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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Federal Police

Go To First Hit

Australian Federal Police

CHAIR: Let's reconvene this public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional and Affairs Legislation Committee in our consideration of budget estimates. In the Attorney-General's portfolio this afternoon, we now have before us the Australian Federal Police. I welcome Commissioner Negus and his team. It is good to have you here again.

Mr Negus : Thank you.

CHAIR: Do you have an opening statement that you wish to make?

Mr Negus : No, I do not.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Mr Negus. In your February 2012 answers to questions on notice you refer to the schedules and the recently renegotiated contract between AFP and NOSIC. Could you release that material as well, please?

Mr Negus : As you would be aware, we certainly released components of the contract we have with NOSIC. There were some reasons behind not releasing the remainder of that component. Apart from being commercial-in-confidence, the schedules contained operationally sensitive information, so we would not be able to release that. The response to your question was quite extensive and we would be more than happy to answer any other questions you may have today, if we can.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the services agreement that was made on 16 May 2003 between the Commonwealth of Australia and Global Edge Group Pty Ltd the contract in whole and all that is missing is the schedules? Is that correct?

Mr Negus : That is my understanding. I might get Deputy Commissioner Drennan to the table because it is in his area of expertise. He approved the release of that material to you.

Senator RHIANNON: I will ask an additional question in case it can be answered by this witness. I am also interested in the stated operational reasons why the contract does not include the schedules.

Mr Drennan : We released the contract in its entirety. We did not release the schedule because it actually contains, as the commissioner said, operationally sensitive material. Without going into too much detail, there are certain parameters and certain types of information that we ask for details on. That would outline or detail the types of things that we are interested in. That is the reason we did not release that information.

Senator RHIANNON: When we were together last, there was quite a bit of information released about how NOSIC operated. It was certainly presented that what it did was fairly straightforward. I am surprised that you cannot expand on the operational reasons. Could you expand on it at all?

Mr Drennan : No. What NOSIC does on our behalf certainly is straightforward. It collects information from open sources and provides that to us. When we say information from open sources, it is information which is widely available to the public, academia and the private sector. Where it becomes operationally sensitive is in the sorts of things that we are actually interested in and where we ask them to devote their attention.

Senator RHIANNON: The contract allows, at clause 5.1, the subcontracting of services with the AFP's written approval. Have services been contracted out? If that is the case, what individuals or companies have acted as subcontractors?

Mr Drennan : I am not aware that we have contracted anything out, but I would need to take that on notice to be definitive. I would hate to tell you that we had not if there actually were an occasion, but there is certainly no occasion which I am aware of. But this contract does extend over several years, so I would just like to check that to be precise for you.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, if you could take that on notice; and also if there have been examples, what services they have provided. At clause 5.2 it specified that the type of services performed by a subcontractor can be varied with the approval of the AFP. Has that occurred? It sounds like you will probably need to take that on notice as well.

Mr Drennan : Certainly I would rely upon the answer I gave before, that I am not aware that we have subcontracted it out, but if we have, I will come back and reply to that on notice. We are quite specifically in a matter in which we ask NOSIC to collect information, and it is actually written into the contract. We are specific in that we expect them just to provide things that are from open source. We are not asking them to do anything clandestine or to do anything misleading or portray themselves as anything else. Even if we were to get them to subcontract that out, again we would be quite specific in what our expectations are.

Mr Negus : The control mechanisms that you were just advised about from the contract are there to protect the Australian Federal Police from NOSIC doing anything without our permission or our knowledge. Again, I know from the line of questioning last time I was here, and what we have answered on notice, that you were concerned about any covert or clandestine activities. As the deputy commissioner said, that is not the case. We have quite clearly stated in the response that NOSIC do not infiltrate meetings, they do not engage or interact with activists online on our behalf or on their own behalf. They do not disrupt or influence protest activities, they do not physically attend protests and they do not physically conduct surveillance of protestors or protest activity. The spirit in which the answer was supplied to you in the question on notice was very much along those lines, and while we have provided the contract—and rather than going through the contract line by line, telling what it is or it is not—the spirit of that answer remains what the AFP's position is through the whole contract. There is nothing covert; there is nothing underhanded that NOSIC would do on our behalf. We are certainly not aware of any contracting or anything else outside of that that would be put into that environment.

Senator RHIANNON: Have any audits been conducted to test, among other things, the veracity of the information provided?

Mr Drennan : The information is collected on the basis that it is open source information which is collected and provided to us. We do not rely upon it as the sole source of information, and it feeds into our broader activities. It is, if needed, verified and sense checked against other things that we know.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you just explain the process further? I had understood from the first part of your answer that audits had not been conducted and, if you could elaborate on the latter part of your answer I am trying to judge how you test the veracity of this material. Or if you do.

Mr Drennan : We do not audit the information. The information is received by us, we accept the information on face value and then if we are to act on the information it forms part of a broader set of information that we would obtain. We sense check that against other information that we may have, or if we need to, we make follow-up inquiries or reach out and speak to various groups. It is not like this is information which comes in and we take it as a sole source of information, which we then go off and act upon. It is not like there is something that we actually have to audit to test the veracity of it because it is just a subcomponent of the information that we receive.

Mr Negus : And the source of that information would be clearly identified in any holdings the AFP would have. If it came from an open source internet site, for instance, it would be sourced accordingly. Any person who would be able to use that information in the future would have to reference the source and the reliability of the source. Our intelligence analysts are obviously professionals in this area. They understand the different levels of reliability for the internet particularly, from Wikipedia right through to things that are of different reliability along that scale. So it is a matter of certainly sourcing this material, so going back to the original source and trying to validate that if it were to be used in any other fashion. It is certainly not evidence. It certainly would not be led as evidence without having to be looked at with a completely different lens by our intelligence analysts.

Senator RHIANNON: Have any breaches been established by the AFP in relation to NOSIC's practices including any security obligations?

Mr Negus : Not that I am aware of, but, again, as the deputy commissioner said, this goes back to 2003. Certainly through my period of being commissioner there is the fact that we have gone to some lengths to put together a question on notice response for you and to answer these questions here in the committee. Nothing has been raised with either the deputy commissioner or myself along those lines and I am sure it would have been given the lengths that we have gone to to provide the material.

Senator RHIANNON: Considering, as you said, it goes back to 2003, could you take it on notice to check if there have been any breaches including of security obligations, please?

Mr Negus : Certainly.

Senator RHIANNON: Your answers to questions on notice said that the contract was not put to tender because no other company does what NOSIC does. How did you ascertain that in the first place? I have got to say that was the one bit that really surprised me. In the world today it seems as though there are lots of companies out there that are all NOSIC want-to-bes.

Mr Drennan : I might correct it. It was 2002 when initially we went out to market. It was not at that time the only company that provided that type of material and, through the renegotiations of the contract, it was directly sourced in accordance with the Commonwealth procurement guidelines. When the contract comes up again, and certainly if there are other companies out there which provide that type of information, then we would look at them being part of a tender process for it. But in the times that we have been out to contract for it, they have been the only provider that provides that type of specialist service.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Could you provide a list of sources that NOSIC has used to date? I did just want to make reference to some of the comments that were made when we were last together when you did suggest that it could extend to community noticeboards. So, for example, does that include noticeboards physically located at universities, libraries, community centres? So you may want to take that on notice but I was interested in a list of sources that NOSIC has used to date.

Mr Drennan : We certainly could, but again we would stipulate it is open-source information. It is information which is available to the public in general. It is more about being able to search that and bring it together in a consolidated manner. So whether it is extended to noticeboards or the internet or the newspaper there is nothing which is untoward or secretive in the manner or in the sources from which this information is obtained and provided.

Senator RHIANNON: Thanks, and that is why I would like to ask it on notice as you have identified that it is both in a consolidated form and publicly available as far as we know. So could you take that on notice, please?

Mr Drennan : Certainly.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you provide details of the groups or individuals that NOSIC has surveyed and provided information on since your contract with NOSIC began? I will give some context here. As you would be aware, it has been reported that the groups that have been surveyed include coal and mining campaigners. I was interested in what other categories you are looking at and if you are targeting groups or individuals or both.

Mr Negus : We do not provide details of who or what we might be investigating or looking at from an intelligence perspective. All I could say to you is that we do all of these things within the bounds of our responsibilities under the AFP Act and under the law. As I said, it would not be appropriate to share operationally sensitive information with yourself individually or with the committee. So I think we have to draw the line at providing that. That is why we said, with the contract, we do not provide the regulations, because we are keen not to overly impact upon what we are doing, quite rightly, to protect the Australian community, to enforce the Commonwealth law and to make sure that people who are exercising their right to protest or to actually be in these environments do so with some safety and some sense of being protected by the police. So, as I said, I am happy to entertain the questions along the line of what we do and do not do and how we engage this group but stepping into that other realm, I think, is not where we can reasonably go.

Senator RHIANNON: Picking up on the point about how you engage this group, does NOSIC just monitor groups or do they identify and track individuals?

Mr Negus : Again, that is going to their operational activities. I would not be prepared to disclose that.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you provide the number of groups and the number of individuals NOSIC has provided information on in the previous 12 months?

Mr Negus : No, I could not.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to pick up on the issue of complaints about AFP personnel overseas. I noticed in some of the reports that 40 of the 60 complaints that were reported on—I am referring to an article I am sure you are aware of that was in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 March—were made against officers involved in RAMSI. There appears to be a skewing of complaints to the Solomons. Of the total number of AFP officers deployed overseas, what percentage are deployed in the Solomons?

Mr Drennan : At any one time, there are approximately 350 officers deployed offshore. In the Solomon Islands, we currently have a total of 153. In addition to those numbers offshore, there are approximately 90 to 100 at any one time in our international network. When you look at the number of complaints, the Sydney Morning Herald article talked about 60 complaints over two and half years so approximately an average of 20-plus per year when we have approximately 450 people offshore at any one time.

Senator RHIANNON: If we go back to the Solomons, there is a skewing of complaints to the Solomons. Could you provide any explanation for that?

Mr Negus : Obviously, from the figures that the Deputy Commissioner has provided, there are 153 officers in the Solomons. It is our largest overseas mission, so you would expect there to be a skewing proportionally per capita to the Solomon Islands. From the figures he has given, just under half of all our people offshore in peace keeping or capacity building roles would be based in the Solomon Islands. I know Mr Wood, the chief operating officer, has some material that might be of some assistance as well in regards to this.

Mr Drennan : I am not too sure where you get information that there is a skewing of this towards the Solomons Islands because that is certainly not consistent with our figures. That number of personnel overseas I gave you is probably the least amount of people we have had offshore over that period of time. To put it in context, the numbers of complaints are not inconsistent across the board, they are not significant for the Solomon Islands and they are under the general number across the organisation. I am not too sure where you come to the point that it is skewed towards the Solomon Islands.

Senator RHIANNON: I apologise here if I have incorrect data but could you give me what the figures are for the Solomon Islands. I understood that it was 40 complaints that you had reported on.

Mr Drennan : I do not have specifics for the Solomon Islands. I have specifics for 2011-12 for the IDG generally. We provided answers to questions on notice of 26 May 2011 to Senator Trood in relation to the Solomon Islands, and we have figures for them. There were 18 complaints between July 2010 and May 2011, so it is not a significant number.

Senator RHIANNON: The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 21 March this year that there were 40 complaints made against AFP officers in the Solomon Islands. It is the International Deployment Group working with the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands.

Mr Drennan : That is correct. But, again, we are talking about 40 complaints. It is our largest mission overseas. There were 40 complaints for that period of time. I think the article said 60. It is not an inconsistent number.

Senator RHIANNON: Can I just check the figures. I though you said 153 of your people were deployed in the Solomon Islands.

Mr Drennan : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: That would seem to be a very high number. It is more than one in four.

Mr Drennan : After that, I said that is the smallest number we have had. In the previous 12 months, and in a longer period before that, we have had higher numbers there.

Senator RHIANNON: Higher numbers of complaints or higher numbers of people?

Mr Drennan : No, higher numbers of people.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you saying those 40 complaints should be compared to a larger number than the 153?

Mr Wood : I will make two points. The first is that it is not clear from the Sydney Morning Herald article that it is from our data that a number like 40 is not for a single year. It would be over more than one year; it would be over multiple years. What we do not know from the reporting is whether their source was commenting on three years, for example, which some of the other data does relate to.

The second issue is that it is important to appreciate that, on the last complaint figures I saw, over 80 per cent of them were from AFP members holding colleagues to account for behaviour they would like to draw to the attention of the professional standards process. They are not complaints from members of the community within the Solomon Islands. It shows a healthiness about the reporting culture within the Australian Federal Police. In terms of establishment rates, while I do not have the specific Solomon Islands establishment rates with me, the establishment rates of these extensions are actually quite low, and similar to the rest of the AFP.

I was not up in Parliament House last night but I understand that the Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman was asked a similar question about the rate of issues that she is aware within the International Deployment Group. I am pretty sure the question was specifically about the Solomon Islands as well. Without putting words in her mouth—though I did read Hansardthis morning—she indicated that she shares our view. She holds the view that there is a higher rate of misconduct issues within the International Deployment Group or the Solomon Islands specifically.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Could you take that on notice, because it appears there is possible confusion about the figures.

