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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
28/02/2017
Estimates
ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO
Australian Federal Police

Australian Federal Police

[17:35]

CHAIR: Commissioner Colvin, welcome to you and your AFP colleagues. Do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr Colvin : Yes, I do have opening statement, and I am also conscious that in light of events this afternoon I think the committee would be interested in a few comments about the press conference and the arrest in Young earlier today. With your indulgence though, Chair, I will put a prepared statement on the record more broadly. Thank you for the opportunity to appear here this evening. The high level of operational demand did not lessen over the Christmas and holiday period, and the AFP has continued to see great operational success throughout the last few months. Last December the Victorian Joint Counter Terrorism team successfully stopped an alleged imminent terrorist attack on Australian soil, putting four people before the court and potentially stopping an unimaginable amount of damage from occurring in the Melbourne CBD. Additionally, since November the AFP have been involved in operations with our partners that have resulted in the seizure of almost three tonnes of cocaine, approximately one tonne of methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine, and more than 300 kilograms of pseudoephedrine. The level of cooperation we have with our partner agencies has never been higher. This includes ongoing liaison with international policing partners as we continue our efforts to combat offshore organised crime impacting on Australia.

It has now been six months since the AFP publicly released its culture change report. I know the committee has had great interest in that report, and of course that report followed an independent review conducted by Elizabeth Broderick and her team. The report detailed behaviours and attitudes that I have said publicly I am not proud of, but I am also at pains to stress that the report found that the vast majority of members are deeply committed to the organisation, are passionate about their work and are keen to see the AFP succeed into the future. When my executive team and I made the decision to addresses these cultural issues, we did so knowing that it would be a difficult task. We did so also knowing that we were putting additional pressure on an agency and its members, putting another aspect of our agency under increased scrutiny beyond that typically applied to our various oversight and scrutiny mechanisms. While we stand by this decision I want to put on the record my absolute and unwavering confidence in the members of the AFP who contribute so directly to the safety and security of all Australians and only wish to do the job to the very best of their abilities.

The AFP is not defined by the report or allegations of individual behaviours—we are defined by our responses to the challenges that confront us and by our efforts to continue to improve, and we are defined by our role in the protection of Australia. When working with Ms Broderick she advised us not to rush to implementation but to take our time to listen, to absorb and to act within our organisation's long-term goals. Agencies like the AFP do not change overnight, and they certainly do not change simply because I ask them to. The AFP is currently in the process of implementing all 24 recommendations from that report—seven of the 24 recommendations and the subrecommendations have been completed and all others are being progressed. Positive changes are already emerging within the organisation. The new Reform, Culture and Standards portfolio was established immediately following the report's release, solely to focus on supporting the reform. We have aligned the AFP's confidant network, professional standards area and diversity networks under this one portfolio to allow stronger collaboration and support, and the support of new reform issues as they are implemented.

The key recommendation was the establishment of the AFP Safe Place team, a new area designed to provide holistic support and advice to people experiencing harmful workplace behaviour, like sexual harassment, assault and bullying, so that they feel respected, in control and safe to talk. Safe Place is available to former and current AFP members, who are encouraged to bring matters to the team even if they have already reported previously through our existing mechanisms. In the first six months, Safe Place has received approximately 180 referrals, with 16 per cent of these referrals relating to allegations of a sexual nature, 48 per cent relating to bullying and 34 per cent dealing with a range of administrative, procedural and psychological issues. These figures are the result of an increase in the number of referrals since the opening of Safe Place and its initial reporting. This shows that the reforms are starting to work and that our employees have an increased confidence in the system to come forward. It is a positive that to date almost half—78—of those 180 matters that have been referred to Safe Place have been resolved to the user's satisfaction. The remainder are still ongoing. While we still have a way to go, the AFP leadership group is committed to making improvements in line with the recommended changes, and I strongly believe the organisation is taking positive steps in the right direction.

At this point, I would also like to address the specific matter of mental health and emphasise that the health and wellbeing of my staff continues to be and will always be of the absolute highest priority to me and my executive. Police agencies are, of course, a microcosm of the societies they serve and, as such, an agency like the AFP, with over 6,000 staff, is going to reflect in some fashion the same mental health challenges and personal experiences that occur in the wider society. It is also widely acknowledged, of course, that police are at a higher risk of trauma-caused mental injury than almost any other profession. All AFP staff currently have access to a number of support programs, including the 24-hour emergency assistance program—employee assistance program—and an internal team of psychologists, nurses, chaplains and work safety professionals. Our records show that these services are being utilised by AFP members.

