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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Australian Federal Police

Australian Federal Police

CHAIR: I call Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you, Chair. Commissioner Colvin and Deputy Commissioner Phelan, if I could make a very short statement to you before I ask you a question that will lead into it? On the morning of 29 April, only hours after the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, I said publicly that the AFP had blood on their hands. At that stage I had not had the benefit of hearing the detailed explanation made by you, Commissioner Colvin, or in particular you, Deputy Commissioner Phelan, on 4 May about the decisions the AFP made that led to the arrest of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia and their subsequent executions. Having heard and read those statements carefully, I now feel that my comment was inappropriate and reflected unfairly on the AFP and its officers. For that, I am sorry.

However, I and many others have real concerns about those events and the decisions made and whether a similar scenario could be repeated and I would like to ask you for some comments. But I wanted to make that opening statement. No-one requested that I do that but I felt it was the right thing to do having reflected on what occurred. I hope that you can accept my statement of regret in relation to that.

Mr Colvin : I am sure I speak on behalf of the AFP when I say, 'Thank you very much for those comments.' As we said on the day, policing involves difficult decisions. While certainly the members concerned and their families were concerned about those comments, we certainly appreciate the words that you have just said. Thank you very much.

Senator XENOPHON: I mean them with absolute sincerity. In terms of what occurred then, why was there no consideration given to asking Indonesian police to conduct surveillance of the group and then requesting that they allow the suspects to return to Australia to be apprehended? Is that something that was possible or was that, in sheer policing terms, impractical?

Mr Colvin : I will start the answer and then I am sure Deputy Commissioner Phelan will want to add to that. Much of the reporting around that key decision that officers had to make as to why they were not allowed to return to Australia has been oversimplified. It is certainly always open to the AFP in conducting operations in that manner that we are looking to uncover the full extent of the criminality. In the case of this matter, we made the decision that we should share information with the Indonesian National Police in order to understand the full extent of the syndicate. Once we made the decision to do that, there was always the possibility that the Indonesian National Police would make their own choices as to how they dealt with those crimes in their country.

Senator XENOPHON: Can I put this in context, because I just want to make this clear. Even if a country has the death penalty, sometimes you do have to share information. For instance, if you had information of an imminent terrorist attack that might involve Australians perpetrating that terrorist attack, lives would be at risk. How do you weigh that in the context of a country that has the death penalty, firstly? Secondly, how do you weigh that in the context of the immediate risk of harm of the criminal act that is being perpetrated or will be perpetrated?

Mr Colvin : There is a lot that has to be weighed up in the mind of the decision maker as to what the next steps are going to be. While hindsight 10 years later is a wonderful thing, it was not known to the officers at the time and certainly to the decision makers whether we knew the entirety of the syndicate. To allow them to come back into Australia would have been raising the risk that there were other couriers on those flights and heroin would have been allowed to come into Australia.

Senator XENOPHON: So it was not just the eight kilograms of heroin on those that were apprehended; you thought you had intelligence that there could have been heroin with others?

Mr Colvin : We were dealing with a very incomplete picture, so we were not sure. We conduct controlled operations all the time. The nature and emphasis there is that it is a controlled operation where we are comfortable that we have control of the narcotics and we know who is involved with the particular importation and with the criminal activity. As I say, 10 years later we now know a lot more, but on this occasion our officers and the decision makers at the time were not confident that we knew the full extent of the syndicate. Perhaps Deputy Commissioner Phelan would like to see a little more.

Mr Phelan : I think you asked two questions. First of all you asked: why didn't we request surveillance of the targets in Indonesia? In fact, that was the substance of our request to Indonesia. It was to request surveillance on the persons of interest that we had with a view to trying to find out as much as we could about the syndicate, looking for upstream activities. We wanted to find out who was organising the importations and so on. That was the main premise of the information that was sent.

The second question you asked was: why didn't we ask the Indonesians to ultimately let them run through the Indonesian airports and through to Australia? A decision was made at the time that that request would be an unfeasible and unreasonable request to make of the Indonesians because that is just not how it is done. Those sorts of requests to allow the narcotics to run in an uncontrolled situation do not occur. We do not make them in Australian either. The whole issue around a controlled operation is to have control. If you do not have control, you must take whatever action you deem necessary at the time to stop narcotics or other illicit drugs getting on the street. We knew full well, though, that if the Indonesians, through surveillance activity, which we had requested in the first instance, believed there were any drugs or saw drugs that they would interdict them themselves. This is exactly the same as we would do and the same as would happen in any other country throughout the world. So that was the basis of that original request that went to the Indonesians.

Senator XENOPHON: But the fact is that the death penalty applies there. Is it fair to say that, given the history of the application of the death penalty back then, there were a number of commutations of the death penalty. Even recently we have still heard of someone involved in trafficking 40 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and the issue involving Tommy Suharto, who was involved in ordering the execution of a judge. It was a very serious offence. He only got four or five years, I think, of practically home detention. Was part of the decision-making process that, in Indonesia at that time, under President SBY, the death penalty was something that was rarely used?

Mr Phelan : It was rarely used. But that is taking a gamble, and we were not willing to take that gamble. So you have to err on the side that, if we were supplying the information, it was a reasonable possibility that the death penalty would be applied. So none of us are saying, because there had been a moratorium on the death penalty, that that was the basis upon which we supplied the information—that it would not happen. We knew full well that it was a possibility that it would happen. But taking into account the totality of everything that was happening at the time, particularly not knowing the source, not knowing the exact amount and a whole lot of other activities around this syndicate, we needed to get as much information as we possibly could about them, and the only way we could do that was to request Indonesian surveillance.

Senator XENOPHON: So you are saying that it was not feasible to arrest those that were carrying the heroin upon their arrival in Australia.

Mr Phelan : We could have missed things. We do not know. We would not have picked up one of the organisers. There are lots of permutations and combinations that can happen in relation to narcotics importations, everything from trusted insider abuse, other individuals on planes that we do not know about, internal concealments, other members of the syndicate we do not know catching different planes to different cities via different countries. We just did not know. The intelligence we had was very slim.

Senator XENOPHON: I should be careful what I say, given that a former member of the Queensland drug squad, Senator O'Sullivan, who has great—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: I am going to have some tidy-up questions here. But go ahead.

Senator XENOPHON: I am sure you will try and tidy me up, and I will be grateful to Senator O'Sullivan. In Fairfax Media earlier this year, I think around February, there was an assertion that one of the drug kingpins—for want of a better word—one of the organisers of the syndicate, was living a life of luxury in Sydney and had apparently won Lotto. I am not quite sure how that happened, but the report was that this person was a multimillion dollar Lotto winner and was involved in the syndicate and was living freely in Sydney. Without compromising any operational issues, can you say, in regard to other people that may have been involved in that syndicate, whether any investigations are ongoing or whether it is a closed file?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Chair, in fairness, they cannot respond to that. The answer comes out whether they say yes or no.

CHAIR: I think Senator Xenophon spoke of bearing in mind the impact on any continuing investigation. But I am sure the officers are able to answer.

Mr Colvin : We can be circumspect.

Mr Phelan : We have read a lot in the newspapers about what has apparently happened in relation to this syndicate. But, suffice to say, that after—and this is after the event when we had gathered all of the information that came as a result of the interdiction in Indonesia plus court cases that happened in Australia—debriefing of other offenders as part of the conspiracy, we were able to bring together a pretty good picture. Once we knew who was who, you can look through relevant historical intelligence holdings and the picture was much bigger than portrayed. I think we are on the public record as saying that. But, having said that, we chased every rabbit down every hole that we possibly could domestically in Australia, and every person that we had enough evidence on was charged and put before the courts. So, to that extent, the case is not open.