Mr Wood : I assure you our figures will come from professional standards, not from the media.

Senator RHIANNON: I am not suggesting otherwise. But we have not got them before us, so it is making it a little—

Mr Drennan : Can I just clarify there. The article in the newspaper talks about the complaints but I am not too sure it talks about what period they were over. The information we have got is that, between July 2009 and December 2011, there were 60 complaints across the IDG. The actual number in the newspaper article may be correct but I think it is deficient in that it is not precise enough to provide the actual dates. So I think it would be a step too far to say that that was in a 12-month period. What we are saying there is that that is for the entire IDG. There were 40 over that extended period of time in the Solomons. For the number of people we have there, that would not be excessive or out of the ordinary.

Senator RHIANNON: Just so we are clear, could you take on notice to provide details of the period of time over which those 40 complaints came in and the breakdown of internal complaints, complaints made by Australian members of the public and complaints made by Solomon Island nationals.

Mr Wood : Senator, with respect, if I may rephrase that: rather than trying to reconstruct the Sydney Morning Heraldfigures, could we provide figures, say, for the last three years of the total number of complaints in the Solomon Islands—using our data and breaking them up into the source of the complaint?

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. So we have something to compare it with, if you take it over the three years, could you tell us the total number of AFP personnel in the Solomon Islands; also the number of AFP personnel overseas in general and the number of complaints in general, so we can make a comparison?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I want to go to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. I understand that the Commonwealth Ombudsman has only sought information on one complaint against a member of the International Deployment Group since July 2010. Why is the number so low? Why was it only one?

Mr Wood : I understand that the Ombudsman took that question on notice last night, and so will be coming back to the Senate committees on that. I do not know the answer as to why the Ombudsman's office only sought further information on one complaint. What I would like to emphasise, though, is that the Ombudsman's office, through a number of mechanisms, including having a computer terminal in their office that connects directly into our complaints system, have visibility of every single complaint lodged against the AFP anywhere in the world on a live-time basis. So they do not have to seek information; we actually pump it into their office through a terminal that has access to the database on a real-time basis. I am not sure of the particular matter that was mentioned where further information was sought, but I would like to assure the committee that every complaint lodged in the AFP, through our complaints management system, has visibility in the Ombudsman's office on a live, real-time basis.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you respond to comments reported on 21 March by the former Ombudsman Allen Asher that his office was so under-resourced that it had little ability to investigate complaints of misconduct outside Australia?

Mr Negus : Senator, I would like to respond to that if I may. I read with interest Mr Asher's comments after he had resigned as the Commonwealth Ombudsman—in the Canberra Times, I believe it was. It was a great surprise to us. As Mr Wood has already said, we have gone to great efforts to work with the Ombudsman's office to provide them direct information, in real time, to their computer terminals on their desks so they do not have to do that. I have personally been involved in range of workshops, including with Mr Asher himself, where we have tried to make sure that our professional standards teams work well together, and there is a great exchange of information and intelligence between the two.

On the afternoon after that article appeared in the paper I got a phone call from the acting Commonwealth Ombudsman, Alison Larkins, to basically say she disagreed with Mr Asher's assessment. She also said she intended to write to the Canberra Times—and I have seen a letter that she did write to the Canberra Times—disagreeing with his assessment. I am far more likely to take the word of the acting Commonwealth Ombudsman about the current state of play than a former Ombudsman commenting from the sidelines.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

Mr Drennan : Senator, if I could just add: in June 2011 the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office actually travelled to the AFP's mission in the Solomon Islands, in conjunction with the AFP, to observe the AFP's operations offshore.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to move on to the Habib case. You would be aware of the recommendation that the AFP should develop a formal policy on what AFP officers should do in the event that they become aware of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment that has been experienced by an interviewee who is being held in detention overseas. How have you responded to that recommendation?

Mr Drennan : We are due to report back to the IGIS by 30 June 2012 re our implementation. We will have implemented the policies, or the recommendations which the IGIS made which refer to the AFP—that would be recommendations 2 and 4. Could I also add that the recommendations were made on the events surrounding Mr Habib, which go back several years, and since that time there has been considerable development of policy and AFP practice to address those types of issues, in particular the AFP's National Guideline on international police-to-police assistance in death penalty situations, which very much covers the types of issues the IGIS raised.

Senator RHIANNON: The IGIS made the recommendation: 'Australian government agencies should prepare an apology to Mrs Maha Habib for failing to keep her properly informed about Mr Mamdouh Habib's welfare and circumstances.' Has this apology been given?

Mr Drennan : Perhaps we can refer that to the Attorney-General's Department.

Mr Wilkins : No, Senator.

Senator RHIANNON: Would you like to elaborate, Mr Wilkins?

Mr Wilkins : Not really, Senator. It was a decision of the government that they would not accept that recommendation.

Senator RHIANNON: I am trying to understand the flow of events. Did the PM's office advise the AFP that no apology would be made, or did the AFP advise the PM's office that the AFP did not wish to apologise?

Mr Wilkins : Neither. It was a decision of the cabinet.

Mr Negus : Senator, just for the record: there was no suggestion that the AFP should apologise in this matter; this recommendation related to the Australian government, as far as I understand.

Senator RHIANNON: The recommendation actually says 'Australian government agencies should prepare an apology', so that is why—

Mr Negus : It doesn't say the AFP, Senator, so it is going to be really clear on the record—

Senator RHIANNON: I acknowledge that, but I did read it out accurately. Did the AFP do its own internal review of its handling of the Habib case?

Mr Drennan : The AFP certainly assisted the IGIS inquiry and made our officers available. We provided all the information we had. We certainly reviewed the manner in which we dealt with Mr Habib, and the way in which we dealt with Mr Habib was consistent with our policies and our practices of investigating allegations of that nature.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that information available publicly?

Mr Drennan : No.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I would like to move on to the AFP in Afghanistan. As we are coming into the challenging and important period of the transition, could you share with us how the AFP is involved in this transition, with the military withdrawal that is coming up.

Mr Drennan : Certainly. Currently, we have 28 people in Afghanistan. There are people deployed to Tarin Kowt, to do with our training and mentoring of the Afghan National Police through the multinational base training centre. We have people in Kandahar who are deployed with the NATO training mission. We also have people in Kabul who, again, are associated with the NATO training mission and engaged with the International Operations Coordination Centre and training the Afghan Major Crime Task Force. As the transition occurs in Afghanistan, we will maintain, for the next two years, a similar number of people to continue to provide support and training for the Afghan National Police, and our activities will be consistent with the government's transition strategy.

Senator RHIANNON: So, in summary: your numbers will stay the same and your current operations will stay fairly much the same through this transition period for coming years?

Mr Drennan : Our numbers will stay roughly the same; our activities will change in that we will be more focused in Kabul, in more strategic and training roles with the Afghan National Police from Kabul as opposed to Tarin Kowt.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the AFP been talking to AusAID in terms of providing assistance—again, in the context of the transition—because of the challenging issue of the security and safety of AusAID workers?

Mr Drennan : We are very much part of the whole-of-government with regard to security in Afghanistan. We do work closely with AusAID, and also with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and with the Australian Defence Force. Our paramount area of focus is to ensure the safety of our people involved, and they are only deployed to situations and locations where we can ensure their safety.

Mr Negus : Senator, can I just add to that, to be really clear: I think you may be talking about the safety of the AusAID workers in Afghanistan. The role that our people perform in training, in mentoring and in providing advice in curriculum development and those sorts of things are all done behind the wire—so in secure compounds and those sorts of things. For any role that AusAID would undertake which could be in a dangerous position outside of that environment, the force protection would be provided by the Australian Defence Force, not the Australian Federal Police. We are not in the position of providing personal protection to AusAID workers in that environment; that would fall through a range of different committees to the Australian Defence Force.

Senator RHIANNON: I am just trying to understand. Once the Australian Defence Force have left, do you then have a role for working with that, or hasn't that been ascertained yet?

Mr Negus : My understanding is that, again, for any Australian civilians who are working in Afghanistan, the security arrangements, whether it be private contractors or the Australian Defence Force, would have to be settled by each of the agencies involved, but I think at the moment the Australian Defence Force provides certainly levels of security for civilians working in that environment. Our own people have private contractors who provide protection for our own people in those environments. That is something that will be worked through the transition. But the AFP will not have a role in providing protection to Australian civilians within Afghanistan.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for clarifying that. In January this year the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, released a new report, the Australian Public Service adviser review, titled Review of terms and conditions for Australian government officials deployed as advisers under the Australian aid program. It looked at the entitlements of aid-funded overseas positions, but I notice that it did not cover the AFP serving overseas. Can you provide the terms and conditions for your overseas advisers in the same way that AusAID and other government departments have now done?

Mr Negus : We could certainly table—

Senator RHIANNON: Take that on notice?

Mr Negus : We have a determination which outlines the terms and conditions of our staff. When you talk about 'advisers', these are AFP federal agents. The term 'advisers' is used when they are in other countries, but they are sworn police officers in the main. They are covered under an industrial determination, which we could certainly provide on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I have one final question, just going back to NOSIC. How can the public be assured that NOSIC is not undertaking activities that could be unlawful or obtained by clandestine or covert means? What I am referring to here is that in your answer to a question on notice you state:

The contract currently stipulates that no information is to be collected unlawfully or obtained by clandestine or covert means.

How can we be confident that that is occurring? Is this stipulation contained in the undisclosed contract schedules? What I am just trying to understand is that you have set it out in the answer to the question on notice but I was not able to ascertain how it actually works.

Mr Drennan : There is a clause which provides us with the mechanism to go in and conduct an audit of matters of that nature if we are concerned about it. If we go back to the type of information we are receiving, I think it would become quite apparent if all of a sudden there was particular information there which was of a very sensitive or very personal nature which would indicate that it is more than just publicly available information. As the commissioner said before, we have intelligence analysts, very experienced people, who look at this material, and I am quite confident that it would become very apparent to them quite quickly if material was of a different nature than you would normally find publicly available.

Mr Negus : Just to finish that answer, we are the Australian Federal Police, so, if we have a contractual obligation with someone to do something lawfully and they choose to step outside that, they not only breach the contract; they breach the law and they provide us with the evidence to put them in jail. So I suspect that it would be a very long bow to draw that they would be breaching the contract intentionally. If we were to see anything like that, we would certainly take action accordingly.

Senator RHIANNON: I just want to go to some questions to you, Mr Wood. In the February estimates you said that the AFP currently had 370 complaints on hand. How many do you currently have?

Mr Wood : I have some current information on complaints.

Senator RHIANNON: And I am interested in a breakdown of how many of the complaints are from members of the public and how many are from other AFP officers.

Mr Drennan : While Mr Wood is looking for that, can I confirm that, in relation to the subcontracting of services by NOSIC, I am informed that there has been no subcontracting of those services, so that would negate the need for those questions on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. Thank you very much.

Mr Wood : The figures I had at last estimates were out of the annual report. I therefore do not have more current figures on hand right now. I can get them before the hearing is completed, including the break-up of those that are lodged by AFP members versus lodged by others.

Senator RHIANNON: If you could do that, that would be useful.

Mr Wood : I am sure that will be sent through.

Senator RHIANNON: Also at that last estimates, you said that one of the strategies that AFP were considering to deal with the backlog was to recategorise matters so that some could be 'dealt with quicker and closer to where the events themselves allegedly occurred' by local superiors. When you say 'local superiors', do you mean AFP officers with less seniority?

Mr Wood : No. I mean that one of the key tenets, particularly for the resolution of lower level behavioural issues, is that they are more readily resolved by being addressed within the team where the individual works. I am talking about the supervisor of that individual or people more senior to that person within that team, not somebody of a lesser classification.

Senator RHIANNON: You are saying that the only change from the previous regime is that it is somebody who is more closely associated with where the complaint has arisen?

Mr Wood : Yes, but I would also make the point that this change has not occurred. It is one that we have proposed to the Ombudsman's office, and we will continue to work with the Ombudsman on a level of comfort in terms of any recategorisation from what we call category 3 down to a category 2 or 1. Under the structure, a category 1 or 2 behavioural complaint is dealt with already within the local team under guidelines issued for all staff. There are time frames and processes that are mandated for that. What we are suggesting is that some of the ones that come to a central professional standards area for investigation do not actually require that level of oversight and could more readily be dealt with by the supervisor or by some other senior member of the team, as lesser classified events are currently handled already. We have not actually made that reclassification decision yet. We have let the committee know that we are considering it, but we have not yet completed discussions with the Ombudsman's office about changing the classification.

Senator RHIANNON: Within that context, would complaints from the public be devolved in this way or would they be dealt with by the panel of adjudicators?

Mr Wood : It would depend entirely on the nature of the behaviour that was being complained about. There would be no change to the definition of whether it be an employee of the AFP or an external person making the complaint; it would be whether the behaviour itself was of a category 1 or 2 nature—that is, a lower level behavioural issue—which is dealt with by the team; or a category 3 complaint, which is of a more serious nature, which will still continue to go to professional standards; or category 4, if it is a corruption matter, which will go to ACLEI, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. There would be no differentiation on the basis of where the claim comes from; it is on the basis of the type of behaviour being complained about.

