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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29444

Mr DUTTON (11:26 AM) —It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to support the Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004. It underlines the government's commitment to the ongoing upgrade of professionalism and the drive towards efficiency in relation to our law enforcement agencies. At the outset I take the opportunity to offer my congratulations to the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mr Mick Keelty, for his foresight and for the ability he has brought to the Australian Federal Police in driving reform such as that which is before the House today.

The bill before the parliament today came about at least in part because of a review conducted after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and a general overview undertaken by the federal government in relation to the responses we provided through law enforcement agencies against the evils of terrorism. The bill provides the ability for the Australian Protective Service to enhance not just their skills but their professionalism, the access that they have to intelligence databases, the way in which they respond to any sort of terrorist incident or deal with people committing offences in relation to assets owned by the Commonwealth.

The government's commitment to stamping out terrorism and to providing as much certainty as possible for the Australian people over the coming decades is supported not just by the detail of this bill but by some of the projects that have been undertaken by the Australian Federal Police and law enforcement agencies across this country. I want to take this opportunity to speak about some of those initiatives and about the way in which this government has supported the initiatives of the Australian Federal Police to provide a credible, effective law enforcement response to criminals, to terrorism, to organised crime and to its overall aim of providing a safer community for all Australians to live in.

The first example I cite is the Australian Federal Police effort in a joint operation in the Philippines. In April this year we signed a protocol with Philippines law enforcement agencies to launch a $3.65 million project to help build the country's counter-terrorism capacity. The project was designed to build the capacity of Philippines law enforcement agencies in intelligence sharing, bomb investigation techniques, forensic capacity and other counter-terrorism areas at both strategic and operational levels. The project underlines the key strategy of the AFP's Law Enforcement Cooperation Program to strengthen collaboration between Australia's partners in the Asia-Pacific region and to help develop their counter-terrorism and transnational crime capabilities. This government remain committed to fighting terrorism. We remain committed to supporting the Australian Federal Police in their efforts to counter terrorism throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

If we are realistic in our understanding of the way in which terrorist cells operate, we will know that the countries which are our closest neighbours may well be the very places in which these cells decide to operate. It is important that the Australian Federal Police be supported in their ongoing push to try and have an understanding and develop relationships with our closest partners and help them stamp out the evils of terrorism and organised crime as they arise on their own soil. In February this year, the Australian Federal Police International Deployment Group was formed to strengthen Australia's ability to fight terrorism and transnational organised crime and contribute to regional peacekeeping missions. The IDG will enable the strategic deployment of personnel undertaking peacekeeping operations, restoration of law and order missions and the delivery of capacity-building initiatives in the region.

One of the most important aspects of the work of the Australian Federal Police and bodies like the APS and the ACC, and indeed the state law enforcement bodies and many other federal law enforcement bodies, is in relation to drugs and stamping out the evils of drugs as they present themselves in our community. In particular, a focus of this government has been working hard in areas like Dickson with state law enforcement agencies to stamp out drug dealers and people who would prosper from human misery by dealing drugs to children within our local communities. It is a great credit to the Australian Federal Police that in April of this year, following a major investigation, they recorded one of their largest seizures of LSD. Federal agents seized approximately 190 millilitres of suspected liquid LSD and over 212,000 tabs of paper allegedly being prepared for LSD distribution. That had the potential to make almost four million doses of LSD, which would have had a street value of approximately $45 million.

Federal agents and Queensland police drug squad detectives arrested five people on the Gold Coast in March after a cooperative investigation prevented what is believed to be the largest ever attempted illegal importation of pseudoephedrine into Australia. The investigation also involved the Australian Customs Service and the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency and resulted in about 1.5 tonnes of pseudoephedrine being seized in the Philippines, which federal agents will allege was destined for this country. The operation highlights the commitment of the Australian Federal Police to taking the fight against drugs offshore and preventing them from arriving on our own soil. It demonstrates that our law enforcement agencies are working with their international counterparts through the AFP's overseas liaison officer network, and they are seriously disrupting criminal syndicates.

The Federal Police continue to work with Customs. Under the provisions of the Customs Act, the AFP recently arrested and charged two women with importing prohibited imports after 5½ kilos of capsules containing pseudoephedrine were detected in the lining of two suitcases at Cairns international airport. It is important for all Australians, and especially communities such as the people who live in my electorate of Dickson, to understand that pseudoephedrine, which is a drug which may not mean too much to them, is indeed a precursor to the manufacture of many drugs within this country. It is a precursor to the manufacture of drugs such as amphetamines, which are a major curse on young people within our environment. That and drugs such as heroin and LSD—which is an amphetamine based drug—cause no end of damage to young people in this country. As a government and a people we must continue to fight this scourge, which is one of the greatest problems that our youth of today face.

