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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 9

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (9:34 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Bill 2006 implements the decision, announced by the government in June 2004, to establish an independent body, with the powers of a royal commission, to detect and investigate corruption in the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission, should it arise. Fortunately, we have been free of allegations of that sort, but the bill will facilitate the detection, prosecution and prevention of corruption in Australian government law enforcement agencies. The bill will establish the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, ACLEI, headed by a statutory officer, the Integrity Commissioner. 

The jurisdiction of the Integrity Commissioner and ACLEI will initially cover the AFP and the ACC. Other Australian government agencies with law enforcement functions may later be brought within the jurisdiction by regulations. 

The focus on the AFP and the ACC does not reflect a perception that these bodies currently have a significant problem with corruption. Indeed, there is no evidence of systemic corruption within either body. However, these agencies play a key role in Australian government law enforcement. Putting in place a regime of rigorous external examination now will ensure that the public can have continuing confidence in their integrity.

The Integrity Commissioner will be a judge or experienced legal practitioner, appointed by the Governor-General for a maximum term of five years. There is provision for an Assistant Integrity Commissioner, if necessary. The staff of ACLEI, including employees, secondees and contractors, will support the Integrity Commissioner in areas such as investigation, intelligence analysis and administration.

The Integrity Commissioner will conduct investigations of corruption issues in response to complaints from the public or another agency, references from the minister, mandatory notifications or on the Integrity Commissioner’s own motion. The heads of the AFP and the ACC will be required to notify all instances of suspected corrupt conduct to the Integrity Commissioner, who will decide whether to investigate directly or to allow the agency concerned to investigate the matter. The Integrity Commissioner will focus on serious and systemic corruption but will be able to oversee an agency investigation.

Where corruption issues concern secondees from other agencies, such as state police, the bill provides for the Integrity Commissioner to deal with the secondees’ home agencies and state integrity agencies to ensure that, if jurisdictions overlap, investigations are not unnecessarily duplicated.

If corruption allegations are made against ACLEI itself, the minister will have the option to appoint a special investigator, with the same powers as the Integrity Commissioner, to investigate the allegations and report to the minister.

A joint parliamentary committee will oversee the work of the Integrity Commissioner and ACLEI, with particular reference to use of coercive powers.

The Ombudsman will have a continuing role in relation to the AFP and the ACC, except in dealing with corruption issues. This will enable two complementary approaches to investigation to be brought to bear on different types of issues. Together, the Integrity Commissioner and the Ombudsman will provide the Australian public with the guarantee that the conduct of key Australian government law enforcement agencies is subject to comprehensive external review. I commend the bill to the House and I table the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Ms Roxon) adjourned.