Senator RHIANNON: But there is some change in how public complaints would be handled?

Mr Wood : Not because it is a public complaint, no. If we make a change to the definition of what category 3 or category 3 is, then, irrespective of its source—so, yes, it could be a public complaint—it would go in the direction of that new categorisation.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

Senator DI NATALE: I have some questions relating to the AFP's role in the training of Indonesian security forces in the West Papua region. Specifically, can you just outline the nature of the assistance and training that is being provided to Indonesian security forces in West Papua?

Mr Drennan : We do not provide any training to Indonesian forces in West Papua.

Senator DI NATALE: Detachment 88?

Mr Drennan : We provide training to Detachment 88 back in Jakarta, with their executive in their senior investigations, or we provide training courses at our Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, which is a joint training college in Semarang where we train Indonesian National Police in a whole range of different disciplines.

Senator DI NATALE: I suppose I will rephrase that. Indonesian forces might be trained outside West Papua. I am interested in the forces that might be active in West Papua and that are trained by the AFP.

Mr Drennan : Now I think we should be quite clear on this. We are not training people, Indonesian National Police, to perform roles in West Papua. We engage in training of Indonesian National Police in a range of forensic, investigation and law enforcement intelligence disciplines which are predominantly focussed on serious organised crime and countering terrorism.

Senator DI NATALE: Okay, is there a definition for counterterrorism?

Mr Drennan : I think there is a quite complex one that the United Nations has.

Senator DI NATALE: But is there one that the AFP uses though?

Mr Drennan : I suppose in lay terms, countering terrorism is where we are countering terrorist acts which are directed against the government of the particular state. So for us, where there are people who are inspired to do terrorist activities here in Australia, which are based on the government's activities or the country as a whole. In Indonesia, it would be of a similar nature. They would probably have their own definition, but it is pretty much on those lines.

Senator DI NATALE: Perhaps let me given an example. In October 2011 there was a crackdown on the Papuan Peace Congress; there were 400 people arrested, there were several people killed and there has been an investigation follow. Would that be defined as a terrorist activity?

Mr Drennan : Certainly from us, no. But I think that for where you are going here: we do not provide a tactical training which would be involved in public order issues, and to me that is the type of issue you are describing there—of a public order nature.

Senator DI NATALE: So can you perhaps just outline that a little more in detail? I am very keen to understand what sort of training is provided—just the nature of the training.

Mr Drennan : Yes, certainly. Firstly, we have trained in excess of 10,000 law enforcement officers through JCLEC from 49 different countries and over 455 different training programs. The types of training which are undertaken there—

Senator DI NATALE: Sorry, I am talking specifically about Indonesia here. You are saying 10,000 law enforcement officers—that is in total?

Mr Drennan : It is in total, but a large number of those would be Indonesian National Police.

Mr Negus : Senator, just before you go on; just to make one point clear: what the Deputy Commissioner is talking about is JCLEC, which is Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation. This is where the training takes place, so it would be the Detachment 88 members who would be trained there and also in Jakarta. However 49 countries have been represented in training there, including Australia and regional countries. It is a counterterrorism training facility, but it also trains in a range of transnational crime activities. I think that now we have specifically what the Detachment 88 members would be trained in in that environment, so I will let the Commissioner continue.

Senator DI NATALE: Okay, great.

Mr Drennan : Certainly in crime investigation, response to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events and post-bomb blast analysis. So we are talking about forensic disciplines and law enforcement investigations. But it is probably important to note that the principles of human rights are certainly embedded in the JCLEC programs as is police accountability, and they are embedded in, or incorporated in, scenario-based activities. So we ensure there is a definite theme of human rights and police accountability in the training we provide.

Senator DI NATALE: Okay, I suppose goes to the heart, obviously, of my concerns on this issue. There have been, for example, a number of human rights abuses committed here. Human Rights Watch reported in 2007 and 2009 that Detachment 88 officers were in fact arrested for human rights abuses—torture and so on of protesters. Are there any safeguards in place to ensure that the training that is offered—obviously granted that there is a focus on human rights, but there is other training that you have outlined—is not used in a way that means that people who are engaged in peaceful protest are actually going to be subject to human rights abuses as a result of the training provided by the AFP?

Mr Drennan : The nature of the training we are providing is about investigations, law enforcement, intelligence and forensics.. It is not a tactical orientation. It is not focused on how you might control people in a public disorder situation, and it is not about tactics involved in a resolution of an armed conflict. It is about those aspects of policing—investigation, law enforcement, intelligence and forensics—so I am at a bit of a loss as to how you could actually use those in the types of instances that you are talking about.

Senator DI NATALE: It is just useful information.

Mr Negus : The commandant of that particular training college is an AFP officer, so we do have some control over what is delivered in the classroom. Again, that person would go to Indonesia and whichever country the participants are from would certainly speak to and instil the values that we insist upon in this country as being paramount in policing across the region. It is an opportunity in countries perhaps less fortunate than ours to instil some of the human rights conditions and some of the tactical methods around forensics and investigations that we talk about here, but done so in a way that respects human dignity and other things in that environment. So I think that it is a really worthwhile opportunity to influence regional activities around how police do conduct investigations.

Senator DI NATALE: I suppose that leads on then to the next question: it sounds like we are not doing anything to necessarily contribute to the situation in West Papua, but it does raise a question about whether we are actually achieving anything. Perhaps we were not causing any harm but are we wasting our money? There are a number of Detachment 88 officials, for example. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2010 that there was an Australian official dispatched to investigate claims that Detachment 88 had brutalised separatists. There are a number of reports. There is the one I alluded to previously about the crackdown in October 2011 where 400 people were arrested. Given those things are happening, is there any evaluation about whether the training—particularly as you said, which has a focus on human rights—is achieving anything?

Mr Drennan : Probably the most useful way of demonstrating how useful it is, is that since, 2001, I think, there has been in excess of 500 terrorists arrested and prosecuted in Indonesia, and during that period there have been a number of terrorist attacks where Australians have been killed. The ability of the Indonesian National Police, through Detachment 88 that does a lot of their counterterrorism investigations, to disrupt terrorist events and prosecute them through the courts is a significant step, I think, and certainly demonstrates that the types of skills and training we are providing to the Indonesian National Police is very, very successful.

Senator DI NATALE: Sure, and I take your point, it does appear that there has been significant success in terms of the counterterrorism operations. I suppose the concern particularly of recent years, because we have been so successful, is that some of the effort has shifted from counterterrorism to counter-separatism and we have got a situation now where we continue to train Detachment 88 and pour resources into that unit but their focus now has shifted towards West Papua and we have seen them take a very active involvement in that region. Is that any cause for concern? Has there been any discussion? Is there an evaluation going on about whether we continue in that role? Because we have been successful, do we perhaps now need to wind things back a little?

Mr Drennan : Senator, I assure you that albeit there has been considerable success there by the Indonesian National Police, there is still a lot of work to do. The engagement that we continually have with Detachment 88 is focused on countering terrorism; it is not focused on other areas. Again, if I go back to the types of knowledge and skills that we provide them training in, that training is focused on investigations.

If they are to investigate other matters using the training that we provide them, then again I think that would be a good outcome because it is based on the rule of law. It is based on prosecuting those people through due process and prosecuting them before the courts. I understand the point you are making that they may be involved in counter-separatist activities, but I am saying that we provide them training in relation to investigations, and investigations which support the rule of law and prosecutions. Irrespective of what crime type that might be, if they are using those skills and putting them to good purpose in prosecuting people before the court and the courts are convicting them, then I think that is a good outcome.

But, going back to the point, we are continually engaged with them on the aspects of countering terrorism. You will have seen from recent media that there is still a deal of activity going on in Indonesia from terrorists so it is important that we continue to support them in those efforts.

Senator DI NATALE: I go back to that issue. Why bother with the human rights aspect of the training if it appears that we are not getting anywhere in that regard? Why not focus exclusively on the counterterrorism aspect of the work?

Mr Negus : I am surprised you would ever suggest we stop doing human rights training in any parts of the region.

Senator DI NATALE: I do not like seeing money wasted.

Mr Negus : These things are progressive. You have to invest. The reality is there are almost 400,000 police in the Indonesian National Police if you go right across the archipelago. It is an enormous organisation. We are focused on the top end of this in Jakarta, where their senior office is. We are trying to change attitudes and we have seen that in the last decade from the Bali bombings in 2002 to what happened with the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings with the level of professionalism and the forensic capability. We had a forensic team come to Australia from the Indonesian police and assist in the bushfires in Victoria identifying bodies. This would not have been possible 10 years ago. So the Indonesian capability is there. We are working at the highest levels to display to them the sorts of values and activities that we do in this country, and I think it is a worthwhile investment. We have to be realistic: with 400,000 police there will be episodes where the standards might not be to what we would expect in this country, but I think the efforts are worthwhile. Certainly, if we are going to provide training, we make sure that we provide it in a way we are comfortable with. That will continue the way it is.

Senator DI NATALE: Is there any operational involvement in what the AFP do with Detachment 88?

Mr Negus : No.

Senator DI NATALE: Okay. Where there may be a serious allegation by a credible organisation like Human Rights Watch, do you work at all with Indonesian authorities to ensure that those matter are being fully investigated? Do you get briefed on it? Is that within your mandate?

Mr Negus : No, it is not. Indonesia is a sovereign country; and while, if things came to our attention, they would certainly be reported back through the appropriate channels and we would speak to DFAT to make the appropriate approaches, in Indonesia we do not have a role in that regard.

Senator DI NATALE: Thank you.

CHAIR: As you would be well aware the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee went over about two years ago and spent four extensive days having a look at your operations. In particular we bravely flew on a particular airline out to look at the Seminyak training college. We have tabled a report about that which I know you have. I want to reiterate again that we were more than impressed with the operations that were happening there. I think the day we arrived—Senator Parry was with us—we encountered a graduation ceremony for police officers from all around the world. That is what people might forget about that training facility. It is not just about us and the Indonesians. There were people there from Mexico and the European Union who had come for particular training in intelligence and forensics. I want you to be reassured that this committee has seen with its very eyes the work that your people do over there, and it is pretty impressive. Senator Parry, you might want to add a few comments.

Senator PARRY: Thank you. I want to put it in the way of a question. Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, would you agree with the comments that the JCLEC facility at Semarang provides a greater understanding of two police cultures and it is the interoperability aspect that is sometimes overlooked rather than just the dollars and cents?

Mr Negus : I would. It is something we are very proud of. It is a concept that is now 10 years in the making. The Indonesians likewise are very proud to have something like 49 countries who have been represented there. They come together and share common problems. As this committee has heard many times, organised crime is now transnational, whether it be Mexican cartels, as you are aware of, or people smuggling through the region. These regional approaches are the best way to get good solutions. This is a great step forward. With 10,000 students in the region now alumni and having an emotional as well as educational attachment to it, that is something we are very proud of. I think it has a bright future.

In fact, a number of countries around the world have also looked at this. The Middle East has looked at having a JCLEC of sorts, as has the Pacific. So there are a range of different people looking at the concept for how they can look at their own part of the world and try to improve it by a similar facility. I appreciate your comments, chair. Thank you.

Senator HUMPHRIES: While we are on a roll with regard to what the AFP are doing I might mention that I visited Dili in East Timor last month and went to the East Timorese police college, which is being developed with the assistance of the AFP. The group there, whose name I have forgotten, is embedded in improving the arrangements for policing on the island, and it appeared to be a very successful partnership at the point I looked over it. Congratulations on that as well.

Mr Negus : Thank you.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That might be your only bouquet for the day, so make the most of it! Probably not; I am sure there is another one somewhere in this pile of paper!

Senator Jacinta Collins: That would be most unlike you!

Senator HUMPHRIES: Certainly. The overall picture for the AFP is less exciting and satisfying than the recent comments made from the table here. There are a $133 million cut to the AFP's budget, at least 25 staff cut, $58.3 million over four years deferral of expenditure from the confiscated assets account, $8.6 million cut from IDG, further deferral of the promised 500 sworn police for another year and hiking up charges at airports, which will obviously flow through to users of airports. What did you guys do to the government to occasion these sorts of cuts? I will not press that question but will leave you to ponder that issue.

Senator Jacinta Collins: You may be provoking a response from the government comparing the resources that the AFP now have to when we exited the Howard government. That contrast does not look too favourable for you either.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I think we pumped a lot of money into the AFP.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Would you like me to give you the comparison now or would you like to move to questions?

Senator HUMPHRIES: Let's ask some questions. You can table something later on. I am sure you will be happy to table it if you have the information. I will be happy to look at it. I ask about the $133 million reduction in expenditure. Can you tell me where those savings are expected to be made within your budget?

Mr Negus : I will let Mr Wood answer. On one of your comments as you were going through the list of budget outcomes for us: the confiscated assets account is something administered by the Attorney-General's Department and is not something the AFP gets as an appropriation. It is something we would have to apply to and then receive funds from, so that does not really have an impact upon our bottom line. But I will get Mr Wood to go through and give you an idea of where the other savings have been levied from.