The budget that was delivered recently underscored this government's commitment to supporting the Australian Federal Police, the old APS and all of these law enforcement bodies in their fight against crime. I was very pleased to see in the government's budget this year that the Howard government delivered further on its strong response to terrorism by committing an additional $754 million over five years to national security initiatives to protect the Australian community. The budget this year also provided new funding with the commitment of an extra $2.3 billion on national security measures since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Bali bombings.

The Howard government's budget this year provided over $350 million of additional funding to agencies in the Attorney-General's portfolio to implement a range of strategic national security measures, which include $127 million to further strengthen the information management and intelligence capacities of ASIO and $36 million to enable the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC, to continue to collect, analyse and disseminate financial intelligence to Australia's law enforcement, revenue and national security agencies. It also included over $6 million to continue the operations of the national security hotline.

This year's budget enhanced regional counter-terrorism capabilities. The government will provide almost $37 million to enhance the offshore response and investigative capacity of the AFP, almost $30 million to establish the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, a touch over $21 million for the continued presence of the AFP in Melanesia and $10 million to enable AUSTRAC to provide counter-terrorism financing assistance and information technology mentoring to countries in South-East Asia. Importantly, out of this budget the government will provide funds to strengthen the security of our borders by providing $3 million in 2004-05 to allow the Australian Customs Service, which does tremendous work for this country, to extend the SmartGate trial to a second international airport, for holders of a prototype Australian biometric passport. The government will also provide almost $3 million to enable the Australian Customs Service to board up to 80 per cent of vessels at their first port of arrival in Australia, up from the current rate of 70 per cent. We will provide $3 million to strengthen existing border control measures, and we will provide almost $11 million over two years for the ACS to maintain current rates of container X-ray examination of sea cargo.

To further enhance protective security arrangements, the government will provide almost $30 million to the Attorney-General's Department to implement initiatives with other agencies so as to coordinate a national approach to critical infrastructure protection. The government will also provide almost $20 million for diplomatic guarding and the purchase of armoured vehicles. The government will provide an additional $15.7 million to enhance the air security officer program, and it will consult with the states and territories to establish a shared arrangement to enhance emergency management capabilities.

One of the most important measures announced in the budget this year by the Howard government was in relation to the National Community Crime Prevention Program. Today I renew my call to community groups not just within my electorate but right around the country to take note of the National Community Crime Prevention Program and to understand the benefits that it can provide to their local communities—how the program could benefit, for argument's sake, elderly residents within Dickson by enhancing security in local areas where crime problems exist, and how we could help some of those elderly residents feel more secure within their own homes and within their own local communities and environments. If as a government we are able to provide security enhancements in that way, I think we have gone a long way towards achieving what it is that governments are about in this country.

Crime and the fear of crime consistently rate amongst the highest concerns of the Australian public. Crime is estimated to cost the Australian community around $32 billion per year. This budget is providing over $20 million under the National Community Crime Prevention Program, which will focus on how to increase the ability of Australian communities to recognise local crime problems and to pursue effective, locally organised crime prevention initiatives. The centrepiece of the NCCPP is a new community grants program which will provide support to grassroots projects that are designed to enhance community safety and crime prevention at the local level.

Under the program, grants will be national and application based, and projects will be classified under the following streams: firstly, a community safety stream, with grants of up to $150,000; secondly, an Indigenous community safety stream, with grants of up to $150,000; and, finally, a community partnership stream, with grants of up to $500,000 to support promising and innovative collaborative community safety and crime prevention demonstration projects in high-need areas. To encourage partnerships across sectors and shared responsibility, the community partnership stream will not fund 100 per cent of project costs, and financial and in-kind contributions would need to be made by other community and government agencies. Grant funding is non-recurrent and is available for projects of up to three years duration. The distribution of funding between these streams is flexible and will be determined during the assessment process, based on the merit of individual applications, eligible organisations and projects, not-for-profit incorporated community based local government organisations, associations or agencies.

In commending this bill to the House today, I say once again that this government have demonstrated over the last eight years that we remain committed to providing for a safer community for all Australian people to enjoy and that we, as a government, will continue over the course of the next term, after this year's election, to provide enhanced services and all sorts of continued and enhanced abilities for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to fight crime and terrorism wherever it is. I say to the people of Dickson today that I remain committed as their member of parliament, representing their interests, and that the government are committed to fighting crime in our local communities. We can do this through supporting good legislation, such as we have before the parliament today.