Senator XENOPHON: The case is not open.

Mr Phelan : No.

Senator XENOPHON: But you are familiar with the report in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age of 11 February this year saying 'Suspected Bali Nine mastermind living in luxury as Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran sit on death row.' Obviously you are aware of that.

Mr Phelan : I have read it.

Senator XENOPHON: And you would be cognisant of that, and you would have considered it in due course.

Mr Phelan : The information was known to us, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: Okay, so we cannot take that any further. If the same set of circumstances presented themselves now as it did 10 years ago, do the current guidelines mean that there would be a change in approach or any nuanced difference whatsoever—in other words, would the outcome be the same in terms of providing the information to the Indonesian authorities and the arrests taking place in Indonesia? I am trying to say on a like-for-like comparison.

Mr Colvin : We have been on the public record on this before. The guidelines that were changed in 2009 ask for the AFP and the officers ultimately making the decision to consider a range of factors that were not required of us to consider in 2005. With that in mind I want to be very careful, because every case is different. You say like-for-like, but there are no like-for-like cases that we have. In the minds of the investigators and the minds of the decision-makers at the time I need to be very careful as commissioner not to influence what they need to think and what they need to consider. But the guidelines that we have now ask us to consider a range of factors that would necessitate that decision-maker satisfying themselves differently from what needed to be done in 2005. Could the scenario happen again where we exchange information with a country that could end up in a death penalty? Yes, it could.

Senator XENOPHON: Can I put this scenario to you: in terms of the same set of circumstances that were presented to you a decade ago, would the new guidelines mean a somewhat different approach?

Mr Colvin : I have put on the record before that I think that it is less likely, but I cannot discount that this scenario could happen again.

Senator XENOPHON: A fair answer would be that it would be less likely that the information would be exchanged in the way that it was 10 years ago, because the guidelines have changed.

Mr Colvin : But I do not want to mislead the committee. The guidelines have been tightened; however, when we are operating with countries—and we are surrounded by countries that have the death penalty for a range of transnational crimes—the scenario is possible.

Senator XENOPHON: Because I am running out of time, I want to ask: with respect to that scenario, do the ministerial directives make any difference? There was some issue about the ministerial directives changing from 2010 to 2014. Does that carry any weight in terms of your day-to-day policing work?

Mr Colvin : The ministerial direction of course carries weight in terms of the government's priorities and expectations of me as commissioner of the organisation. In terms of whether the guideline is in the direction or not, it is largely irrelevant; it really is. The guidelines are there for us to follow. I guess my question is: should the guideline on cruel and inhumane treatment of individuals be in the ministerial directions? Should the guideline on treatment of children be in the directions? There are many guidelines that tell me how to do the job. The ministerial directions tell us what the expectations of government are in terms of the policy setting.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. I have one completely different question to ask you that is quite topical today, and that relates to FIFA and the allegations involving Jack Warner. I understand that Bonita Mersiades, who is known as a FIFA whistleblower, has written to the AFP today requesting that you look into the matter of the $500,000 paid by the FFA to Mr Jack Warner, who was indicted overnight by the FBI. Is that a matter that is within your purview and jurisdiction?

Mr Colvin : Literally as I walked in here I was shown a note—I am not sure if that is the name of the person, but I dare say it is. We will have a look at that matter and see what was—

Senator XENOPHON: Without any assessment of the merits or otherwise, and it is something that I may well be seeking advice as to whether I write to you on that as well, can I ask if that is something that is within the purview, jurisdictionally? If there is a complaint about a crime that crossed borders in terms of Mr Warner, which is obviously now before the US courts, then that is something that the AFP could liaise with the FBI about. Is that correct?

Mr Colvin : In a very general sense, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: I cannot take it any further than that. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: I was remiss in not saying at the opening something that I regularly say at these meetings. That is: Commissioner, can you please convey to your team the ongoing thanks of the Australian public. I am confident that I can speak for most of them on the work you guys do in very, very difficult circumstances and under very stringent rules that are open and accountable, and yet you have to compete with criminals who know no such constraints on their activities. Australia is enormously well-served by the Australian Federal Police, and I think most Australians appreciate that. Thank you again for the work you do across the board, and the very professional way in which your team does it.

Mr Colvin : Thank you, Chair. I am always astounded by how many members of the AFP actually watch estimates, or, at some point later, have a look at what we have said. Your comments will be heard, and I will certainly make sure that they are conveyed as well.

CHAIR: When it comes to professionalism, I might take that back if they spend most of their time watching Senate estimates! I only say that in jest, of course. They might learn something. I am trying to think what, but I am sure there is some benefit in it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will follow up, briefly, on one of the issues that Senator Xenophon just covered. Mr Colvin, can you tell me when the national guideline was change to include, essentially, the opposition to the application of the death penalty. When did that change occur—to reflect, essentially, the ministerial direction? We had the ministerial direction in 2010 and then, presumably at some subsequent point, the 'AFP National Guideline on international police-to-police assistance in death penalty situations' was inserted.

Mr Colvin : No, I think you may be conflating the two issues. The ministerial direction of 2010 included a reference to the guideline on death penalty. The ministerial direction of 2014 did not. The guideline has been in place for possibly 30 years or more, but has gone through a number of iterations. Perhaps not 30 years, perhaps 25 years—certainly, to my knowledge, it is nearly 25 years. The significant changes that occurred—consequential to the Bali Nine scenario, but as a result of a number of factors—were in 2009, but the guideline itself has gone through a number of iterations.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the guideline was not amended as a consequence of the 2010 ministerial direction—is that what you are suggesting?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Did the AFP receive any advice regarding why the subsequent ministerial direction did not make any reference to the government's long-standing opposition to the application of the death penalty?

Mr Colvin : No, we did not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Did you inquire?

Mr Colvin : No, I do not believe we asked for it to be removed, but we also would not have asked for it to be included, for the reasons that I gave to Senator Xenophon earlier.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which is that the guidelines cover it anyway?

Mr Colvin : It would not matter if it was in there or not. The guidelines are the guidelines, and all officers of the AFP are required to follow those guidelines.

Senator Birmingham: As I understand it, the process for the making of that ministerial direction does involve consultation on the draft with both the commissioner and the secretary.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but from what Mr Colvin is saying there was no dialogue about whether this provision was in it or not.

Mr Colvin : I was not the commissioner at the time, but, to be frank with you, it would not have been an issue that we would have been concerned about because, whether it was in there or not, it was not a key part of the ministerial direction.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: When it was inserted, back in 2010, did it have any impact on how the AFP operated?

Mr Colvin : We have the guideline; the guideline is there for us to follow.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, in your view, they have essentially adopted what was in the guideline?

Mr Colvin : Exactly. Essentially, it was asking us to give precedence to a guideline that is one of over 100 guidelines that we follow.

Senator Birmingham: If it helps, according to my briefing information the substantive changes that have been discussed in relation to the practical guide on international police-to-police assistance in potential death penalty matters came into effect on 18 December 2009.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is that the most recent change to the guidelines?

Senator Birmingham: There are other changes to the guidelines, I believe, but that—

Mr Colvin : But that is a substantive change. Occasionally the guideline refers to particular individuals and positions that are in positions to make decisions. It is an internal guideline. From time to time, we need to amend it to reflect the current structure of the organisation, for instance. We may refine it in terms of how many people can and cannot approve certain parts of the guideline, but the substantive change, in relation to when and under what circumstances we can share information, was in 2009.