Mr Wood : The figure of $133 million, which has been mentioned in the media a couple times, does not relate to changes in the operating appropriation for the AFP. There is a lesser number that specifically relates to that particular change.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Which is what?

Mr Wood : It is $67 million between the previous PBS and the current PBS. I am happy to break that down in a moment.

Senator HUMPHRIES: All right. Did that figure appear in the budget papers?

Mr Wood : The individual line items do, yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: But they are not accumulated anywhere? There is no figure?

Mr Wood : I do not believe you will see a specific figure that says $67 million, but it can be calculated quite easily by deducting the two operating money appropriations from each other. The residual, though, relates to the total resourcing available to the AFP, which includes appropriations from previous years that we have not yet drawn upon and access to capital funds at the time we actually want to use those funds. In the last couple of years we have progressed a number of major projects for the AFP that have been drawing upon those provisions within our undrawn appropriations from previous years. For example, the year before, we completed the new headquarters building. That drew $130 million down out of the available resources that we had in our portfolio budget statement e also have completed the work on the Australian Institute of Police Management and we have also completed significant work around the fit-out of accommodation for the AFP at a number of the airports as part of the aviation reforms. Each time we do that we draw money out of our available resources and complete an asset and, as a result, the available resources that appear in that front page on the PBS are reduced.

In terms of the actual budget decisions that reduced our operating resources for the current year, two things have occurred. There have been some decisions around MYEFO in late November-early December last year together with some new decisions that are discussed in the PBS itself. Back at the MYEFO stage, the government made a decision to withdraw the aviation security services at Alice Springs Airport, and so, as well as reducing the budget, the amount of work we had to do was reduced proportionately.

The MYEFO process also reduced the amount of money we have got to pay for leases at aviation sites around Australia. That was on the basis that we had actually negotiated a deal better than had been predicted by the funding arrangements provided to us through the department of finance process. They removed the money that we no longer needed to fund those leases. The additional efficiency—

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is $118.1 million that the government is now asking—

Mr Wood : A totally separate matter. We had money in our prior estimates to pay for the actual leases of our presence at airports where we were leasing a building from the airport owner or some other landlord. We negotiated those leases and, in some cases, we negotiated a rate of lease that was less than had been predicted in the forward estimates, and so the department of finance, quite rightly, identified that should be a savings back to government. The additional efficiency dividend came out of the MYEFO process. The same as all agencies: there was no different percentage effect on us in terms of ratios. The additional 2½ per cent which we have previously put on record is $24.54 million of the $67 million I am talking about.

Senator, you mentioned a four-year effect number for the International Deployment Group. The reduction in the International Deployment Group resources for the coming financial year is $2.147 million. That specifically relates to how we will implement it to less Australian based staff involved in the International Deployment Group activities internationally, so it is not affecting the numbers of staff offshore through the IDG.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That figure is what in the coming financial year?

Mr Wood : $2.147 million in financial year 2012-13.

Senator HUMPHRIES: And that is still $8.6 million over the outyears.

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So why did you say that it was not coming from the expense associated with deploying people overseas?

Mr Wood : The International Deployment Group workforce has an Australian logistic support, planning and policy function as well as the actual offshore presence. Both components are part of the IFS budget, as it is referred to. These particular savings relate to the numbers of staff that are based in the Australian portion of IDG's operations, not the mission portion offshore.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will come and ask further questions about that later on. Is that the full picture of where that—

Mr Wood : No. You have alluded yourself to the postponement by a further 12 months of the additional 500 sworn police officers. Also, there are changes for all agencies in the departmental capital budget. All agencies took a percentage reduction in the forward looking departmental capital budget as part of the MYEFO changes.

We also had some changes in our revenue expectations. There are some shifts in the pricing arrangements with ACT policing—upwards, I might mention—and some changes in our administrative expenditure. In other words, where we are running programs on behalf of the government—not AFP money but administered money—in areas like the Pacific, some of those moneys were realigned into the years where we actually want to spend the money now that we have done some further planning.

There are some programs that were extended. We have mentioned Afghanistan earlier on in this hearing. On the spend side, extending for a further two years, 28 members in Afghanistan was part of the decisions and an extension of the Pacific Police Development Program. But, in terms of the $67 million reduction, I have mentioned the measures. It is two times: the MYEFO decisions that were announced by the government last November, December—from memory it was about 30 November—then the new items that are in the PBS itself, as tabled a couple of weeks ago.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you provide us with a table which adds up those figures to the 67, please?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If you can get that to us while we are sitting here so we can break that down, that would be useful. I want to go through some of those areas. What does that translate to in terms of staff numbers?

Mr Wood : You mentioned 25, I think, in one of your opening comments, which we chose not to respond to.

Senator RHIANNON: But you will now.

Mr Wood : We will ponder that. Outcome 1 has a reduction of 25 FTE. Outcome 2 has an increase of 15. The two combined are a reduction of 10 across the whole of AFP. So it was only part of the story that you made reference to earlier. The FTE numbers that are in there—or the ASL average staffing level numbers—are based on the measures that are in the PBS having their effect, so there is a net reduction of 10 across the whole of the AFP.

However, as an executive team we then take the available resources and look at the priorities of the organisation for the coming financial year. We look at where within the organisation we can pursue efficiencies, reduce duplication, ensure that we are leveraging as best we can off whole-of-government initiatives around ICT purchasing and those sorts of things, so as to minimise the effect on ASL numbers.

So, whilst the PBS does reflect that those resourcing changes—if there is no intervention from the executive of the organisation—would result in a reduction of 10. That is not necessarily the trajectory we intend following once we have an opportunity to look at the budget in the light of our priorities in 1213 and assign it accordingly. So each estimates we tend to, in response to questions, give you an update on just what our staffing numbers are. That will give you a true indication, as estimates processes progress through the year, of the actual staffing levels we are achieving—and then comparing those to the performance of the organisation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Sure, but what that means is, surely, that there is a budgetary imperative to reduce by 10 to meet the amounts provided to you, and you can adjust that figure according to the way that the year plays out and whatever other plans you might make with your operations—what you can save elsewhere; but other pressures that come onto your budget for whatever reason in the course of the year also have to be absorbed. So that figure could be higher or it could be lower, couldn't it?

Mr Wood : I agree with what you said. That is a challenge. It is a budget pressure. I think we have demonstrated, though, over the last few years that, as an organisation, we are able to do a lot of our supplier expense area more efficiently and we have consistently year by year moved money out of the supply side into the employee side. So we have grown the number of employees in the organisation, particularly the number of sworn police officers, over the last few years, despite the fact that there have been budget pressures right across the Commonwealth.

So we have had the ability to prioritise not just the ratio of supplier-to-employee costs, and hence change that ratio so that the employee costs are now a high proportion of the total budget; we have also been able to shift the budget to be more focused on our highest priority areas of crime fighting.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you can give us a running update as our estimates committee process continues throughout the financial year as to what that net 10 figure is actually translating into. In previous years where there has been a projection of job number losses—or for that matter job number growth—have you tended to overshoot or undershoot the target?

Mr Wood : We have tended to be able to afford more than the number that appears in the PBS. For example, the last 12 months attrition has actually been a bit higher, particularly in the unsworn areas of the organisation, which means that we may not achieve our staffing targets; not because we did not have the cash, but because the attrition has been higher than we predicted. Particularly in our organisation, where security clearances and things are critical before people start in certain areas, there is a time delay before we replace some of our vacancies as a result of attrition. So, based on the analysis that I have seen in the 4½ years I have been in the AFP, we have been able to achieve more than the predicted numbers in the PBS as efficiencies and other executive decisions have taken effect as the year progresses. So we have not increased the overall budget but we have increased what we have been able to achieve with the budget. I do believe that will occur in 1213 as well.

Senator HUMPHRIES: A sworn member costs more than an unsworn member. Do you expect that any of those 10 would be sworn members of the AFP?

Mr Wood : My expectation is the number of sworn members in financial year 2012-13, by the time we get to 30 June, will be higher than that number we have today. I also expect some of our sworn members will leave; we will have normal attrition rates. There are also some sworn members who may be in geographic locations where we do not actually need the workforce and so we will look at restructuring. Yes, sworn members will leave the organisation, but my prediction is the rate of replacement of sworn members will be a net plus not a reduction.

Senator HUMPHRIES: How many recruitment colleges are planned?

Mr Wood : One recruitment college. My expectation at this stage is that there are at least three types of recruitment at the moment, as well as Project Macer recruitment which is converting protective service officers to sworn Federal Police officers and some level of lateral recruitment, existing police officers that might either be on secondment or otherwise joining us from other police forces. We also have recruitment from scratch—that is, people who apply to join the AFP to come in as base-grade recruits. I think we have seven courses of 25 to 30 people each planned for the coming 12 months. There are also quite a number of Macer conversion courses for aviation and lateral courses. The total number of recruitment courses is around 16 for the year, consisting of those three components. There is actually a very high level of recruitment for the next 12 months.

Mr Negus : Mr Woods made reference to our attrition. For the record, our sworn attrition rate is 2.8 per cent which is very low. Overall our attrition rate, even if you include the unsworn attrition that Mr Wood also mentioned, is about 5.3 per cent which is not abnormally high for an organisation and, from a Public Service perspective, is lower than the norm. People are not leaving the AFP and, particularly in our sworn cohort, people are staying for a long time. You may have heard we ran some local recruitment programs on the radio for the positions Mr Wood talked about. In the first few weeks we had 4½ thousand applicants for the sworn policing roles. We had over 1,000 applicants for the protective service officer roles, again demonstrating a high interest in being part of the AFP. We do not anticipate any problems in filling those recruits courses that Mr Wood has spoken about.

Mr Wood : On the recruit courses, 16 was correct but over an 18-month period. Recruit courses might start within the 12-month period, but a new recruit course is nearly six months. Over the next 18 months we have scheduled 16 recruit courses of those three types.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It would be nice to get a comparison of the number of recruit courses beginning in the next financial year, compared with the number begun in this financial year.

Mr Wood : The answer will be more, but I will get the exact numbers.

Senator PARRY: To follow up on the lateral recruit entry from other police jurisdictions, is that at substantive ranks—sergeant for sergeant or sergeant back to constable? How does that work?

Mr Negus : No, they come in at a base level. However, they then qualified to apply for accelerated advancement through the process. We have an agreement with the unions on this that they do not come in and hold substantive ranks. The usual process is that they would be able to apply to go up to senior constable level particularly.

Senator PARRY: And demonstrate experience. Is that purely Australian jurisdictions or overseas as well?

Mr Wood : To be a member of the AFP have to be an Australian citizen. We do not recruit from overseas.

Senator HUMPHRIES: For the number of sworn officers, in the past you have provided figures for tracking the number of sworn and unsworn members of the AFP. We have a relatively recent band of people who are protective service members. You say you are converting some of them into full AFP.

Mr Negus : Those who work in the airport environment, yes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Could we have an update of that table going back to 2007.

Mr Negus : Certainly. Off the top of my head I can tell you that from the federal election 2007 there are now 575 more sworn police officers in the AFP than there were at that time. Our numbers have not increased by that, but we have changed the profile of the organisation from those unsworn numbers to having more sworn police. Part of that has been in ACT. Part of that has been in the transition from Protective Service Officers, who would not qualify—there are a couple of hundred of those—

Senator HUMPHRIES: What do you mean 'would not qualify'?

Mr Negus : They would not qualify as sworn police officers, even though they are Protective Service Officers, by definition. They transition through that airport environment to becoming fully sworn police. That is part of that change in dynamic. But 575 is the total number.

Senator HUMPHRIES: The total number includes the Protective Service people?

Mr Negus : That is right, and I think we have probably got the figures here of how many that actually is.

Mr Wood : I have got 575 total increase over that period; 139 of them are Protective Service Officers who have converted through the Macer process, through the aviation process.

Senator HUMPHRIES: As of now, though, they are fully sworn team members.

Mr Wood : Correct, so they are part of that 575.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So there are 575 more sworn officers, and we are not including in that figure people who are still in the Protective Service band?

Mr Wood : No. We are not including PSOs at all.

Mr Negus : The PSO numbers have actually reduced as a result of this transition going on within aviation.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So 139 moved from Protective Service to AFP.

Mr Wood : Correct.

Senator HUMPHRIES: What do you call them—fully sworn?

Mr Wood : Sworn police. They have gone through exactly the same requirements and standards as all our sworn police officers.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So they are not sworn if they are in the Protective Service?

Mr Negus : It is a complicated definition, because they are sworn in as Protective Service Officers, so they are sworn, but they are not sworn police, because they do not actually have the full suite of powers available to a police officer; they have very limited powers in the context of their duties. When we classify our terms of employment, there are sworn police, there are sworn Protective Service Officers and there are unsworn members of the AFP.

Senator HUMPHRIES: When you give me those figures on the breakdown of that $67 million, I will come back to some more questions about that, if I may.

