hourly or daily basis has seen a significant improvement in the business model that we were able to apply. There is a range of other efficiencies that I am sure Mr Wood could talk about regarding building and property, and those sorts of things, and in the way we run the business, but from an operational perspective having all those people together in one location has been a great thing. We were in some pretty different standard accommodation around Canberra, from okay to not so good, but having a very good building now, which will be at home for at least the next 15 years, has been significant to the morale of the organisation.

Senator PARRY: Thank you. I now move to the KPIs on page 17.

Mr Wood : Senator, before you move on to a new topic, could I just close off an issue from the PRS conversation that we had with Senator Humphries earlier, if that is convenient for the chair?

Senator PARRY: Certainly.

Mr Wood : Reporting back on the matter at the airport that we discussed earlier, the first comment I have back from my professional standards is that the facts of the matter are not the same as quoted in the media. The investigation was completed within the 180-day benchmark set for serious misconduct matters—the benchmark agreed with the ombudsman's office. The member was removed from normal general policing duties and was redeployed to other duties rather than being totally removed from the workforce.

Senator HUMPHRIES: While the investigation was happening?

Mr Wood : While the investigation occurred. The member has been given his natural justice opportunity in terms of making a statement back to the investigation. That was received yesterday. The adjudicator will now look at the original investigation and the natural justice response from the individual officer before deciding what the appropriate next action is.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That implies that we are not looking at a criminal investigation but at disciplinary proceedings potentially against an AFP officer.

Mr Wood : There are a number of matters in this case that I would prefer not to discuss here because of the personal circumstances of the individual officer, but that is a fair summation.

Senator PARRY: Going back to my question, the tables are on pages 20 and 21, KPI 17 and KPI 23 were the only two out of the 32 that were not achieved, one of which missed by only one per cent. On page 17 there is commentary about this, and in the two dot points under 'Program 1.3: Operations—Policing' are the two contributors to this KPI outcome. One is 'the wording of the survey question designed to inform this KPI' and the second point is 'the level of neutral responses.' Could you expand on that? It would be very interesting to know what the wording of the KPI was.

Mr Colvin : I may be best to help you with that. I do not have the wording of the KPI here with me. However, the wording was about whether one is satisfied to the extent of the AFP's involvement in operational coordination. In hindsight, even if I was to look at that question now, it is a little confusing as to what we are actually asking our partners to assess, which is why there was a high number of people who did not respond or who had a neutral response. While we are very disappointed that we did not reach that KPI we are investigating better ways to ask the question. In fact, in the simplest of terms, operational coordination is not something which you would expect the AFP to necessarily be getting involved in with our partners on all occasions. Many of our partners who are asked the question are not those whom we would be organising or coordinating investigations with. It was obviously disappointing, and we need to look at the messages and lessons we can learn from it, but as we have said in the annual report, our other key performance indicators were very strong. In fact, the overall satisfaction with our crime program was 82 per cent, although that is not a reportable KPI.

Senator PARRY: It is unfortunate that here we concentrate on the negative rather than positive, and you did have 30 good outcomes out of 32, so we certainly acknowledge that. Would that explain why the international network clients gave you a higher level of satisfaction compared with the domestic clients, which is where you fell down on that particular KPI?

Mr Colvin : I think there are probably lots of reasons for that. I think the domestic environment is complicated, with a lot of agencies and a lot of different interests in the way we go about conducting our investigations. The international environment, while this may seem counterintuitive, is relatively straightforward as to what our role is and how we work with our partners. We are very pleased that our international partners gave us such a good rating, but I think there is work for us to do domestically.

Senator PARRY: On KPI 23 there is some commentary there under program 1.4, Close Operational Support. Do you want to expand upon the commentary there, again indicating that the external client satisfaction said:

External client satisfaction achieved 84 per cent against a target of 80 per cent.

It was only a one per cent factor—79 per cent compared to 80 per cent, which was the target.

Mr Negus : Achieving 30 out of 32 key performance indicators—

Senator PARRY: Is pretty good.

Mr Negus : Yes. Missing it by one per cent is probably worse than missing by about 10 because you start to wonder what if you did this or that. It is something we take very seriously and something we are working very closely on. We go back and look at what is happening with the people who assist us in conducting the surveys—the wording and whether we are getting the appropriate responses or not. We set ourselves high targets. Eighty per cent satisfaction rate is a pretty high target and it is designed to stretch our officers and our people, knowing that these things are not easily achieved. So in many ways we will reflect on that, learn the lessons from that and take that forward.

Mr Wood : I think it is worth noting that the external client satisfaction target was met. The one that was not met was the internal client satisfaction—clients within the AFP receiving services from forensics. If we were to succeed on one and fail on the other, the external one is the one—

Senator PARRY: Absolutely. As I said, we sometimes concentrate on the negative here and not the positive, so the other 30 are certainly commendable. My final question, Commissioner, is: can you give us an update, please, on questions I have asked before about the unexplained wealth legislation and how that is affecting AFP investigations. We did discuss improvements required to the legislation—could you give us an update on that?

Mr Negus : It is something that we have been paying a lot of attention to, and I know that we have had discussions in other forums as well about how this is progressing. All new proceeds of crime matters are considered by the AFP for possible application of the new provisions—and they are not so new now but going back to 20 February 2010. The AFP has prepared a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into unexplained wealth, as you would be aware, and whilst we have limited casework to inform full commentary on the effectiveness, as you would also be aware, we still have some concerns with regards to how the unexplained wealth provisions have been implemented and the difficulties that has caused us.

In particular, whilst unexplained wealth is a civil action and must be proven on the balance of probabilities, the need to show a link to the Commonwealth related offences potentially limits the use of the provisions. As we have discussed previously, the link to the reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed does cause some concerns from our investigation perspective and our discussions with the DPP about how easily these provisions can be implemented. So we have made a submission to the inquiry. I stand by the comments that I have previously made in this committee and other committees about this being an exceptionally useful tool for law enforcement to attack organised crime and those people who are sometimes two or three steps removed from where the narcotics or the counterfeit goods or the fraud is being conducted, but living in exceptionally luxurious circumstances and declaring far less income than perhaps most average Australians. So we look to work with the committee to make recommendations on how this can be improved and make it much more workable. But we still have not launched any prosecutions under the new unexplained wealth provisions which would enable us to take any action, and that is based on some of the limitations, we think, within the legislation.

Senator BRANDIS: How many AFP officers are currently deployed on the People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Negus : We have 99 officers currently working on people smuggling. That includes a broad range of different functions. I can probably get you some specific details—

Senator BRANDIS: It might save time if you just disaggregate those 99 officers for me by reference to what groups or bodies within the AFP they are assigned to.

Mr Negus : We have 73 investigators, 13 intelligence officers, 10 support staff and three other—I am not sure what the 'other' is actually. We also have 10 members offshore, so that would take the total to 109 all up.

Senator BRANDIS: The term 'People Smuggling Strike Team' comes from Budget Paper No. 2 for the 2009 budget. Is there still within the AFP a group called the People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Negus : It is still known as that. Going back several years ago there were far fewer people in that team. We have moved people in as the requirement to investigate these matters has grown.

Senator BRANDIS: So that is not obsolete; that is still a current entity within the AFP, is it?

Mr Negus : Yes, it is.

Senator BRANDIS: How many officers are currently members of the People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Colvin : The People Smuggling Strike Team comprises those 99 officers.

Senator BRANDIS: So it excludes the 10 offshore, does it?

Mr Colvin : We generally refer to the People Smuggling Strike Team as our domestic operations, but I can add to that, consistent with what I said to Senator Humphries earlier, that we run a very flexible model. We have a number of investigations of crew involvement which will be conducted by officers around the country that are not formally part of the People Smuggling Strike Team. On any given day they are the 99 people dedicated full time working the people-smuggling issue but we will also have officers in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or wherever who will be compiling briefs of evidence in relation to crew investigations and the like.

Senator BRANDIS: In the 2009 budget the government provided $41.6 million over four years to fund additional AFP officers for the People Smuggling Strike Team and for other purposes. I am reading from Budget Paper No. 2 of that year on page 93. In 2011-12 and 2012-13 that appropriation tailed off to respectively $5.7 million and $5.4 million. That was the projection at the time of the 2009 budget. Can you tell me what the funding position of the People Smuggling Strike Team is currently, please?

Mr Colvin : I may have to take that on notice to give you an exact figure because there were a number of government funding lines that support the people-smuggling effort of the AFP.

Senator BRANDIS: Okay. You might have to take that on notice. Can you tell me what those government funding sources are, please?

Mr Colvin : For the 2009-10 financial year for four years ending in 2012-13 we were given $4.06 million under the measure Enhancing Australia's Approach to People-Smuggling. In the same year we were given money under the measure Enhancing Australia's Approach to People-Smuggling Fusion and Colombo, which was $2.6 million over four years. That funded our efforts in Sri Lanka.

Senator BRANDIS: Sorry, which year are you talking about?

Mr Colvin : These are measures that were introduced in 2009-10 that ran for four years.

Senator BRANDIS: That is where I began. If you have Budget Paper No. 2 for that year you will see the aggregate of those various measures over four years was, as I said, $41.6 million, which did include what is described as:

… to fund additional Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers for the People Smuggling Strike Team; establish a technical investigation unit in Indonesia; and deploy AFP liaison officers to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

I am keen to know whether the level of deployment of those officers that was provided for under that four-year program has been kept at that level, whether it has increased or whether it has decreased.

Mr Colvin : I will take that on notice, but I am quite confident that the level has been kept at the level it was then.

Senator BRANDIS: As I said, the allocation tailed off to $5.7 million in the current financial year and $5.4 million projected for the next financial year, which was the last year of the program. Has that had an effect on the deployment of officers to any of those functions?

Mr Colvin : Again, the figures you are quoting are different in terms of the way that I am looking at it, so I will take it on notice in terms of the exact number.

Senator BRANDIS: I am going from the government's own budget measures paper.

Mr Colvin : We do not have the 2009-10 figures with us, so we will need to take that on notice.

Senator BRANDIS: Would it help you if I showed you my copy? I have it highlighted. Purely for the sake of making sure we are talking about the same thing, I will hold it open at page 93.

Mr Negus : While they are looking at the figures, to clarify my comments earlier about what the 'other' might contain. I am told it is DIAC and Customs officers seconded to the task force.

Senator BRANDIS: Those are the three others. Do they come out of your budget or out of the other budget?

Mr Negus : They are funded by the AFP. We pay their salaries while they are there.

Senator BRANDIS: Deputy Commissioner Colvin and Mr Wood, you have seen what I have been basing my questions on. Are we talking about the same things?

Mr Colvin : We are and we do not dispute that it tails off. Where we need to seek clarity is what other measures might have been brought online.

Senator BRANDIS: Do you think you would be able to do that over the luncheon adjournment?

Mr Colvin : I am told yes, we can.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you; that is very helpful. In the current budget there is a measure, on page 97 of Budget Paper No. 2, enhancing regional capability to combat people smuggling:

The Government will provide $10.8 million over two years to continue the deployment of seven Australian Federal Police (AFP) liaison officers to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

May I take it that those are the same AFP liaison officers as were described in the 2009 budget?

Mr Colvin : That is correct.

Senator BRANDIS: And there are seven of them, are there?

Mr Colvin : That is correct.

Senator BRANDIS: Who are the other three offshore officers? What are they deployed to do?

Mr Negus : I can tell you where they are. That number includes six people based in Indonesia, one in Malaysia, one in Pakistan, one in Thailand and one in Sri Lanka.

Mr Colvin : I may be able to add to that. We are funded for seven, but we have 10 at the moment, as the Commissioner said. We absorb the additional based on what we believe our needs are.

Senator BRANDIS: You have 10 at the moment under this program. Concentrating on the six in Indonesia, what is the rank of the senior ranked officer in Indonesia?

Mr Negus : We have a commander in charge of all AFP operations. That would include transnational crime, counterterrorism and people smuggling.

Senator BRANDIS: He is one of the six?

Mr Negus : No, he is our senior person in the country. We have probably in excess of 20 people in Indonesia doing a whole range of different things. The numbers do vary, but six are specifically there for people smuggling. The senior ranked officer in people smuggling would be a team leader at sergeant level.

Senator BRANDIS: We have about 20 under a commander engaged in all of the Australian Federal Police's activities in Indonesia in collaboration with the Indonesian policing authorities?

Mr Negus : That is right.

Senator BRANDIS: Of whom six are specifically tasked to deal with people smuggling?

Mr Negus : That is right.

Senator BRANDIS: Has that number changed since the 2009 budget measure was introduced or has it remained constant at six?

Mr Colvin : I would expect that the number has fluctuated according to needs.

Senator BRANDIS: You might take on notice how it has fluctuated in each of the years since the 2009 budget. Without trespassing on operational issues that you do not feel comfortable talking about in a public forum, can you describe to us generally the work that the six AFP officers deployed in Indonesia are engaged in. In particular I am interested to know your assessment of the state of coordination between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian policing and law enforcement authorities in relation to both intelligence about people-smuggling activities and the prosecution of people-smuggling offences under Indonesian law.

Mr Colvin : I guess our officers are involved in a range of activities, and I will need to be careful about exactly what we put on the public record. But you can imagine that they are intelligence officers as well as investigators. They work very closely with the Indonesian National Police, who have established a task force to look at people smuggling. And they work with the Indonesian National Police to follow leads, to develop intelligence and to collate that intelligence. It runs across the whole archipelago of Indonesia, so you can imagine that it is quite a large area that they are operating in.

How would I categorise that relationship more broadly? I think the relationship is very good. The Indonesian National Police remain very committed to the people-smuggling efforts with the AFP and other partner agencies. I will leave it at that.

Mr Negus : Can I add, just to be clear, that the AFP officers working in Indonesia, across all fields, have no police powers in those jurisdictions? They are there as advisers and as partners but they are not able to exhibit any police powers in those jurisdictions.

Senator BRANDIS: No. Your predecessor, Commissioner Keelty, told me in a Senate estimates hearing a couple of years ago about the coordination arrangements between the various governments and various agencies to keep an overall watch on people-smuggling activity. Do the Australian Federal Police officers continue to engage in that joint activity with the Indonesian government?

Mr Colvin : Yes, there is certainly a whole-of-government effort from the Australian perspective as well. You can imagine that within the mission in Jakarta there is a large contingent of a number of agencies who are combining to coordinate our efforts, and each of us work with our individual partners. So our focus is with the Indonesian National Police. But certainly there is a large effort that goes into coordinating all of the Australian government efforts. That is led by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, but the AFP probably has the largest number of people in country working on this issue.

Mr Negus : I think that maybe it is not quite as accurate to say that the AFP would be involved with the government. All of our relationships and other things go straight through the Indonesian National Police. We are not coordinating any other agencies or any other government linkages within Indonesia. It is what the Indonesian National Police would do and how we can assist them and cooperate with them in that context. What they would do from their broader Indonesian government perspective is a matter for them, and we certainly would not be involved in that.

Senator BRANDIS: All right. The AFP officers in Indonesia report back to you, do they, in relation to the current state of their activities in Indonesia?

Mr Negus : Yes, through a mechanism under Deputy Commissioner Colvin. It comes back through an international network and back through to the central AFP.

Senator BRANDIS: And they provide reports to you from time to time about the extent of people-smuggling operations in Indonesia and they make assessments to you, do they, as to the likely level of people-smuggling activity?

Mr Colvin : A lot of that information is actually fed into the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which has the lead from the Australian perspective in assessing the intelligence.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand.

Mr Colvin : With a lot of that material, we have officers attached to the task force within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service—

Senator BRANDIS: And you feed into that process?

Mr Colvin : We feed into that process, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: And in feeding into that process you provide your own assessments, do you not, about the level of people-smuggling activity in Indonesia, and you make your own evaluations and predictions about the imminence of unauthorised boat departures from Indonesia to Australia in the near future?

Mr Colvin : We feed our information in and it is combined with other agencies' information to make those assessments, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: How often are those assessments made? Are they a regular thing?

Mr Colvin : I will need to be careful about operational detail, but I can say that there is a meeting held daily that looks at contemporary intelligence. That meeting is chaired by the Customs and Border Protection Service. It would be inappropriate for me to go into too much detail about that.

Senator BRANDIS: What is the current view of the Australian Federal Police as to the immanence of unauthorised boat departures from Indonesia to Australia?

Mr Colvin : I guess that changes, and is updated each and every day.

Senator BRANDIS: What is the view today? Or the most recent view of which you are aware?