Senator Birmingham: In that eventuality, by the time of a 2010 ministerial directive, those guidelines would already have reflected, essentially, that ministerial directive.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will go back to questions on the Bali Nine. This question is to both the AFP and the department. I would have asked this of the CDPP earlier, but it has been overlooked. Did the CDPP liaise with the AFP or the Attorney-General's Department regarding the possibility of charging members of the Bail nine, including Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, with trafficking offences or at any other legal avenue for extradition?

CHAIR: Estimates is a wide-ranging and open forum, but it is really about dealing with the 2015-16 budget and the expenditure of funds. I have to say that I have not followed this matter closely, but are you asking whether this happened 10 years ago? If so, it seems a bit unfair to ask officers who came here to deal with the 2015-16 budget, as it affects them, to start reminiscing about what might have been said to the DPP 10 years ago—or is not 10 years ago?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, it is not 10 years ago.

CHAIR: When would it have been—if this conversation you are talking about had happened?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let us partly put this into context. The first part of the context is that many of these questions have not been asked for some time out of respect for the Australian community's attempts to progress this situation in an appropriate way. The reference to whether extradition was sought related to a campaign by Robert Richter and Brian Walters back in late 2005, I think.

CHAIR: That is 10 years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let me finish. These are all matters that have arisen recently as a result of subsequent statements from the AFP and questions that arise from those statements. Is that not fair, Mr Colvin? You seem to be nodding your head a bit.

Mr Colvin : We are certainly happy to help the committee as much as we can. Yes, it is 10 years ago, but I do not think anyone would be surprised to hear that we have trawled over this matter in great depth for the last 10 years. To give you an absolutely ironclad answer, Senator Collins, we can take on notice whether there was ever any correspondence entered into in relation to extradition proceedings. But I would say that it would be highly unusual for the AFP or Australia to seek extradition of somebody for an offence where they have substantively been charged in the jurisdiction where they committed the offence. Extradition is usually relied upon when someone is wanted in a jurisdiction for a crime that has been committed in that jurisdiction—not when they are facing court for a crime they have committed in the jurisdiction you are asking them to be extradited from.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It would only be after they had been dealt with by the local authorities.

Mr Colvin : It would have to be after they were deal with. It is a common principle that a jurisdiction that is requesting extradition understands that they will have to be first dealt with by the courts in the country you want them extradited from.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: My question was also to the Attorney-General's Department.

Mr Moraitis : My understanding is that we do not participate in those sorts of operational questions at that stage. If there is a request for extradition it is predicated on the law enforcement and prosecution services being satisfied of operational matters. I do not think this would have occurred, so the answer, in short, is no.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There was a campaign back in 2005 to, from what you have said, change that standard approach to extradition. From the Attorney-General's side, what consideration was given to that campaign at the time?

Mr Colvin : First, in terms of the campaign, you are saying 2005. What actually led to the changes that eventuated in December 2009 was a 2007 Federal Court case, where the families of some of the nine challenged the AFP in the Federal Court as to the actions we had taken and the legality of those actions. As a result of that, Justice Finn found that the AFP had acted within its obligations and had acted legally, but made some recommendations about how the guidelines could be improved and that is what led to the 2009 guideline.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry—I am not clear. It might be the hours of the last two days. What was the connection between that and the campaign by Robert Richter and Brian Walters in relation to extradition? What was the connection—just the time?

CHAIR: Senator, these are the budget estimates for 2015-16. If you can draw a connection between a campaign in 2005 and the current budget expenditure for the AFP, I would like you to explain that to me. Otherwise, we should move on to questions relating to the 2015-16 budget. This is not a free-for-all where people can come along and say something that might get a run in the newspaper, but I am not suggesting you are doing that. I suspect you are reading questions from the person responsible in your organisation, but, really, we do have to have some limits on what happens in estimates. They are there to query expenditure in the 2015-16 budget.

Senator RHIANNON: Point of clarification—

CHAIR: Well, hang on—perhaps Senator Collins does not want to pursue the question? Do you have a point of order?

Senator RHIANNON: No, just a point of clarification that there has been wide-ranging interpretation in allowing questions that are linked with the budget. It is clearly open to interpretation, but Senator Collins has been moving through it in quite a thorough way.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: How can something 10 years ago impact—

CHAIR: I am asking Senator Collins to give me the link between a campaign 10 years ago—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There are two links that were subsequently made, and I think Mr Colvin is on the same path with me here. He certainly is not uncomfortable with where we are. The links are, firstly, the statement that was made subsequent to Indonesia's application of the death penalty in this case from the AFP and the questions arising from that statement and, secondly, when you pulled me up just a moment ago I was asking for Mr Colvin to elaborate on an earlier answer and explain to me an element of it on which I was not understanding the connection to the point I was pursuing.

CHAIR: I have huge respect for Mr Colvin insofar as federal policing matters are concerned, but running the estimates for the 2015-16 budget is really my responsibility and the responsibility of the senators. The fact that the commissioner may be prepared to engage in this conversation is fine, but I am not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is just time wasting. Mr Colvin, what date was the statement that Senator Xenophon referred to earlier made by the AFP?

Mr Colvin : It was 4 or 5 May.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: A very recent statement that you can understand leads to some further questions arising that many members of parliament, across all political parties, have been asked to suspend until such time as we have exhausted our capacity to act in this matter. Is that fair?

Mr Colvin : I will leave the guidance to the chair. I will answer questions directed at me.

Senator Birmingham: And I think that is asking the commissioner a—

CHAIR: Had they been asked two months ago, the same ruling would apply if you were talking about campaigns in 2005.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I am talking about Mr Colvin's statement, and he just told you the date that statement was made.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: We have the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement that sits in this place and these gentlemen come regularly. That would be a much better forum. It has none of these restrictions you are confronting here. If you genuinely want to know, and I suspect you do, Senator, come along there. I will make sure that the committee sits and that you get the opportunity for hours—days, if you need it.

CHAIR: Maybe I have not done the AFP a favour here. But there does have to be some connection, and the statement was made, but that does not connect it to the—

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Estimates.

CHAIR: I am asking you to draw even the long bow between a campaign in 2005 and the 2015-16 budget. Draw the longest bow you can, but just give it to me.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, I have drawn the bow a few times, and in part Mr Colvin also drew the bow. There has been recent discussion about both the guidelines and the ministerial direction. You allowed Senator Xenophon to ask those questions. I was asking similar questions, but different to some of the points he went through. And in the last point I asked Mr Colvin to clarify the point he had made and the connection between that point and—

CHAIR: Well, let's start again. You ask the question again, will you? Start the question from scratch and see where we go.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, unfortunately the question was a point of clarification to an answer Mr Colvin had given, and much of that answer has dissipated. Is it still in your head, Mr Colvin?

Mr Colvin : I am happy to give the answer to the question. In essence, Senator Collins, your question is: are the changes to the guideline in 2009 a result of the campaign by Mr Richter and others? My answer is that it is largely a result of the Federal Court's ruling in 2007, but of course there was a lot of information around; there were a lot of suggestions and commentary about these guidelines. Mr Richter's was some of that. Many things factored into what the guidelines should look like and the changes that were made, largely precipitated by the 2007 Federal Court ruling.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you for that outline of some of the history. It does relate partly to the recent statement you made in relation to how things had progressed in this matter. I was pleased to see Senator Xenophon make the comments he made.

