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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29438

Mr SOMLYAY (10:58 AM) —I will not speak on the amendments because they have been adequately covered by the Minister for Trade. The Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 is part of the government's concerted and coordinated campaign against the threat of terrorism and multijurisdictional crime. The bill has two purposes. Firstly, it completes the integration of the Australian Protective Service into the Australian Federal Police by amending a number of acts and repealing the Australian Protective Service Act 1987. Secondly, it enables the Australian Federal Police to investigate state offences with a federal aspect. The Australian Federal Police, the AFP and the Australian Protective Service—the APS—play key roles in keeping Australia safe. They are integral to our ability to fight terrorism, transnational crime and organised crime. Their work in peacekeeping missions in places like the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Cyprus contributes significantly to our regional security. I also acknowledge their work in our external territories.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly recognise and express appreciation for not just the work done by these men and women but also the courtesy and professionalism with which they do it. I believe that, as members of federal parliament, we should be more conscious than most of the efforts of these officers, particularly in our work and travel environments. Although their duties often converge, the AFP and the APS fulfil very different roles. We talk about integrating the two agencies under the one act, but it is important to understand both the different and convergent roles.

The APS was established under the Attorney General's Department by the Australian Protective Service Act 1987 to provide such protective and custodial service for or on behalf of the Commonwealth as the minister directs. More specifically, it supplies protective security services at places like Parliament House, the offices and residences of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General, certain foreign embassies and sensitive Defence establishments—all of which are considered key targets for possible terrorist attacks. Very importantly, the APS also provides counter-terrorism first response at designated airports around Australia. However, its duties are to guard and protect, not to investigate crime and pursue criminals.

The AFP, on the other hand, enforces Commonwealth criminal law and protects our national interests from crime in Australia and overseas. Its priorities are set by ministerial direction and include enforcing laws relating to terrorism, organised and transnational crime, major fraud, illicit drug trafficking and e-crime—electronic crime. However, as well as this criminal work, it also provides some personal protective services. After the September 11 attack, the government reviewed Australia's security and counter-terrorism arrangements and determined that the APS should be transferred from the Attorney General's Department to become an operating division of the AFP. Although a distinction is still maintained between traditional policing and investigative functions, on the one hand, and protective services functions, on the other hand, the transfer allows the closest possible coordination between the two agencies.

This closer coordination must enhance the effectiveness in fulfilling their counter-terrorism responsibilities. The first stage of the transition occurred on 1 July 2002 when the APS Act was amended to transfer legal and financial responsibility for the APS from the Secretary of the Attorney General's Department to the AFP commissioner. However, although the legal and financial responsibilities were transferred by this legislation, the two agencies continued to operate under separate legislative and employment arrangements. The functions, powers and duties, as well as the terms and conditions of employment, continued to be set out by a different act for each agency.

This bill is the final stage of the transition, transferring the functions, powers, duties and employment terms for APS officers to the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. This move is in no way controversial; it has the support of the opposition. Over the last two years, parliament has already passed several pieces of legislation towards the same end, and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee prepared a report on this bill last month recommending that it be agreed to. Schedule 1 of the bill contains clauses amending the AFP Act to insert references to the positions of protective service officer and special protective service officer where required and to incorporate into the act, from the APS Act, the existing functions, powers and duties of the protective service officers.

Some protective service powers and duties were amended a few months ago when the Australian Protective Service Amendment Act 2003 was passed. But this bill is not amending or extending powers. It is simply transferring them from one act to another. It is transferring existing powers previously individually discussed and passed by this parliament. Sometimes the language may be different, but the substance is not. This bill does, however, add some definitions to the AFP Act for clarity. Some definitions reflect terms or offences already defined under the APS Act. Others, such as the definitions of `frisk search' and `ordinary search', have the same meaning as definitions used in the Crimes Act 1914. This simply provides clarity and uniformity, not change.

While schedule 1 of the bill amends the AFP Act to incorporate APS officers, their functions and duties, schedule 2 repeals the APS Act and deals with consequential amendments to 11 other acts. Because Protective Service officers carry out functions under a range of other Commonwealth legislation, these amendments are necessary to ensure the continuation of those existing functions. The powers and duties remain the same, but, when this bill is passed, any reference in other legislation to `the APS Act' must be changed to `the AFP Act'.

The second purpose of this bill is encompassed in schedule 3, which proposes to amend both the AFP Act and the Crimes Act 1914 to enable the AFP to investigate state offences with a federal aspect. These amendments implement a recommendation by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and the Australian Police Ministers Council joint working group—that is, they have been recommended by the states so there is no conflict of interest. They are already reflected in other Commonwealth legislation. The joint working group recommended:

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) can best be given the power to investigate state offences incidental to multi-jurisdictional crime by amending the Commonwealth legislation to allow the AFP to utilize Commonwealth investigative powers to investigate State offences with a federal aspect.

These amendments will enable the AFP to investigate the totality of the criminal conduct where the state offences have a federal aspect. A federal aspect exists if the subject matter of the offence is a subject on which the Commonwealth has constitutional power to legislate or where the investigation of the state offence is incidental to an investigation of a Commonwealth or territory offence. According to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee's report, this proposal has the support of the AFP, state police and the Attorney-General's Department. The Senate committee also supported these amendments.

If the AFP have spent considerable time investigating a matter—maybe months—and then find there is a state matter which needs to be dealt with, this amendment enables them to deal with it instead of having to bring in another police force, duplicating work already done in investigating different aspects of the same criminal conduct. It makes sense and allows better management of our law and enforcement resources.

This bill is about national security and good management. The fight against potential terrorism and multijurisdictional crime is unrelenting and expensive. We need to organise our resources as effectively as possible. We need coordination and cooperation. We do not need duplication. The amendments to this bill encourage cooperation and coordination, while at the same time discouraging duplication. For instance, bringing the APS under the umbrella of the AFP allows, and indeed encourages, far closer coordination and cooperation between the agencies. Having both agencies report to the same authority also diminishes the likelihood of duplication. Similarly, the schedule 3 amendments encourage cooperation between the AFP and state or territory police forces. Duplication is eliminated by allowing the AFP to deal with certain state matters that might arise during their investigations. This bill is about protecting Australia in the best way we can and about managing our protective resources as effectively as possible. I commend the bill to the House.