There are positive examples of current serving members who have suffered from mental health concerns, including PTSD, and who, through the support they have received, have been able to return to full-time work and continue their career pathways. But I am also aware that there are some past and present members who believe we can do better in our mental health support services and that there would appear to be a range of experiences in this area. I and my executive team agree that we can always do better.

As part of ongoing work to improve support services to staff, late last year the AFP restructured its wellbeing services and appointed a respected clinician in charge of the national function as our chief medical officer. The CMO has oversight of the soon-to-be released AFP Mental Health Framework and Action Plan, a recently revised framework that recognises the essential role of mental health for achieving a healthy and safe AFP workforce, a framework that will improve our ability to respond to our current and future challenges in the area of mental health. A priority task is to ensure our mental health strategies, including those captured under this framework, are the world's best practice. In addition to having the AFP's mental health strategy peer reviewed, we are also engaging an independent expert body, Phoenix Australia, to do a final review prior to release.

I expect that it will be of interest to this committee to know as well that the ANAO has initiated an audit into the AFP's management of mental health, and Mr Wood, here on my left, my chief operating officer, has the entry interview with them tomorrow morning. I am keen to work with the ANAO and draw upon their findings to improve the AFP's approaches to mental health. I also understand that this audit is consistent with audits being conducted nationally of police response to mental health.

I am very conscious that the work my staff do every single day can be extremely challenging and I have never underestimated or overlooked this. These issues are areas that we can always do more on, and we have been working with the independent practitioners and industry experts to ensure the best support is available. Again, I am happy to talk about this further if needed. I know it has been a current topic of discussion. My deputies are here and we will answer any questions. Chair, would you like me to briefly start with a few facts about the matters from today—the counterterrorism operation?

CHAIR: Yes, that might be useful.

Mr Colvin : I will be very brief. What I can say and what we have said to the media is that, as the result of an 18-month-long investigation known as Operation Marksburg, which was conducted by the AFP counterterrorism team here in Canberra, we have today, following search warrants at a residence in the New South Wales town of Young, arrested a 42-year-old man, who we will shortly be charging and who may in fact be going before the court while we are here in this committee hearing. He will be charged with a number of offences, which include two serious foreign incursion offences under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

With these offences, we will allege that he has utilised the internet to perform services for ISIL activities in the Syria and Iraq conflict while he has been here in Australia in the following ways: firstly, by researching and designing a laser-warning device to help warn against incoming guided munitions used by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. Secondly, we will also allege that he was researching, designing and modelling systems to assist ISIL's efforts to develop their own long-range guided missile capacity.

Chair, those are the facts as we have stated them today. Obviously police around the country continue to work very hard on this issue. We are concerned that we continue to see Australians seeking out and providing support to these violent extremist groups. But my message to the Australian community today, as it is always, is that the police and our security partners are working overtime to ensure their safety and to protect their interests. I will leave it at that.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Commissioner. Again, as I often do, I pass on to you and your team the gratitude of the Australian people, who we, through parliament, represent, for the work you do. It is stressful, it is dangerous and—as the latest incident that you just mentioned shows—it is exacting and highly technical work. Thank you very much to you and your team. Please make sure that your team knows that, whilst we do have questions and do at times query some issues, by and large we understand and appreciate what they do.

Mr Colvin : Of course, Chair. We understand the role of the committee, but I know my members appreciate the support they get from this house.

CHAIR: I do not want to ask for too many details, but with that incident at Young are you publicly, at this stage, indicating the background of the person and what technical expertise he or she had—and where that technical expertise was obtained?

Mr Colvin : I did say in the press conference earlier today that he is an Australian citizen. He was born in Australia and has lived in Young for some time. I understand that he is an electrician by trade, so a great deal of his technical expertise comes from his trade. But, as well, I think a lot of it is self-taught.

CHAIR: I will not pursue that further, but it is a good reminder of the work that is always being done. While we sleep peacefully, you and ASIO and others are out there keeping us safe. This question is probably for Mr Moraitis. Can you tell me what relationship there is between the Commonwealth budget, the Australian Federal Police and the ACT police, in whatever form they operate? It is something I have always been uncertain about, and Senator O'Sullivan has given notice of some questions he wanted raised.