CHAIR: Do you have a question, Senator?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think I am over time, so I am quite happy for you to move on to another senator. I will get back to the questions.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Let me take the opportunity to attach the remarks of the previous senators to you, Commissioner, and through you to your people in relation to this—and particularly you, Mr Phelan. It is a matter of public record that you have laboured under this, but it is very easy for many people around this country, in the cool of their homes, to second-guess decisions you make operationally. You made the right decision, and I can tell you that most Australians have not taken the cheap seats in the front row in this event. Now, to my questions—to no-one in particular: have you considered the implications if an offender were able to design their criminal behaviour knowing that they could operate in a jurisdiction with life imprisonment and could do so without having to look over their shoulder for whether intelligence from this country had been shared with local law enforcement, and the impacts that that might have on the capacity of international drug trafficking?

Mr Colvin : Thank you for your question and your comments. Yes, we have. We have turned our mind to this a number of times, specifically in the importance of our international cooperation and the partnerships we have in the region. Of course, it is open to this parliament to make legislative reforms that might restrict further our ability to share information, but, as I said to Senator Xenophon, we are in a region that is surrounded by countries that have retained the death penalty, and they have retained the death penalty for a range of offences, not just narcotic related and terrorism related offences that you would expect, but offences against children, murder, and assaults, both sexual and other, as well as arms trafficking. These are just some of the offences we have pulled out to assure ourselves that our rationale is sound in relation to why we want to work with these partner agencies.

Of course, these offences are important to the safety of Australians here in this country, but they are also important to the safety of Australians who travel into the region. They are transnational crimes, and in this globalised world we cannot put enough emphasis on the ability of criminals to work in amongst jurisdictions, in amongst different justice systems and in amongst different capabilities of law enforcement agencies. Our ability to share information with our partners overseas is fundamental to what we do.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It is now a fact, is it not, that a person who decides to commit a criminal offence on the other side of the world can give effect to their intent within 24 hours? There is nowhere you cannot reach, is there? You can go all the way to the farthest point on the other side of the world in 24 hours or less.

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. That is correct.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Additionally, would you have any sense of how many events—and I would imagine that the answer is in the hundreds if not the thousands—that are taking place at the moment where activities are occurring in jurisdictions where the penalty regime might be different to our own that would have an Australian connection?

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. I could not guess whether it was thousands or hundreds of thousands, but we are impacted by transnational crime; we are a relatively affluent country, a modern country that is a rich target for organised crime groups who want to target us, and they often do so from different jurisdictions to our own.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: In effect, if we were to make it so onerous in this space for the Australian Federal Police to operate, the impacts would not just be on what happens with outgoing intelligence. Would you anticipate that it might affect relationships with respect to countries at a national level deciding not to provide incoming intelligence.

Mr Colvin : We have to assume that it would, and that is the experience of some of our other partners who have tighter restrictions around the sharing of information—that there is a corresponding lack of cooperation that they receive. And, again, because we are in a region that so strongly has countries with the death penalty, that would concern me. It would also concern me to not give in this forum or any other forum the green light to Australians to travel overseas and commit offences simply because they think we will not share information with the country in which they are going to commit offences.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Let's go to two nations, and I will not name them, but regionally. There are regions in Asia, regions in South America that are responsible, arguably, for the largest percentage of the production of high-end drugs. Is it fair to say that in all those jurisdictions there is a very, very high level of danger for individuals in this space—corruption within police services—if you had to share intel, no matter how careful you were?

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. Yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: If we took a colouring-in pen and laid a map of the world out and started to fill out in black those areas, those jurisdictions, where we have despots and we have corruption, we would deadset knock out about two-thirds of the mass of the world, would we not, in terms of the ability of our federal police agency to deal with them in exchange of information in this difficult space?

Mr Colvin : I think on last count it was over 100 countries in the world that retain the death penalty on their statutes, including some of our dearest law enforcement colleagues.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Mr Colvin, you would have to take a whopping big pay cut if that goes ahead. You would literally, on your international desk, have bugger all to do.

Mr Colvin : It would certainly make our job a lot more difficult, yes.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Let's get to the budget. Do you have budgetary provisions or any plans for the Australian Federal Police, in partnership with whoever, to try to educate the public? I have seen gross ignorance float around on this issue in the past few months—seriously. Are there provisions to educate them on the circumstances of this, the impact on our society?

Mr Colvin : In terms of a campaign per se, no, obviously that is not something we would do. But it is certainly a common topic for us to talk about in forums, in conferences—the impact of transnational crime, the importance of international cooperation. Cybercrime, for instance, is one that we are talking a lot about recently, because of the transnational nature, the speed at which it affects us and the need for us to work with our partners to combat it. So, it is a common thread through our rhetoric, the importance of international policing to this country.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Well, let me close by saying to you once more, and through you to your officers, I know firsthand how difficult the space is. You just have to keep your back straight, because not everyone shares the popular public view that has been floating around in relation to this particular matter.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I want to ask some questions about security advice on tax disclosure laws. How common is kidnapping in Australia?

Mr Colvin : Largely that is an offence that is dealt with by state and territory police.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is not within your overall purview?

Mr Colvin : Well, if it was to occur in the ACT—and it is not particularly common in the ACT. But I could not tell you what the national crime statistics are on kidnapping.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Are you aware of any recent cases of wealthy individuals in Australia being kidnapped and held for ransom?

Mr Colvin : They would be quite high-profile, so I think we would be aware of them, and obviously there was one that was well publicised three or four years ago in Sydney. But no, I am not aware of any recently.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The government has announced that it will roll back tax disclosure laws to address what it says are security concerns. The government has said it is worried that wealthy business owners might be put at risk of kidnapping if they are identified under these laws. I am asking whether the AFP has done any analysis of this risk, and I take it from what you have said that the answer is no.

Mr Colvin : I am not aware of that policy you are talking about. I do not believe we have had any role in it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That was my next question: has the government consulted with the AFP about this issue, and the answer would be no. The references are a story in the Sydney Morning Herald on 5 December, another story in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 March of this year and another story on 10 April in the Sydney Morning Herald this year. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: I will ask these questions on behalf of Senator Reynolds, who has lost her voice. Can you please outline new initiatives you are participating in to counter violent extremism?

Mr Colvin : Firstly, most of the initiatives around countering violent extremism are actually Attorney-General's Department initiatives, which we are supporting them in. We have our community liaison teams and we work very closely with the community. Are there any specific aspects of countering violent extremism?

CHAIR: Particularly in relation to online grooming of teenagers, and any activities that relate to that. And what is the Living Safe Together program? That is another question.

Mr Colvin : I understand the gist of the question, though, and that is something that is of genuine concern to law enforcement, but it is probably best answered by the department.

Ms K Jones : Regarding the two most recent initiatives we have undertaken in the CVE space, the first is the CVE intervention program, which is a program we are developing in collaboration with the states and territories where we will be doing targeted intervention of individuals who have been identified through collaboration with the AFP and state and territory police where the assessment is made that some form of preventive deradicalisation programs could be of assistance for that individual. The types of things we would work on with that individual could be assistance in terms of education, training, job readiness, connecting them with respected people in the community who can help them in terms of challenging some of the more radical views that they may have developed. So, that is the intervention program.

In terms of the online work, the Attorney announced in February a new program for countering the violent extremism narrative, and we have been doing a range of work to develop that program. I suppose the key elements of the program are, firstly, getting a better understanding of what the nature of the narrative is—the Daesh, IS narrative—and trying to understand what it is that is appealing, particularly to young people in Australia. That is the first element. The second element is recognising and understanding what the appeal is, what types of messages we can develop to counter that and what the right mediums are to work with that. In that context, we have been working closely with a range of social media providers. All the big providers—Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter et cetera—have been very helpful and forward leaning in collaborating with government in looking at that issue. The third aspect is we recognise that, if we are going to effectively counter this message and its appeal, it is not going to be by government bureaucrats talking to young people; it is going to be by finding respected people in the community or people who have a message that will resonate with these young people. So it is working with the right types of community groups to enable them to assist in countering the narrative.