Mr Wood : You were, I think, heading towards the 10. There are two very specific areas of reduction as a result of the budget decisions. One is the Alice Springs numbers. We have already closed Alice Springs airport, which is a reduction of 14 staff. Then I mentioned the efficiency that specifically targeted numbers within the International Deployment Group's Australia support base, which is a specific member of 21. They are the two specific areas where there is an absolute reduction. There is other new work that is included in the budget or other mechanisms, such as us negotiating new work with Defence in terms of protection of bases, which have a net effect in the opposite direction against that. If you are looking for where specifically there have been explicit reductions in staffing numbers: Alice Springs and the IDG's Australian based support team.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I want to come back to some of the areas where the AFP's workload might have increased, where you have more commitments than you had in the past that offsets things like Alice Springs, but we will come to that later on. Can I ask about the incident on 15 May where, according to the Minister for Home Affairs, a boat carrying 63 people on board was intercepted a nautical mile from Cocos Island, not by Border Protection Command but by the AFP, which would be a fairly unusual situation for a nautical interception, as I understand it.

Mr Negus : We do the community policing on Cocos Island and there is an officer stationed there and there has been for many, many years. Part of that responsibility would be to provide whatever nautical assistance they can in certain circumstances.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Indeed, but it would be unusual for boats to be intercepted by the AFP.

Mr Negus : I think it is not the first time, but I think there has probably only been another one that I am aware of.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you give me a description of what happened on that day and how the AFP came to be involved in this rather than Border Protection Command.

Mr Negus : I might get Deputy Commissioner Colvin, who has got responsibility in that area, to answer. He is shaking his head. I am afraid we do not have a great deal of detail other than that the member became aware of the incident, contacted the Border Protection Command and then provided whatever assistance they could and then it was handed over to them to fulfil their normal role in that regard.

Senator HUMPHRIES: But it is not their normal role to be intercepting asylum seeker boats.

Mr Negus : No—Border Protection Command's normal role in using their facilities and their assets to properly deal with the issue.

Senator HUMPHRIES: What can you tell me about it? Is there any information—how many police were involved or what they were in?

Mr Negus : I know the person that is allocated there does have a RIB, which is a rigid-hull inflatable vessel, and that is what was used to facilitate that. Obviously, they are trained in the use of that in their normal, day-to-day community-policing environment. Again, it is a small community there, but they fulfil many different roles, as a single police officer would in such a remote location. He was able to provide assistance and—

Senator HUMPHRIES: 'He' being one person?

Mr Negus : One person.

Mr Colvin : Senator, we have four people as part of our community-policing presence on Cocos Island. How many were involved on this particular occasion we are not sure; we can find that out. As the Commissioner said, we have a RIB and, as we understand it, they just went out and assisted this vessel into shore. Then, we waited for Customs and Border Protection Command to take over.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I am looking forward to getting the details of this, but having one officer sent to intercept a boat of 63 people—given what has happened in our only quite recent past with respect to some of those arrivals—sounds to me, without even knowing any of the facts, like an occupational health and safety issue.

Mr Colvin : We will get some details. My sense, though, is the way we are using the word 'intercept' is probably misleading. I imagine that this vessel came close to shore and we just assisted the vessel to make its way to the wharf, and it has been managed from that point forward.

CHAIR: I just want to intervene here. I am assuming the vessel probably arrived on the outside of the atoll, probably on the ocean side of Home Island. If it is the same as what happened 12 months ago, the Australian Federal Police needed to ferret people off this boat and onto the RIB and bring them into the atoll to get them onto shore. The boats cannot actually get into the coral atoll because it is only a metre deep.

Mr Colvin : We will check.

CHAIR: It is complicated because of the geographical, physical, makeup of the Cocos Keeling Islands, you see.

Mr Negus : We are just are getting some more details coming through. If you like, we can certainly come back to that. But, again, the officers—I am not sure how many there were—are trained to make those sorts of judgements in remote locations. They do not put themselves in any undue harm, but they also have a responsibility to assist where they can and we trust them to make those operational judgements on the day. Again, we will get some details and perhaps, if we could, come back to it.

Senator HUMPHRIES: That is good. Do you know what happened once the people on the boat were landed on the island? Do you know how long it took before Border Protection Command intervened to take them off the AFP's hands?

Mr Negus : No, but we will certainly see if we can get those details as well.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will ask more questions later on.

Mr Negus : I might just say though, that, given the circumstances and the fact that Deputy Commissioner and I were not briefed on it, I think it was an unremarkable series of events that took place. There was nothing particularly difficult about the process. But we will get the details and come back to you.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I suppose it does depend a bit on how events played out. I have to say it is concerning if AFP are put in that position. There are all sorts of questions about their training for that circumstance and so on. If they are forced by circumstances to have to deal with people in that condition then I suppose they have to do it, but it is still not satisfactory.

On the 500 sworn police issue, you have already touched on the fact that there have been recruitment courses each year and that you expect to have more recruitment courses in 2012-13 than you have had in 2011-12. I think you have previously provided us—I am not sure if I asked for this already—a list of how many recruited officers there have been each year since 2007. I think that is already coming for me.

Mr Wood : I can certainly give you the current number on that. We will provide a table repeating the information we have given previously and add another year's information to it, but the current number of sworn police is 3,271.

Senator HUMPHRIES: If you are effectively deferring the boat by taking $25.9 million out of the budget, deferring those 500 AFP officers, is there a plan for when those other recruitments will take place?

Mr Wood : Yes. The new funding arrangements aim to have the 500 all within the organisation by 30 June 2016. Then working towards today's date from there, so 500 by 30 June 2016; 450 by the year before, 30 June 2015; 400 by 30 June 2014; and then 350 by June 2013, so the end of the financial year that we are mainly talking about.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you aim to have a surplus of recruits over retirements, resignations, whatever?

Mr Wood : Correct. It is 50 a year finishing with the 500 on 30 June 2016.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Starting at the 250; currently sitting at 250.

Mr Wood : The recruitment levels need to replace attrition so as to remain steady and then recruit ahead of that. This is in addition to the conversion of the remaining members through the Macer program et cetera. We are not double-counting there; it is quite a discrete number.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Good. If it is delivered by 2016, how many years late will that make the promise of 500 additional police?

Mr Wood : The original budget measure had the 500th police officer arriving at the end of June 2013.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So three years late. When you say the original budget measure, as in a budget measure taken in 2008?

Mr Wood : The budget measure of 2008-09 had it commencing in June 2009 and completing by 30 June 2013. The previous budget had a postponement in it, which is why we refer to this as being a 12-month postponement because it is actually the second postponement.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Sorry, the previous budget was the last budget of the Howard government, so—

Mr Wood : No, not the previous government; the previous budget.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Not previous to the start of this process.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Which year are you talking about?

Mr Wood : I will say it again but better this time: the 2011-12 budget had a postponement of the measure and now the 2012-13 budget has a further 12-month postponement, hence the three years in total.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I see, but my question was: how late does that make the originally delivered 500 extra police promise? I thought it was promised in 2007 and it was to be delivered by 2010.

Mr Wood : It was announced during the election of 2007 but it appeared in the budget of 2008-09, that being the first budget—

Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes, but that is not the question I am asking. I know what the budget—

Mr Wood : And that decision—

Senator HUMPHRIES: You guys work from the budget, but the newspapers said 500 by, I thought, 2010. It was 2007 it was promised—

Mr Wood : Oh, no. No, no, no. It was 500 over five years and the fifth year—

Senator HUMPHRIES: Hang on. That is what was announced by Mr Rudd, opposition leader, in 2007, was it?

Mr Wood : That is the budget measure, I do not want to—

Senator HUMPHRIES: I am not asking you that.

Mr Wood : I appreciate that it not what you are asking; I do not know what Mr Rudd said in 2007, my apologies.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Maybe the minister remembers, but I thought it was 500 by 2010.

Senator Jacinta Collins: No, I do not recall. I would have to take that on notice.

Mr Wood : My understanding, Senator—and that was about the time I joined the AFP—was there was a very clear conversation about a staged, well-managed growth for the AFP. That does not to me correspond to trying to hire 500 sworn police in only a two-year period. That is not logical to me.

Mr Negus : Senator, I was certainly around in that time. It was always planned to be a five-year program, because originally it started very slowly and was going to manifest itself in the outyears. It was 30, 30, 40, 200, 200 to actually fulfil those five year outcomes to get to 500. The last two years of that were always going to be the large recruitment rounds.

Senator HUMPHRIES: We will check that.

CHAIR: Senator Birmingham, do you have about 10 minutes of questions?

Senator BIRMINGHAM: I can probably even be quicker than that. I thank the chair, Senator Humphries and the committee. Commissioner, following up on our last meeting in February, at that stage you indicated that in the previous week, the first week of February, the AFP had written to the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with some interim findings regarding the investigation into the alleged leaks of the Australia Network tender. Have you received a response from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet?

Mr Colvin : I will respond to that. We did receive a response to our follow-up inquiries with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. What was the nature of that response and where has the matter proceeded to since then?

Mr Colvin : I believe that Prime Minister and Cabinet were able to provide us the information we were looking for. It was subsequent information to help with the investigation. Fortunately, that investigation was finalised on 2 April. I can tell the committee that the investigation did not identify the person or persons responsible for disclosing the material.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Did you provide further information or briefings to Prime Minister and Cabinet prior to or subsequent to 2 April?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that on notice. There would have been ongoing discussions and correspondence between us and Prime Minister and Cabinet. They were the complainants.

Mr Negus : We certainly would have advised them of the outcome of the investigation—that the persons responsible were unable to be identified.

Mr Colvin : We wrote back to Prime Minister and Cabinet as the complainant and formally advised them of the outcome of the investigation as well.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Did you interview any additional persons in between the correspondence you sent to Prime Minister and Cabinet originally and the finalisation of the investigation?

Mr Colvin : No, we did not.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Were there any other investigations as such undertaken subsequent to getting your response from Prime Minister and Cabinet or was that simply information that then allowed you to conclude the investigation?

Mr Colvin : No, it was more information that allowed us to do some further analysis and some investigation, but it did not result in us having to speak to anybody.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So at the sum total of the investigation you did not speak to any of the media organisations, but, as you indicated at the last estimates, you did speak with four members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, seven members of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and one member of the Australian National Audit Office.

Mr Colvin : I think that is correct, yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So there was never any interview with anybody from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy?

Mr Colvin : I do not believe so, no.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Was the AFP provided with a copy of the Auditor-General's report before it was released?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that on notice and check if we received it before it was released. We were certainly talking to the Auditor-General's office, but our processes were quite separate.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: In terms of the handling of information within government, the Auditor-General's report identified some concerns about its handling both within the cabinet office and through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in that respect, as well as through the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and their minister's office and the significant numbers of persons who it was not necessary to have seen tender information but who had tender information shared with them. Did ANAO highlight to you those concerns and, if so, were they acted on as part of the investigation?

Mr Colvin : I think it would be fair for me to say that, while we probably would not draw a conclusion about the appropriateness of people having it, certainly the fact that a large number of people had access to that document is a very real issue for us in our ability to successfully investigate it. That was commonly known to us. It was relevant to our investigation and we would not, as I said, draw the same conclusion about the appropriateness of that because that is not relevant to whether we could establish an offender.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So that is for the ANAO to criticise, as they did.

Mr Colvin : That is correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So from your perspective the fairly obvious equation is that the more people who have access to it the greater the likelihood that it could be leaked and the greater the difficulty you have in identifying, if there were any, where those leaks came from.

Mr Colvin : That is correct, yes.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: It seems an obvious omission not to have spoken to anybody from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy or from Minister Stephen Conroy's office, given he was the responsible minister. For a time there were particular briefings that emanated through his department and there was particular sharing of information in that regard. Is there a reason that department and that minister's office were not interviewed?

Mr Colvin : I could not give you a particular reason other than to say that, in the investigational process, what we would do and what our investigators would do is narrow down the most fruitful lines of inquiry that we think may help identify or establish an offender. We follow those now. As you quite rightly pointed out, a large number of people had access to that document. It may have been the case that we did not see that those particular inquiries you are talking about were going to help us with furthering that investigation.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Did your letter to the Prime Minister's department of the first week of February indicate that it was unlikely you would be able to identify a person or persons responsible or the cause of the leaks?

Mr Colvin : I will take on notice the exact content of the letter because there may be some aspects of it that we would not want to put on the public record. What I can say is that from my memory the letter was effectively to the point that we were looking for some further material as our investigation was running its course, and there were not too many lines of inquiry left for us to look at.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Was a verbal briefing provided at that time?

Mr Colvin : I believe in the days afterwards, yes. That is correct.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: And obviously a written response was also eventually forthcoming, as you identified. Was that response from the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet?

Mr Colvin : I could not say if it was from the secretary himself, but we certainly received the response—not just in writing, as well. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has been very helpful throughout this investigation.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you. If you have identified that it is finalised and that it did not identify the source of leaks, can I ask you to determine if material was, in fact, leaked? Were you able to determine and clarify whether there was information leaked?