Mr Moraitis : It is probably more a question for the commissioner. Are you asking about the governance arrangements? They are separate jurisdiction forces. As a matter of practice, my understanding is that the AFP has seconded and provided the head of the ACT police for some time. That is a matter of record. But they are distinct jurisdictions and they are counted as separate police forces.

CHAIR: What is the ACT police force called?

Mr Colvin : It is called ACT Policing, but it is the Australian Federal Police. We conduct community policing operations here within the ACT jurisdiction on a purchase agreement between the ACT government and the Australian Federal Police. That is an agreement that is routinely reviewed every 12 months, on a longer five-year basis—the contract.

CHAIR: So all of the officers in the ACT police are Australian Federal Police officers?

Mr Colvin : Correct.

CHAIR: When you say 'a purchase agreement', does that mean that the ACT government pays you a sum of money to provide policing services?

Mr Colvin : That is correct. There are also shared services. Without getting too technical, I note that our forensics capability provides support to both our Commonwealth operations and, through a purchaser-provider relationship, to the ACT government. But by and large the officers performing community policing here in the ACT are Australian Federal Police officers on a contract arrangement.

CHAIR: To whom do they answer—at the very top of the tree? To you?

Mr Colvin : No, the chief police officer is an assistant commissioner of the AFP. She has policing responsibility and she answers directly to the minister for police in the ACT government. But of course we are all one organisation, so I do maintain broad oversight of what is going on here in the ACT. I see my role as bifurcated in some ways—outcome 1 and outcome 2. Outcome 1 is the national operations that this committee generally takes an interest in. Outcome 2 is operations within the ACT for which we are usually answerable to the ACT government estimates process.

CHAIR: Does the ACT government directly fund the ACT police in any other way except in a lump sum payment to you which you then use to employ the people?

Mr Colvin : No, effectively it is a lump sum payment, but my chief operating officer is just reminding me that the premise is that we work out of the police stations, our headquarters in Belconnen—ACT government buildings; they are not Commonwealth buildings.

CHAIR: And you do not pay a rent for them.

Mr Colvin : Correct.

CHAIR: As you are aware, my colleague Senator O'Sullivan, for whom I make an apology—he wanted to be here but is chairing another estimates committee and cannot be in two places at once—has provided the committee with a copy of a letter he wrote to you on 23 February in which he raised a number of questions about an investigation conducted by the ACT police into a vehicle explosion outside Eternity House, Deakin, on the evening of 21 December 2016. Commissioner, I am aware that you have a copy of that letter, and Senator O'Sullivan has made it available to the committee.

I will not go through Senator O'Sullivan's 13 specific questions. As you are well aware, Senator O'Sullivan—before he went to the dark side!—was a member of your esteemed profession and was, I understand, something of a significant investigator. So, I will not go through the questions, but can I ask you to make a comment generally, to save me going through the questions, on the matters that I know Senator O'Sullivan has raised in his letter to you?

Mr Colvin : Senator O'Sullivan has forwarded those questions, as you said. If the senator were here to ask me those questions in detail, there would be only some of them that I would be prepared to answer, and I would answer them only in a fairly generic sense, because the matter is still an ongoing investigation. The driver of that vehicle—and I will choose my words carefully—is still receiving significant medical treatment as a result of the incident on the night as well as some mental health treatment. He is not fit for us to speak to again, and until such time as he is we will not be concluding our investigation or forming any final viewpoint about potential charges.

I do understand the concerns Senator O'Sullivan has. As I would with any committee member who is interested in particular matters, I would very happily, if possible, do a private briefing for Senator O'Sullivan so that I can address his concerns directly but in a less public way.

CHAIR: That sounds very reasonable, and I will certainly pass that on to Senator O'Sullivan. Again, as you would appreciate, Senator O'Sullivan is doing this at the request of other Australians who were involved. And whilst I am not fully aware of Senator O'Sullivan's involvement or what was told to him, from a brief conversation I had with him I understand that people who were possible victims of this incident still have some fear for their own safety and wellbeing.