Mr Colvin : We continue to receive information about vessels that are departing or are suspected of departing Indonesia. As you would know, there are vessels that continue to arrive. In terms of making a broader assessment about increases or decreases, it is difficult for me to put a firm position on the record. There has been a decline in recent times, and we continue to look at the assessment of the intelligence. But we have not formed a strong view to say if that decline will continue one way or the other, or whether it will taper off.

Senator BRANDIS: Have you made a fresh assessment in the last four days since the cabinet decision last Thursday?

Mr Colvin : No, as I said, meetings are held every day to look at the contemporary intelligence but the AFP does not make a broader whole-of-government assessment about intelligence trends in the people smuggling—

Senator BRANDIS: I am sure you do not make a whole-of-government assessment but you do have your own views don't you?

Mr Colvin : Effectively we have the intelligence that we have and we feed it into a whole-of-government mechanism and that mechanism makes assessments.

Senator BRANDIS: And if your intelligence tells you for instance that there is an elevation in the amount of people-smuggling activity in Indonesia and an increase in the number of people smugglers soliciting clients and preparing them for journeys to Australia that is something that you would feed into that process.

Mr Colvin : That is correct, if we had that type of intelligence and it was of a nature that we were satisfied of its credibility, we would feed that in, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: Does the AFP—

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, have you nearly finished?

Senator BRANDIS: No, I have got hours to go.

CHAIR: We have an arrangement with Senator Rhiannon.

Senator BRANDIS: I was not party to that arrangement.

CHAIR: No, but I am chair and I am party to that arrangement.

Senator BRANDIS: I do not mind yielding to Senator Rhiannon when I have finished this bracket of questions but I have more extensive questions of the AFP on other topics.

CHAIR: I understand that I am just trying to ascertain whether you can wind up now and we could go to Senator Rhiannon and come back to you afterwards.

Senator BRANDIS: I am prepared to accommodate other colleagues as always as long as I can be reassured that as the shadow minister I will get enough opportunity to ask the questions on behalf of the opposition that I wish to ask.

CHAIR: You will get that. We started the AFP at 11 o'clock and we have them scheduled through till at least three o'clock.

Senator BRANDIS: I will just finish these questions and give Senator Rhiannon enough time between now and 12.30 to ask her questions. Commissioner Negus, does the AFP have a view about the relationship between the policy of the Australian government in relation to the processing of unauthorised boat arrivals and the level of activity of people-smuggling operators in Indonesia?

Mr Negus : No, I do not think it is my place to be giving commentary on the policy of the Australian government—

Senator BRANDIS: I did not ask you for that, I asked you if you had a view.

Mr Negus : No, I do not.

Senator BRANDIS: Is it the AFP's view, without stating what that view might be, that there is a relationship between the policy of the Australian government and the level of people-smuggling activity.

Mr Negus : I think there are a range of factors which would impact upon whether or not people would be wishing to come to this country through the methods you are talking about. I do not think you can pin it down to one particular thing.

Senator BRANDIS: I am not asking you to. Does that range of factors include the policies of the day of the Australian government?

Mr Negus : The way the people smugglers might market those policies would be a factor of consideration, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: Can I take you to the PBS please, page 163—

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, can I ask you again. If this is a different area—

Senator BRANDIS: No, it is exactly the same area. The people-smuggling operations come under program 1.3: Operations—policing, don't they?

Mr Negus : Yes.

Senator BRANDIS: If you look at the second box on page 163 program 1.3 expenses you will see that there is a reference to four particular budget measures the last of which to do with tax havens has nothing to do with people smuggling and the other three are identified as various people-smuggling measures. The author of the note in that box says on the fourth line:

The reduction of $17.380m from 2012-13 to 2013-14 reflects the two-year budget measure Border Security—enhancing regional capability to combat people smuggling and the previous years' budget measures:

Do I read that correctly to mean that the amount of money being invested by the government in these measures in particular the border protection combating people-smuggling measure is going to fall between now and 2013-14? Is that the right way to interpret that?

Mr Negus : I missed the last bit of your question.

Senator BRANDIS: Do I take it correctly that the amount of money spent on those measures is going to fall between now and 2013-14? That seems to be what it says if you read the second sentence in the second box starting with the words 'The reduction of $17.380 million'.

Mr Negus : Obviously the measures have a termination date. At the time that would be up to the AFP and, quite appropriately, the government to decide whether they would like to renew those terminating or lapsing measures in that regard. Without that renewal, yes, they would reduce.

Senator BRANDIS: So unless the government decides to have a new measure or to extend these measures, the amount we will be spending on those measures is going to fall by $17.38 million between now and 2013-14?

Mr Negus : That is correct. Because of the dynamic nature of what is happening in the people-smuggling environment, most of these things are two-year measures because they need to be reassessed quite regularly as far as what is required to address the particular issues at a particular time.

Senator BRANDIS: I am bound to say, Commissioner—and I will wind up on this topic, Madam Chair—that whereas in 2009-10 we had a four-year measure for $46.1 million, in the current budget we have a two-year measure for $10.8 million. I will allow for the fact that the earlier measure did include other programs, but there does seem, as far as one can glean from these rather opaque budget statements, to be a reduction in the overall outlays on people-smuggling measures. Is that right?

Mr Negus : As I said, subject to the next review period when we will put forward submissions if we think that it is appropriate for the government to examine.

Senator RHIANNON: Yesterday there were media reports that a submission by the Australian chapter of the International Council of Jurists has been given to the Australian Federal Police and that it details evidence that corroborates and substantiates the findings of the UN Secretary-General's expert panel in respect of war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place in Sri Lanka at the end of 2009. What are the next steps for the AFP with regard to this submission and how long will the AFP take to assess the submission?

Mr Negus : I personally received in my office late on Friday afternoon the submission of which you speak. It is quite a lengthy document. It is almost a ream of paper, to give you an idea of the size of the document. We asked for that to be assessed as a matter of urgency and that assessment is ongoing. It is very difficult for me to give you a time frame around that but it is being treated seriously. We also acknowledged receipt of that publicly and in the press and also to the International Council of Jurists. That assessment process is underway at the moment and it would be premature for me to say anything more than that.

Senator RHIANNON: If this is an operational matter then I understand if you cannot answer it, but has the AFP been building a dossier of evidence on anyone in relation to Sri Lankan war crimes?

Mr Negus : Again, that goes to our operational activities. That would be difficult for me to answer.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the AFP's practice in respect of people living or visiting Australia who are accused of war crimes that may have been committed in other countries?

Mr Negus : Certainly, if matters are referred to us or we become aware of issues that we might act upon independently, we would conduct an investigation into that. Again, it would be dependent on what the circumstances were. Obviously jurisdiction can become an issue in these matters, so there are some technical legal issues. We would sometimes work with the Attorney-General's Department to clarify those issues and with the Director of Public Prosecutions to take those matters forward.

As far as war crimes are concerned generally, we do take them seriously. We have launched a number of investigations. Some of those are ongoing as I speak. They are complex legal areas, particularly where most of the evidence that can be obtained is usually offshore, and we need to make sure there is a reasonable chance of the matter progressing. There are a lot of factors for consideration before we take these matters forward to a prosecution.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for explaining the process. To take it possibly one step further, if the AFP do find evidence in this current submission that warrants the commencement of any legal war crimes proceeding, what is the immediate next step?

Mr Negus : It depends on the jurisdiction that can be applied. Some of these matters may well be referred to the International Criminal Court or they may be prosecuted here in Australia if there are appropriate jurisdictional issues we can actually treat.

Senator RHIANNON: Was the AFP asked by the Australian government before the appointment of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner Thisara Samarasinghe as to what was known about his involvement in the Sri Lankan conflict?

Mr Colvin : No, not to my knowledge.

Senator RHIANNON: In another country I understand that the AFP now has recommendations of the coroner on the Balibo inquest and that you have had it for a number of months. Could you inform the committee of the status of the AFP's work in this area.

Mr Negus : It is actually more than a number of months; it is actually almost two years that we have been working on this case. There are a range of inquiries, as I mentioned before, that need to take place offshore which are the subject of mutual legal assistance requests, and because of that I am constrained in what I can say. But there have been some difficulties and, as you can appreciate, working with foreign governments and getting access to particular individuals or particular sources of evidence can be problematic. But the AFP continues with that investigation; it is still active. I cannot really say too much more than that without stepping into some dangerous territory and compromising the ability of those foreign governments to provide us with that assistance.

Senator RHIANNON: I am sure you appreciate, because you did not nominate the time frame yourself, that it is certainly difficult. So there really is nothing more that you can put on the record about that. I think it raises disappointments for the people involved.

Mr Negus : I am sure it does. We have been in contact with the families who live in Australia and given them fairly frequent updates when we have something to tell them about the progress of the investigation. I have to say that much of this is a matter of us submitting particular legal instruments to try to obtain that evidence in overseas jurisdictions and then it is a matter of waiting, and much of that is outside our control. We continue to push forward on that to get to a position to make a judgment on whether there would be sufficient evidence to take any further action, but we are not at that stage yet and we still have a number of inquiries outstanding, as I have said.

Senator RHIANNON: I may come back to that but I want to move on to some of the aspects of RAMSI. I understand that in August 2010 a Solomon Islands High Court judge, David Cameron, threw out evidence because AFP officers investigating a murder had, in his words, 'forgot basic procedures, including reading the suspect their rights'. Are the AFP officers who came before this judge in this case still with the AFP? If they are, are they still working in the Solomon Islands? Were the AFP officers advised on appropriate procedures that should have been used and should be followed in future?

Mr Negus : I do not have any notes on that particular topic but I do have the head of our International Deployment Group, Assistant Commissioner Frank Prendergast, here. He was running the organisation's component at that time. Mr Prendergast should be able to address some of those issues.

Mr Prendergast : In answer to your question about the current status of those people, I would need to take that on notice, but I can say that our officers who deploy overseas are very well prepared. They are experienced police; that is one of the criteria before they deploy. They need five years experience and they also go through extensive pre-deployment training.

Senator RHIANNON: Were these officers given immunity? I understand that is part of the arrangements that you have in the Solomons.

Mr Prendergast : That is correct, but the immunity would not be an issue in the case you are referring to.

Senator RHIANNON: Why is that?

Mr Prendergast : The immunities kick in when there is a legal process that involves perhaps a criminal prosecution of the officers or a civil proceeding that might involve the officers. This is a normal court issue that comes up every day across the country in criminal courts across the nation; it is not an issue where the immunities would be a factor.

Senator RHIANNON: How many incidents since the inception of RAMSI have there been where the immunity has been invoked?

Mr Prendergast : In relation to an individual officer?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Prendergast : None, by Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: Has it been invoked in any other way?

Mr Prendergast : It has been invoked recently in a matter before the Solomon Islands High Court, in relation to a civil matter.

Senator RHIANNON: What was that?

Mr Prendergast : It was in relation to an issue about the disclosure of police practice and methodology.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the fact that it has not been used an active decision of the AFP operations in the Solomon Islands not to use it, so to give more integrity to the operations there, or is it more that it just has not been something that has come up for you?

Mr Prendergast : When a set of circumstances come up where it may be invoked they are considered and a decision is made whether to invoke the immunities or not. For example, there have been some matters that involved AFP officers where the immunities could have been invoked but we have chosen not to.

When I say it has not been invoked other than in the one incident I am talking about, that is by Australia. Other nations have chosen to invoke it—RAMSI is a regional initiative—and other nations have chosen not to. It just depends on the circumstances.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for explaining that. I understand there are two documents marked 'Highly protected' relating to the case of three Solomon Island MPs who claimed the AFP fabricated charges against them for inciting the 2006 post-election riot. Can these two documents be released?

Mr Prendergast : I would need to consider that. They are marked 'Highly protected'. I am aware of the case you were speaking of, but I do not have the latest situation on that issue. I believe it was back in the Solomon Islands court recently. I will take that question on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. In what way was it back in the Solomon Islands court?

Mr Prendergast : The issue that those documents were raised in was in respect of a civil proceedings in the court in the Solomon Islands. That is the context in which those allegations were raised.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you agree that while these documents are not being released that contributes to a cloud over the AFP's operations in the Solomon Islands? Wouldn't it be better to help clear up how this issue arose?

Mr Prendergast : I do not agree that it does create a cloud. Obviously perceptions are an issue. If you look at the RAMSI mission and its history in the Solomon Islands, we conduct regular surveys about public perceptions about RAMSI, how effective RAMSI is being and whether people want RAMSI to stay or not. Those surveys show a uniformly high acceptance of and desire for the RAMSI mission to continue.

The issues you are referring to now relate to a court matter. These sorts of issues get raised in civil cases all the time and they are really a matter for the courts in many cases to deal with. I think you need to take each legal proceeding on its merits. You need to look at the implications of the release of those documents on both operational grounds and legal grounds. Sometimes there are good operational reasons and good grounds, say in relation to witness security and the security of people who may have come forward and given evidence in particular proceedings, to protect that material. That is the sort of basis that these decisions would be made on.

Senator RHIANNON: In the response you just gave you said in relation to actions in civil courts that these are happening all the time. But surely you would agree that this is a very unusual case and that, however it plays out, it is not to the benefit of the AFP or the Australian operations in the Solomon Islands. I was surprised that you used the terminology because it is not happening all the time.

Mr Prendergast : Sorry, Senator, I am not talking about that particular case. I am talking about civil cases where documents are called and assertions are made about particular actions. In terms of our release of the material, there needs to be some very detailed consideration about the possible impact of the release of that material, and that is what I was referring to. The case you are referring to is not a case that is directed at the AFP; it is actually a case where those particular individuals were suing the Solomon Islands government.

Senator RHIANNON: But I do understand that the AFP are caught up in it—that there have been allegations made that they have fabricated charges.

Mr Prendergast : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, and that is quite serious.

Mr Prendergast : It is, but it is being considered by the court in the Solomon Islands. I think the issue we have been considering is the release of records. What I am saying is that, in terms of the release of any sort of protected record, there needs to be some very careful consideration of the impact of that release—and then, obviously, the court has a role in that.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are happy to take that on notice and come back to us if those documents can be released?

Mr Prendergast : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. How many AFP personnel are based in the Solomon Islands as part of the RAMSI for 2010-11, please?

Mr Prendergast : I think the current figure is 143.

Senator RHIANNON: Have those numbers gone up or down since previous financial years?

Mr Prendergast : They have gone down. We had a much larger number there in August 2010 in respect of the Solomon Islands election, and there has been a draw-out of those numbers, in accordance with our planning, down to the current level.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you expect there to be a continual draw-down of these numbers?

Mr Prendergast : Our projected staffing levels for next year are around 109, bearing in mind they work inside the broader participating police force, which also includes New Zealand Police and police from every other participant in the Pacific Islands Forum.

Senator RHIANNON: What portion of the total funding for RAMSI goes to the AFP?

Mr Prendergast : I would need to take that on notice, Senator.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that. I am just interested—

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, sorry to interrupt, but do you have many questions to go?

Senator RHIANNON: I have a couple more.

CHAIR: We will keep going with you and then break for lunch.

Senator RHIANNON: Sure. Sorry, I just realised the time. Mr Prendergast, could you give us an assessment of how the AFP sees the future of RAMSI.

Mr Prendergast : Yes, I can. I think the RAMSI is a unique mission by world standards, and it has made very good progress against its objectives. There were elections held by the Solomon Islands people in August 2010, and those elections went very well. I think that, when you compare that with what occurred in 2006, it is a major step forward. The main focus of the AFP in the Solomon Islands is the development of the RSIPF, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. When we first deployed, we had a dual focus: one was to restore stability and the other was to develop the capacity of the RSIPF. Our focus now is shifting from the stability operations aspect to more of a capacity development focus, given the internal development of the RSIPF and the general settling of the political situation in the Solomon Islands. That being said, there is a lot of work still to be done. There are some underlying issues in the Solomon Islands that still impact on the enduring nature of the current stability, and there are still some issues with the RSIPF's capacity and capability that we are addressing. So my assessment is that progress has been made, the progress has been good, but there is still work to be done.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. Mr Negus—this is back on Sri Lanka—were you aware of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner's role as head of the navy during the war when he was appointed high commissioner?

Mr Negus : No, I was not. Really, this has only come to our notice since the report was given to the AFP on Friday, so my knowledge prior to that was non-existent.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. In response to a question from Senator Brandis, you said that one of your people is stationed in Sri Lanka. Are you aware that, in September, a boat leaving Sri Lanka carrying 44 asylum seekers was stopped by the Sri Lankan security forces; and, if you are aware of that, did the Australian Federal Police officer stationed there assist the Sri Lankan security forces with any information about that boat and, possibly, in stopping the boat?

Mr Negus : I might get Deputy Commissioner Colvin to answer that question.