The last element is the harder end of the issue, which is working with law enforcement, working with intelligence agencies, to identify—to the extent that we can—material that can be taken down from the internet. That is a huge challenge. Obviously, the messaging that is coming out from extremist groups is not necessarily being generated in Australia. It is being generated in various places around the world. There are active efforts by both the private sector—the companies on whose medium the messages are being carried—as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies internationally to try to identify the extremist messaging and take it down. I think recently Twitter advised there are something like 10,000 tweets a day coming out of some of the radical groups. Being able to counter that is incredibly difficult. Obviously, that is an ongoing effort between law enforcement and the sector.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you very much, Ms Jones. In relation to that, an increasing number of my lower house colleagues have reported that non-Muslim parents have found that their 15- and 16-year-old children have 'liked' somebody or have accepted a friend request on their Facebook account, and somebody then monitors what they are doing and also starts sending them quite radical information. So, apart from targeting the most at-risk communities, are there any plans to communicate more widely to parents across the board about these dangers?

Ms K Jones : One thing I should note is that we have developed an online reporting tool precisely for parents or concerned people to be able to report that type of activity. We have done some promotion of that site and we will look at further opportunities to promote that to parents and individuals generally.

Senator REYNOLDS: Teachers?

Ms K Jones : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. That is all I have got.

Mr Colvin : If I could just add to that, the Facebook example that you gave was one that was quite recent. There are others, of course, where people are befriending individuals on Facebook and then that leads to a conversation. We have some experience from law enforcement in this, because those are reasonably classic grooming tactics in terms of how to get at-risk and vulnerable children to befriend you. The AFP has had a very successful program called ThinkUKnow, which we have had for a number of years. It is designed with our partner agencies, both in law enforcement and industry, to help children with e-safety, basically—what they should be aware of online, what the pitfalls are, the mitigations they should be doing, as well as educating parents, to be quite frank with you, because parents are a big part of this equation. We are looking actively at how we can expand that program now to consider teaching children that the risks are much broader than simple grooming for online paedophilia—or more generally paedophilia—and looking at the CVE space. So it is actively under consideration by a range of agencies.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is great, thank you.

Senator LUDLAM: I have just two brackets of questions, and they are probably related to each other. One is the recent announcement—and it is good that we have got you back, Senator Brandis, because I believe you might even have chaired the meeting of attorneys-general and police ministers from across Commonwealth, state and territory jurisdictions in Canberra on 22 May. One of the things that fell out of that meeting was a national facial recognition database. AFP, I do not know if you have the lead on this, but you will be part of the puzzle obviously. Can you fill us in on the basics of what you understand of that database, or what its capabilities will be?

Senator Brandis: Yes, that was one of the achievements announced at the meeting. The AFP are the lead agency on this. I will ask Commissioner Colvin.

Mr Colvin : Sorry, Attorney; the department are the lead, but we certainly led the discussion in terms of the operational basis for our ability in terms of identity theft particularly and the utility of having a more joined-up facial recognition software capability across jurisdictions in this country. The Attorney-General's Department are leading a project in relation to that work, so they may wish to say more.

Senator LUDLAM: I am happy for people to chip in as desired. We will come to the applications maybe at the end, but let us talk about the capabilities first. What will the system be capable of doing?

Ms K Jones : I can assist in relation to that. The capability is being established as a hub and spoke, the idea being that, for agencies that already obtain facial biometric material—whether it is the passport office—we are creating a capability to share and compare that with facial biometric holding held by another agency to give an enhanced level of being able to check the accuracy of that facial biometric material and ensure that it matches up adequately to the names. We are not creating a new holding or a collection of facial biometric material. It is about enabling different holdings to at least compare to provide a greater level of certainty that the biometric material is accurate and is connected to the identity of the person who it is purporting to connect to.

Senator LUDLAM: The two largest holdings that occurred to me would be passports—that is one side—and drivers licences. That would be the other.

Ms K Jones : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: That is in terms of still-portrait-style photographs of people for those two use cases. What about CCTV cameras and licence plate cameras? The reason I put that to you is that, in the Queensland and South Australian jurisdictions, there were election commitments made in both of those two state elections respectively about police making greater use of facial recognition technology for tackling crime, and their uses were specifically related to CCTV cameras.

Ms K Jones : We certainly have been liaising and consulting with road and traffic authority agencies in each of the states and the territories. As far as I am aware, we have had no discussions relating to CCTV material as being capable of connecting into this capability. I could take that on notice to check whether there has been any discussion of that. At this stage, my understanding is that all our discussions with the states and the territories are focused on driver licence material.

Senator LUDLAM: What about passports?

Ms K Jones : Yes, certainly the holdings of the DFAT passport office are one of the holdings that we are looking at.

Senator LUDLAM: You can provide this on notice if you like; it might be dozens for all I know. What are the other major archives that you would be seeking to stitch together?

Ms K Jones : I will take that on notice if you do not mind. You are correct: it is largely passports and drivers licences. I think the number of people over 18 who have a driver's licence in this country is above 80 per cent, so that is the most significant holding.

Senator LUDLAM: The chair is being reasonably strict on timing, so I might ask if you could take on notice for us the holding, the agency that is responsible for holding them and the size of the database.

Ms K Jones : Sorry, just to correct: in a sense we are not creating a database. We are creating a hub—

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, of that kind of catchment.

Ms K Jones : and spoke.

Senator LUDLAM: Describe for us what will be in the hub. Presumably, there is some elaborate piece of software designed to index to make sure that you are deduplicating and that kind of thing. I understand the spokes—I guess they already exist—but tell us a bit about the hub.

Ms K Jones : The hub is essentially—and I will have to be careful in terms of my technical capacity to explain the mechanics of it—a connecting. It is an ability to connect in real time to check the identities. It is not a database as such where these identities will be held. The identities are still in the holdings of the agencies that provide them.

Senator LUDLAM: How will it be used? If I am a law enforcement agency and I come into this new thing with a photograph of somebody who is suspected of doing something, do I hand this photo over to this service and they then try and get me a match? How will it actually be used in practice?

Ms K Jones : If I could give an example: if someone were seeking to get a drivers license in one jurisdiction—the issuing agency for that divers license—and they produced another form of identity in order to be able to satisfy the points requirements to get that type of document, they could then use that to check with the original issuing agency. Perhaps if they have both a passport and a drivers license in another jurisdiction, you would be able to do a real-time crosscheck to check that the photo and the name are accurate.

Senator LUDLAM: Matched. Got it. Which agencies will be able to access it?

Ms K Jones : It will be law enforcement agencies, initially. In terms of the full list, I will take that on notice; it will be subject to finalisation in the legislation.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes, I guess it is fairly new. It will need to be legislated. Are we amending a particular something, or are we introducing a new act to bring it into being?

Ms K Jones : It will require amendment of state and territory legislation, because obviously their legislation covers the issuing of their identity facial biometric material, whether it is drivers licenses or anything else. I think our current assessment is in terms of the Commonwealth. We may not have to make any legislative provision for it, because it relates to material that is already collected under legislative provision, say, the Passports Act. Any legal requirements about the use of that facial biometric material will be covered in that original act, including any privacy limitations related to that.

Senator LUDLAM: Understanding that this is a reasonably new proposition, could you provide us with a list of the agencies that will be able to access it and under what circumstances what will govern access to the database—so, having search rites and so on. Will it be administered? Again, I am talking about the hub, because I well understand that you are looking at collections all over the country in different archives. Will it be administered by the department?