Mr Colvin : Perhaps I could address that very briefly. I am very aware of the issues. Obviously we are liaising with members who were at Eternity House—the people who were occupying the premises—which included the Australian Christian Lobby; I think that has been well publicised. I did see some media reporting recently, I believe, that there was a concern about ongoing threats to the Australian Christian Lobby. I can assure the committee and the Australian Christian Lobby, as we have done with them, that we are aware of no ongoing threats and we see no particular reason as a result of this incident for anyone from Eternity House more broadly or the Australian Christian Lobby specifically to be concerned about this particular matter.

CHAIR: Okay. I will leave it there. I will pass on your offer to Senator O'Sullivan and he will contact you if he wants to pursue that further. But I am told that Senator Leyonhjelm has questions on the same incident.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Commissioner Colvin, I appreciate that there are aspects about this case that are not known, but there is quite a lot in the public domain that I have read. I think it is fair to ask you about some of that, and you can comment as you choose. There are claims that the suspect—the individual responsible for the gas explosion, for driving the vehicle to that premises—flew into Canberra that day. Do you know—

Mr Colvin : No, I do not believe that is the case. I must say too, on the media reporting, that there is quite a lot of inaccurate stuff in the media.

Senator LEYONHJELM: There is an expectation that the public might be able to be set right on a few of these matters, so I am taking this opportunity to see if that is possible. There are reports that there were six gas containers in the vehicle, the individual responsible opened three of them and was in the process of moving to the back of the car to open the other three when something set off the gas from the first three. Can you respond to that?

Mr Colvin : I understand there were actually four nine-kilogram gas cylinders. I have not seen reporting that has talked about the sequence of how it was ignited, and I do not believe that that type of detail has been confirmed, so I would not want to speculate on that.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I have also been advised that the ACT police interviewed the suspect in hospital, but then I heard you say just now that the individual is not fit to be interviewed again. Can you throw any more light on that?

Mr Colvin : I can. I do not profess to be a medical expert, but from my own experience I can say that with burns victims it is not completely unusual that a burns victim can function for some time after the initial trauma. We have seen that in other such events. On this occasion he was able to present himself to hospital, at which point he was able to be spoken to by the initial responding police for an initial interview before such time as, on medical advice, he was not able to participate. Since that time he has been unable to participate in a further interview.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Is that attributable to his burns injuries or his mental state?

Mr Colvin : Initially his burn injuries. They were quite significant burn injuries, and he was critical for a long time.

Senator LEYONHJELM: There are also reports that he actually walked for an hour to the hospital from the site of the explosion—is that correct?

Mr Colvin : I could not say it was an hour, but it is certainly our belief and our information that he walked from there to the hospital.

Senator LEYONHJELM: It is curious that nobody saw that. There is also a report that Mr Lyle Shelton got a call from an investigator from the ACT police recommending that he arrange for security for the building because the building would be cleaned up by 2 am. Can you comment on that?

Mr Colvin : I cannot comment on whether he had a call from an investigator recommending he had security. What I can say is the building was not cleaned up by 2 am, and we would never have suggested that it was. Our forensics crime scene investigators finished with the crime scene at around 7 am, largely because a lot of what needed to be processed was removed from the crime scene—the vehicle for instance. So, no, that does not strike me as ringing true.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Would it be accurate to say that if it was cleaned up by 7 am then no evidence could have been missed due to lack of light?

Mr Colvin : Our forensics team were there for approximately nine hours. While this was certainly an horrific event for the individual concerned, if I can put it quite bluntly, it wasn't a particularly difficult forensic crime scene for us to process. As I said, the critical component of that crime scene was the vehicle, which we removed and took back to our forensic laboratories. So, no, I do not find that unusual at all.

Senator LEYONHJELM: There have been statements by the Canberra ACT police that it was not political or religious ideology. Given that he could not be interviewed more recently, is that relying on the interview that he gave with the police immediately after the incident?

Mr Colvin : That was a statement made immediately after and it was based on everything we know to date, including the very brief interview that was done with him at the time as well as our subsequent investigations. We do not believe that his motivations on that night were driven by any particular ideology or—his primary motive was quite different, if I might put it that way.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Can you elaborate on what it was?

Mr Colvin : We believe that mental illness was playing a considerable factor here and his primary motivation was to commit suicide.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The fact that it involved the Australian Christian Lobby's—

CHAIR: Senator Leyonhjelm, do you have a few more questions?