Mr Colvin : Senator, certainly we are aware. As we work with a number of partners around the region there are a number of vessels that get stopped by our regional partners. We are aware that that vessel was intercepted by Sri Lankan authorities. In terms of our specific knowledge at the time and information we may have provided, I will have to take that on notice. Suffice to say, we are working with the Sri Lankan police service on a range of fronts including people smuggling and broader trans-national crime and building their capacity. I would have to take on notice our specific knowledge of that particular venture.

Senator RHIANNON: I have some other questions relating to that so I will put them all in on notice.

CHAIR: We are now going to break for one hour for lunch.

Proceedings suspended from 12:35 to 13:35

CHAIR: We will reconvene our public hearing into the Senate's legal and constitutional affairs consideration of supplementary budget estimates. We have the Australian Federal Police with us, and we are going to go back to Senator Rhiannon for a few minutes and then to Senator Brandis.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Madam Chair. Mr Negus, I would like to return to the issue of the AFP officer working in Sri Lanka. Could you inform the committee where he is stationed—where he works out of? Is it the Australian High Commission or the Sri Lankan police department?

Mr Negus : I will pass over to Deputy Commissioner Colvin for the specifics.

Mr Colvin : He is based in Colombo. He works at the Australian High Commission. He is an accredited officer with the High Commission in Sri Lanka and he works almost exclusively, I would say, with the Sri Lanka Police Service but out of the High Commission.

Senator RHIANNON: Who is he immediately accountable to?

Mr Colvin : Like all of our liaison officers, he has accountability to the mission and the head of mission, but ultimately he is an AFP officer and he is immediately accountable back to the AFP.

Senator RHIANNON: How would you define his work? Is it purely advisory to the AFP and to the Sri Lankan authorities, or is there an operational aspect to it as well?

Mr Colvin : He is a liaison officer. He is not in a position to perform any operational duties. He is there as a conduit of information between the Sri Lanka Police Service and us, and he is also there to assist with the development of Sri Lanka Police Service capacity.

Senator RHIANNON: Being a conduit for information means that you often have to collect the information. Does that mean that he may observe the boats when they are brought back, having taken people potentially to Australia? Would he be involved in that capacity, not actually in operations but there when operations are being carried out?

Mr Colvin : Not necessarily. We are very careful with our liaison officers not to overstep the line of what is a proper policing function performed by the local authorities. So in terms of vessels that are stopped by the Sri Lanka Police Service, he would be liaising with the Sri Lanka Police Service to see what intelligence might be relevant that we could use in Australia, or what assistance we may be able to provide to the Sri Lanka Police Service. It varies of course depending on the circumstances, but as a general rule he is there as a liaison officer and he has to draw a very distinct line between what he does and what the Sri Lanka Police Service do.

Senator RHIANNON: But you said 'not necessarily', so there could be occasions when he is actually present in terms of being able to assess the information or get the information. Would that be a correct assessment?

Mr Colvin : I do not want to rule out anything in particular, Senator, because I do not want to then have to say that there was an occasion when he was aware a boat was being brought into the Colombo wharf and he was there. It is not a normal part of our business to do that, because that is the proper response by the Sri Lanka Police Service.

Senator RHIANNON: In terms of the conduit of information, is that going both ways, both from the AFP to the Sri Lankan authorities and from Sri Lanka via the AFP officer back to Australia? Is that how it works?

Mr Colvin : That is right. The flow of information is both ways and there are tight protocols around how that information is managed and what type of information can be passed and what is passed.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. I have just a short question about the AusAID funding. How much of the AusAID funding makes up the proportion of the AFP funding?

Mr Negus : Senator, we actually work with AusAID very closely. I think we are the second largest deliverer of AusAID's funding behind AusAID, so it is a large proportion. But we will just have to get that figure for you.

Senator RHIANNON: I am happy for that to be taken on notice. You receive, as you have said, the largest proportion of aid money after AusAID itself. Australian aid money that you receive goes to projects. Do you keep that separate from your core AFP funding? Are there some projects that you will only undertake because you receive aid money? If so, what are they?

Mr Negus : Yes, there are. We would have to take that on notice. There is a range of those projects, a large number. Some projects, a certain percentage, would be ODA-eligible and the rest might come from other funding sources. Some projects, certainly, are funded 100 per cent through ODA, because they are development activities or capacity building activities which fit within the very strict rules that AusAID apply across their funding streams.

Mr Wood : In the financial year 2010-11, ODA funding received by the AFP was $233.3 million. On question No. 58 coming out of last estimates asked by Senator Barnett, there is a breakdown of ODA funding from 2007-08 through to the current budget, and then what is locked into future years' budgets.

Senator RHIANNON: Thanks for that. I will go back and look and see if I have further questions.

Mr Drennan : I would just like to clarify some answers to questions asked before lunch. With regards to the three members that were asked about in terms of whether they were being returned to Australia—they have. Two of those members were seconded officers from the Victoria Police and they are now back working with the Victoria Police. The third officer was an AFP federal agent who was attached to one of our offices in Queensland.

With regards to the issue on immunity, that immunity in a civil case was not invoked. The court dismissed the matter before it was required that it would be invoked. So there has been no instance where we have had to invoke our immunities in the Solomon Islands.

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner Negus, I want to ask you some questions about Project Guild. Are you familiar with Project Guild?

Mr Negus : I am, Senator, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: Project Guild is concerned with the fate of the air security officers employed by the Australian Federal Police, is it not?

Mr Negus : I would not classify it as the fate of the ASOs, but it deals with the air security officer program, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: At the moment, the air security officers are designated as protective service officers—that is, they are not sworn members of the AFP. Is that right?

Mr Negus : They are not sworn police members, no. They are sworn in as protective service officers.

Senator BRANDIS: But they are not sworn members of the AFP.

Mr Negus : They are not sworn police members.

Senator BRANDIS: Do you know a gentleman called Shalini Dantan, the manager of human resource strategies?

Mr Negus : I do, but she is not a gentleman; she is a lady.

Senator BRANDIS: Pardon me. Can I show you an email message from Ms Dantan, please.

Senator Ludwig: Are you tabling that document?

Senator BRANDIS: Yes, I will table it. This is an email dated 24 June 2011. If you go to the third page of the email, you will see that it is signed by Ms Dantan on your behalf, Commissioner.

Mr Negus : That is right, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: So that was sent with your authority, obviously.

Mr Negus : Yes.

Senator BRANDIS: And it is directed to ASO employees within the aviation portfolio.

Mr Negus : That is correct.

Senator BRANDIS: Is the aviation portfolio part of program 1.1, 'National security—policing'?

Mr Negus : Yes, it is.

Senator BRANDIS: It is headed, 'Notification of potential excess status.' It refers in the first full paragraph to decisions made in the 2011-12 budget. It refers to an earlier all staff message on 11 May, notifying staff that the AFP had been requested to provide budget savings over the forward estimates and, in particular, further efficiencies that were to be implemented in the aviation portfolio over the financial years 2011-12 through to 2019-20. Do you see that?

Mr Negus : Yes.

Senator BRANDIS: For anyone who happens to be listening to this, the references here to the aviation portfolio are not to be understood as references to the department of aviation within the transport portfolio but within the aviation section of program 1.1—that is, 'National security—policing'—of the Australian Federal Police. That is right, isn't it?

Mr Negus : That is correct.

Senator BRANDIS: Ms Dantan goes on to say:

As a result of the Government decision the AFP has commenced Project Guild (as a sub-project of Project Macer).

Tell me what Project Macer is, please, Commissioner.

Mr Negus : Project Macer is the overall transition to the AFP taking over control of airports and this is, as I mentioned earlier in the day, about taking responsibility from state and territory police to the AFP for policing those 11 major airports.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you. Ms Dantan says:

Project Guild will manage the rationalisation of the ASO program to meet the savings required and will also implement an AFP policy of transitioning the program to sworn member status. Project Guild is required to realise the initial savings by December 2011 and will over the next 2-3 years transition the program to sworn member status.

As a result of this transition, the role of Protective Service Officers in the ASO program will be phased out over the coming years and transition—

that is a verb—

to sworn policing roles.

What this foreshadows, it appears to say—Commissioner, correct me if I am wrong—is that the function of the ASOs as currently understood will cease and they will be taken over by sworn officers of the AFP.

Mr Negus : In a transition sense, that is correct.

Senator BRANDIS: Is it not the case, Commissioner, that the number of officers dedicated to the ASO program has reduced over time?

Mr Negus : It has reduced as a result of the last budget measures.

Senator BRANDIS: I want to go back before the last budget, but I also want to ask you about the last budget—and you might want to take these things on notice. Five years ago, at the time of the 2006 budget, there were 136 ASO officers, but by 2009 that had fallen to 110 ASOs—those are the so-called air marshals—and that since 2009 this has reduced further. Is that right?

Mr Negus : We have never publicly confirmed or denied the number of air marshals, as again this is an operational matter. I have been asked this question several times in this committee, and I have again declined to confirm the number of air marshals we may have, which have been publically speculated about. As you can appreciate, it does not take much to transfer those numbers into a capability and an ability to be on particular flights, and that is something that we have shied away from.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand that, but I am not asking you about capability at the moment; I am just asking you about numbers.

Mr Negus : You are quoting numbers as fact, but I am telling you we have never publically confirmed or denied numbers that have been speculated around in this committee or in the newspapers.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand that you cannot confirm what I am saying, but you are not disputing it. Can I tell you, by the way, that in this committee in the February estimates of 2009 I asked some questions of your predecessor, Commission Keelty, about reductions in the number of air marshals and he said, and I am quoting from page 109 the Hansard of 23 February 2009. Commissioner Keelty said to me:

It is a reduction, but it is not a reduction that does not enable us to do the work in accordance with the risk assessment.

So Commissioner Keelty did acknowledge at the time that there had been a reduction, and I am putting it to you in the 2 ½ years since Commissioner Keelty gave that evidence, at which stage there were 110 sky marshals, there has been a further reduction.

Mr Negus : Recently that is correct, but during that intervening two-year period—and again I could double check the figures and again perhaps provide you in confidence—but we have not reduced the number of air marshals until this budget measure was put in place.

Senator BRANDIS: Going back to Ms Dantan's email, she says in fourth full paragraph on the first page:

As a result of this transition, the role of Protective Service Officers in the ASO program will phased out over the coming years and transition to sworn policing roles.

I think you have already told us that is in consequence of some budget decisions and some budget cutbacks.

Mr Negus : No, what I said was that it is part of ProjectMacer.

Senator BRANDIS: Right, but that part of it is itself a result of some budget cutbacks. I have some other correspondence here which makes that clear. I could take you to it straight away if you like.

Mr Negus : I want to be very clear about the question you are asking or the assertion you are making. Can you just repeat what you have said?

Senator BRANDIS: I am just reading to you from a document that is in front of you:

As a result of this transition—

that is, the transition from ASOs to sworn AFP officers—

the role of Protective Service Officers in the ASO program will phased out over the coming years and transition to sworn policing roles.

What I am putting to you is that plainly what she is advising the staff, if you read the first four paragraphs together, is that this phasing out of the ASOs is in consequence of what she describes in the first paragraph of the email as the requirement of the AFP to provide budget savings over the four estimates.

Mr Negus : I am glad that I got you to repeat it, because I do not agree with that assertion.

Senator BRANDIS: So you do not agree with Ms Dantan?

Mr Negus : No, I agree with what Ms Dantan said, but I do not agree with your characterisation of what that actually leads to. I will just be very clear: there has been a reduction in the ASO program—no question about that. The issue here is that you are asserting that because of the budget cuts the transition to sworn policing roles is a consequence.

Senator BRANDIS: I do suggest waiting for the next question before you commit yourself further. Please have a look at this document. I am tabling that document. That is an AFP minute, isn't it?

Mr Negus : It is also marked 'highly protected'.

Senator BRANDIS: It is marked 'highly protected'.

CHAIR: Can you clarify your concerns about that, Mr Negus?

Mr Negus : I do not know where this has come from. It is an internal AFP document, but it is marked 'highly protected'. Whether it has been released to the senator under appropriate or other conditions I do not know.

CHAIR: Can you indicate then—

Mr Negus : I have not read it yet.

Senator BRANDIS: I suggest you do read it. Can I indicate to Commissioner Negus that I did want, in fairness to him—

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, just a moment. I need to clarify something as chair that the tabling of this document, which then makes it a public document, is satisfactory. We might get you to ascertain that first, because I do not want to have a document tabled that would breach any problems you have in terms of security.

Mr Negus : Thank you. It is four pages long, so I would like to at least have the opportunity to look at this. The ASO program, as I mentioned at the beginning, is a discreet program which is a very important layer of national security, so to divulge any operational components—I am not sure what is in this document just yet—would cause me some concern.

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner Negus, can I tell you—

CHAIR: We might get Commissioner Negus to finish what he is saying

Senator BRANDIS: that I have looked at this document very carefully, and it does not appear to deal with any operational matters. So by all means. What I was going to say to you before I was interrupted by the chair—

CHAIR: Which is my prerogative, Senator Brandis.

Senator BRANDIS: I was going to ask you to read and familiarise yourself with the document. Before you did that I was simply going to identify the document as a document dated 26 September 2011 over the name of Superintendent Greg Davis, the national coordinator of the Air Security Officer program. That is all. The reason I wanted to put this document to you now before you went on with the answer on which you had embarked in response to the earlier document is that I did not want you to be embarrassed by saying something that you might find contradicted by this other document. I am not here to, as it were, trap you. So please read the document.

CHAIR: On that basis we will suspend this committee for five minutes to give the commissioner time to read this, consult with his colleagues and come back to us with an opinion about whether or not this committee should formally accept it as a document, which means, of course, it would then become public. We have not formally accepted it yet. We will suspend for five minutes while you have the opportunity to do that.

Senator BRANDIS: Before you formally do that, I might point out that, although the document is marked 'highly protected', it does seem to have had a very widespread circulation, because it is addressed to all ASO staff.

CHAIR: We will let Commissioner Negus determine the fate of this document in this committee today given his background and experience. So we will suspend this committee for five minutes.

Mr Negus : Thank you.

Proceedings suspended from 13 : 58 to 14 : 05

CHAIR: I reconvene this public hearing. Commissioner Negus, you might explain to me, as chair, the definition of 'highly protected' in terms of your documentation.

Senator Ludwig: One course of action that has been suggested—which Senator Brandis has agreed to but only to the point of him continuing to accept the circumstances—is that the document would not be tabled. Senator Brandis would then be able to use the document—obviously he has it in his possession—to refer to various paragraphs, to draw the commissioner's attention to those paragraphs and to ask questions about them which are, at least from Senator Brandis's point of view at the outset, not operational issues but that may go to other matters. Then Commissioner Negus might be able to comment on those other matters. If it does cut across operational matters then Commissioner Negus can say it is an operational matter and we can decide at that point whether or not it is and we can make a judgment call. It is designed, as I understand it, for Senator Brandis to ask relevant questions which are not operational as I understand it. Senator Brandis has agreed not to table it on that basis. I think we should proceed and see how we go. That is entirely reasonable. Senator Brandis is entitled to ask questions broadly about the budget, about budget related matters and about the budget of the AFP. If we stick relatively close to those issues then we should be fine.

CHAIR: We are not going to table this document, then?

Senator Ludwig: Not at this point in time. Senator Brandis said he would—

CHAIR: I will ask the secretariat to come and collect our copies, because we will not need them.

Mr Negus : Madam Chair, to answer your question, 'highly protected' is an AFP internal security classification that would equate to 'secret'. This is a very sensitive document. While Senator Brandis asserted it has been widely distributed, all of the people receiving it, the ASO staff, would have been security cleared to that level to receive the information. I have also instructed immediately that our professional standards area look at how this document was released by the AFP and how it ended up where it is now. So there will be an investigation in regard to that, because the release of documents to this classification, which detail operational activity, would put my own officers' lives at stake if this were to be compromised by some terrorist group or some other action.

CHAIR: I would have thought that would be the case.

Mr Negus : So, whilst I am happy to proceed and answer Senator Brandis's questions, I ask that they be carefully thought through before things are put onto the record which may divulge components of this document.

CHAIR: Thanks very much, Commissioner. We will be mindful of that as we proceed.