Mr Colvin : As part of our evaluation at the start of any of these investigations we satisfy ourselves that we think an offence has occurred, and our investigation is to try to establish who committed the offence. I am comfortable saying that it would appear that, yes, material was disclosed and was not authorised to be disclosed.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Did you make any findings in that regard about what the nature of that material was?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: So you purely determined that there appeared to be some material that had been leaked, and your investigation has never reached a conclusion as to—

Mr Colvin : As part of the investigation—and this would seem logical—we need to look at the material that was made public and to compare that to the material that was classified, and satisfy ourselves that there is a reasonable likelihood that what was made public came from the material that was classified.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: When you advised them that the investigation was finalised and did not identify any persons did PM&C ultimately indicate their satisfaction with the investigation or did they ask for any further steps or actions to be taken?

Mr Colvin : No, they have asked for no further steps to be taken. Once the matter was finalised they accepted that that was the outcome of the investigation.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Thank you very much.

Senator FURNER: I would like to gain some information about the recent announcements by the minister concerning the new forensics facility in the 2012-13 budget. Firstly, can I draw down and get some understanding of how the new forensic facilities will in practice improve the AFP's access to the latest forensic science and technology to detect and disrupt criminal organisations.

Mr Negus : Yes, the government has announced that we have permission to go ahead with the next phases of building a new forensic facility. We hope that will be operational by mid- to late-2015. We still have the Public Works Committee to go through, and there is a gateway process which the Department of Finance and Deregulation will be involved in and which we have commenced. The department has provided valuable assistance in that regard. It will be built at Majura, which is where our training facilities are and our training village is for the International Deployment Group. The AFP already have land at that location, so it will be a precinct of AFP activities. I think some of the committee might have been out there and had a look already.

The current forensic facility is at Weston, a suburb in Canberra. It is surrounded by residential buildings these days when it was started over 30 years ago it was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. Due to its age and increasingly poor condition, the current facility poses, we think, occupational health and safety risks. There is a potential in the future for evidence contamination, although those risks are being dealt with appropriately, as you would imagine, in a law enforcement agency like ours. Unfortunately, the building cannot be refurbished. Scientific technology such as DNA, culturing microorganisms and trace elements and profiling just cannot be done in the building of that age because of cross-contamination issues in the like. It also cannot accommodate further growth in space for personnel. As you would be aware, the AFP today has 6,608 staff; 30 years ago it was probably fewer than 2,000, so it is now a very different organisation. At the moment we have a range of demountables in car parks for half of our laboratories, so you can see it is something we need to work on.

Investing in a purpose-built facility will met not only the AFP's needs but the Commonwealth's business needs. Obviously the relationships with our partners are critical in this regard. I think it will provide not just the AFP but also Australian law enforcement with a centre we can all be very proud of, which will take us forward into the rest of the 21st century. It will accommodate new technology and new capability for future growth. Importantly, it will look at areas to combat illicit fire arms—I know that is an area of interest at the moment—as well as the range of different analyses we do in explosives, narcotics, and the general forensics capability that supports our everyday operations.

That is a snapshot of where it is. We are very excited about the project. It is being funded from the AFP's capital budget and will mean that we are forgoing the purchase of other equipment and extending the asset life of a range of different things to afford this. We think it is of such importance to the future of the organisation that it is our No. 1 priority as far as our funding is concerned. While it will be tight over the next three years for the AFP to afford this from its existing capital budget, working with the department of finance, the Gateway people and our own CF0, we are confident we can make this project come into reality and set it up for the future of servicing the AFP well for the next 20 years.

Senator FURNER: Can you expand on some of the technologies, starting with the firearms testing and bullet tracking process that is going to be involved?

Mr Negus : That is a good question. I am not a technical forensics expert myself but I am advised that certainly there has been a range of different advances in technology in regard to the tracing and recording of firearms. We recently joined with New South Wales police. We have the same systems which talk to each other about profiling and tracing and it is something we are encouraging the rest of law enforcement in this country to move to. This laboratory will provide an opportunity for a centralised process in that regard and linked up networks across the country between law enforcement for testing and analysis of evidential material relating to firearms as well.

Senator FURNER: What about the explosive analysis capability? Will there be an improvement on the likes of what we saw after the Bali bombing in 2002? Will there be further enhancement of that process?

Mr Negus : Yes. As you would be aware, the    Australian Bomb Data Centre is hosted here in Canberra by the AFP. They would move in as co-tenants within this forensic facility, as would our radiological and nuclear facility. We are looking at all those issues at the moment. Again, the rate of technology change and improvements in this field can only be housed to a certain degree in 30- to 40-year-old buildings with limited space. This provides us with an opportunity to have a purpose-built facility. Without being over the top it will provide law enforcement with a facility that accords with state-of-the-art information and evidence to help us solve crimes in future.

Senator FURNER: Will the new facility contain any capabilities for DNA technology to identify suspects and prosecute them as a result?

Mr Negus : Absolutely, and, of course, the use of DNA technology is advancing every other week. I know there is a range of different proposals at the moment to increase Australia's use of the different components of DNA to give us much more capability in cold cases and hopefully solve some cases that the technology just was not up to 15 or 20 years ago. So we are advancing through that and, really, the DNA technologies have been one of the driving forces behind us having to locate so that we could have accommodation that is commensurate with the technology and can house the sorts of machines that are needed these days to do that sensitive analysis and to ensure that there is no contamination and the courts can be confident in the evidence provided before them.

Senator FURNER: Will it provide capabilities to ensure complex serious crime examinations can be carried out simultaneously?

Mr Negus : That is true and it is a good point you make. These days it is not just having one large forensic case being undertaken in the laboratory; there are multiple cases at any one time, as well as the assistance we provide internationally and to our partners around the country. So this will provide us with an opportunity to do multiple examinations at the same time and therefore meet evidential requirements in a timely fashion.

Senator FURNER: Lastly—and this is something I ask every time you appear—could you give some feedback on the latest drug seizures and successes in—

Mr Negus : I might pass to Deputy Commissioner Colvin, but while he is just pulling out some of those figures I can say that, in the last couple of weeks, we have just received some of the figures on our performance over this financial year, which will obviously make their way into our annual report and that will be tabled at the appropriate time. But, just to give you some highlights: last year, arguably, the AFP had its best year in performance. We met 30 out of 32 key performance indicators for government. This year I am very pleased to say that we are on track to meet or exceed 33 out of 33 key performance indicators for government—

Senator FURNER: Well done.

Mr Negus : which will be the first time, I think, in the history of the organisation that we have met every key performance indicator for government. The drug harm index was doubled last year, I think, roughly, and—again I am using rough figures here—we have doubled it again this year, or more than doubled it. For areas like 'high-tech crime cases to court'—something this committee has taken a lot of interest in—last year there were 73 high-tech crime cases which made it to court; this year already there are 91, and these are figures as of the end of April.

Probably one of the most pleasing things for me is that our client satisfaction levels have risen by around five per cent. We do about 800 surveys at the end of each year, or towards the end of each financial year, and last year our client satisfaction ratings in how we deal with our partners in the law enforcement environment were at 85 per cent and this year at an all-time high of 90 per cent. Again, it just goes to show the effort we have been putting into working well and collaboratively with our partners across the country.

I will let Deputy Commissioner Colvin talk about some of the operational successes around narcotics and those sorts of things but, as I said, overall we met 33 out of 33 key performance indicators. These are the key metrics that I am interested in: the drug harm index; assets restrained—we have doubled that this year almost, again; we doubled it last year; it is doubled again this year. Those and our client satisfaction ratings are all heading very much in the right direction. So I think, as I said, the annual report this year will be one we will be very proud of.

Mr Colvin : I know we are talking in this committee about the drug seizures, so I will give you the figures for the drug seizures to date and compare them to last year's. For amphetamines and other ATS substances for the year to date: 515 kilograms compared with, for the full year last year, 404 kilograms. For cannabis seizures: 12.4 kilograms—you would not expect that we would seize a lot of cannabis—compared to last year's 46 kilograms. As to cocaine, there was just under a tonne of cocaine seized this financial year—913 kilograms compared to last year's 795. As to heroin, we are down on the quantity of heroin seized: 298 kilograms compared to 582 last year. For MDMA: 30 kilograms were seized compared to 11 kilograms last year. As to precursor material, 11½ tonnes of precursor materials were seized in this financial year to date compared to 3.2 tonnes last year. Sedatives: 138 kilograms of sedatives were seized compared to 63 kilograms last year. Hallucinogens: five kilograms were seized compared to seven kilograms last year. And then there is a range of others which include analogues and some other new synthetic drugs that we are starting to see in the market, and they totalled about 74 kilograms. So, in total, for the financial year to date, we have seized just over 13½ tonnes of illicit material compared to 5.2 tonnes last year. A factor that is quite important to the commissioner and me in terms of the work rate of our officers is that we have had a seizure count of 3,753 seizures compared to, last year, 3,762. So seizure rates are largely unchanged, but amounts are much higher—with two months still to go, so we can obviously expect more seizures in the next two months. I will say that those figures are across all federal agencies, so I should give credit to the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, who play a very important role in this.

What I will say as well is that we often talk in this committee and other committees about the work of the AFP domestically because they are the seizure rates that get reported. Of course, we are an international agency, and we have talked about the roles that we play overseas in a number of different areas. Can I just take a moment to alert the committee to some of the work that we have done overseas that will not necessarily be captured in our seizure rates. These are seizures that have been made by our partners in foreign jurisdictions, mostly South-East Asia or South America, that have been the result of significant work by the AFP. They include 500 kilograms of safrole oil that was bound for Australia in China; 4,000 litres of safrole oil bound for Australia that was seized in Cambodia; 15 kilograms of cocaine bound for Australia seized in the Netherlands; an operation that had a seizure of cocaine in Australia but resulted in a large number of offshore arrests, with six arrests in Colombia and Panama; and 200 kilograms of cocaine in New Caledonia, which you may have seen in the papers recently, that was bound for Australia—this was as a result of joint work we did with the French authorities. So you will see that there is a lot of work that often goes unreported, and we are working very hard to make sure that the annual report this year reflects some of that, even if not in a formal KPI.

The other one I will mention—and then we can probably move on, Senator, as you do not want too much information—is that we have also removed $20 million in cash out of the criminal economy. That is not assets restrained or bank accounts restrained; that is cash that we found through search warrants—under beds, in suitcases or wherever it might be—that is almost wholly and solely derived from narcotic activity.

Senator FURNER: Finally, are you identifying any concealment changes in respect of these criminals—how they are trying to import the drugs and foreign items into the country?

Mr Colvin : We do, and this is something where we work very closely with Customs, as you would expect. The concealments change. They are cyclical in that we see large seizures coming into container ports packaged with everything from lawnmower parts to tractor parts, which is something that has been reported in the press lately. So at the moment we are seeing large seizures coming in in that way. But then again we also still see large numbers of internal concealments. So we are constantly working on what new concealment methods there are. Sometimes the syndicates we are dealing with no longer stick to one commodity, so they may not just be importing cocaine or heroin; they will be importing a whole range of narcotics.

Mr Negus : Glade.

Mr Colvin : That is a good point. The commissioner just pointed out that Operation Glade was an operation that we undertook. It came to a resolution last Thursday, but it was effectively a three-month operation that looked at seizures through the parcel post—so the airstream mail, effectively. Again, that was a very successful operation that resulted in a number of people arrested. There were a whole range of narcotics—there was one seizure of 76 kilograms of heroin—that have been imported over a number of mail items, but also a lot of analogues and other material that we are starting to see imported over the internet and through the mail.

Senator FURNER: Thanks for that.

CHAIR: We have a pretty tight schedule and we do not think we are going to get through what we need to get through tonight, so we are going to keep working through the afternoon tea break.

Senator LUDLAM: I do not have a great deal for the AFP, so I will be quick. You tabled a document for me—I think on notice—on your investigation into WikiLeaks. Commissioner, you put in your advice to Mr Wilkins, which by the time it got to me was just a black rectangle with your logo on top of it.

Mr Negus : Senator, to be fair, I think there were a couple of paragraphs—certainly in what I have seen that was sent to you. There was an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph but there was not much in between.

Senator LUDLAM: There was a great deal of black ink in between. So, given that that was a bit of a waste of paper and time, what can you tell the committee about the AFP's engagement on the matter of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange» ? I am not going, obviously to operational matters—heaven forbid!—but what resources do you currently have dedicated to any investigation or surveillance?

Mr Negus : We have none.

Senator LUDLAM: None? Zero?

Mr Negus : Zero.

Senator LUDLAM: You would probably be aware that last night our time the UK Supreme Court indicated that it will be bring down a judgement on 30 May. Does that change your standing or status at all?

Mr Negus : No, it does not.

Senator LUDLAM: If an Australian citizen overseas is threatened with assassination, do you have any formal role at all, or do your officers or agencies or powers need to be formally invoked by, for example, the foreign affairs department?

Mr Negus : It would depend on, obviously, the circumstances, but broadly no, we would not have a role except to provide support to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who would provide some consular support or if the law enforcement agency in that particular country sought out support to conduct inquiries in this country.

Senator LUDLAM: If an Australian citizen is threatened with extrajudicial killing overseas, of your own motion you do not-

Mr Negus : We do not have the powers to go and operate anywhere else in the world without the invite of the host country.