Senator LEYONHJELM: Nearly finished, Chair.

CHAIR: Let us try and finish with you.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The fact that it did house the Australian Christian Lobby's office—is there any significance to that?

Mr Colvin : The investigation is still underway, so I cannot be absolutely definitive. I know this is a key point that has been talked about in the media and a nuance that perhaps is missed when the media report. We do not believe his primary motivation was driven to make any particular message or send any signal about the Australian Christian Lobby. We do believe that he knew that there was the Australian Christian Lobby but he was not driven by a motivation or an ideology based on anything that the Christian lobby had done or said. I say that because there is a lot of material in the public domain about that already but, until we can finish the investigation and speak to him again, we will not form any definitive answers on that.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I imagine there has been an investigation of his background, associates and all that sort of stuff. Notwithstanding all of that, you are still confident that it is not political or ideological?

Mr Colvin : It has been a very comprehensive investigation to this point, and you can expect that we have made all those inquiries and that has not changed our view about the motivation.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I will leave it there; thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: I indicated I would go to the Labor Party but—

Senator PRATT: Senator Hinch's questions are on this topic.

Senator HINCH: One question, and I will come back to the other issues later on, if that is all right.

CHAIR: Okay. Just one other thing: we are scheduled to break for dinner now. It has been suggested to me by the deputy chair that perhaps we should try to complete our questions of the Australian Federal Police before we break for dinner. If the committee is agreeable—and if the commissioner, the secretary and the minister do not have other engagements—we might do that in the expectation that perhaps our questions will not last much more than half an hour, although I give no guarantee. Could I go to Senator Hinch next and he can finish his questions.

Senator HINCH: Mr Colvin, this is about the same issue. According to my sources, very early on in the piece, you knew the man was Vietnamese; he had mental problems; that he told your initial investigators that self-immolation was his sole motive; and that it was not an attack on the Christian Lobby. My opinion is that there are certain people involved in the Christian Lobby who seem fairly keen on being martyrs to a cause that did not exist.

Mr Colvin : Large aspects of what you just said are well sourced. We do not believe his motivation was to make any point on the Christian Lobby; his motivation was driven by mental illness and the desire to commit suicide.

Senator HINCH: He had time to tell the police before he was put into an induced coma that he was a Buddhist and self-immolation was his sole motive.

Mr Colvin : I do not recall if he said he was Buddhist, but he certainly gave us the impression that he was looking to kill himself.

Senator HINCH: I have two quick questions on another topic. Last year, Prime Minister Turnbull, justice minister Keenan, Foreign Minister Bishop and I, and the AFP, got together over the trying to ban passports for convicted sex offenders, the ones on the register. One of the problems we had was that there seemed to be a lack of connect between the AFP, at times, and the state police forces to get the information to you; therefore it was not getting to Foreign Minister Bishop. She had offered to pull the passports as soon as she could. Have you any progress on that?

Mr Colvin : I will ask if there is anyone at the back of the room who can talk more directly to it. I do recall the issue and the issue was about the national register and how that information gets to DFAT for passport cancellations or stopping someone from travelling. Yes, there has been progress. Yes, we are very alive and conscious of the issue. I believe, from memory, there are some limitations to what we can do, in terms of the way that the policy is currently constructed. It requires us to have a reasonable suspicion that the person is going overseas for the purposes of offending. Beyond that, I am not sure if anyone at the back of the room has better information on that one.

Mr Gaughan : What the commissioner said is right. The issue, at the moment, is that a competent authority needs to be in a position to sign a cancellation request and put it forward to the Foreign Minister. Information is flowing little bit better between ourselves and state and territory law-enforcement agencies. That is primarily through our joint teams that work on online child exploitation issues. So things are improving. But there is always room for further improvement, and it is a focus of the serious and organised crime committee as well to look at these particular issues. Whilst it is not perfect, I can give you a guarantee that it is something we are focusing on and something we will look at doing further in the future.

Senator HINCH: If somebody has tax problems, the ATO knows that when they get to the airport they are looked up and flagged, and they cannot leave the country—especially when they have been bankrupt for seven years. Surely that could be flagged in some manner or form?