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner Negus, I understand entirely what you are saying. The document is a minute—that is what it is identified as—directed to all ASO staff. It starts cheerfully: 'Hello, ASO team. Well, it has been an interesting past few months for the ASO program.' The author, Superintendent Davis, refers to a number of matters in the first paragraph in relation to the ASO program and the broader AFP. These are his words on the second line: 'With the reduction to the ASO budget announced in May, the commencement of Project Guild …' Then there are a couple of other matters that do not seem to me immediately germane. What I want to focus on is the consequence for the ASO program of what Superintendent Davis calls 'the reduction to the ASO budget'. If you look further down on the first page of the minute, under the subheading 'progress', he says: 'As you would all know, the budget has been reduced by $16.5 million over the next four years, and this will take effect at the end of 2011. This reduction means that we must reduce the number of ASOs, the number of team locations and the domestic deployment rate of effort.' There is another sentence there, which I will not read onto the record, but it refers to two particular locations. Let me just put it to you, Commissioner Negus, that it is the case, isn't it, that, as Superintendent Davis says, 'The ASO program has been reduced as a result of budget cutbacks.'

Mr Negus : Yes, it has. That is not in dispute.

Senator BRANDIS: Can we just put that document to one side for a moment. May I take you to the PBS, page 155: 'budgeted expenses for outcome 1', table 2.1, which includes the funding for program 1.1, 'National security—policing', which you agreed includes aviation policing. Might I take you as well to your annual report, which was transmitted to your minister on 26 September 2011—coincidentally, the same day as Superintendent Davis' minute was circulated to all ASO staff—and, in particular, the brief reference to the air security officer program at pages 30 to 31, and to the expenses and resources statement in appendix E, which appears at page 134. Unless I am misreading these various financial statements and other documents, there is nothing there, either in the PBS or in your annual report, which discloses the fact that there has been this $16.5 million reduction over four years to the ASO program. Where do I look to find that, Commissioner Negus?

Mr Negus : The reduction would be in the aggregated aviation budget, which is several hundred million dollars. That is where it would be located.

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner Negus, I am not being critical of you here, but I guess that is why we have these estimates hearings: so the parliament can be more well informed than the government might wish it to be as to what is happening below these very, very large aggregated figures in the financial statements that are produced with the budget.

Mr Negus : Can I say that this is a discrete program. It is not something where we like to publicly acknowledge the size of the budget, the number of staff or the locations that these people are fulfilling. We have been very up front with this. We briefed the staff very early on in this; we have briefed the unions involved in this as well. These are not just internal briefings from the AFP's perspective, but we have actually—

Senator BRANDIS: I was going to ask you about that. I was, in fact, going to go on to ask you some questions about the correspondence you have received from the CPSU about Project Guild and the winding back of the ASO program. Sorry; I interrupted you. Go on.

Mr Negus : Ask away, Senator.

Senator BRANDIS: Going back, then, to Superintendent Davis' minute of 26 September, that minute indicates that the ASOs, or the air security officers, have been invited—and I am paraphrasing slightly here, and this is based on the last paragraph on the first page of the minute—either to transition to be full-time AFP officers through the Federal Police Transition Program or to take voluntary redundancies. Is that right? Is that going to be the fate of the ASOs—they either become AFP officers through the transition program or become redundant?

Mr Negus : They can be redeployed into other roles commensurate with their current skill level. Can I go back and clarify something that you kindly did not want to embarrass me about. I want to delink the budget cuts from the transition of these people to be sworn police officers. The budget cuts are an issue we are dealing with, and we are happy to talk through that process. If we go back to the Roger Beale or the federal audit of police capabilities there was a push towards—and this is where the Project Macer issues come in—a more homogenous workforce—

Senator BRANDIS: Is this the all-in model referred to in your annual report?

Mr Negus : This is the all-in model, but it had a wider implication than that. It had a wider implication that people should be multiskilled and able to do a range of things. So, rather than being protective service officers, if they were sworn police they could be utilised far more widely in a variety of roles. Whilst the budget cuts were something we had to deal with—and the $16.5 million you talked about—that was not the reason why people were asked to transition into sworn policing roles. That would have happened whether the budget was lessened or not. That was the point I was trying to make to you at the very start. Yes, the budget issues have to be dealt with, but the transition issues are quite separate. They are happening at the same time but they are quite separate.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand the point you make, and it is a fair point, but I am bound to say that that is not what Superintendent Davis says.

Mr Negus : As the Commissioner of the AFP I have a little more pull than Superintendent Davis. Whether he understands what was happening to the same level I do that is your interpretation of what he has written, but that is not my understanding.

Senator BRANDIS: I actually have not interpreted anything. I have just read to you his very words. He is, after all, the National Coordinator of the Air Security Officer Program.

Mr Negus : I do not think he does say that. The way I read that is not as categorical as—

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner, let me read to you without comment what he said.

CHAIR: Senator Brandis, let the commissioner finish his line of thought and his sentences and then you can respond. I think that is only fair, given the sensitive nature of the information we are dealing with. Thank you.

Senator BRANDIS: What I am going to do, Commissioner, because I do not want to be accused of having put a spin on this or misrepresenting what Superintendent Davis, the National Coordinator of the Air Security Officer Program said, is read again his words without comment or elaboration. Under the subheading 'Progress' he said:

As you would all know, our budget has been reduced by $16.5 million over the next four years and this will take effect at the end of December 2011. This reduction means that we must reduce the number of ASOs, the number of team locations and the domestic deployment rate of effort.

He goes on in another sentence, which I will not read because I can understand why you might arguably think it relates to operational matters, to refer to two locations.

Mr Negus : I am happy to comment on that.

Senator BRANDIS: Please, that is what I am inviting you to do. I read it without elaboration. If you take issue with it then please tell us why.

Mr Negus : The reference to reducing the number of ASOs—and I think that is the key point you are making here—is the number of ASOs in total. There will be fewer ASOs in that program. Whether they are sworn police or protective service officers is incidental. The number of ASOs will reduce as a result of the budget measures. One does not relate to the other. One is not a causal factor of the other. It is a reduction in the number of staff whether they are protective service officers or sworn police. That is the way I interpret it. That is the way it is written. I am sure that, if we had Superintendent Davis here, he would agree.

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner, I think I am going to have to let you sort this out with Superintendent Davis—

CHAIR: I am pretty certain that is going to happen.

Senator BRANDIS: In any event, the document is the document. I have read you what the superintendent says and I think it speaks for itself.

Mr Negus : I am not sure it is material to the point you are making anyway. I am telling you what the AFP's position is. Whether you want to put Superintendent Davis's views for him is another matter, but I am telling you what the AFP's position on this is. It is not a transition from protective service officers to sworn police being caused by budget reductions. It simply is not.

Senator BRANDIS: People can make up their own mind what those words mean. Commissioner Negus, can I take you to the first paragraph on the second page, under the subheading 'Deployments'.

Senator Ludwig: Before we read it into the record—

Senator BRANDIS: I am not going to. In fact I was going to ask a question of definition and then I was going to ask whether the commissioner had an objection on security reasons for it being read. My question about definition is this: what does the acronym ROE mean?

Mr Negus : It stands for rate of effort.

Senator BRANDIS: Rate of effort, which is the term used in the previous paragraph. Now, Commissioner, may I read on to the record the first paragraph, please?

Mr Negus : Senator, I think that gets away again. There are changes to the program which are being worked through and absorbed by the AFP and to actually highlight where those changes may take place does provide operational detail that I would be uncomfortable with.

Senator BRANDIS: I will not do that. Did you attend the meeting referred to in the second paragraph, with the Attorney-General's Department and the Minister for Foreign Affairs or were you represented by one of your officers?

Mr Negus : I did not personally attend that meeting but I can ask the question. We only have one copy here so I will pass it to Mr Drennan who is in charge of that area.

Mr Drennan : No, Senator. That was attended by working level officers.

Senator BRANDIS: Going back to the second page of the minute, Commissioner Negus, at the foot of the second page there is a heading, 'ASO Enhanced Methodology'. I want to read to you the first line and a bit of that entry. Do you have any objection to me reading the first line and a bit?

Mr Negus : No.

Senator BRANDIS: It does not go to operational matters?

Mr Negus : I can see what you are going to read—that is fine.

Senator BRANDIS: Superintendent Davis says: 'Many aspects of this scheme were put on hold due to the changed budget situation and restructuring.' He then goes on to elaborate further. I am happy to put that on the record for context, if you wish me to. I am just erring on the side of caution here. Can I put it to you that once again it seems as plain as the words of the English language admit that these cutbacks, or in this case 'putting on hold' aspects of the scheme, are due to what he calls here the 'budget situation and restructuring'.

Mr Negus : That is correct, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: Okay, that is fine.

Mr Negus : Just to be clear Senator, it is difficult when we are jumping from one part of the letter to the next because there is quite a bit in between.

Senator BRANDIS: There is. I am trying to be fair to the author of the minute and to be fair to you, while at the same time avoiding anything that I think you might object to. My preference would have been to table the entire document so that there would be no issue of context here.

Mr Negus : It would not have been my preference, as I have said.

Senator BRANDIS: No and I am yielding to your preference, of course.

CHAIR: And the Chair also.

Mr Negus : What I was going to say, Senator, was that when he talks about a scheme I think we need not to put scheme in the context of the whole program here. He is talking in the previous paragraphs about some training courses and about an ASO development program. You need to put into context that the scheme does not mean the ASO program in its full sense.

Senator BRANDIS: I do not agree with you. He says, 'Many aspects of this scheme', and I suspect what he refers to in the two previous paragraphs are two of the aspects of the scheme. On the third page of the document towards the foot of the page under the heading 'Rumours', he says this: 'These past few months in particular have been very difficult and extremely disruptive for everyone who is associated with the ASO program. Unfortunately this is not likely to change any time soon. As we will continue to evolve, our people will gradually move on to new chapters in their lives and careers.' Once again, I put it to you, Commissioner, that that is consistent only with—as indeed are the other paragraphs I have read to you and isolated for your attention—the cutting back of this program in consequence of what Superintendent Davis describes as the reduction in the budget by $16.5 million.

Mr Negus : That is correct.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you. Are you aware of a staff meeting at the Sydney office of the ASO program in July this year at which aspects of Project Guild were discussed with ASO staff by Superintendent Davis, Glen McEwan, Darren Booy and Priscilla Hickey?

Mr Negus : No, I am not aware of it. As I said, we have attempted to do wide consultations to keep the members up to date with what is happening, so I am not surprised.

Senator BRANDIS: Are you aware that at that meeting Mr Booy stated that Project Guild was a government directed efficiency in which savings of $16.5 million were to be found by reducing the number of ASOs? In the statement I have, I am given a number, but I will not read it onto the record. Are you aware that Mr Booy advised the staff of that?

Mr Negus : I am not aware of the meeting, but that is consistent with what we have been talking about.

Senator BRANDIS: And that that must be achieved by 31 October is what he said to the staff on that occasion.

Mr Negus : Again, I am not aware of that.

Senator BRANDIS: Coming back to my earlier question before I move off this topic, where am I to find, if at all, in any financial statements or budget statements published to the parliament, an accounting for this $16.5 million reduction or is it just rolled into the line item that I have already identified?

Mr Negus : It is contained within the line item you have identified.

Senator BRANDIS: It is not disaggregated further in any public document?

Mr Negus : That is correct.

Senator FURNER: I have a range of questions and would like some explanation on a couple of areas—firstly, describing the actions the AFP have taken in response to the Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework.

Mr Negus : I will get the deputy commissioner in charge of our organised crime area to respond to that.

Mr Colvin : In recognition of the evolving organised crime environment, the AFP has conducted an organisational restructure which led to the creation, in February 2010, of the AFP crime program. As part of the crime program, we developed a serious and organised crime branch which was established through 13 multidisciplinary teams throughout Australia. These SOC teams conduct intelligence informed investigations and operations into active high-priority, high-threat domestic and transnational organised crime groups. During the 2010-11 financial year, the AFP progressed 150 different investigations, of which—significantly—51 per cent were conducted under a formal joint agency agreement with our partner agencies. A large part of what we do in the serious and organised crime space is influenced and supported by a range of intelligence and government instruments, which include the Organised Crime Threat Assessment, an Australian Crime Commission document; the Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework, owned by the Attorney-General's Department but of which we are a key part; the Commonwealth Organised Crime Response Plan; and the National Organised Crime Response Plan. Then there are a range of other governance documents that sit underneath that, including a protocol on multijurisdictional investigations as well as protocols that establish a range of whole-of-government national committees on organised crime.

Senator FURNER: On the 51 per cent joint agency operations that you refer to, is that an improvement on previous years in terms of success?

Mr Colvin : It is; 51per cent are under formal joint agency agreements. That is where we have signed up to an agreement with another agency and all agencies agreed on a way to conduct the investigation. The reality is that very little of what the AFP does is done in isolation, so nearly all of our organised crime matters, in particular—in fact, almost without exception—are conducted in a multidisciplinary joint agency partnership arrangement.

Senator FURNER: I have read and followed recently some of the media attention around a number of large drug busts the AFP have been making. Would you advise the committee of the number and weight of drug seizures from 2010-11 and how this relates to the previous financial year, please?

Mr Colvin : I can do that. In the 2010-11 financial year the AFP seized a combined total of 5.187 tonnes, and some of that was, as I said before, with our partner agencies. That represented a 316 per cent increase on the previous year. The previous financial year it was 3,941 kilograms or 316 per cent more than our previous year. If you like, I can break that down into different drug types.

Senator FURNER: That would be helpful.

Mr Colvin : All these figures will be for the 2010-11 year, as reported in the annual report. For cocaine, the AFP seized 796 kilograms of cocaine, an increase of 404 kilograms over the previous financial year. With regard to heroin, the AFPC seized 583 kilograms of heroin in the financial year, an increase of 445 kilograms or 320 per cent from the previous financial year. In terms of amphetamines and amphetamine type stimulants, the AFP seized 404 kilograms in the financial year, an increase of 228 kilograms or 129 per cent over the previous year. Of MDMA the AFP seized 11 kilograms in the last financial year, an increase of just two kilograms or about 20 per cent from our previous financial year.

Senator FURNER: And overall a 316 per cent increase on the previous year of seizures.

Mr Colvin : That is correct.

Senator FURNER: What has made that possible? That is an enormous increase in seizures from the previous year.

Mr Colvin : It is, and I think there are a range of factors that made that possible. I do not think we should underestimate the effect that the serious and organised crime model that the AFP and the Australian government is operating under has had. There is the ability for the AFP to work very collaboratively, and partner agencies, both domestically and internationally, have led to those significant increases. There is our proactive use of intelligence and our adaptation to the organised crime environment as we see it, and then of course there are a whole range of market and demand driven factors which also play a part in the narcotics that we seize.

Mr Negus : I mentioned earlier that, in the two years I have been commissioner, we have committed ourselves to seven key strategic principles on how we run the organisation, and the first part of that was to reinvigorate our investigations capability and increase resourcing and skills in that area. We have done a lot of work in that area in the last couple of years, including pushing more people into the front line and having more officers available to do these sorts of investigations. But, also importantly, another one of those seven strategic principles was to strengthen our stakeholder relationships both domestically and offshore, and we have done a lot of that. We work very closely with state and territory police. We have a very good relationship with the Australian Crime Commission as well, of which I am the chair of the board. Again, we are looking at national task forces about how we can look at this as a holistic problem. We have put people into places like Los Angeles to look at the cocaine problem coming out of Mexico. It has been a proactive stance which is already bearing very good results from an intelligence perspective with the DEA in the US. So there has been good cooperation around the globe in really looking at this in a strategic sense and making sure that Australia is part of the global fight on narcotics. I am not sure whether the deputy said this but it also highlights Australia's attractiveness as a target destination, with our high dollar and the market forces that exist in drug trafficking. It also shows that we are getting some good intelligence, working closely with our partners and actually getting some good results in that context. The challenge for all of us is to continue this, year on year, and to make sure that we continue on an upward swing.

Senator FURNER: Would you advise the committee of the amount of assets, in dollar terms, restrained by the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce in 2010-11 and how that relates to the previous financial year? Can you also advise what sorts of crime types are most common in relation to those seizures?

Mr Negus : I will ask Deputy Commissioner Colvin to give you the details, but it is also useful to look at the context. Again, we have tried a more creative way of dealing with criminal asset confiscation and we have more than doubled the restrained assets this year as opposed to last year. I will let Deputy Commissioner Colvin give you some details on the new task force arrangements.

Mr Colvin : In terms of our performance for the 2010-11 financial year, $41.05 million worth of assets were restrained as result of the AFP and our task force operations. This compares with $18.9 million worth for the 2009-10 financial year. To update the committee on where we are for this financial year, up to 30 September the AFP had restrained has restrained $5.45 million worth of assets. It is worth pointing out as well that in the previous financial year, 2010-11, the AFP seized around $18 million in cash, so it is not just assets that we have restrained but cash that we have seized as part of our investigations. That says a couple of things. One is that, as we all know, serious and organised crime is a well-cashed-up business. It also says that our emphasis and focus on following the assets and the cash is a positive development in terms of the way we are attacking these serious and organised crime groups.

