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Thursday, 18 November 2004
Page: 78

Senator LUDWIG (3:14 PM) —I rise to take note of the answers given by Senator Ellison in respect of CrimTrac. All he did was simply try to sheet home blame to the states, but unfortunately he has been caught out. The CrimTrac report is worth going back to. At paragraph 3.73 it says:

The ANAO notes that CrimTrac's link to the AGD is through the Chairman of the BoM—

that is, the board of management of CrimTrac—

and that the agency provides briefings to the department, the Minister for Justice and Customs—

that is, Senator Ellison—

or the Australian Government Attorney-General when requested to do so. The ANAO considers there is a distinction between providing briefings and having in place a framework to elicit support for action.

It seems that the minister does not have what the ANAO is telling us about explicitly—a framework for action.

There are a couple of other issues that have been highlighted in the report on the implementation of CrimTrac, and it is certainly worth going to each part of it. I am not going to get time today to do that but I might elsewhere. May I say that CrimTrac is an extremely valuable agency. It allows Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies to overcome difficulties in jurisdictional data sharing. It is also a relatively new agency, established in the interests of fighting crime right across our nation. That is why it is absolutely vital that CrimTrac has a minister who is prepared to engage with and be willing to give the organisation the significant ministerial support and priority that it deserves. But I am sorry to tell senators here in this chamber that the audit report contains not just one finding, not just a couple of findings but a litany of findings that together point to the reasons why the implementation of the Australian national child offenders register has been delayed. First of all, it was mooted to start in July, and that is when they signed off on it. Then it was going to start in September, and now it looks as though it may start in January. But the minister did not confirm it and did not say, `I've got a definite start-up date.'

The ANAO audit found the following problems with project management, and they are worth going through one by one. There is not one; there are many. The audit found inconsistent application of projection definition, a lack of policy and project management guidance, a project that has been approved, a project that has even been approved without a budget, a lack of clarity in the role and responsibility for the project partners, gaps in the project coordination committee's role as coordinator of projects and a lack of timely provision of project management skills development. It is a managerial problem that CrimTrac is suffering from—a lack of direction by this government. Is it any wonder that CrimTrac is experiencing delays in delivering outcomes? It requires support. It is a good agency and it deserves not to be abandoned by this government.

I am sure that all senators and, indeed, all Australians will agree that it is a terrible state of affairs. The minister needs to come to the table, sit down with CrimTrac and work through the difficulties. He needs to go to the states, find out what the problems are, resolve them and come back to CrimTrac. That is his job. He should not sheet it home to CrimTrac or to the states. In fact, it looks as though CrimTrac has been struggling to deliver outcomes like the national child sex offenders register. If the minister were genuine in his desire to fight crime, wouldn't he engage with CrimTrac and become fully aware of these issues as they arose and address them one by one, rather than letting them continue to fester away? Yet it seems nothing has been done.

But there is more. The audit also found that last November there was a shortfall of capital funding for the development of the Australian national child offenders register. CrimTrac also advised the Auditor-General that there were insufficient staffing resources in the CPRS capability development team to progress this project. It seems that at the time of the audit the Commonwealth had guaranteed $50 million for the establishment of CrimTrac under the intergovernmental agency but that $17.1 million of the $50 million still remained unspent. They were not spending the money. They needed to spend the money but they needed direction from the minister to do that, and the minister has clearly failed in his task. It is clear from the audit that CrimTrac was, and probably still is, struggling against the odds to deliver projects, but it is equally clear that the minister is either unaware of these problems or incapable of intervening. Indeed, one of the key things CrimTrac needs in overcoming the jurisdictional difficulties of dealing with nine different areas of law is a lead minister who is prepared to take up the fight and sort out the difficulties so that CrimTrac can become what it was designed to be—the lead agency. (Time expired)