Senator LUDLAM: I did invite ASIS to present in Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade later in the session and they have declined, which is interesting, so I will not be able to put that question to them. Are you in a position—not obviously to put people on a plane and fly to another country—if an Australian citizen is threatened with assassination overseas, are you on your own motion able to do any domestic investigation or activate any of your intelligence gathering facilities here in Australia?

Mr Negus : It would take something to be referred to us in that regard. Assassination, murder—it is a difficult one to talk about without knowing the specific circumstances of the event. If something were referred to us we would certainly work with our international partners. With any issue which raises the concern about the safety of any person anywhere in the world but particularly an Australian citizen, we would do what we could to alert our international partners. We have liaison officers placed in various countries around the world but, again, we have no powers to investigate or to do anything; we can only raise that alert and convey that material to the appropriate authorities.

Senator LUDLAM: It still sounds like you have got to await a referral from Foreign Affairs though. Can I confirm for the record that: you have not actually received a referral to do anything in particular from the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the repeated threats of assassination by senior American military officials and civilian political figures against Julian «Assange ,?

Mr Negus : No, we have not.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for confirming that. You did provide, as far as I am aware, completely unredacted and with no black felt marker at all, the forms that Australian Federal Police officers need to fill in to obtain access to information under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. You have provided us with those four blank forms, and I greatly appreciate that.

Mr Negus : We do try to help where we can, but obviously the ones that we do redact need redacting.

Senator LUDLAM: Have these been modified in any form or are these exactly as they would come off the printer if I wanted one of them?

Mr Negus : I think it has sample or something written across as a watermark; that is the only change.

Senator LUDLAM: If I fill one of these out, it will presumably—

Mr Negus : I am afraid I am not authorised to give you the material, but you can fill one out.

Senator LUDLAM: Do your officers have to fill out one of these per request, or could you fill out one of these for twenty requests?

Mr Negus : I am sure it is per request. In one investigation there could be multiples. Again, it is some time since operationally I have been in a position to fill out one of these forms but-

Senator LUDLAM: Mr Drennan can take it if he likes. What I am trying to work out is: 23,000 times the AFP has applied for one of these wire intercepts. The last figures we have got accurate information for is 2010-11 financial year I think. Are there 23,000 bits of paper like this in a filing cabinet somewhere, or can you fill them out as a job lot?

Mr Drennan : I might just clarify that these are requests for call charge records; they are not warrants.

Senator LUDLAM: That is correct.

Mr Drennan : We can put more than one on there but, invariably, we do not put an enormous amount on there. Under the request and the authorisation, you can put a number of phone numbers on there and request the call charge records in regard to those.

Senator LUDLAM: What is the maximum number of requests you could make on a single piece of paper? Is it just by convention or is it written down somewhere?

Mr Drennan : There is nothing which says it is a number or above or below. It is what is a reasonable amount that could go on there with regard to the investigations being conducted.

Mr Negus : To give you a bit more direction, each of these would be uploaded into our case management database, so each specific one would relate to a specific investigation. If an investigator had five investigations on, they would not necessarily write them all down on the same piece of paper. I suspect—and I will get some confirmation—that it would be each investigation. If there happen to be two or three numbers the person was after for the same reason, investigating the same offence, then that could be contained within the one document, obviously. That would be uploaded electronically into our case management system.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you talk us through why there are four separate forms. Obviously, these did not come with an explanatory memorandum. Can you explain what the purpose of the four different flavours is.

Mr Negus : I will get Assistant Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour to the table and he can perhaps explain that to you.

Mr Jabbour : As the Commissioner said, it largely depends on the offence. So, depending on the individual case and the nature of the investigation, a form would be completed with the specific service that we are seeking the information on. It may be that one form is completed for three or four services. It may be that one form is completed for simply one service, with the appropriate offence recorded. A separate form would then be created for a different service and so on. We would not typically confuse the matter and have several services pertaining to several different investigations on the one form.

Senator LUDLAM: Of the four different kinds then, can you just very quickly explain them—because I am aware that time is pretty short. 'Historical seek request' relates to a Telstra MOU or a Telstra system in particular?

Mr Jabbour : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Who is a 'historical subscriber request' for?

Mr Jabbour : Again, it would depend on the service provider. So it is not a particular form for one particular service provider. It would depend on the service of interest and the service provider that is relevant to that particular service.

Senator LUDLAM: And the other two, I guess, are self-explanatory. I will leave that be. I notice the reference to PROMIS on each form, which I understand is 'Police Real Time Online Management Information System'. There was reporting that on 1 March a former AFP officer, Mr Warren Tamplin, was charged with illegally accessing that database base. What has the AFP done since then to address the deficiencies in security that this case revealed, given that there are tens of thousands of records of ordinary people on this database?

Mr Wood : Senator, I can respond to that. In relation to Tamplin himself, of course we terminated his employment. We prosecuted him through the courts and he was convicted. In terms of our response, both in terms of reinforcing existing requirements as well as introducing new requirements, there are about a dozen points here that I am happy to go through that are specifically as a result of the Tamplin matter.

Senator LUDLAM: We are short of time. Are you able to table that piece of paper or a version that you would be happy to table?

Mr Wood : I can do that.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. Can you tell us what frustrations are experienced by the AFP—now that we understand a little bit more about how you obtain this kind of telecommunications data—with current surveillance in telecommunications interception warrant processes for more serious offences. How is the system currently not working for you?

Mr Negus : I think 'frustration' is probably too strong a word. There are obviously improvements that could be made to this but we also understand that there need to be checks and balances in place for what are quite intrusive powers that the AFP are afforded, as are other law enforcement agencies. Whilst you use the term 'frustration', I think the AFP accept that there needs to be significant judicial and AAT oversight for the warrants to be issued. The complex nature of the Ombudsman's inspection of the way we store material, the regular routines that we have to comply with we understand as being required under the act. So there is not a great deal of frustration other than understanding that it is certainly a serious matter.

Senator LUDLAM: Does the system work reasonably, though?

Mr Negus : It works. But it can always be—

Senator LUDLAM: How would you make it work better? That is what I am trying to get to.

Mr Negus : It is about refinement. And one of the things that we need to remember is that the world has changed a lot since the telephone interceptions act was written in 1979. So it was written over 33 years ago. I do not think anyone in 1979 could have foreseen the nature of the way technology has advanced and the way that criminals communicate with each other. The frustration for us is more around the fact that we think criminals are utilising technology in a way that goes outside what we can actually do and intercept properly with the appropriate oversight. It is a matter of making sure that the TI act keeps up with that, and I am sure that it does in the current way.

Mr Gaughan : You would probably be aware that the Attorney-General has just written to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in relation to the Telecommunications Act and a review thereof—

Senator LUDLAM: That is exactly where this is heading.

Assistant Commissioner Gaughan : That is before that committee now. Our concerns, as well as the concerns of our other law enforcement partners in the intelligence community, have been raised with that committee as appropriate.

Senator LUDLAM: Did the AFP see a draft have input to the draft terms of reference that were circulated to the committee?

Assistant Commissioner Gaughan : That is probably best answered by the department and Mr McDonald is probably best placed to answer that.

Mr McDonald : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to know how many people smugglers have been extradited to Australia from Indonesia to date?

Mr Colvin : I think the number is two to date. I will confirm that. How many since when?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Since 2008.

Mr Wilkins : If you are going into extradition, that should be later on tonight after nine o'clock.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am not going to go any deeper than that for now. I just want the number if anyone can give it to me. I will go on with my other questions and if you get the answer, great. Could you tell me what the AFP's current goal is for the duration that alleged people smugglers and boat crew can be held without charge?

Mr Colvin : Our benchmark at the moment is 90 days. That is what we aim for from the point of interception and being identified as a crew member to when we commence a prosecution. That is the investigation period for us.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able to tell me what the current average duration of precharge detention is?

Mr Colvin : I am not sure I can give you the current average. I do not have the average, suffice to say it is over 100 days, only just over 100 days. But the average has come down quite substantially over the last couple of years.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Would you be able to give me a break down of what the shortest time and the longest time has been since December 2011?

Mr Negus : I can tell you that the longest time as of 9 May, which is when we have the records up to, for an alleged Indonesian crew member is 137 days.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have the shortest, by any chance?

Mr Negus : No, but we could provide that.

Mr Colvin : I would say the shortest would have been her crew from SIEV 221, the vessel that crashed off the rocks at Christmas Island.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Since December 2001, has the AFP referred any suspects who were accompanied by DIAC paperwork suggesting that one or both of the age determination assessors have concluded that the person is a minor?

Mr Colvin : Do you mean December 2011?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sorry, what did I say?

Mr Colvin : You said 2001. I was very concerned for a moment.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you been referred anybody by DIAC who has been accompanied with paperwork suggesting by either one or both of the age determination assessors engaged by DIAC that the person was a minor?

Mr Colvin : Since 21 December, when the new policy came into play in 2011, there have been 98 crew arrivals of which 48 been referred to us. In that you can make a judgment that DIAC have done initial interview and have concluded that person is most likely an adult. I am just looking at our figures. Of those 48, four are currently before the courts judged as adults and age is not in dispute; 15 are still subject to investigation, of which two are suspected to be juveniles, and we are continuing that investigation on the basis that we believe they are repeat offenders; and a further 29 did not proceed to charge because there was insufficient evidence that we could bring as part of the investigation or because we gave them the benefit of the doubt based on our assessment as to whether they were a juvenile or not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let me get back to that figure of 15. Is that currently 15 who are disputing their age?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Define for me what that 15 is.

Mr Colvin : They are 15 crew members who have been referred to us by DIAC because DIAC has confirmed that they are adults.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Two of them, however—

Mr Colvin : Two of them have been assessed to be juveniles and we are continuing with that because we believe they are repeat offenders.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And you have not had any one referred to you where there has been any suggestion that they are minors except for those outstanding two?

Mr Colvin : No. Of the 48 that were referred to us, we gave 20 the benefit of the doubt.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Let me clarify this. Of the 48 that were referred to you from DIAC, how many did you give the benefit of the doubt?

Mr Colvin : Twenty.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So DIAC referred them to you. What did you give 20 of them the benefit of the doubt for?

Mr Colvin : That would be on the basis of other information we may have from the Navy personnel once we started to take statements and interview. It could be information from members on board the vessel—asylum seekers—once we commenced the investigation and spoke to them. There could be a range of reasons. The DIAC assessment may be that they were borderline, it may be that they thought they were 19. But, based on subsequent information that we had, we gave them the benefit of the doubt and decided not to proceed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So 20 of the 48 people that DIAC referred to you you decided there might actually be a possibility that they were minors?

Mr Colvin : Us and the DPP. Yes, that is correct. It would mostly be part of the AFP investigation though.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there a formal communication back to DIAC at that stage when you have made a different determination?

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. They were handed back to DIAC and it is then a matter for DIAC to deport them or deal with them as they normally would.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Were any of those 20 given wrist or dental X-rays?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have the two who are suspected to be minors been given X-rays?

Mr Colvin : No, the have not.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are there any plans to? Would that be part of the next step?

Mr Colvin : I do not know that their age is actually in dispute.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Oh, it is actually that they are being charged because they are repeat offenders.

Mr Colvin : Yes, but we believe they are juveniles.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you aware whether the 20 you gave back to DIAC are still in detention or have been deported?

Mr Colvin : No, we would not know that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Chair, for AFP that is probably all.

Senator LUDLAM: Chair, can I just check the status of something?


Mr Colvin : Chair, I can answer Senator Hanson Young's earlier question, noting what the department has said. We do not normally talk about extradition matters—and certainly none that are on foot. But we have had one successful extradition of an alleged people smuggling organiser since 2008—one.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: One. Thank you.

Mr Drennan : From Indonesia.

CHAIR: Senator Ludlam, you wanted to find out the status of that piece of paper you are holding.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. This was in response to the question about what changed after you prosecuted this gentleman. How many of those dot points are new and how many of them were already extant as far as your existing security policy is concerned?

Mr Wood : I will give a definitive answer on notice, if that is okay? My recollection is that the first two or three are good standard practice that we already had in place, but some of the issues such as changing tighter controls around proactive blocking of emails to certain types of addresses is new. The very last dot point was one that was done as a specific response to the announcement of the outcome in court.

Senator LUDLAM: Here it is. Thank you.

Mr Wood : I will take it on notice, giving a clear indication of which ones we already in place but we just confirmed in place and confirmed they were working, and those that were actually new.

Senator LUDLAM: Thanks very much.

Senator BRANDIS: In view of the time, I am going to put most of my remaining questions to the AFP on notice. But there is just one discrete topic I wanted to raise with you. It concerns the closure of the Robina office of the AFP on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Are you familiar with that?

Mr Negus : I am. For the record, it has not actually closed.

Senator BRANDIS: The announced closure.

Mr Negus : That is right. We are looking at doing that probably early in 2013.

Senator BRANDIS: I would like to know if the Commonwealth—Mr Wilkins, you may also be able to assist here—consulted the Queensland government the Premier, the Police Minister or the Police Commissioner of Queensland in relation to withdrawal of the AFP's crime investigation resources from the Gold Coast?