Senator, are you interested as well in the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce and its progress? Were you asking about that?

Senator FURNER: Yes.

Mr Colvin : That is being implemented in two phases. The first phase of the task force was established in January 2011 and it brought together the AFP, the Commonwealth DPP, the ACC and the ATO. It was implemented within the existing resources of the participating agencies, so agencies gave us what they could. The task force is housed in the AFP. It is headquartered here in Canberra but we have arms of the task force throughout our regional offices. This varies in different locations but within those in regional offices we have ACC and ATO members who are attached to the task force. That is the first phase of the task force.

You will be aware that there is legislation currently before the parliament that deals with the Proceeds of Crime Act and some consequential acts that will give full effect to the task force in terms of the AFP's ability to commence and take on litigation action for proceeds of crime. Upon passage of that legislation through the parliament, that will signal the full implementation of the task force. We expect that to be sometime in early 2012.

In terms of actual staffing numbers, the current headcount of the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce is 68. I also have some figures here on the resources contributed by the ATO and the ACC. The ATO is providing financial analysis support to task force investigations through five co-located ATO officers. Two of those are in Sydney, one is in Perth, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. Additional ATO support is being provided by dedicated but not co-located ATO serious non-compliance teams. The ACC is contributing six co-located officers to the task force: three in Sydney, one in Perth, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. The Commonwealth DPP is working very closely with the task force on a needs basis.

Senator FURNER: Earlier we were discussing the all-in policing model in Australia's major airports. Can you give me some feedback about when that program will be completed?

Mr Negus : I will ask Deputy Commissioner Drennan to speak to that.

Mr Drennan : The program has a time frame of three to five years. We are closer to the three-year period as opposed to the five years. It is a program which is progressing quite well, with the transition of protective service officers as sworn police officers, but also with other federal agents moving into airport roles, allowing the state and territory police to be released back to their host police forces.

Senator FURNER: So in respect of the three-year time frame are we on track with contemporary transition?

Mr Drennan : We are. As I said it was a three- to five-year time frame because of the large nature of the program and variables in relation to the ability for the state and territory police forces to absorb their people back in and likewise the ability for us to train people who are transitioning from the PSO, protective service officer, roles, to the sworn roles or from people coming externally to the organisation if we needed to recruit externally. That is why it was given a three- to five-year time frame. We are closer, as I said, to aiming for three years and on that basis it is very much on track.

Mr Negus : With the individual states and territories it is what suits them best. Some places would like their officers back more quickly, it saves them recruiting, others who do not have particular issues around attrition would like them back at a more steady rate. We have been accommodating and appreciate their support in getting that done. As the deputy commissioner said it is more closely aligned to three years rather than the five-year time horizon that we originally had.

Senator FURNER: Moving on to another area I know that AFP officers attended the earthquake disaster over in Christchurch earlier this year. How many officers were deployed and what was the essential nature of their role whilst they were there?

Mr Negus : I think from memory it was 61. I am sure we have the figure here. The Minister for Home Affairs and I went and farewelled our officers at the airport and they were on the ground very quickly along with I must add members of just about every state and territory police force in this country. There were well over 300 Australian officers who went and assisted. Last time I was in New Zealand for a meeting the police minister over there, Judith Collins, pulled Mr O'Connor and I aside and thanked us personally for the actions of the officers.

In speaking to those officers on their return I think it was probably one of the most moving and rewarding experiences of their lives to be involved in Christchurch and to be helping out and doing the things that they did there while the earthquakes and the aftershocks were still continuing, so it was quite a difficult role for them. As they walked through the airport the locals burst into spontaneous applause that support had come from Australia. It has been relayed to me many times about the deep appreciation from the New Zealand people for the work that was done by the Australian police from every state and territory as well as the federal police.

Mr Drennan : There were approximately 60 there at any one time; however, people were rotated through that role. Over 100 people were actually deployed there. We can actually get you that number but at any one time there were about 60 police there. They were performing the role of general duties, search and rescue and command and coordination roles in assisting the New Zealand police.

Senator FURNER: No doubt we have had some other natural disasters not only on our continent but in the region. What other deployments have occurred in the last financial year for AFP officers?

Mr Negus : Again, you will find this in our annual report but we provided support to the Queensland Police Service when the major floods occurred around the South-East Queensland area and on the back of that with Cyclone Yasi we sent people to north Queensland to support the Queensland police in that regard. It has been a very difficult year in responding to those areas as well as managing a whole range of different other domestic and international issues for the AFP. We have been able to meet that and support our fellow police officers in other areas including New Zealand within existing resources and, as I said, contribute in that context. Again the responses to SIEV221 were also quite substantial. It was in the order of I think 80 people who went to Queensland to assist with the floods and a lesser amount went to north Queensland to assist in Cyclone Yasi. I know that in speaking to the commissioner of the Queensland Police Service again they were very much appreciated and provided great support. In any of these emergency situations the local police usually respond in a very admirable way. However, sustainability becomes the issue in doing that after two days, four days, six days, this is when they need the reinforcements from our people and we have been able to fulfil that role.

Senator FURNER: Would you update the committee on the status of the charges made in relation to Operation Rescue as well? I understand it was an international investigation into an online network of child sex offenders.

Mr Negus : I will ask Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, who is the head of our high-tech crime operations, which covers child protection operations, to give you some details.

Mr Gaughan : Thanks for the question. Some of the matters in relation to Operation Rescue are currently before the court; in fact, that is the vast majority of those people. That said, there have been a couple who have been before the court at this stage who have actually pleaded guilty. Our experience with this particular crime type is that well in excess of 95 per cent of people plead guilty at the earliest opportunity. It is unfortunately about all the information we have. We can provide some further breakdown of the actual status of each offender, but we will have to take that on notice.

Senator FURNER: You are not able to identify the number of arrests or charges at this stage?

Mr Gaughan : I do not have that one before me. Unfortunately, in this particular crime type, in the year to date we have arrested 118 people for this type of offence but to have the particular details on hand in relation to ever individual operation is difficult.

Mr Negus : I know this has been of interest to members of the committee before and when I was reading the notes preparing for the committee I thought it would be useful, if I got the opportunity, to say this. Assistant Commission Gaughan mentioned that there have been 118 offenders apprehended this calendar year, so from 1 January, for 149 charges relating to child protection operations. This is online child sexual exploitation. But, more staggeringly, since 2005 when the high-tech crime operations team were put up there have been 757 offenders apprehended for over 1,000 charges.

This is a discrete unit of the AFP which looks at that online environment and protecting children and there have been a range of international operations we have been involved in over the last 12 months. They include one in June where we charged 11 men in a nationwide operation, as well as removing two children at risk from those environments. That is one of the most rewarding parts of what Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan does here—removing those children who are at risk. Those charged have been charged with a range of offences relating to using carriage services to transmit and possess child pornography.

It is also important for the committee to understand that internationally this is a growing issue. In March this year the AFP worked with our international partners with the investigation of the 'boylover' network. People may have seen that written up in the press. Five men were arrested in Australia who at one point were high-ranking members of that online community and this 'boylover' network, but 184 offenders were arrested across the world. So very much Australia is playing its part in that international environment and over 200 children were safeguarded out of that one operation and removed from potential points of risk.

In recognition of Australia's growing role in this, and we have put ourselves forward to try and take a leadership role internationally of this, we have been asked to be the chair of a virtual global taskforce. The mandate of the virtual global taskforce is to protect children through supporting members across the worlds. This is raising skill levels in countries that might not have the technical capability. Assistant Commissioner Gaughan and others play key roles in that. In fact, Neil is the chair of that group. The importance of this is growing because the number of people involved in that virtual global taskforce is growing and the number of countries represented is growing. This is something that we are putting a lot of effort in, again in broader education and broader work across the community.

Senator FURNER: As you would be aware, we passed legislation earlier this year criminalising providing material support for people smuggling. Have there been any charges brought in relation to those offences and can you give some details on that?

Mr Negus : We will have to get Deputy Commissioner Colvin back again.

Mr Colvin : I do not believe we have, but I will correct the record if that is the case.

Senator FURNER: Okay. Thank you.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I want to ask about the report in today's Daily Telegraph about the 10 Vietnamese children who have disappeared from community detention in the last four months. Is the AFP actively investigating the circumstances of those children?

Mr Negus : No, we are not. It was referred to us to have a look at with regard to whether or not this could be a child-trafficking matter. The assessment was that it was not, so the matter now rests with DIAC compliance teams to look at those people—

Senator HUMPHRIES: It is been referred where?

Mr Negus : The matter was referred to the AFP to look at whether there were any child-trafficking implications. The assessment is that there are not. These people willingly walked out of those particular home detention environments. I understand DIAC compliance officers are now following up their whereabouts.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So, as far as the AFP are concerned, you do not hold any concerns about the safety and wellbeing of these children?

Mr Negus : Not from a trafficking perspective. There was no evidence to suggest this was linked to Commonwealth type child-trafficking networks. It is more an issue for DIAC and the state police to look for these people and find out about their current welfare. Certainly, if anything was raised with us or we came across any information in regards to that, we would pass that on to the appropriate people.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Do you know if the state police in Victoria, Western Australia or elsewhere are investigating the whereabouts of these children?

Mr Colvin : Senator, I do not believe that they are, no. I guess we need to put it in the context of the fact that every day there are people who overstay their visas or who are not where they should be from a DIAC immigration perspective—

Senator HUMPHRIES: Not many children, I would hope, though?

Mr Colvin : I would not know, to be honest. But, in terms of these particular individuals, we have no information that suggests any particular concerns for their safety or welfare. If such information did become available, we would make sure that we or the state police were investigating; but beyond that it is a matter for DIAC.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I suppose it is a difficult issue to address. But, if you do not know where the children are, you do not know what has happened to them, so how can you rule out their being involved in child trafficking?

Mr Colvin : Conversely, as well, there is no information to suggest that they are involved in child trafficking.

Senator HUMPHRIES: But these are children who have come to Australia and been committed into the immigration community detention system. They were presumably, at that point, under the care and protection of DIAC, a federal government agency. They seem to have disappeared from that care and protection. I would have thought that the disappearance of children who were at least at one point the responsibility of the federal government would axiomatically be a matter of Commonwealth responsibility.

Mr Colvin : I absolutely agree with you, Senator, and that Commonwealth responsibility at this stage still rests with DIAC. These people have not been reported missing, we have no particular information to suggest that they are involved in child trafficking or anything else of a serious nature, and I am sure that DIAC are the best agency to address what they are doing to establish the whereabouts of these people.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you are saying you are not aware of any state or territory police force investigating these children's whereabouts?

Mr Negus : There have been discussions with the Victorian police, I understand, on this—between DIAC, the AFP and the Victoria Police. As the deputy said, they have not been reported missing as such because they think that they voluntarily walked out of these facilities. I understand the youngest is 15, if my information is correct. And, whilst they are children, DIAC are now looking to identify where they have gone and what their current status is. If they were genuine concerns for their safety, I am sure we and the Victoria Police would ask to do whatever we could to help that; but DIAC have primary responsibility, and their compliance teams, I am sure, are making every effort to identify and locate them.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I take it these are all children without parents in Australia?

Mr Negus : It is my understanding they came to Australia unaccompanied, yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay. The other issue I wanted to touch on relates to the AFP raid that took place in Melbourne in August 2009. There was recent media reporting on the status of an affidavit that you swore, Mr Negus, in relation to that. The affidavit in question is, I understand, a matter that is before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court at the moment, as to whether or not the affidavit can be published. But, in another affidavit, according to a news report on the Age website, you are quoted as saying:

… confidential (and candid) communications between the AFP and media organisations are necessary in order to maintain a level of trust and co-operation …

Could you explain what you meant by that comment?

Mr Negus : I feel a little constrained because I am due to give evidence in the particular matter to which these affidavits relate in about two weeks time, and again the Age is contesting the suppression order around that affidavit. What I was essentially saying is that the conversations you have talked about were private conversations that were disclosed in an affidavit through the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity hearings with the OPI. They have since made their way into the brief of evidence, and I did not think they served any purpose—

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can I clarify that I am not talking about the comments in the affidavit which is the subject of the proceedings; I am talking about what this report describes as the supporting affidavit, which you are quoted as saying.

Mr Negus : That is right.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Is there any sensitivity around the statement I just read out to you? Is that a matter that is being contested in court?

Mr Negus : Not that statement per se.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is what I am asking about.

Mr Negus : But as to what that statement relates to—yes, there is. To give you some context, there was a discussion between me and a particular editor of a newspaper in regard to Operation Neath, which was the counterterrorism investigation in Victoria which led to the conviction of three men for the alleged—or not alleged now—conspiracy to attack Holsworthy army base. We had a conversation about the publishing of the article in the newspaper the following day. The newspaper then agreed to suspend that publishing until a time that was operationally sound for the AFP to move ahead. That was disclosed during a range of hearings looking for the source of the leak to the newspaper. Again, that confidential conversation was not pertinent to the prosecution of the person who has been arrested for the leak, and therefore should have been suppressed.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I think you are giving me more information about the particular issue here and the particular case in relation to that raid than I actually want. I really want to find out about your views on the relationship between the AFP and media organisations. Maybe it is better if I ask these questions after this matter has been disposed of in the Magistrates Court.

Mr Negus : To answer your question, what I can say is that on occasion journalists will come into possession of material which, in the course of their inquiries, they then test with the police. Sometimes that relates to operations which are currently underway, and it could be very difficult for the police if those stories were to be published prematurely—it could blow a particular operation or put people's lives at risk. That was the case in this circumstance, and the newspaper decided that it was in its best interests not to publish at that time. That is what happened.

My comments are that—not all the time, but on occasion—there will be circumstances where newspapers or individual journalists will need to have confidential conversations with the police where agreements are reached about what information can be shared with the public at a particular time and what cannot. I am not saying that this is the case all the time and I am not saying there will ever be a particularly trusting relationship between the two, but there needs to be a level of trust which can protect national security when the time is appropriate.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand exactly what you are saying, but just to be clear, you are saying that scenario arises when a media organisation obtains information about a particular operation of the AFP which is still in a sensitive stage, not because the AFP freely gives information to an organisation for the sake of securing a better angle on a story that comes ultimately from that organisation.

Mr Negus : No, certainly not. I can say without fear of repudiation that the AFP takes those things very seriously. We investigate leaks of information. This is not about prebriefing journalists and those sorts of things; this is when a particular investigation may be compromised and may cause people to be put at risk unnecessarily because of the publication time of a story.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I have other questions, but I will put those on notice.

Senator PRATT: I have some further aviation questions. I would like to know how much money the federal government has invested in policing at Australian airports in recent budgets.

Mr Drennan : The budget for the current financial year for aviation is $122.197 million.

Senator PRATT: So that is for the AFP's part of the responsibilities? Is that correct?

Mr Drennan : That is for the AFP's aviation portfolio, which relates to policing at airports.

Senator PRATT: Does that capture everything that is in the all-in model for aviation policing and security? It is my understanding that it would not necessarily do that.

Mr Drennan : Yes, it does.

Senator PRATT: What is the investment over, say, the next four years? I understand there was an investment of $200 million in aviation security measures, but I also understand that there is $760 million over the four years. I do not know if they are separate and what they include.

Mr Drennan : It is probably best if we detail that to you on notice. The reason I say that is that in the forward estimates there is a range of leasing costs and there is a range of capital which has been provided to the AFP for us to establish a purpose-built premises at each of the airports where we have offices located around the country. The $122.197 relates to the AFP's operations at airports as is, and in the forward estimates there is additional funding for future lease costs and also for capital to fit out buildings as they come online.

Senator PRATT: What is the budget for Project Macer at our airports?

Mr Drennan : The costing to implement Project Macer is absorbed within the aviation function budget. It is incorporated within that $122.197 million.

Senator PRATT: As I understand it, that is where the Commonwealth is assuming responsibility for staffing over the next three to five years. Is that right?

Mr Drennan : Yes. The Commonwealth had responsibility for policing at the airports but it was a hybrid policing model, as I explained earlier on. The future for model core policing will be an all-in, sworn model. All police officers doing policing at the airports will be sworn members of the AFP.

Senator PRATT: The 2010-11 budget for the forward estimates is the $760 million I am referring to. Correct?

Mr Drennan : I cannot tell you if that is correct exactly. It incorporates a considerable amount of lease costs for premises in the future and also capital expenditure in the future. So it is roughly that but I really would need to get the exact details to give you a precise answer.

Senator PRATT: I understand there was an investment of about $200 million in aviation security measures and that includes a range of improved security technologies. What are those improved security technologies and where do the new budget lines come in?