Ms K Jones : Yes

Senator LUDLAM: Does it have a particular funding appropriation? I do not know if that was in the communique or not.

Ms K Jones : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you tell us a bit about that?

Ms K Jones : The department was appropriated funding in September 2014, as part of the broad package of national security funding that the government announced at that time. We have $12.6 million in departmental funding for implementation and operation of the hub and $5.8 million in administered funding, which we are providing in order to able to assist the states and territories, should they choose to be involved in the mechanism, for them to be able to connect into the hub.

Senator LUDLAM: I want to be clear, because I am not sure if we have got anything going in on notice or not. Police forces around the country are increasingly linking facial recognition technology and live access to CCTV cameras. I think even Facebook is getting better and better at automatically recognising and tagging people's faces. There are big open source photo archives and then there is obviously access to CCTV feeds, and that is for tracking individuals of interest almost, effectively, on a real-time basis. It feels to me to be inevitable that this system would be patched into those systems if they are being developed by state law enforcement agencies or whatever the AFP has afoot. What can you tell us about how this hub will be linked or coordinated with other facial recognition technologies that are being rolled out in the states and territories or at a Commonwealth level?

Ms K Jones : As I said before, at this stage we have not got to that point. The focus has simply been on the sharing of materials such as driver's licence, passport material. But I would like to take that on notice. There have been a range of discussions with the states and the territories. I cannot say that people have flagged that that might be something that they were interested into looking at further down the track, but it is not currently envisaged as part of the operating model.

Senator LUDLAM: I would find it extraordinarily implausible if I were the first person to have thought of the idea of maybe matching those various technologies together. That would be quite something.

Senator O'SULLIVAN: It is highly unlikely.

Senator LUDLAM: So I am presuming those ideas have been had. Whatever you can provide us with, I would greatly appreciate. How is the database to be linked in with systems used by the immigration department in tracking people coming in and out of the country? That is part of the use case presumably.

Ms K Jones : We have been talking with the department of immigration, because they have obviously been enhancing their capability at the borders as well, with the SmartGate. In terms of the specifics of how they will interact, I think it is subject to discussions but it has not been worked through finally. If I could take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: All right. That is quite a bit of homework; sorry about that. I have only got a few minutes to go. Commissioner Colvin, the AFP's new Data Centre Transition Project—do you want to just tell us why that is occurring and roughly what the scope of that is?

Mr Colvin : I will hand over to the Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Wood.

Mr Wood : The AFP currently has a data centre at a site here in Canberra, in a suburb called Holder. That particular site does not meet our future requirements, and our lease on the site is also expiring. We do have a second data centre, in the Canberra suburb of Hume, and we are in the process of going to the market to look for what would become our backup site. It is because our existing second site in Weston—sorry; not Holder—is not going to be operable in about 24 months time.

Senator LUDLAM: So is the proposal to build another two or another one? Does the AFP actually build them? Do you contract them? Do you use commercial providers? Can you just let us know how you run that end of the business?

Mr Wood : The engagement with industry will look at the most cost-effective option, but certainly it is government policy for agencies not as a matter of course to build their own data centres but rather, firstly, to work collectively as a whole of government and, secondly, to look at the capacity of industry to provide solutions, rather than the Commonwealth owning those solutions.

Senator LUDLAM: What is the current set-up?

Mr Wood : The one at Weston is on our own leased site, so we own that data centre. The one we have in Hall is co-leased with the Department of Finance, and we own the equipment inside that site. So, at the moment, the AFP controls both its data centres, but we would be looking to abide by whole-of-government policy in this space in any new arrangement, and that therefore means that we would be looking more closely at a whole-of-government and industry partnering arrangement.

Senator LUDLAM: Do you run all your own email accounts? Presumably that is all held internally. I am presuming that is not outsourced to a commercial provider.

Mr Wood : There is one very small exception to that, and that is we have an unclassified email system to ensure that we maintain good communications with staff offshore who do not necessarily have access to classified systems. That particular system is in the cloud space, but certainly all our AFP business systems that are at a protected or higher level are in various environments that are Commonwealth controlled.

Senator LUDLAM: So the 17-and-a-bit million dollars will provide you with one or two new facilities by the time we are done?

Mr Wood : We will have two, but the money is for one additional—

Senator LUDLAM: Is for the new one.

Mr Wood : to replace Weston.

Senator LUDLAM: This might sound like an odd question, but you are running email servers for your staff and operatives; are you subject to the same obligations as commercial service providers as regards data retention of all of that material?

Mr Wood : I imagine the Archives Act actually puts even more obligations on us. There is a mix of requirements placed on us. We are not an internet service provider, though, and we are not a telecommunications company, so I suspect legislatively we are probably not captured by what you are referring to. But, because of our archives requirements and our requirement to maintain information in relation to matters that may still be appearing before court et cetera, there are a range of requirements on our retention of data.

Senator LUDLAM: Do your staff use commercial service providers for your mobile phone use or do you have separate arrangements?

Mr Wood : The AFP has a contract with one provider.

Senator LUDLAM: Is that with a commercial service provider?

Mr Wood : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: So you are not also running your own phone company.

Mr Wood : Yes, that is correct, we are not.

Senator LUDLAM: Presumably, they are then subject to the department's new requirements for mandatory data retention.

Mr Wood : Yes, they have been one of the very active participants in some of the debate.

Senator LUDLAM: I have absolutely no doubt about that. I do not know who it is and I probably do not even to need know unless you are able to tell us. It does not matter who it is as the Chair is about to shut that line of questioning down

Mr Wood : It is Telstra.

Senator LUDLAM: It is Telstra.

Mr Wood : Because it is engaged through a normal government procurement process it is on the public record already.

Senator LUDLAM: Does that include undercover people or people working in very sensitive areas?

Mr Wood : It is probably not appropriate to answer that one.

Senator LUDLAM: I will let that one go. Thank you.

Senator RHIANNON: Commissioner, when AFP personnel travel overseas on official business with family or friends, do the family and friends have to be given a security clearance?

Mr Colvin : The only time that AFP would travel overseas with family, certainly not with friends—are you talking official travel?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, official travel.

Mr Colvin : I could not imagine a reason they would be travelling officially with friends, unless they were officials as well.

Senator RHIANNON: What about partners they may not be married to?

Mr Colvin : Our overseas deployed officers, if it is to an accompanied post, would take their family. Their family would not necessarily be security cleared unless there were a reason they may be accessing secure information; in which case, we would security clear them.

Senator RHIANNON: If a senior officer were travelling overseas to go to an international security conference for a week or so, would their partner, friend or family travelling with them to require a security clearance?

Mr Colvin : There are many permutations of that. Firstly, it is highly unusual. Secondly, presuming they are not going to be participating in any part of the conference but are sightseeing or doing tourist things while their partner is engaged in official duties, no, they would not require a security clearance.

Senator RHIANNON: But some would, if they were—

Mr Colvin : I can only imagine the scenario where their partners are in the AFP and are employed in some way by the Commonwealth government at an embassy. Otherwise, they would have no role or no reason to be security cleared.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that even if they were going to an international conference and they were socialising at that event?

Mr Colvin : If they were socialising at a social event like cocktail drinks—

Unidentified speaker: A security brief but not a security clearance.

Mr Colvin : Yes, they may get a security brief about what to be careful of in the country they are travelling to.

Senator RHIANNON: But they do not need a clearance?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator RHIANNON: Do senior AFP officers need to declare any extramarital affairs?

Mr Colvin : Only if in their security clearance there are questions about personal relationships. You would need to declare them for security clearances. That includes updating regularly your security clearance. Beyond that, no.