Mr Gaughan : It is no offence for a person on a sex register to leave the country, in certain circumstances, so to prevent them would need some legislative reform. People who leave the country are red flagged and we have, in many instances, notified our international partners that someone is turning up on their jurisdictions. It is up to them to determine what course of action that will take. Some jurisdictions, particularly to our north, will turn those people back, and there have been regular occurrences where those people have come back.

Senator HINCH: We found—I think I got the figures from you—that, in 2015, 800 people on the so-called secret registers went overseas. Three hundred and forty or 350 of them went to South-East Asia—to Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines. These are on child-rape holidays. They are not there for the sun.

Mr Gaughan : Obviously, that is a worst-case scenario. We are working with those countries to deal it with. The Indonesians, for instance, turn people back. We are working with some others to have similar circumstances in place.

Mr Colvin : If someone is on the national register—and, as you said, with tax you can put them onto an alert so we know when they present at the airport to travel to another country—the AFP will notify that country that somebody who is on our register is travelling. We are working very closely with our partners in the region to inform them and educate them about the risks that that poses to them. In many cases, Indonesia would be the best example. They are turning those people around and stopping them from travelling to their country.

The broader issue that you raised with the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Justice last year around stopping or passport cancellations does require a policy and, probably, a legislative amendment, and I know that the government is currently considering what those policy options are.

Senator HINCH: On notice, could you give me a written briefing on what you need or think we need, so I can push from this end?

Mr Colvin : Certainly.

Senator PRATT: I have some questions regarding budget cuts to the AFP. It is evident that the depth and breadth of the AFP's responsibilities have greatly expanded. You are tackling, as the government has mandated you to, sophisticated criminal and terrorist groups, sophisticated transnational organised crime and, of course, responding to a large and growing cybercrime challenge. That is correct isn't it?

Mr Colvin : That is correct, yes.

Senator PRATT: That is in addition to your critical role of protecting Australians from terrorism, as is evident in your work today.

Mr Colvin : Yes.

Senator PRATT: I have before me the portfolio additional estimates supplement. I have a copy of that here and you have clearly got your own. It is on page 61. I see that the total revised estimated expenses for federal policing and national security this year are $1,019,247 . Is that correct?

Mr Colvin : Yes.

Senator PRATT: Last year your actual expenses were somewhat more than that, at $1,046,382. Why is that amount lower? Where has that money been found?

Mr Colvin : Thank you for your question. Certainly the AFP remit is expanding and evolving—there is no question about that—when we are of course in the normal ons and offs of a government budget cycle with measures coming to a conclusion and new measures coming in. We did run a small deficit last year. We spent over our budget, in effect, to the degree of $33 million, which is the figure that you are talking about. But certainly I will ask my chief operating officer whether there is anything further to add to that.

Mr Wood : As the commissioner has mentioned, the annual report that came out just before this document had the financial statements for the financial year ending 2015-16, and that is where we formally recorded that we did in fact expend more than our budget in the year finishing 30 June 2016. Of that $33 million figure, about $12 million was a result of bond rate movements—so, things beyond our control—but about $20 million of that was the organisation spending more operationally than we were actually funded in the year.

Senator PRATT: What was that extra for?

Mr Wood : It was for the broad activities of the organisation, but it does include activities such as our ongoing support for the investigation of the shooting-down of MH17. That is an example where the AFP has expended a reasonable amount of money and stayed within our own resources rather than sought additional money from government. Certainly the increased activity around counterterrorism and the increased activity around the threats that you heard the commissioner mention at the opening of this committee hearing are indicative of the priorities that we are putting the budget towards. The MH17 tragedy is a good example of something where we have declared to government that we have gone on, we have done that, we have not asked for more money but that it will result in a loss in the performance of the agency.

Senator PRATT: So what you are saying is: in your actual expenses some of those extra expenses were on antiterrorism work.

Mr Wood : We do not hesitate if we think the budget is tight to do what needs to be done in terms of the protection that both the director-general of ASIO mentioned earlier in the evening and the commissioner has just mentioned.

Mr Colvin : As everyone appreciates, the work of the AFP is not completely predictable. There are some things that we can do more or less of; but there are some things that I will not allow us to do less of—counterterrorism for a matter. My discretion to not do matters that have a counterterrorism nexus is very small.

Senator PRATT: So in 2015-16 you spent that extra money on counterterrorism.

Mr Colvin : General operational tempo, including counterterrorism—yes.