Mr Drennan : I am not too sure what you are referring to there and whether it is actually something that relates to the Office of Transport Security, who have responsibility for security at airports. We have responsibility for policing at airports.

Mr Negus : If I can help, I was at the announcement of that $200 million. Most of those costs relate to screening and other security improvements around the airport precinct. The AFP's only allocation during that was a bit over $17 million for increasing the number of canines and canine handlers we had. Ours was a smaller part. From memory, Minister Albanese was the major benefactor in regard to his department looking at security issues.

Senator PRATT: So the $200 million is for a range of security measures across different departments.

Mr Negus : That is right—across a whole range of departments.

Senator PRATT: They include the Department of Transport and Infrastructure and the AFP. Thank you for clarifying that for me.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I want to ask about the report in the Canberra Times of 6 October about the average length of experience of officers serving in the ACT operations of AFP. The argument in that article was that 52 per cent of ACT policing members have under five years experience, 22 per cent of staff have between six and 10 years experience and 80 per cent of the force is still at the rank of constable, which compares with only 65 per cent in Queensland and 67 per cent in South Australia. So a relatively large number of AFP members are at that lower rank. Would you like to make a comment, Commissioner? I assume the ACT Chief Police Officer is not here, so would you like to make a comment about the greenness of the ACT policing cohort?

Mr Negus : Yes, you are correct, the Chief Police Officer is not here; he does his own estimates process in the ACT, as I am sure you are very familiar with. I do not dispute those numbers. I think across the AFP there has been a significant rate of growth in the last five or six years and we have had a lot of new people come into the organisation. I must say, though, that the average age of the AFP workforce is 40 years. These are not 18-year-old kids coming out of school, as I did, and joined the police force. The average age of our recruits is 29 or 30 and around 70 per cent have tertiary qualifications before they come to the AFP. These are people with one, two or three careers behind them as well as a degree from university studies. They are not young kids being thrown out onto the street; these are mature people who hit the ground running.

I think the ACT is very well served by the police force it has. I would have to compare those figures to the national figures we have, but they would not be that much inconsistent with the figures for the AFP. I did read in one of our areas here about the number of staff for the whole of the AFP who have been in less than three years, and I might see if my staff have that here. Yes, 26 per cent of the AFP staff have been with the AFP three years or less. If you think about the relative numbers, of almost 7,000 staff with about 1,000 of those being in the ACT, the numbers are not that much more inconsistent with that. It is something we look at; we look at mentoring and at making sure that people have significant opportunities to learn. There is a whole process they undergo once they leave the recruit college to make sure they are well developed in the skill sets that are required of them. As I said, I think the people of the ACT receive a very good service from their police force, who are well skilled and well able to do the job.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is not to be doubted but, equally, we need to retain good people.

Mr Negus : Absolutely.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Given that people come in at a later age, they are more mature and they have generally come with a previous career or two before the AFP, if they are much more likely to find themselves in the AFP at the rank of constable than in an equivalent police force, isn't it likely over time that people will make that kind of comparison and are more likely drift to other police forces than to the AFP?

Mr Negus : From my perspective I think they have far greater opportunities with the AFP, and those include the domestic policing, the community policing, the national things we talked about before with Senator Furner such as organised crime, plus the international dimensions and the peacekeeping dimensions that the AFP offers. Our attrition rate at the moment in the sworn side of the force is 2.89 per cent, which is extremely low. It is five per cent in total, so our unsworn staff turnover at a higher rate, but with the police that we recruit it has been down as low as about 1.7 per cent last year. So if people join the AFP on the sworn side of the business they are not leaving in any great numbers, and if you look at those numbers it is probably a little low from an organisational health perspective.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It is a low rate of attrition.

Mr Wood : Can I add that page 128 of the national annual report does provide the break-up of sworn police in ACT policing. Just to pick two numbers, there are 59 members, sworn police, in the ACT Policing Service that have 26-plus years of service and another 43 that have between 21 and 25 years. So there are at the near end, as the commissioner mentioned, a number of people right across the AFP who have been in for less than three years, but in ACT Policing there are some quite significant numbers, given its total size, of people who have been in the AFP as sworn police for in excess of 15 years. There is a break-up on page 128.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It sounds like a significant number who are very experienced and an even larger number who are relatively inexperienced, and not a lot in between those two extremes.

Mr Negus : This comes back to the late nineties, when we had very little recruitment done by the AFP and there were some budget issues around that and the organisation did not grow. We find there is a bit of a bubble going through the system now where people have been in either for 10 or 15 years plus or for three years minus, and there are not too many in between. So we are very conscious of that, and we have now made sure that even when we are not recruiting because the organisation is not growing—it has levelled out—we use appropriate strategies to make sure our workforce has that even recruitment process so that in the out years we do not experience the same problems.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You mentioned that the retention rate was high and the loss of people was low, but that is across the AFP. The bleeding of people from ACT Policing into national operations is a lot higher. If you count that as part of your retention figures, we have a rather high level of problems in the ACT, haven't we?

Mr Negus : We are very conscious to make sure that the ACT is seen as a very important part of the broader AFP. I have discussions with the Chief Police Officer and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services in the ACT, Simon Corbell; I have another meeting with him this Friday. Just on those issues, there is certainly a process placed around this. It is not left to chance or happenstance; there is an allocation of people that can leave the ACT for other activities in the wider AFP, and they are not released from the ACT unless it is consistent with that process, for those very reasons you talk about—so that that bleeding is not done at a rate that is seen to be excessive.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Could you take on notice a break-up over the last, say, five years of how many people have gone from ACT to national policing—for each of those five years, please.

Mr Negus : Certainly.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I have just one more question. Whatever the other factors relating to job satisfaction are, obviously pay is a significant one. You would be aware, of course, of the rejection of the recent enterprise agreement proposal. Where does that leave the AFP?

Mr Negus : I am personally very disappointed that it did not get up. It was roughly a 55-45 percentage vote against the enterprise agreement. We are now commencing the second round of bargaining with the bargaining agents—both the unions and the independent representatives. It leaves us in limbo. The existing collective agreement, which has existed for the last three years, continues, so we still have a set of industrial conditions that continue, and we are, again, actively bargaining with the independents and the unions to take it forward to a second round.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Would you say there is considerable dissatisfaction about the state of pay negotiations in the AFP?

Mr Negus : A 55-45 vote means it was not far; there were 250 votes that were the difference in the outcome. There was an 81 per cent return rate on that, so there was a high active involvement of the staff. It was disappointing all round. This was nine months of negotiations. We thought it was a fair package. As you would be aware, the AFP does not receive supplementation for pay rises; they have to be put through and offset by efficiencies. In an organisation where we are trying to push people onto the front line and maximise the staff that we have available to do the business, it has to be a responsible balance. I am sure we will get there in the end, but it was not inconsistent with what has been happening in a range of agencies across the Commonwealth in the last, probably, six months.

Senator XENOPHON: Commissioner Negus, you would probably be disappointed if I were not going to ask you questions about Allan Kessing—or surprised, perhaps.

Mr Negus : No, I am happy to answer any questions I can.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. At the last Senate estimates I asked you a number of questions in relation to the whole issue of the prosecution involving the AFP's investigation into Mr Kessing. You are aware that Mr Kessing has made application for the exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy in terms of a pardon. Mr Wilkins, perhaps I will be asking you questions about that this evening. I just want to go to this issue: clearly the information from the AFP is going to be material in terms of the exercise of that discretion. Mr Wilkins, you would agree with that—although this is perhaps not the time. In dealing with the prerogative of mercy, you will rely on information from various agencies, won't you?

Mr Wilkins : We will take into account all the matters, and that is certainly one of them.

Senator XENOPHON: One of the matters that has been put to me was that one of the reasons put as to why the conviction of Mr Kessing was appropriate was that Mr Kessing was offered an opportunity to have an interview with the Federal Police on the day his home was raided. That was put in correspondence from the Attorney-General's office—that there was an opportunity. This is in a letter from the Commonwealth DPP of 17 May 2010: there is an assertion that the AFP offered an opportunity for a tape record of interview. Are you familiar with that?

Mr Negus : I am not in this particular case, but it would be standard procedure that the person would be offered that.

Senator XENOPHON: And it says that he declined that opportunity to be interviewed on the day that his home was raided at Mount Victoria.

Mr Negus : Which is quite within his prerogative to do—to decline that.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. The Commonwealth DPP said that he was told he had an opportunity to participate in a tape-recorded interview. Mr Kessing tells me that he was never actually offered that. No tape record was offered. What he says occurred was that there were a group of officers—two internal affairs Customs officers and a number of AFP officers—there and that the lead agent said to him words to this effect: 'The others have already given you up. You may as well tell us what happened.' No reference was made to a taped record of interview. There was no offer of a recorded interview. My understanding, though, is that Mr Kessing tells me that he believes there was a female AFP agent who was holding a video camera that was filming what was transpiring. That would be standard operating procedure, wouldn't it?

Mr Negus : Yes, either a video camera or a tape recorder depending on the circumstances. Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: He assumes that it was a video camera and that normally you would have audio on at the time. Would you normally keep that tape of that raid?

Mr Negus : Yes, we would. I just have to see how long we would actually keep that for. Those exhibits, per se, would be sent to the DPP for the prosecution process and then returned to us. I am just not sure—

Mr Colvin : Certainly there would be statements from the officers who were there or the officers who took statements in relation to the court matter that would have articulated what occurred on the day. We would have to check the exact details. It would be unusual, to say the least, if he was not offered an opportunity on the day to participate.

Senator XENOPHON: I am just telling you what Mr Kessing has put to me, and the easiest way to determine what occurred is if there is a true copy—if there is a video recording and an audio recording of what occurred at the raid.

Mr Negus : It would be the usual process through the court that, again, the defence would be given, just in a disclosure sense, copies of all matters that were going to be let in as evidence. I do not know whether or not there would be a transcript of that that would be with Mr Kessing's defence team. But certainly if he were to apply to us for a copy of the transcript of something he is involved in—

Senator XENOPHON: Or if I were to apply on his behalf with his permission, with his authority.

Mr Negus : With his written consent. I think that we would certainly be able to give a transcript of anything that he has participated in if it is still available.

Senator XENOPHON: Or, more importantly, the videorecording of the raid.

Mr Negus : Yes. I hear he has participated in the conversation with that process, so he would be entitled to a copy of it.

Senator XENOPHON: Normally you would keep something like this, wouldn't you? What policy do you have on destroying documents or material?

Mr Negus : I would have to double-check that. There are obligations under the Archives Act on a range of things. You can imagine how many exhibits and statements and other things the Federal Police would collect over a period of years.

Senator XENOPHON: Do you digitise things now, though? Do you put them on a hard drive?

Mr Negus : It depends. Some things are uploaded onto our case management systems. But again it is going back several years for this case—back to 2005 from memory. We could certainly check whether it is still there, but I suspect it would be. Yes, we are just checking now to see if we can get you an answer straightaway. But certainly, on the back of this, we will make inquires and look to do that.

Senator XENOPHON: Since we spoke on this issue or since you were last here at estimates back in May, have you had an opportunity to familiarise yourself with the Kessing file, or were you previously familiar with it?

Mr Negus : I know broadly what the file is about. I asked the deputy commissioner of operations to re-evaluate the investigation based on some of the points that you had here. That re-evaluation has not identified any material that was unknown, and certainly not any material that would exculpate Mr Kessing or suggest any miscarriage of justice as was put to me at the last Senate estimates hearing. So, again, I am not suggesting that this was all-encompassing review, but I have asked the people involved to have a look at the file again, and to make sure that we went through this process to see whether there was anything there.

Senator XENOPHON: One of the issues I raised with you was whether the conversation between Customs officer Zoe Ayliffe and veteran journalist Norm Lipson was revealed in the course of the hearing. That is something that I do not think I actually got a direct answer from you—I am unclear as to what your answer was in relation to that, because if that was revealed to the defence, and there are issues here, which I will ask Mr Wilkins about this evening, about the whole issue of model litigants that may well have led to a different outcome in terms of diminishing a circumstantial case against Mr Kessing. You said that there was disclosure of the material relating to the contact with Customs by Norm Lipson, that you told the defence Lipson has been in touch with Customs and later wrote an article, but did you in fact alert the defence based on the model litigants rules, that Lipson had actually told Ayliffe that he had a couple of sources?

Mr Negus : Senator, I was not involved intimately with the case—

Senator XENOPHON: I appreciate that.

Mr Negus : so all I can say is to go back to what I said in the original: this was all about the letter of transmission to the DPP. What I can say is that Custom's referral letter that we talked about at the last estimates referred to statements made by the journalist Martin Chulov in a conversation with a talkback announcer on a radio station 2GB on 31 May. A transcript and audio recording of this interview with Mr Chulov in which he stated that his information came from two Customs sources, was disclosed to the defence. So the letter was not disclosed, but that was. Also disclosed to—

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry can we just go back a step, Commissioner, because that is very important, because I am wondering whether the two issues are being run together there, that the AFP disclosed the two sources issue in the Chulov transcript, but remained silent about it in the Lipson-Ayliffe conversation.

Mr Negus : No, I am just about to get to Mr Lipson. Also disclosed to the defence prior to the committal hearing was material relating to the contact with Customs by Norm Lipson, who is the contract reporter for the Woman's Day, so that was disclosed. The essence of that I do not have any more information on, but I think we did talk about it last time.

Senator XENOPHON: So what was actually disclosed in terms of Lipson and Ayliffe?

Mr Negus : Material relating to the contact with Customs by Norm Lipson. So that was disclosed to the defence prior to the committal hearing.

Senator XENOPHON: But that begs a very big question as to whether it was actually disclosed that Lipson told Ayliffe told that he had a couple of sources.

Mr Negus : I cannot answer anything more than that. I am happy to take on notice again the questions about what specifically was disclosed and I can give you some more information, but Mr Kessing was convicted, he then appealed, the appeal was dismissed and we went through this at the last Senate estimates hearing, so I will not go through all of the details I have here. I have had my people review the case. There is nothing in there that we can see which would point to any material that could exculpate Mr Kessing along the lines that you are talking about or that any miscarriage of justice took place in any way.

Senator XENOPHON: When you say there was a review of the case, what did that review involve, and was Mr Kessing contacted as part of that review process?

Mr Negus : No. This is an internal review of the case. Now as I have said to you very early on, I am not suggesting this was an all-encompassing review, but based on your comments at the last estimates hearing I asked that this matter just be looked at again and we have had someone go through the file and have a look at that matter in that way, and there was nothing that could be located that would give any more credence to me coming back here to tell you anything different than I did last time.

Senator XENOPHON: There was also the issue of the letter of the 17th. I will put some questions on notice in relation to this—perhaps not as part of the supplementary estimates process but as formal questions on notice. Perhaps I could liaise with your office in relation to that as a courtesy. I will not be asking you to script the questions for me though.

Mr Negus : That is appreciated.

Senator Ludwig: On this matter anyway.

Senator XENOPHON: Are you verballing me, Minister?

Senator Ludwig: No. I am just making sure that, if you want to annoy the commissioner on other matters, you are still free to do so.

Senator XENOPHON: I think there is enough for me to do in relation to the Kessing matter. I think the commissioner will probably agree with that. Reference was made to Mr Kessing being a disgruntled employee of Customs and that was part of the circumstantial case against him. Was that information that was provided by the AFP as a result of your investigations or was that coming directly from Customs?

Mr Negus : I could not answer that without taking it on notice. Again, this goes back to 2005. The officers sitting at the table here were not intimately involved with the investigation. For those sorts of details we would have to seek the people who were involved in putting the brief together.

Senator XENOPHON: Take that on notice because that is a pertinent issue. The investigation made reference to the reports in the Australian which triggered the investigation in terms of the leak of the report. The 31 May 2005 and 1 June articles by Jonathan Porter and Martin Chulov referred to a source describing events in relation to Schapelle Corby and cocaine importation from South America. I think he describes the source the journalist has as an eyewitness referring to CCTV footage. Was that part of the circumstantial case against Mr Kessing?

Mr Negus : Without actually having reference to the brief of evidence—

Senator XENOPHON: You can take that on notice. I do not expect you to answer it now.

Mr Negus : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: There was also correspondence from the regional director on 13 May 2005 to Mr Kessing's supervisor, Ms Magni, raising issues about the reports in question. This was prior to the publication of the Australian article. There was a response by Ms Magni saying that 'not only are we aware of these reports'—that is, within that office—'but the issues are still quite pertinent in terms of issues of security breaches that were raised in the reports written by Mr Kessing'. Could you take on notice whether that formed part of the circumstantial case or whether that material was disclosed to the defence?

