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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29453

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (12:05 PM) —I would initially like to thank the Minister for Trade, who introduced the Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 on my behalf, given the fact that I had legislative commitments in the main chamber a little earlier this morning. I would also like to thank all honourable members who have spoken in this debate for their support in principle of this legislation, which is very important legislation with respect to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Protective Service. I commend the member for Corangamite, who, as always, delivered a very thought-provoking and erudite speech.

Mr Gibbons —Always!

Mr SLIPPER —He always delivers a thought-provoking and erudite speech. I do not think anyone could ever accuse the member for Corangamite of being other than someone who researches very carefully every bill on which he speaks. I have to say that in the time he has been in the chamber, since about 1983—over 20 years—he has performed outstanding service for the constituents of the electorate of Corangamite. Corangamite is situated in the Geelong area. The people residing in Corangamite have been singularly fortunate that over so many years they have had the opportunity of choosing the member for Corangamite to be their representative in this place. His speech on the Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 verifies the great wisdom of the constituents of Corangamite since 1983 in returning the member for Corangamite as their elected member in the House of Representatives. I would also like to commend the member for Barton, the member for Newcastle, the member for Fairfax, the member for Dickson and the member for Flinders on their contributions to this bill.

The amendments in the Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 represent the final step in a process that began after the terrorist attacks in 2001 when the whole world changed—nothing will ever be the same again—that is, the integration of the Australian Protective Service with the Australian Federal Police. As the member for Corangamite indicated in his speech, they also implement an important resolution of the April 2002 leaders summit to allow the Australian Federal Police to investigate state offences incidental to multijurisdictional crime. While many people believe that the federal system of government is the very best system we could have in Australia, I often think that there are incredible levels of duplication and overlapping. When the leaders summit is prepared to come to such a sensible proposal as is included in this bill, I think that tends to reaffirm one's belief in the way that our federation continues to work.

The integration of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Protective Service is one part of a much broader government approach to maximising the effectiveness of Commonwealth counter-terrorism and transnational crime resources. The two-stage approach used to complete the integration of these very important organisations has allowed the Australian Protective Service to continue to deliver without disruption the range of services for which it is funded and contracted. It has also allowed for detailed consideration of relevant workplace relations, commercial, financial and organisational issues. Honourable members will be pleased to know that there has been full consultation and negotiation with the employees of both organisations about the integration.

The integration is a win-win for both organisations and the Australian public generally. It will allow the Australian Federal Police Commissioner to ensure the closest possible cooperation between Protective Service officers and police officers when conducting joint operations and providing protective security services. The amendments in the bill that implement the resolution of the April 2002 Leaders Summit on Terrorism and Multijurisdictional Crime will allow the Australian Federal Police to investigate state offences with a federal aspect, using the full range of powers in the Crimes Act.

Honourable members will be pleased to know that the government has moved swiftly to include these amendments in this bill. We will have a consideration in detail stage with respect to a government amendment, and I will speak on that amendment later. The non-government parties made one amendment to the bill in the Senate, and that amendment would permit the commissioner or a deputy commissioner to express an opinion, including a racist or prejudicial opinion, that they honestly held and believed was in the public interest but that was totally inappropriate. The government opposed that particular amendment, which of course will be of no real surprise to anyone.

In his speech the member for Barton expressed a concern about APS transferees' conditions of service and access to the board of reference in the transitional period. He also queried whether the APS officers will have access to the Industrial Relations Commission. I am very pleased to reassure the honourable member for Barton that the APS officers transferred to the AFP will have access to the dispute resolution provisions of the Workplace Relations Act and to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission where there are any concerns about their remuneration and conditions of service.

Members of parliament in this place often talk about issues relating to their own electorates. The member for Newcastle expressed her concern about the Australian Federal Police presence in Newcastle. She mentioned that there was only one officer, located in Centrelink. She also expressed some concerns in relation to the port. I am pleased to advise the member for Newcastle, who is no longer in the chamber, that the government has introduced new maritime security legislation which provides additional powers to a variety of agencies to secure Australian ports. Important work has been done to use these powers to improve security. The AFP, including Protective Service officers, will play an important role. The Australian Federal Police resources in Newcastle, as in other centres, are kept under constant review to ensure that threats and criminal activity are addressed. I am very pleased that the member for Newcastle will no doubt be greatly reassured by the remarks I have made in response to her contribution to this debate.

In summary, the Australian Federal Police and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 consolidates and enhances Australia's national security framework. It represents a milestone in the efforts of the government towards protecting all Australians from terrorist attacks and honouring our obligation under international law to protect foreign diplomatic and consular officials and their premises. On that basis, I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.