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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5006

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (2:57 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Ellison, the Minister for Justice and Customs. Can the minister confirm that, on 27 September 2000, he issued a ministerial direction to the AFP to give special emphasis to countering and otherwise investigating organised people-smuggling? Can the minister inform the Senate how this ministerial direction was put into operation?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —Upstream disturbance has been a key strategy of the Howard government in dealing with people-smuggling, as well as a whole raft of other initiatives such as the introduction of severe penalties. People-smuggling, you must remember, involves organised criminals who have absolutely no regard for the people that they deal with. In fact, we have seen ruthless criminals operating in an environment with absolutely no regard for the safety of their human cargo. It was a pressing initiative. With the authority that I have, I can issue directions to the Australian Federal Police in relation to matters of priority in areas of law enforcement that the government wants pursued. We followed this up with our people-smuggling conference, which I mentioned earlier.

The police commissioner mentioned at estimates that the range of upstream disturbance activities can be engaged in a number of ways. There is education, which has been touched on by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I have seen first-hand the dissemination of T-shirts and other means of education. There is the question of dissuading people from embarking on a vessel, deterring them from becoming involved with people-smugglers. There is, most importantly, working with overseas law enforcement bodies such as the Indonesian police to make sure that people smugglers are apprehended. At the moment, we have in custody three people of interest, two of whom are the subject of extradition proceedings from this country. So that is another aspect of dealing with this issue—that is, to flush out the people smugglers and to deal with them.

There are other initiatives in relation to intelligence gathering. We have a People Smuggling Task Force which brings in the department of immigration as well as the Australian Federal Police. These are all appropriate methods of disruption. I make it very clear to the Senate, and in particular to Senator Faulkner, that disruption and deterrence do not equate to sabotage. The Australian Federal Police has not been involved in sabotaging vessels but it has been involved in upstream disturbance—that is, disturbing and disrupting the activities of ruthless people smugglers. What is more, I now have the statement by the Australian Federal Police that I referred to earlier. It is a release, and I table it.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I appreciate the minister's tabling of that document. I look forward to reading it. In that circumstance, Minister, will you also please table a copy of the direction that you issued on 27 September 2000?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —That issue has been canvassed in estimates and I see no reason why we cannot—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator ELLISON —Mr President, this issue has been trawled over by the opposition at length. There have been Senate estimates hearings, the maritime incident inquiry, two AFP inquiries oversighted by the Ombudsman—and still they are calling for a judicial inquiry. But I will table the directions.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.