Mr Negus : I am happy to take those questions on notice. I have to say though that these matters have obviously had an opportunity to be aired in the courts. We will add whatever value we can to that to give you an appropriate response. Whether these are matters of public record already in the court transcript I do not know. We will have to see what we can give to you in that regard.

Senator XENOPHON: I am concerned that you are saying that, because these matters have been ventilated in the courts, it is not appropriate to ask these questions.

Mr Negus : No. I am giving some limit to my ability to talk about what the strategy was in the prosecution or the case. We will do our best to do that from the records we hold and whatever public records are available from the court, but the DPP play a role in this as well.

Senator XENOPHON: Commissioner, you talk about the strategy. Doesn't the fact that the matter was dealt with in the courts and is no longer a live matter before the courts free you of any restrictions in terms of discussing the strategy for the prosecution?

Mr Negus : I am not placing any restrictions on the AFP; I am simply saying that the matter goes back to 2005. We will have to look at what records we do hold and provide whatever information we can commensurate with those questions. I am not limiting the scope of my response in any way other than to say that this matter is now six years old from the original complaint. We will do our best to answer them. I am putting you on notice I suppose that some of these things will take quite a bit of work—to actually go back through transcripts, briefs of evidence and those sorts of things.

Senator XENOPHON: In terms of the process, because I think I have another eight estimates before my term is up. Is that right, Minister?

Mr Negus : I think I have six.

Senator LUDWIG: All going well.

Senator XENOPHON: There are no triggers for a double dissolution at this stage, Minister. If questions are put on notice, obviously you will respond to those questions within the time prescribed.

Mr Negus : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Is there any other mechanism to get to the issues that are the basis of the grievance that Mr Kessing has in relation to his conviction for these matters or are you saying that is the only basis?

Mr Negus : As you are aware, we sometimes do private briefings for particular members and senators. It is a matter of whether that would be of any utility. We are happy to answer the questions on notice as best we can. If those do not satisfy you then we are happy to explore other options to get to the point you are trying to make. We have been nothing but honest in our dealings and forthcoming with what we know about the circumstances. They have not changed in the last three or four Senate estimates in which we have gone through some of this material. The briefs that I have been provided by my people are as consistent now as they were then. The AFP, in looking at this matter, have not seen any changes in the stance or the position that was taken or anything inappropriate that has been identified through this process that we will change our stance on. I am more than happy to take on notice those questions and give you the most fulsome answers we can.

Senator XENOPHON: I would like to raise a couple of other issues in relation to this. Mr Kessing publicly said in 2009, when this matter was raised in parliament, that he had had contact with Mr Albanese who was the shadow minister in late 2004, well before these articles appeared in the Australian. Is it the policy of the AFP that if an aggrieved citizen goes to a member of parliament with documents that would otherwise attract prosecution under section 70, the fact that that communication was to a member of parliament would put it in a different light as there would be a defence which would meant it would be treated differently? In other words, does the AFP have a different attitude to the release of information to a member of parliament from the attitude it takes to information released to a media organisation under the terms of section 70 of the Crimes Act?

Mr Negus : No, we do not. In fact, if you had been here earlier, I referred a matter to our internal investigations when Senator Brandis attempted to table a document from the AFP to see how that document was released unlawfully through that process. It is a very recent example of about an hour ago.

Senator XENOPHON: I am sorry I was not here. I can raise with Mr Wilkins later whether a matter raised with a member of parliament has a different status under section 70 in terms of potential defences.

Senator LUDWIG: It depends on the context and where you raise it. There are certain rights whilst you are in a committee. I am not going to go to them as I am sure you are aware of them.

Senator XENOPHON: If it is given to an MP for the purpose of it being raised in the parliament or through a committee process it may be a different issue.

Senator LUDWIG: That is a different issue. I would take advice on that.

Mr Negus : Our stance has been that the alleged disclosure to Mr Albanese staff in 2005 was after Mr Kessing was convicted—

Senator XENOPHON: According to Mr Kessing and Mr Albanese as well. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that.

Mr Negus : Sorry, I was not being completely inclusive in that. The issue is that, given Mr Kessing's conviction—and I know there is a range of issues you are still pursuing around that—we did not think it was in the public interest to reinvestigate that particular matter. This is not about it being appropriate or not as far as Mr Albanese is concerned; this is about the public interest in the conviction on one matter to reinvestigate a similar matter in the context of Mr Kessing already having been convicted for that. That is where the AFP stands on this matter. It is not anticipated that we will reopen any investigation in that regard.

Senator XENOPHON: Finally in relation to this, Mr Kessing wrote via my office on 12 August, I think, to the Attorney-General's Department in relation to further information with respect to the application for a pardon. Has there been any communication between the Attorney-General's Department and the AFP requesting any further details since that letter? I am not asking you for the content; I am just asking whether there have been any communications.

Mr Negus : I am just informed that there have been some discussions.

Senator XENOPHON: As a result of Mr Kessing's subsequent letter of 12 August 2011?

Mr Colvin : There are ongoing discussions with the department to help the department form a view. I guess that they will advise the minister. I could not be sure whether it was before or after the ongoing discussions.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Kessing wrote a detailed letter with a number of attachments with respect to this matter. I think it was 13 pages in all.

Mr Negus : Perhaps the department would be better placed to answer that question.

Senator XENOPHON: Was the AFP provided with a copy of Mr Kessing's letter of 12 August 2011?

Mr Negus : Yes, we were.

Senator XENOPHON: Until the next estimates two of my questions are on notice.

Mr Colvin : I may be able to answer one question for the senator that we took on notice. On 6 September there was video and audio of the search that was executed at Mr Kessing's property. Transcripts have been disclosed to Mr Kessing through his defence team of that video and audio and that included him being offered an opportunity to participate in an interview, which he declined.

Senator XENOPHON: Do you still have the video available of that?

Mr Colvin : We are just checking the status of that at the moment. It may be that we just have the transcript and not the video. We will have to take that on notice.

Mr Negus : The transcript would have been disclosed during the hearing.

CHAIR: We have still need the Australian Federal Police but we are going to break for afternoon tea.

Proceedings suspended from 15:36 to 15:53

Senator LUDLAM: Commissioner, I have a couple of brief questions on some matters I raised with you some time ago. I am interested in the High Tech Crime Operations section, if that is what it is still called, within the AFP. Can you tell us what the budget is for the 2011-12 financial year for those parts dealing with investigation of criminal activity related to online child sexual abuse?

Mr Negus : Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan who is the head of that area will answer that question.

Mr Gaughan : Thanks for the question. The current budget for high tech crime is $55.54m with an FTE of 350. In relation to child protection operations, which I think was more your area of interest, the initial AFP funding for cybersafety measures was $49.4m over four years for the financial years 2008 to 2012.

Senator LUDLAM: Over how many years?

Mr Gaughan : Four years.

Senator LUDLAM: That is about $12m—

Mr Negus : I do have a little bit more information to perhaps give you an idea of the nature of the work. During 2011-12 the AFP has 53 dedicated officers to conduct child protection operations. We talked about this earlier in the day but at any time the AFP can bring people into and out of particular areas of investigation as the need arises. For instance, we could have 400 people working on a counterterrorism operation yet there are 149 working in that portfolio. It is matter of what the priorities are. In 2010-11 there were a total of 98,669 hours expended on incident types relating to child protection operations. Almost 100,000 hours were expended in child protection operations. Nearly 56,000 of those were from the High-Tech Crime Operations area. Almost half again is from our generalist investigative pool with Assistant Commissioner Gaughan's specialists providing half of that total.

Senator LUDLAM: Are you quoting from the PBS?

Mr Negus : No, it is from an internal brief. A total of 576 members from across the AFP contributed to these hours. If you think about the number of investigators we have, almost 600 of them at some stage worked on child protection operations throughout the year. I talked before about it being an ever-growing problem and it is something we are really focusing on with something like 750-plus apprehensions since 2005 when the High Tech Crime Operations portfolio was put in place, and over 1,000 charges.

Senator LUDLAM: Has that gone up year on year?

Mr Negus : Yes it has. The international components of this, we have talked about before, have been growing. We are being more involved in that. This year alone Neil mentioned 118 people were apprehended for child protection operation matters with 140 charges.

Senator LUDLAM: Here in Australia?

Mr Negus : Here in Australia. That is just by the AFP. It is not counting what we refer to state and territory police.

Senator LUDLAM: Could I ask you to table whatever part of the briefing you have got that is suitable for public release.

Mr Negus : Yes, absolutely.

Senator LUDLAM: How much does the government spend or is planning to spend on education activities directed at offenders involved in online child sexual abuse as a crime prevention strategy? I understand probably most of what you are describing for me there is investigation and prosecution of things afoot. What if any is the preventive component?

Mr Negus : Yes it was. I will get Assistant Commissioner Gaughan to talk about this. Prevention and education, particularly for young people, is a very important part of what the High Tech Crime Operations portfolio does.

Mr Gaughan : The cybersafety national policy initiative did have a fairly large component, as the commissioner indicated, in cybersafety and cybersecurity. It is not just the role of the AFP to be involved in that particular activity. It is a whole-of-government one. ACMA also has a part to play as does the ACCC. The department of broadband has a significant role to play as well. Everyone is involved in education. From our perspective, we focus on education for children through our ThinkUKnow program, which is an award-winning program you are very familiar with. As far as offenders are concerned, which I think is the question you specifically asked, education is very difficult. We are working with academia particularly through the Virtual Global Taskforce, which I am currently the chair of, to engage criminologists to try and do some profiling around victimisation to try and break the cycle if you like. We are working very closely not only with academia and NGOs but also with industry in trying to break this crime cycle.

Senator LUDLAM: If you are working with academics, that is obviously pretty welcome. Are you working with counsellors and therapists? That is still not preventative. That is in a research capacity. What are you doing preventatively with offenders?

Mr Gaughan : Nothing specifically with offenders, I suppose. But we are also working with the telecommunications industry and the ISPs to block this type of offending material, which has been reasonably successful.

Senator LUDLAM: It does not get rid of it though and it does not stop people going looking for it. I am not disputing the value of all those other things. Specifically going to the issue of the people who are popping up, who you are prosecuting or who you suspect of doing this stuff, what is out there for rehabilitation and what is out there for therapy for whatever can be brought to bear on the people who are offenders?

Mr Gaughan : There are processes in place through the judicial process for dealing with offenders. It is not really a market that the AFP historically has been involved in whether it be for this crime type or any other crime type. That said, we are working with academia to actually try to come up with some solutions to break the offending cycle. That is the importance of what the VGT is doing in relation to some of the international conferences we have been hosting. One we are going to host in the UAE shortly will try to address some of those issues.

Senator LUDLAM: I will leave it there. It does not sound like it is part of your core business, but I just wonder, rather than me working through a maze of different departments and portfolios, whether you can pull out for us who is doing the work? Is it child protection at a state level or what do you do?

Where I am I going with this is that having spoken to someone who counsels offenders in this area, it sounds like a niche area that is reasonably well researched but very poorly resourced in terms of people just exiting the criminal justice system and being back out there again. There does not seem to be any kind of safety net that we can put under people.

Mr Gaughan : We will take that on notice. I was just talking to Mr Wilkins, and between ourselves and the department we may be able to give you a steer of where, if any, action is being taken.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you very much. I have learnt a bit about the UK equivalent of what I guess your office is: their Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre, CEOP. Are you familiar with that outfit? Do you work directly with them?

Mr Gaughan : We work very closely with CEOP. They are a partner of the Virtual Global Taskforce. ThinkUKnow actually came from CEOP, so we have a very strong relationship with CEOP in this crime type.

Senator LUDLAM: They look like a very interesting collaboration with e-crime specialists and industry—ISPs, carrier providers and so on. I have had it put to me that compared with that model and what you folk have put together we could learn a bit from the structure of what they do there. Is there any appetite in Australia to move towards that kind of collaborative model or do you think we have the structure about right?

Mr Gaughan : In my view we have it right. We already work with those players on a regular basis. You mentioned industry; we work with the ISPs. The AFP was working very closely with Telstra and Optus in relation to the blocking issue that has come forward recently. It is the relationship that we have with the ISPs that has put that front and centre. We work with academia and we work with industry. We have recently had a person seconded to Microsoft in Seattle, which is something that no other international law enforcement agency has. To some extent, I think that we are even slightly ahead of the curve.

Mr Negus : The former head of that body you are talking about—a fellow called Jim Gamble—was the former chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce. At Jim's recommendation the AFP has taken over the chair since he has left that organisation. So there is quite a strong personal and productive working relationship there.

We did learn a lot of lessons from CEOP. They were certainly leading the way internationally, looking at this as an international problem rather than it relating just to the specifics of a jurisdictional issue. We have tried to take whatever lessons we can from them and implement them here as well.

Senator LUDLAM: I did not come here to pick fights, but one of the criticisms that I have heard of the work that you do here is that it has a focus on the identification of Australian victims rather than on abuse by Australians of children overseas or in the region. There is obviously a serious issue in South-East Asia, for example, where some of this material is produced in the first place. Is that a fair criticism, in your view?

Mr Gaughan : In my view, no it is not. We have a significant focus on child sex tourism. Two of my officers have recently returned from the Philippines, where they were involved in some work with the FBI offshore. We work very closely with a number of non-government organisations offshore as well. I suppose the issue that the commissioner and some of the other deputy commissioners have touched on recently is that the prosecution for Australians offending offshore should rest with the jurisdiction in which the offences take place. We work with a capacity-building relationship with those agencies offshore.

We have arrested people and been involved in the prosecution of those people back here in Australia and have assisted overseas agencies, so it is certainly a focus. If we received intelligence that Australians are committing offences offshore we deploy officers to assist; the local law enforcement agencies would bring them to justice.

Mr Negus : Much of the work that we do, particularly through South-East Asia, is capacity building to make sure that the local law enforcement are, firstly, aware of these types of crimes and, secondly, treat them seriously. But we give them the capability and the support to be able to prosecute those cases in their own jurisdiction and work with them to develop laws where there is an absence of those laws.

I think there have been some recent cases where first ever prosecutions have taken place. There was one in Nepal recently, which we were a part of as well. Places like Cambodia and those sorts of places are now really very much having a local look at what is happening in their own backyard through the actions of the AFP in being there, supporting that and trying to actually encourage them in those environments.

Mr Gaughan : The VGT has actually grown its membership to now include members of the non-government organisations such as ECPAT. I was actually on the phone with the managing director of ECPAT in Thailand earlier this week, so those relationships are ongoing. In this crime space in my view it is not just about what the AFP does from a law enforcement perspective it is how we react and relate to our international partners, so we are working collectively.

Senator LUDLAM: Normally I would direct a question like this to ACMA, who I think are appearing in a different committee later today, but I will put it to you anyway just in case. Do you have any forecast budget or current activity on ISP level filtering? You mentioned blocking before. It has been a bit contentious. Is the AFP involved in any way in the voluntary scheme that has emerged with some of the large ISPs?

Mr Gaughan : Yes, we are. We have facilitated Optus and Telstra being provided with the 'worst of' list from Interpol. That has been in place since earlier this financial year. We have actually received some expressions of interest from a number of other ISPs to also be involved in that trial. I stated at the outset that it is a trial and the first review of the trial will actually take place in December of this year which will be oversighted by the Child Protection Committee which is part of ANZPAA.

Senator LUDLAM: Some of these sites have a very short residence time, they are churning very quickly. How often is that Interpol list updated?

Mr Gaughan : Weekly.

Senator LUDLAM: That seems very slow.

Mr Gaughan : It is very difficult to do anything more quickly than that. The advice that we have is that it is weekly. The reason that it is done that way is to ensure the integrity of the actual process we are putting in place and that the URLs actually contain child abuse material. They must be viewed by two different law enforcement officers from two different jurisdictions.

Senator LUDLAM: I do not envy them that work at all. The list comes from Interpol through the AFP and is then transmitted to the ISPs that are participating in the trial.

Mr Gaughan : If you are a secure VPN, that is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: That has been running since early this year. When is the trial proposed to conclude and on what basis will you judge its success?

Mr Gaughan : It is an open ended trial at this stage. As I said more ISPs are indicating that they are interested in getting involved. The first review will take place in December. I can say that at this stage Telstra is the only ISP that is able to provide us with information in relation to the amount of blocks that are taking place and from the period of 1 July this year to 15 October there were in excess of 84,000 redirections.

Senator LUDLAM: What do people see if they try to hit up one of those links?

Mr Gaughan : They basically see an Interpol branded site that states that the website has been blocked as it contains child pornography. It then also provides them with some avenues for review if they actually believe the site does not contain child pornography.