Mr Negus : It is probably useful to go back two steps. There is 27 staff working at the Robina office. They are mainly operational people from the high-tech crime operations and our criminal investigation areas. As you would be aware, we were also placed at Coolangatta airport and, as we have talked about earlier in the committee, we are transitioning to having fully-sworn police at that facility rather than protective service officers doing a counterterrorism first response role. Accommodation is being upgraded at that location.

The lease finishes in March 2013 at the Robina office, and we are looking at how we will deliver the services to south-east Queensland. We obviously have a large Brisbane office, which is 45 minutes up the highway. We have a facility that is going to be expanded at Coolangatta airport. We will still commit to having investigative resources available on the Gold Coast and working with the Queensland authorities in looking at a whole range of criminal offences. We have already had conversations with senior Queensland Police about this and have advised them that we are looking to deliver the services in a different way. But, looking at consolidating some of our property holdings, we consider it to be an appropriate thing as the lease approaches its conclusion in March 2013. We are still in discussion. We have advised the staff and the union that we are considering options of how to deliver the service but we have not really landed on any solid ground on how that will be facilitated.

Senator BRANDIS: You said in the course of that answer that you have had conversations with senior Queensland police. At what level were those conversations? Did you speak to the Queensland Police Commissioner?

Mr Negus : No, I have not spoken to Bob Atkinson yet, because we are at the preliminary stages. We have advised the staff that we are thinking about this because we did not want this to come as a surprise to people. But, it is at assistant commissioner level in the crime area.

Senator BRANDIS: Which assistant commissioner of the AFP spoke to their opposite number in Queensland?

Mr Colvin : It was the manager of our Brisbane office, Commander Mark Walters. As you would expect, he talks to the Queensland police at senior levels all the time. He is the officer who has started these discussions. As the commissioner said, we have not finalised these plans so they would be preliminary discussions to say that this is what the AFP is looking to do.

Senator BRANDIS: When were the Queensland police first notified of the intention to close Robina?

Mr Colvin : I would have take that on notice.

Senator BRANDIS: Was it this year? When was the decision made?

Mr Colvin : The decision was only formally made about a week ago.

Senator BRANDIS: I see. So, did the conversation with Assistant Commissioner Walters and his counterpart occur within the last few days?

Mr Colvin : No. It occurred before we made the final decision, because I was the person who signed off on that paperwork, and something I wanted to be assured of is that this would not be a surprise. But, as we say, we now have to go through a more formal sit-down and work out how this will actually transition.

Senator BRANDIS: So far as you are aware, has that been the only communication between the two levels of government? For example, I asked you whether the premier or the police minister of Queensland were notified. Are you aware of whether they were or not?

Mr Negus : Unless they have been notified by the Queensland police, we have not done those notifications, no. Again, we are still in the early stages of working out how the service will be delivered. Rather than it being characterised as a closure of a particular building, it is more that the resources would be spread between Brisbane and between our other role at Coolangatta, which is, again, on the Gold Coast. New facilities will provide us with an opportunity to deliver the service in a just as effective way.

Senator BRANDIS: Was any contact made with the Gold Coast council or the mayor, Mr Tate?

Mr Negus : No, it was not.

Senator BRANDIS: Was there any consultation with the Gold Coast business community or community leaders?

Mr Negus : No.

Senator BRANDIS: Now, the manager of the Brisbane office of the AFP, that is Assistant Commissioner Walters, right?

Mr Negus : Commander Walters.

Senator BRANDIS: He was the author of a document, was he not, called 'Footprint of the AFP on the Gold Coast'? Is that right?

Mr Negus : I have not seen that.

Mr Colvin : Are you referring to an email that he may have sent out to staff in the Brisbane office?

Senator BRANDIS: What I am referring to is—as I am advised—that Commander Walters made a series of recommendations to the AFP senior leadership group regarding the footprint of the AFP on the Gold Coast, which recommendations were endorsed by a gentleman called Deputy Commissioner Colvin. Is that right?

Mr Colvin : I think you may have a number of documents confused.

Senator BRANDIS: Can you take me through the documents? Then I will not be confused.

Mr Colvin : I can. Commander Walters has provided a draft, and it was no more than draft. It was an incomplete report for my information some time ago about a range of matters, including the footprint on the Gold Coat. Subsequent to that there was a further report that was prepared, not by Commander Walters. But I know that more recently Commander Walters has sent an email out to his staff. I think it had the title of something like 'Footprint on the Gold Coast', advising them of the decision. So I think somewhere in amongst there is probably the document you are referring to.

Senator BRANDIS: Am I right in thinking that Commander Walter's view was that the Robina office ought not to be closed?

Mr Colvin : No, I do not think that is right at all. I will stand corrected if I see the document that perhaps you are looking at, but I speak to Commander Walters regularly about this and I would not categorise that as his view.

Senator BRANDIS: How would you summarise the view expressed by Commander Walters in the document or documents that you have referred to?

Mr Colvin : A number of options were put forward about the way that we could conduct our business. Everything from moving all of those resources from Robina to the Gold Coast, to withdrawing all of our resources and managing it from the Brisbane office. He put forward a range of options, but as I said it was not a finalised document. In fact, it was quite far from being a finalised document.

Senator BRANDIS: Now this is a cost-cutting measure, is it not?

Mr Negus : It is an efficiency measure. This is something where we are looking at how we can deliver the services most effectively in, obviously, a tight budget environment.

Senator BRANDIS: Sure, indeed. But the decision to close the Robina office was a function of the need for efficiencies rather than a strategic assessment of the crime situation at the Gold Coast.

Mr Negus : I do not accept that. We already have a building on the Gold Coast. It is called Coolangatta Airport. We have investigators working out of there. We also have people who do community policing at that airport. It is a matter of us deciding on whether we need three buildings in the precinct, whether that be Brisbane, Robina and Coolangatta, or whether we can deliver those services out of two. Because the lease finishes in March 2013 there, this became a situation where we considered—as we should probably do as a management team—about how we can best deliver those services.

Senator BRANDIS: I am sure you have a degree of familiarity with the geography of the Gold Coast, so you would be aware that Coolangatta is the very southernmost point of the Gold Coast, on the New South Wales border. The Brisbane headquarters would charitably be described as 45 minutes up the highway. It is perhaps on a good day 50 minutes up the highway from the very northernmost end of the Gold Coast. But, in between the southernmost end of the Gold Coast and the Brisbane headquarters, which is perhaps 50 minutes on a good day away from the northernmost end of the Gold Coast, there is the entirety of the Gold Coast strip. Robina was relatively central to that strip or that policing area. There is now not going to be an AFP facility in the central and most populous part of the Gold Coast. At the northern end of the Gold Coast, where one finds Surfers Paradise and Southport, will be those localities on the Gold Coast most remote from any AFP facility.

Mr Negus : I bow to your greater knowledge of the Gold Coast, but you have to remember that when we are talking about the AFP building there it is not a police station in the conventional sense. It is not like the Civic police station here or Parramatta police station. This is an AFP building which houses investigators. It would be rare that people would walk in off the street to report crimes or to report matters at that location. I am not saying it would not happen, but it would certainly be rare. This is about being able to deliver the services in the greater Southern Queensland area in a more efficient way. Every dollar I spend on premises is one less dollar I can spend on people. If I can have more people working in Brisbane and Coolangatta and more investigators out fighting crime, then that is what I want to do rather than spending it on buildings.

Senator BRANDIS: I understand that entirely, and you are not the author of the budget. You are at the end of the process rather than the author of it. But, if you did not have to close the Robina centre because of budget constraints, you would not have done so, would you?

Mr Negus : We have been on an efficiency drive for three years, since I became Commissioner, and we have done a lot of things differently. This is a continual way of squeezing as much as we can get out of the budgets made available to us by the government of the day. Again, we have done a range of things which have not necessarily been popular with staff, and I am sure that the people were very comfortable working in Robina rather than travelling down the road to the airport or up the road to Brisbane to go to work every day. Many people on the Gold Coast do that, as I am sure you are aware. I suspect the paperwork in front of you comes from one of those people, but it does not mean it is the wrong decision for the organisation.

Senator BRANDIS: No, but equally you must appreciate the Gold Coast is an extremely large regional city.

Mr Negus : And an important part of what the AFP is looking at as far as organised crime, money laundering and a range of different things are concerned. What I am saying is that operationally we are very cognisant of the issues surrounding the Gold Coast, but we believe we can still deliver the services required, working collaboratively with the Queensland police, working from Brisbane and from Coolangatta.

Mr Colvin : It is probably enlightening to let you know that quite a number of the people working in the Robina office actually are not working on crime in the Gold Coast. As you know, we are a national organisation and we can work from any location. So, as the commissioner says, it does not necessarily translate that we are removing our capacity to do work on the Gold Coast. A lot of the work we were doing on the Gold Coast we delivered from our Brisbane office, because that is where our serious and organised crime teams are and that is where the large percentage of our crime operations investigators are. So the people in Robina who will over time be moving were not necessarily working on Gold Coast crime.

Senator BRANDIS: I confess to a parochial interest here as a Queensland senator, but I am bound to say that the Gold Coast is actually the fifth largest municipality in Australia. It is bigger than Canberra, bigger than Hobart or Darwin, bigger than any other regional city. It is a city, as you have said yourself, Commissioner, in which there are quite specific problems, in particular in relation to organised crime. The thought that the AFP's footprint on the Gold Coast is being materially reduced and the suggestion that the best way in which the AFP could have a presence on the Gold Coast is to maintain a facility at Coolangatta, at the very southern end, and a facility in Brisbane, which is in a practical sense a long way away, and no facility at all in the middle or northern more populous parts of the Gold Coast strikes me as a very, very unwise decision. It is a decision, I am bound to say, I would have thought you would have been very reluctant to make, had you not had that decision forced upon you by cost-cutting and financial constraints. Had the financial constraints not borne upon you, would Robina have been closed?

Mr Negus : As I said, for the last three years we have looked at finding efficiencies wherever we can. Each year that we pay our staff a pay rise, I have to absorb significant amounts of money. We do not get supplementation for pay rises outside what the normal CPI is, so each year it is incumbent upon me to find efficiencies. And none of these decisions are easy. Would I like a police station in every suburb? Yes, I would. But the reality is that we have to—

Senator BRANDIS: You certainly do not want to be closing police stations in the middle of very rapidly growing areas of population, do you?

Mr Negus : I should correct myself here for calling it a police station; it is an AFP office.

Senator BRANDIS: Or facilities, I should say.

Mr Negus : We are not removing staff from the environment. We are relocating those staff, whether it be to the airport or to the Brisbane office, where our organised crime teams work. They will continue to service the people of the Gold Coast in a very similar fashion to the way they have. Yes, they are difficult decisions—again, I understand your parochial perspective on that—but they are difficult decisions that we have made not quickly but after some significant consideration.

Senator BRANDIS: Now, I am told, Commissioner, the decision having been made to close the Robina office, that the AFP has decided not to move its crime teams to a special facility on the third floor of the planned new AFP Gold Coast Airport building. Is that right?

Mr Colvin : Senator, I do not know what you are referring to, but I believe that the plan is for us to take two floors at the new facility. In that facility, there will be a capacity for us to put crime operations investigators. As I said before, because we still have 12 months before the Robina lease expires, we are yet to work out exactly how we want to manage the allocation of those resources. Suffice to say, though, that we are withdrawing those resources mostly back to the Brisbane office.

Senator BRANDIS: Right.

Mr Colvin : But we will have two floors in there, not three.

Senator BRANDIS: I said 'the third floor'.

Mr Colvin : Okay.

Senator BRANDIS: I am not suggesting you are leasing the whole building. But the point is, Deputy Commissioner, that you have crime operations investigators located at Robina at the moment, and when Robina closes those units are going to be transferred not to Coolangatta—which, notwithstanding its geographic difficulties, is at least on the Gold Coast—but to Brisbane. Is that right?

Mr Colvin : No, that is not right. We have not finalised that decision.

Senator BRANDIS: Is that your current thinking?

Mr Colvin : The current thinking is that we will build the capacity, within the allocation of floor space at the Coolangatta airport, for us to run crime operations. Whether they are people who are currently in Robina or people who are in the Brisbane office, which is where the bulk of our investigators are, we will be able to run operations and investigations out of that region from that area.

Senator BRANDIS: Are you able to assure me that, when this all falls out, there will be crime operations investigators permanently based at the Gold Coast facility?

Mr Colvin : No, I cannot assure you of that, Senator, not at all.

Senator BRANDIS: All right.

Mr Colvin : In fact, I will go one further and say that I would be surprised that we would put them there permanently when we want to use our resources the best way we can, which, I imagine, will probably involve a flexible deployment of our resources.

Senator BRANDIS: But there are currently crime operations investigators based at Robina, aren't there?

Mr Colvin : There are, yes.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you. I will put the rest of my questions to the AFP on notice.

CHAIR: We have finished with the AFP, I think, by the looks of things. Great. Mr Negus, thank you and your fine team again and for your many hours here with us today.

Mr Negus : Thank you, Chair. I should congratulate Senator Brandis as a parochial Queenslander on winning the State of Origin last night. It pains me to say it!

Senator BRANDIS: I would like to say it was all my doing!

CHAIR: Now you have taken yourself to an all-time low, you had better run away! We will now go to ASIO.