Senator PRATT: If you have similar this year, with similar demand for your work in the counterterrorism area, where else in the budget will you displace that money from, given that your revised estimated expenses are somewhat lower, to the tune of $34 million or so?

Mr Colvin : As a CEO under the PGPA Act I obviously have obligations to try to meet my budget. To do that I have to prioritise the work that I do, and counterterrorism will always be a high priority. It means that we will make assessments of other business that we are doing and we will triage according to what those priorities tell me I can afford to do or not to do. Most of the work we do is a priority.

Senator PRATT: Which areas can you point to that are likely to be impacted by that?

Mr Colvin : Our core operational areas around our organised crime work, our drug work and some of our fraud work are things that I do have some ability to turn on or turn off, according to other priorities.

Senator PRATT: So organised crime, fraud and drug work.

Senator WATT: That kind of work may have to be scaled back because of budgetary constraints if you are to prioritise counter-terrorism work. I think everyone would agree that counterterrorism is—

Mr Colvin : I think there is always more crime than any police force can deal with 100 per cent for every single crime. We have to make judgements about what we do and what we do not do.

Senator PRATT: Okay. Well, that is of concern—particularly looking forward beyond 2016-17 to 2019-20, where there is some $100 million less to federal policing and national security in the forward estimates. Now, given that you have outlined the impact of what a $36 million cut looks like, a $100 million cut in the future is going to have to be more substantial. Clearly, if you continue to prioritise counterterrorism, as we will have to, that can only mean a substantial change to those other areas.

Mr Colvin : Yes, that is logical. However, the forward estimates show known budget changes at the point of the forward estimates being published. In that, of course I am sure that in my discussions with government there will be measures that will cease and there will be measures that will start. That is part of the funding cycle that all agencies go through.

Mr Wood : For example, the forward estimates include the anticipated transfer of the criminal history checking service that we currently do across to ACIC. That is around $23 million-odd, if I remember the number correctly. But it also includes the fact that we are being funded at the moment for a certain level of operational capability in places like the Solomon Islands, Timor and Papua New Guinea. Those amounts terminate during the period of the forward estimates and we will go back to government in normal budget cycles to bid for an appropriate level of ongoing funding for the scale of those missions.

Senator PRATT: Okay.

Mr Wood : So there are items in there that are terminating measures, well documented in various PBS, and the government will receive submissions from the AFP on whether or not they should be refreshed during that forward estimate period. But certainly, the transfer of work for, say, criminal history is an example: 20 per cent of the figure you have just mentioned is actually moving from the AFP across to another agency within the portfolio.

Senator PRATT: Okay. Are you able to take on notice for us whether you can identify—

Mr Wood : Each of the terminating measures will be—

Senator PRATT: where that $100 million is being diverted to? Is it being displaced or cut—

Mr Colvin : Yes. We can certainly give the committee a sense of how much of it is for measures that are ending and how much of it is just a reduction in our budget.

Senator PRATT: Yes. That would be terrific. And that is relevant to my next line of questioning, which is about your international police assistance. Indeed, having visited the Solomon Islands, I certainly appreciate the importance of the AFP's international police work, and also its work in Timor-Leste. It is an important role

I note that in 2016-17 $226 million-odd has been provided for international police assistance. That is correct, isn't it?

Mr Colvin : That would be an aggregated amount, but that sounds about right. That would be across a number of different missions.

Senator PRATT: In 2018-19, only $192 million has been budgeted. That is $30 million in reduced spending on international police assistance work. For a start, is that part of that $100 million?

Mr Colvin : It would be, yes.

Senator PRATT: Why has it been reduced? Are you expecting any reinstatement of any of that money?

Mr Colvin : There are a few different measures there. The current mission in the Solomon Islands, known as RAMSI, the Solomon Islands assistance mission, actually formally comes to an end on 30 June this year. So we are in current discussions with the government, as we are with the Solomon Islands government, about what a bilateral program would look like for the AFP going forward. That is a decision of government that they will make about funding for future years from 2016-17 on. That will be in that $100 million. Also, the government have recently announced a rollover of 18 months worth of funding for Papua New Guinea but, of course, 18 months will run out in that period of time. And I believe our mission in Timor-Leste runs out on 30 June 2018. So that would be in that as well.