Senator RHIANNON: If your circumstances change, you update it.

Mr Colvin : It is a standard change of circumstances.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that the one to ASIO?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Chair, is this fit for estimates?

Senator RHIANNON: It is to understand the process.

CHAIR: As it goes to the current operations of the AFP, I guess it is.

Mr Colvin : Internally we have our own security clearance procedures, and then depending on the level of classification it would be Defence who was—

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. How many investigations into allegations of Australians bribing foreign officials are being undertaken at the present time?

Mr Colvin : I have that information. The AFP currently holds 17 active foreign bribery investigations. However, only 16 have foreign bribery as a primary offence. Of those, only 10 are publicly known.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say publicly known, what does that mean?

Mr Colvin : You would be aware that foreign bribery attracts a great deal of attention in the media. Of those 17 matters, 10 of them have been reported or are in the media.

Senator RHIANNON: Ten have been reported in the media. Do you mean, in terms of the details of those 10?

Mr Colvin : Not details provided by police, but investigative journalism, or whatever it might be, uncovering allegations of foreign bribery, and then choosing to report on that.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the one that is not a foreign bribery? How would you describe that one?

Mr Colvin : It has foreign bribery but not as the primary offence. Perhaps we are investigating money laundering, fraud or some other type of offence that has a foreign bribery angle, but foreign bribery is not the principal matter that we are investigating.

Senator RHIANNON: How did the AFP respond when the OECD expressed frustration with the secrecy surrounding Australia's antibribery efforts?

Mr Colvin : I do not know that they have expressed frustration around the secrecy. They have certainly expressed a view that we have not done enough in the past. In fact, going back to 2012, they released an evaluation report on our implementation of antibribery—Australia's implementation, not the AFP's, although obviously we are a part of that—and they were critical of our response to foreign bribery. Since 2012, there have been a range of measures across government, largely in the AFP, to address that. In its most recent report the OECD, while not giving a clean bill of health, recognise that there have been significant advances in Australia's and the AFP's efforts on foreign bribery.

Senator RHIANNON: So there has been some improvement, but not a full, clean bill of health. What measures are you taking to respond to those factors that the OECD has identified that have not yet been addressed?

Mr Colvin : I believe that what has not yet been addressed is that they, of course, would like to see us do more, as many people would like to see the AFP do more on many crimes. There is only so much we can do, but since 2012 we have brought a concerted effort to this particular crime type. We have participated in a large number of efforts to improve the skill of our officers in foreign bribery, to the point that we now have some highly skilled officers in foreign bribery. We now have a number of investigations—you may well be aware that two are before the courts at the moment. These are highly complicated investigations that lead to very complex prosecutions and take some time to work their way through the courts. As I said, we have in the order of 17 investigations at the moment. So quite a lot has been done by the AFP since 2012, when the OECD first raised some of its concerns.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for detailing what has been done. Could you just detail what is being done in the areas that have been identified that need to be improved? While you are looking for that, I was wondering if one of the areas was to better protect private sector whistleblowers. I understand that the OECD identified this. Is that one of the areas that you are working on to improve?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that specific question about protecting private sector whistleblowers on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: It would be wonderful if you could say now what areas you are working on to improve, or do you need to take that on notice?

Mr Colvin : There are a range of things that we are doing, but your question is quite specific to the most recent report, which was only, I think, at the end of last year. I think the AGD and other agencies are currently working our way through to respond to that report. So that is very recent. We need to look at that report and see what criticisms there are, what work they say we are not doing and how we are going to respond to those particular criticisms. I do not have all of that with me. I will need to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: But isn't that five months ago? You do not have information for these estimates on how that response is going?

Mr Colvin : I am sure we know a lot about the reports, but until such time as Australia has had a chance to respond to the report and the report is finalised in a published OECD report, it would not be appropriate for us to talk about it.

Senator RHIANNON: Who do you work with in regard to the response? Is it just from AFP or are you working with other departments?

Mr Colvin : It is whole-of-government, led by the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator RHIANNON: Within the Australian government, does the AFP have lead responsibility for international counternarcotics policy?

Mr Colvin : No. The lead policy department would be the Attorney-General's Department, but there would be a range of other departments across the Australian government that would have a role in that. Clearly we, from an operational agency perspective, have quite a deal of input into that.

Senator RHIANNON: What are the formalised human rights safeguards applied to ensure funds allocated to overseas counternarcotics efforts do not lead to human rights abuses?

Mr Colvin : I will take that on notice. I think that is the best way.

Senator RHIANNON: Who signs off on evaluations of human rights risks and approves the international counternarcotics spending? I am trying to understand the process. You have the policy. You have put it into place. How does it work within your system?

Mr Colvin : I can only talk from the perspective of the AFP. When you say 'international counternarcotics policy', that is a really broad brush you have there. We could be talking about the UN Office on Drugs and Crime—

Senator RHIANNON: This question is just: who signs off within your system? Within the AFP chain of command, who signs off on evaluations of the human rights risks with regard to counternarcotics operations?

Mr Colvin : It would be the line management of the area in the AFP that has responsibility for delivering a particular program. So it could be capacity building in relation to Pacific island policing. It could be capacity building in relation to narcotics investigations in Asia. It is all done according to our guidelines. We have very strict protocols around what we train in, how we train and who we train. But it is quite a mosaic. It is not as easy as answering that one person is responsible for all of that.

Senator RHIANNON: With all due respect, it sounds vague. Are the human rights risks taken into account?

Mr Colvin : Yes, they are. We have said that many times. Human rights training is a large part of all of our capacity-building objectives. You say it is vague. That is because—and I apologise—the question is quite broad. It could be training delivered in the form of investigations training or it could be capacity delivered through equipment we might be giving. It is a very rich, broad mosaic that you are painting.

Senator RHIANNON: Has an allocation of funds to an international counternarcotics initiative ever been refused on the basis of human rights risk?

Mr Colvin : Again, we have particular operational programs that we run with our partners overseas. Some of those may be aid funded and they may have a counternarcotics angle to them. There is not a simple answer to give you on whether any have ever been rejected on human rights grounds because they would follow so many different permutations to get to the point of delivery. I would have to take that on notice to see if we could find out—

Senator RHIANNON: Take on notice also to give an example of how the human rights component is included and how that assessment is made. That is what I am really trying to understand the process for. Does it actually happen? If so, how does it happen? Take that on notice, please.

Mr Colvin : I want to be clear about what we are taking on notice. You said 'human rights component'. If we are training international police in intelligence investigations for forensic investigations, what human rights component of that are you talking about?

Senator RHIANNON: I will go back to the specific question: has an allocation of funds to an international counternarcotics initiative ever been refused on the basis of human rights risk?

Mr Colvin : I will take it on notice and we will do the best we can to give you a specific answer to that.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Will the AFP be involved in the forthcoming UN Office on Drugs and Crime country program in Pakistan?

Mr Colvin : We certainly have been in the past. I am not sure of one particularly coming up. It is not ringing a bell with any of my officers in the room.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take that on notice, please. If so, what is the AFP's role? Will the AFP be involved in the forthcoming United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime program in Iran?

Mr Colvin : I will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. This is with regard to some developments in the Philippines and their National Bureau of Investigation. The NBI in the Philippines undertook an investigation following a request from PETA Asia on crush videos made for sexual fetishism. I will not go into them. I imagine you understand what that is about. It resulted in a life sentence for each of the two Filipino citizens. That occurred in 2014. It was reported that one of those convicted told the court that an Australian man made payments and provided the couple with the video equipment used to record the videos as well as the scripts used to direct the activities of the girls and young women who were forced to kill animals. Have the AFP been informed of this case?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that on notice. It rings no bells with me. If the Philippine National Police have referred that information to us then we will have actioned it, but I will have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: If yes, is the AFP investigating the perpetrator? Could you take that on notice. And if no—maybe you could answer this now, Commissioner—is this the sort of case the AFP would investigate if requested, where an Australian national is directing animal abuse and what amounts to sexual abuse in another country?

