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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29448


Mr HUNT (11:42 AM) —In rising to speak on the Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004, I want to make three principle points. The first is to talk about the role of the AFP, the second is to talk about the role of crime prevention within Australia more generally and the third is to examine the specific provisions within this bill which assist the AFP and members of the Australian Protective Service to go about their business in a more effective way.

In looking at the Australian Federal Police, this country owes an extraordinary debt of gratitude to those men and women. They work in difficult circumstances, they do the difficult jobs, they place themselves at risk and they do so because of a belief in the need to address the threats in our society and the fact that there are external threats. In that situation it is very important to recognise their work. I want to recognise their work externally and internally. In terms of the external work and obligations of the Australian Federal Police we see, perhaps most cogently and potently within the Australian mind, their work following the tragedy in Bali on 12 October 2002. That act of mass murder has seen an amazing amount of successful police work and investigation.

It was by no means a given that the perpetrators would be found; it was by no means a given that, even if the perpetrators were found, they would be brought to justice quickly; and it was by no means a given that the results of the court cases would be such as they have been. On all those fronts the AFP established a cooperative arrangement with the Indonesian authorities. That is something which was unprecedented in its scope and reach, and which led to much more effective policing both within Australia's reach and within Indonesia itself. This was an extraordinary outcome in cooperation and a great response to what was a horrendous and vile act of mass murder. I only hope that any of those who are still at large will be brought to justice through this system.

In addition to that, looking at the external work of the AFP, we see in the work which they have been doing in the Solomon Islands an extraordinary role in effectively taking a lead on the ground from the Australian military in helping to bring peace, order and, ultimately, a stronger governance arrangement to the people of the Solomon Islands. It is a difficult task and, as you would see from other interventions around the world, it is often fraught with tragic consequences. But these are consequences which have not eventuated on the Solomon Islands. That is a tribute to the civilian personnel, the military personnel and, in particular, the Australian Federal Police and all those associated with the planning and conduct of Operation Helpem Fren. That is one example of the sort of peace and security work with which the Australian Federal Police have been involved.

If you turn to the internal work of the AFP, you find that the priorities of the Australian Federal Police are sixfold—to deal with (1) organised crime, (2) transnational crime, (3) money laundering, (4) major fraud, (5) illicit drug trafficking and (6) electronic crime, an emerging area of crime which is effectively borderless. On all those fronts you see a body which is dealing with difficult and challenging tasks but which is making extraordinary steps forward. The work on drug trafficking has been carried out under the Australian government's Tough on Drugs strategy, and it has had an impact on the interception of and amount of heavy drugs being brought into the country. There is a significant amount more to do—make no mistake about that—but the work of the AFP has been critical in having a major impact on the importers and distributors of the worst and most potent drugs in our community.

That brings me to the second part of this speech, which is about the actions this government is taking in relation to major crime within Australia. There is of course the Tough on Drugs strategy, as was mentioned by and is strongly supported by my friend and predecessor the member for Dickson. One thing that I particularly want to focus on is the National Community Crime Prevention Program. This is a program devised and produced by the Prime Minister's office, with the hand of the Prime Minister very strongly at the tiller. In essence, there are three elements. Firstly, there is the community safety program, which will include grants of up to $150,000. They will be available for community groups, under a competitive tendering system, who can pitch to try to have an impact within their own community on community safety and community security. In particular, I think of my own communities of Somerville and Hastings within the electorate of Flinders—two towns where there is a crime problem. I will be launching this program soon in these towns. I strongly urge local community representatives to participate in it and to seek to benefit from it for the building of community programs. Secondly, there is the Indigenous program and, thirdly, there are the large-scale community partnerships of up to half-a-million dollars. The National Community Crime Prevention Program is an important step forwards. It gives Australian communities the chance to work in cooperation with police and to work in cooperation with the broader community to have an impact on local security.

The third thing I wanted to do was to mention very briefly the essence of this bill. This bill contains amendments to the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 and the Crimes Act 1914. Essentially, it completes the integration of the Australian Protective Service into the Australian Federal Police. The men and women of the Australian Protective Service play an important role in ensuring that some of those who may be high-priority targets for criminals, terrorists or political activists are offered protection. Through my former life I have seen their work close up in action, and I know that the men and women of the Australian Protective Service put themselves at risk. They do so because of a set of beliefs about what we are as a country and beliefs about what is an ethical way to live. I commend them on their work and their efforts.

In that situation, the bill creates a new category of employee in the Australian Federal Police—that is, a protective services officer. It designates protective service functions as functions of the Australian Federal Police. It represents a part of the consolidation of the policing and security actions within the Australian federal system which is a corollary of the fact that policing and security are now inseparable and that some of the questions facing Australia in terms of its long-term security can only be dealt with by cooperative work between ASIO, ASIS and the AFP—the greater the consolidation and the greater the cooperation, the better. In those circumstances, bringing the protective service functions under the AFP is a very important step forward. All up, I thank the men and women of the Australian Federal Police for their work in Bali, for their work in the Solomons, for their work overseas, particularly for their work within Australia in relation to major crime, and also now for their work in relation to protective services. I commend the bill to the House, and I urge its speedy passage.