Senator LUDLAM: So they can report it if they think that that link is in error?

Mr Gaughan : Correct.

Senator LUDLAM: Do you then come across a list of the IP addresses of people who are repeatedly trying to hit up those links?

Mr Gaughan : No, part of the negotiation, if you like, with the trial was that at this particular stage we would not be forwarded the IP addresses.

Senator LUDLAM: But there is nothing technically preventing that from occurring in the future?

Mr Gaughan : That is correct.

Senator LUDLAM: So in the meantime you get a blocked page and that is that?

Mr Gaughan : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: When I asked ACMA similar questions in sessions past about the much broader range of material that is subject to domestic takedown orders or on the domestic refused classification list they provided us with a list of categories of kinds of material without identifying the URLs obviously. They did that periodically, numbers of links, whether it is a high-level host or an individual item on a particular site and a rough breakdown of categories of material. Are you able to do something similar for us?

Mr Gaughan : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: If you would. My final question if there is time is completely unrelated and thank you for your assistance. It relates to CHOGM. Can you give us a quick rundown of the folk that you have on the ground in Perth at the moment and what the size of your presence will be when those events get underway?

Mr Negus : We will have 315 staff in direct support of CHOGM. It is important to state at the very beginning that the West Australian police service will maintain the responsibility for policing the event. The AFP will have people in close personal protection, they will be in intelligence areas and in liaison with the West Australia Police to provide cross-jurisdictional interoperability and some tactical resources. They will be under the command of the AFP they will be under the coordination of the West Australia Police. I personally will be there for the week leading up to CHOGM.

Senator LUDLAM: Which is next week.

Mr Negus : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: From the basis of what you have told me I recognise that my state colleagues will need to follow this up with their counterparts in the state police. But I am aware of a number of people who have been raided. They have had their phones seized and they have been questioned or interrogated about the potential for demonstrations at those events. Are the AFP part of those activities of disrupting the demonstrations?

Mr Negus : No, we are not. We would be part of passing on any intelligence that would come into our possession but I do not have any visibility personally on what activities have been happening in Western Australia to collect intelligence.

Senator LUDLAM: There is a very urbane and polite gentleman from the AFP who comes to nearly every demonstration I have been to in the last 3½ years, ostensibly for my protection, which makes me feel all safe and warm. But it is fairly clear to me that the AFP does keep a pretty good handle on protest activity demonstrations and so forth across the board. What role are you taking specifically regarding people exercising their rights to have views about CHOGM, and so on, or is that all being devolved back to the state police? I would find that a bit unusual, given that you do have a visibility at these events in the normal course of things.

Mr Negus : Certainly our close personal protection responsibilities mean that we need to make sure, where there are large public gatherings, that any people who are afforded that protection are properly protected. Mr Drennan, do you know about some of the issues around collection techniques and what we would be involved in? The responsibility broadly would fall back to the Western Australian police, and we will be providing support to them. It falls under Deputy Commissioner Drennan's portfolios. I will ask him to elaborate, if he can.

Mr Drennan : It is first and foremost a role for the state and territory police in relation to the criminal aspects of it. Also, in relation to security intelligence, certainly ASIO have a role, depending on the nature of the group. As far as our particular role is concerned, we do have a component of our protection portfolio which is protection liaison. That is not so much collecting intelligence; it is about working with specific groups and ensuring that there is some coordination in relation to what occurs so that we do not end up with a large group of people at a particular place causing some concern to the public when nothing has been put in place. That group works very, very closely with our state and territory colleagues. We are not out there doing intelligence collection in relation to groups that may be proposing to do any demonstrations or whatever with regard to CHOGM.

Senator LUDLAM: But somebody is. My understanding is that in Western Australia it is the organised crime squad that is booting down people's doors and taking names around the organisation of demonstrations. Does the AFP have any involvement in supporting that kind of activity, which to me seems incredibly heavy-handed?

Mr Negus : No, we do not.

Senator LUDLAM: That is pretty unequivocal. I will leave it there.

Senator CASH: My question is in relation to a contract notice.

Mr Negus : We will do our best to answer it.

Senator CASH: It is contract notice No. CN437586. The agency is the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the category is police services, the contract period is 12 April 2011 to 30 June 2012, the contract value is $753,605.41 and the description is 'AFP cost'. It says 'Villwood centre'. Is it meant to say Villawood centre?

Mr Negus : Like you, I would imagine so. We do actually send invoices to the department of immigration but I would not have thought they would be classified under a contract.

Senator CASH: No, it has come up as: 'Name: Australian Federal Police; Contract name: Property procurement and contracts'. My question, basically, is: what is it for?

Mr Negus : It might be best if we take it on notice. Broadly we do invoice DIAC for services provided, such as the Villawood detention centre or—

Senator CASH: What type of services would you have provided to, say, Villawood detention centre?

Mr Negus : Policing services which would be above the normal response to a particular incident.

Senator CASH: For example, during the riots?

Mr Negus : That is right; Christmas Island, likewise. There has been a recuperation of funds expended in those environments to support DIAC and Serco in those environments.

Senator CASH: Are you able to provide that information to me today, by any chance?

Mr Negus : We will do our best. We are just making sure we can get some information at this time. We will certainly get something back to you—yes or no.

Senator CASH: Thank you very much.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can I ask about AFP operations on Christmas Island at the moment. Can you tell me how many staff are currently on Christmas Island?

Mr Drennan : There are 46 currently on Christmas Island.

Senator HUMPHRIES: How many of them are from the International Deployment Group, and how many of them are permanently stationed Christmas Island community police officers?

Mr Drennan : There would be three categories of people on the island. Of those who are currently there, there are 10 who we call members of the Christmas Island police; they are either AFP or special members of the AFP who are positioned there. As far as the actual numbers for the other two categories go—some of them are there for public order, and the third category are those that are there in regard to people-smuggling investigations—there are 21 of the public order people.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The public order people being the ones looking after the detention facilities?

Mr Drennan : They do not actually look after the detention facilities, but if there were to be some violent activity there then, yes, they would step in to support Serco and have the day-to-day running of those facilities under DIAC.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is what I meant to say.

Mr Drennan : That is just to be clear for the record. That would leave 15 in regard to people smuggling.

Senator HUMPHRIES: All right. Could you take it on notice to tell us—perhaps on a month-by-month basis over the last 12 months—how many AFP officers have been on the island and how they break up between those three categories, please.

Mr Negus : We did provide that at the last estimates, I think. Certainly we can do it from that period to now.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If you could, yes—just from the last set of figures till now, please. That would be good. With the riots in March of this year, can you tell me what the outcome of the AFP investigations has been—specifically, how many charges have been laid, whether any convictions have been recorded and whether those charged or convicted are still at the detention centre.

Mr Colvin : I will be best to answer that question for you. The matters are still ongoing. There have been a number of offenders charged. Let me just get the right details for you. To date the AFP investigations have charged 22 people with the following Commonwealth and state offences: aggravated burglary, burglary, possession of stolen property, damaging/destroying Commonwealth property, damaging/destroying property under the Western Australian legislation and harming/threatening Commonwealth officials. On 11 October, just recently, the Commonwealth DPP discontinued formal proceedings against three of those accused, and for the remaining 19 the matter has been adjourned to 11 November. It is before court, so there is not much more I can say.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Are those 19 remaining people who are being prosecuted still in detention?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that on notice. You asked me the same question on the Villawood riots as well; I can answer that one for you now if you like, just so you know. They have been remanded into New South Wales corrections custody. I would have to check whether the 19 have actually been held in remand or have been bailed back to immigration detention custody.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Could you give us the status of all those 19. You have said the ones at Villawood are all in New South Wales corrections.

Mr Colvin : That is correct, and they are in a number of different facilities around New South Wales.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Thank you. Between 9 and 12 June there was a riot on Christmas Island involving approximately 100 detainees, with a group on the roof of one of the buildings, I understand. I understand that they were using metal poles and concrete blocks as weapons. Perhaps you can take this on notice: could you give us details of the weapons that were allegedly used by those people with respect to that incident, and can you also update us on the status of charges out of that incident, please.

Mr Colvin : We will take on notice the particular details of what weapons, but the matter is ongoing. We have a number of suspects, but no one has been charged at this stage.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Are all of the suspects still in detention?

Mr Colvin : Because they have not been charged, they would still be in those immigration detention centres, yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will go to a broader issue about people smuggling. How many arrests of people suspected of being involved in people smuggling have there been over the last three years?

Mr Colvin : I can give you those figures by calendar year, if that is suitable. In the calendar year 2009, the AFP made 82 arrests for people-smuggling related matters. In the calendar year 2010, we made 203 arrests for people-smuggling related matters. For calendar year to date for 2011, we have made 208 arrests for people-smuggling related matters.

Senator HUMPHRIES: For each of those years can you tell me how many of those people were arrested in Australia and how many overseas?

Mr Colvin : Most of those would have been arrested in Australia because they would have been the crews. I can tell you that for the year 2009 of the 82 arrests, 76 were crew. For the year 2010 for the 203 arrests, 202 were crew. For year to date, of the 208 arrests 205 have been crew. All of those arrests have been made here in Australia. The remainder are for what we term as people-smuggling organisers, and there would be a mix with a majority of the arrests made overseas where we have then sought extradition.

Mr Negus : Whilst we cannot really talk about what is happening in each of these cases, we currently have seven extraditions of suspected people smugglers on foot, and those matters are continuing—seven people arrested overseas who we are trying to extradite back to Australia.

Senator HUMPHRIES: But the overwhelming majority of the people that you are arresting are those who are at the bottom of the chain, as it were, who know they are going to be arrested as soon as they get involved in these exercises?

Mr Negus : Most realise they are going to be arrested, yes, you are right.

Mr Colvin : Can I take that back one step? You asked me about the 19 people charged in relation to the March riots, they are all now back in DIAC custody.

Senator HUMPHRIES: In the detention facility on Christmas Island?

Mr Colvin : Yes, the immigration detention centre. The court would have bailed them back into immigration custody.

Senator HUMPHRIES: With respect to those three years that you have just given me, Mr Colvin, could you give me figures for how many convictions have been recorded? Perhaps you could take that on notice?

Mr Colvin : I can give that to you—I have those figures in front of me. For the calendar year 2009 we had a total of 27 convictions, and they were 27 crew members. For the calendar year 2010 we had a total of 66 convictions which were 62 crew members and four organisers. For the calendar year 2011 we have, so far, 81 convictions, all of which are crew members.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Has anybody in those last three years been given the maximum penalty, which I understand is 20 years imprisonment for involvement in people smuggling?

Mr Colvin : No, no-one has received the maximum penalty.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Do you know what maximum penalty has been imposed by the courts?

Mr Colvin : No, I would have to take that on notice.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If you would not mind. I think I can put the rest of my questions now on notice.

Senator BRANDIS: Commissioner, I want to ask you about a people-smuggling vessel believed to have been lost at sea which embarked from Indonesia on or about 13 November 2010. Are you familiar with that case?

Mr Negus : Yes, I am.

Senator BRANDIS: Am I right in understanding that the first engagement of the Australian Federal Police in relation to the vessel that was subsequently named SIEV221 was on 24 December 2010? Is that right?

Mr Colvin : When we first heard about SIEV221 was when it was identified just prior to washing up on the rocks on Christmas Island—

Mr Negus : I think we might be getting the SIEV numbers mixed up. SIEV221 was the one where unfortunately so many people lost their lives when it crashed on the rocks.

Senator BRANDIS: I am sorry that is not the vessel I have in mind. I have in mind the vessel that was believed to have left Indonesia on 13 November 2010. I understand that the AFP was first engaged in the case on 24 December; is that right?

Mr Negus : That is right. Inquiries were received by DIAC we understand just before that but were forwarded to the AFP on 24 December.

Senator BRANDIS: What happens when you first become notified of a vessel believed to have been missing? You create a file obviously, but do you initiate any investigations or do you just monitor the situation?

Mr Negus : We certainly do a range of things. I will pass back to the deputy commissioner to step you through that.

Senator BRANDIS: That would be very helpful. You might illustrate what you do in a routine case by what you actually did in this case.

Mr Colvin : In relation to the alleged vessel from 13 November three inquiries were received by DIAC between 17 and 20 December 2010 and they were reported to the AFP on 24 December, as you have said, via email. A fourth inquiry received by DIAC was forwarded to the AFP on 5 January. These would routinely be inquiries coming to DIAC from members of the public who are given information about their family on vessels they may or may not be aware of. They are asking if someone has arrived on Christmas Island.

Senator BRANDIS: So these are people in Australia whose family members or acquaintances were meant to be on this vessel and the vessel never arrived and was believed to be lost at sea. Is that what it amounts to?

Mr Colvin : It is difficult to be categorical about all the calls. I will give you an idea. There were 950 calls to the DIAC hotline around SIEV221. A lot of those calls were, 'Is my family member on the vessel?' or 'I am expecting somebody to arrive.' You are right, there is a fairly good network amongst the diasporas in Australia about other family members coming. They do not always know the details of which boat, when it is coming and where it left from, but they are expecting someone. Those calls are received by DIAC. AFP members then review the calls and sort them into Australian based and overseas based callers. The priority at the time was to identify how many people were on board SIEV221. Of course, in doing that we are also collecting information about members who may be on other vessels that arrive before SIEV221 or after.

Senator BRANDIS: Was this vessel given a SIEV number? I assume it was.

Mr Colvin : No, I do not believe it was.

Senator BRANDIS: Was that because it just disappeared in international waters?

Mr Colvin : No positive identification was ever made of a vessel that accorded with the various pieces of information we were given. The AFP sorts the information into domestic or offshore information. We work with our partners overseas and send that information to them to see if they can elaborate and assist. In the case of this vessel you are referring to, as we have said, there was no positive identification ever made of the vessel. The AFP did collect all of the information we could, added what analysis we could to it and then provided that information to the Indonesian national police so that they might be able to make further inquiries of their own.

Senator BRANDIS: What was the outcome of those inquiries? Did you establish that the boat in fact did disembark from Indonesia on or about 13 November?

Mr Colvin : In answer to your second part, no, to my knowledge we never established that that vessel did actually leave. All of the names we are aware of have been reported as missing. I do not want to refer to another agency, but I know that the Customs and Border Protection Service are responsible for bringing most of this information together and they will certainly be in a better position to give you a more conclusive answer to that.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand that on 2 September you forwarded all of the information that you had received about this putative vessel to the Indonesian national police; is that right?

Mr Colvin : That is what my notes here say as well.

Senator BRANDIS: And is that the end of your involvement the case?

Mr Colvin : Not necessarily. The INP may come back with further questions; there may be leads that they generate from our information that we pursue with them. It would not necessarily be the end.

Senator BRANDIS: But at the moment that is as far as your involvement is extended?

Mr Colvin : That is correct, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: When individual members of the diaspora or other sources contact you with the names of family members or associates who they believe were on this vessel, how is that processed? Is that sent to the Indonesian National Police, for instance?

Mr Colvin : We would be careful and sensitive about what information is given. A lot of this information is provided to us anonymously. You would appreciate that, depending on what information the person knows and how they come to know about it, they may well have committed domestic offences here in Australia. I cannot give one answer that fits all cases for you on that question.

Senator BRANDIS: What is your current position? You have not concluded that there was any such vessel or any such loss at sea of a vessel, notwithstanding these reports that were sourced from DIAC?

Mr Colvin : We, the AFP, have not, but as I said that is a better question to target to the Customs and Border Protection Service.

Senator BRANDIS: I certainly will, but I just wanted to establish what the AFP's involvement was. I understand it is an incidental involvement in this case. You do not have a view on the matter, is that what it amounts to?

Mr Colvin : I would not say we do not have a view on the matter.

Senator BRANDIS: What is your view, then?

Mr Colvin : We have looked at the information and, to the best extent that we can, we have pulled it together, analysed it and provided it to the INP, who may be able to add value to that. We have not conclusively satisfied ourselves that a vessel did or did not leave Indonesia. We know it did not make it to Christmas Island but we do not know whether or not a vessel turned back or whether its people subsequently got on other boats or are still waiting to leave Indonesia. I cannot be categorical about that.

Senator BRANDIS: I am not asking you to be. You said to me that it was not right to say you did not have a view but then you said you cannot be categorical about those matters. Those are perfectly consistent statements. What is your tentative or provisional view about the existence or nonexistence of this vessel?

Mr Colvin : Our view is that there was enough intelligence there for us to bring it together and take it to the Indonesian police to ask them to add value to it. I am not saying that there was or there was not a vessel.

Senator BRANDIS: That will do. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Commissioner Negus, we thank you and your officers for your time today. We certainly appreciate the many hours in which you have provided the committee with your evidence.