Mr Colvin : That is the type of matter we would certainly look to work with our partners on, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the process by which such an investigation would occur?

Mr Colvin : Generally speaking, the competent authority of the country would bring to us—in this case the Philippine National Police; we have liaison officers in the Philippines—that information. We would consider the information. We would probably talk to them about entering into a joint investigation. We would certainly make some inquiries to establish if there was any value that we could add to the investigation, and it would start from there.

Senator RHIANNON: Just back on the counter-narcotic initiatives: is the AFP currently involved in any international counter-narcotics initiatives?

Mr Colvin : Again, that is very broad. I would have to say the answer to that is yes. because we are involved in counter-narcotics investigations and capacity building with partners all over the world.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the current AFP expenditure on these initiatives? I would like an overall amount and then country breakdown, please.

Mr Colvin : Aare you talking about every counter-narcotics investigation that we are involved in with our overseas partners?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. I was after a total amount and then by country.

Mr Colvin : Senator, I will be able to give you some headline figures of the AFP budget in terms of our drug work and our international engagement work, but to narrow it down more than that will be extremely difficult.

Senator RHIANNON: So you can give us a global figure?

Mr Colvin : It will be quite a generic figure, yes.

Senator SMITH: I have some brief questions. At the last estimates hearing, you will recall I asked some questions with regard to investigations around allegations of electoral fraud in the federal seat of Indi. I had an opportunity to ask questions also of the Australian Electoral Commissioner at estimates in that period as well. Are you able to give me an update with regard to that issue?

Mr Colvin : I can, Senator. We do have some information on the Indi investigation. On 13 March 2015 there were further referrals from the Australian Electoral Commission in relation to the division of Indi.

Senator SMITH: When you say—sorry. I will let you finish.

Mr Colvin : That was 13 March. That brought the total number of alleged fraudulent enrolments to 28. The AFP has investigated 27 of those instances of potential fraud. One instance was rejected. I think the matter has been assigned and is still under investigation. I am joined now by Deputy Commissioner Close. She will have more detail knowledge of it.

Ms Close : Of those 27 referrals, four briefs have been provided to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions on 18 and 19 May in respect of allegations that four individuals provided false or misleading information to the Australian Electoral Commission. In relation to the other referrals, there was insufficient evidence to proceed on those.

Senator SMITH: With regard to the other referrals, those are the remaining 23?

Ms Close : That is correct.

Senator SMITH: They were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions on 18 and 19 May just gone—most recent, just to be clear?

Ms Close : That is correct.

Senator SMITH: Can you advise what level of resources both financial and in terms of personnel have been committed to this task?

Ms Close : Certainly. Generally we have an investigative team which is comprised of one team leader and eight team members. That can vary depending on what the investigation is, of course. In respect of this investigation, as at the 30 April 2015 our AFP investigators have spent a total of 1,741 hours investigating.

Senator SMITH: Has the investigation been completed from the AFP's perspective?

Ms Close : Yes, it has with those briefs of evidence obviously with the DPP.

Senator SMITH: With the four briefs and then the decision that the remaining 23 had sufficient evidence attached to them?

Ms Close : Insufficient evidence.

Senator SMITH: Insufficient evidence. Quite right. There has been quite extensive media reporting around the allegations. It is hard to find a media report that does not draw the link between voters, or a voter, and the candidate and now member for Indi. Has the member for Indi been questioned as part of your investigation?

Ms Close : I can advise you that, yes, the member for Indi has been spoken to by the AFP as witness.

Senator SMITH: Is there anything more—and I respect that you may not be able to answer this question—that is necessary from the AFP's perspective with regard to the member for Indi?

Ms Close : No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I have got some questions in relation to investigations relating to section 70 and 79 of the Crimes Act, which I am sure you are all very familiar with. Firstly, broadly speaking, how many current investigations are on foot?

Ms Close : At the moment we have 17 investigations.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you able to give an indication as to whether they have come from referrals from government departments or agencies or simply individuals?

Ms Close : There is a mixture of both.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many of those relate to breaches under section 70 relating to the immigration department or immigration detention centres and their contractors?

CHAIR: If these are related to Immigration and have any relationship to Nauru, they are not matters for dealing with in this committee.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am just asking the numbers.

CHAIR: Well, if it is just for numbers, that is—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, that is all that is. I am not asking for details.

CHAIR: I am just indicating to current witnesses before the committee that there is a Senate ruling that, because there is a specific Senate select committee inquiring into Nauru, this committee and no other committee should inquire into the same subject, so we have been quite strict over the past three days in not dealing with any substantive issues that might be better dealt with in that other committee. If it is just a matter of some statistics, obviously it is common sense to go ahead. So we had some numbers?

Ms Close : In respect of those allegations, at least seven of those referrals relate to that matter.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In terms of immigration detention centres?

Ms Close : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I just want to be clear. You are saying 'at least'? That is seven out of the 17?

Ms Close : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Just so that I am clear: when you say 'at least those seven', is that across all of the detention centres and contractors across all of that or is this including the government department itself?

Ms Close : We have had, on seven different occasions, a number of referrals that have come through, so it does relate to various processing centres and various agencies, and some of those referrals have come from the department and some have come from other people.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has any brief of evidence on any of these issues been put forward to the Commonwealth prosecutor yet?

Ms Close : No, but there are several that are still under investigation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I am just checking. Out of those overall 17 and then the 'at least seven'—is that because you are just being cautious? I am just wondering why it is 'at least' rather than a specific number.

Ms Close : It is because within each of those dates where we have received referrals there are a number of different allegations contained, so I am just cautious about numbers here because it gets quite confusing, so I am going by the dates.

Mr Colvin : Some of the referrals have related to the same—once we started to investigate it, we were effectively dealing with the same alleged unauthorised disclosure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I understand. In relation to those seven, you said some are still under investigation. Are those seven within this financial year, or are they just the ones that are currently on your books?

Ms Close : No, they are all within this financial year.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How many did you have last financial year? Do you have those figures for us?

Ms Close : No, I would have to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you?

Ms Close : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I appreciate that. Generally speaking, is there a sense that 17 overall in terms of referrals in relation to breaches under section 70 is a larger number than you would normally expect in one financial year?

Mr Colvin : It fluctuates. I know we have given figures in this committee before, and they fluctuate quite a great deal, depending on where they may be coming from, but 17 is not an exceptionally high or a particularly low number.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are any of these 17 investigations relating to the disclosure of information from members of parliament?

Ms Close : No. The referrals and the offences themselves relate to Commonwealth officers, so we look, obviously, at who has had access to that information, and that is a normal part of an investigation process. So no.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. I think that is all my questions.

CHAIR: As there are no further questions, thank you very much for your attendance.

Mr Wood : Chair, may I correct something?


Mr Wood : I have got a text from my office. Apparently I referred to the suburb of Hall instead of Hume when I was answering a question to Senator Ludlam. May I correct that, thank you.

CHAIR: Thanks for that.

Mr Colvin : You see, Chair, we do watch it from back in the office!

CHAIR: Again, our thanks to you for your attendance today and for what you do more broadly. Thank you.

Senator Brandis: Thanks, Andrew.

Proceedings suspended from 17:21 to 17:30