Senator PRATT: Okay. So the government has pocketed the cut for the purpose of the forward estimates, but have you got live negotiations going on as to the extent to which there might be an ongoing mission?

Mr Colvin : Yes, it is a constant discussion with the government about these terminating or lapsing measures and what the government would like from us in terms of forward programs.

Senator WATT: Can I just clarify one thing, Commissioner. When we were asking questions about what is classified in your budget papers as federal policing and national security, I think Mr Wood mentioned that possibly one of the reasons for that budget cut was that money that is currently being spent on activities in places like the Solomon Islands internationally might be withdrawn. But there is actually a separate budget item.

Mr Colvin : To be fair, Senator, I was talking whole-of-AFP level, I must admit, yes.

Senator WATT: Yes. So just returning quickly to the issue of what your budget papers say are federal policing and national security expenses, there is a budget cut as currently proposed of about $100 million. And you have mentioned part of that is about the transfer of the—was it called the CrimTrac service?

Mr Colvin : The criminal history service.

Senator WATT: Criminal history service. But those comments you made about the Solomons: they are more applicable to the budget cuts under the international police assistance line item, if you like. Is that correct?

Mr Wood : You are correct. We took on notice to go through line by line what all the ons and offs are. I will make sure that those are actually under each of the headings. I apologise. You are quite right; I gave an answer to the whole-of-AFP budget.

Senator WATT: I understand you were talking about it in a different sense, but I just wanted to clarify that.

Commissioner, thank you for taking on notice the request for some detail there. Are you able to advise the committee of any operations that are funded under your federal policing and national security line items that will cease as a result of these budget cuts?

Mr Colvin : Yes, we do. The National Anti-Gang Taskforce funding will lapse in that period.

Senator WATT: How much is that one, do you know?

Mr Wood : In 2016-17 it is a reduction of $6.3 million, but, again, we will get the full forward estimates in the more complete answer we give you.

Mr Colvin : To be fair, I think we should perhaps go away and get the exact measures that will fall off in that period.

Senator WATT: And presumably your police officers are entitled to wage increases year on year.

Mr Colvin : We are currently in an enterprise agreement bargaining period. The current EA lapsed. At the moment we are in a bargaining period for a new one. Assuming that we get enterprise agreement through, I am sure the members would have an expectation that it includes a pay rise.

Senator WATT: But those budget figures do not figure in any pay rise at the moment

Mr Colvin : Correct.

Mr Wood : The commissioner mentioned targeting illicit gun crime. The National Anti-gang Taskforce, the—

Senator WATT: Sorry, what was the one before the anti-gangs?

Mr Wood : Targeting illicit gun crime.

Senator WATT: Is that a task force as well?

Mr Colvin : It was a particular measure that we were funded for.

Mr Wood : National anti-gangs, the joint police task force in relation to registered organisations commission, the trade union royal commission. We have funding for protecting the AFP, that was announced in recent budgets. That money was spent on enhancing the hardening up of our buildings et cetera. Therefore it drops off the budget in out years. We will go through and specify which years and which amounts, but those are just four examples.

Senator PRATT: Would you provide the list of programs and when they expire.

Mr Wood : Yes. Those are four examples of the specific measures that do terminate in the forward estimates.

Senator PRATT: Thank you. I think you have covered this. I was seeking a guarantee that that $30 million cut will have no impact on your programs, but it is hard to tell given some of them may yet be renegotiated—

Mr Colvin : That is correct.

Senator PRATT: and require forward estimates funding that is not there.

Mr Colvin : In terms of the things that we may need to stop doing, of course, that is in the future as new matters come on. It does not affect matters I have got on hand at the moment.

Senator PRATT: Because they would be due to terminate, in the main? They are not ongoing commitments?

Mr Colvin : Correct.

Senator PRATT: Thank you.

Senator WATT: Commissioner, these questions just arise from some questions that were asked at the Finance and Public Administration committee yesterday and the senators who asked these questions were told that they needed to be directed to the Federal Police.

Mr Colvin : Oh, okay.

Senator WATT: They did the flick pass to you.

Mr Colvin : I did not see those, but thank you, Senator.

Senator WATT: They concern the cost of security being provided at the Prime Minister's personal residence. Does the AFP provide protection at Prime Minister Turnbull's harbour-side mansion at Point Piper?

Mr Colvin : There are a few things I would like to say on this topic, but the short answer to your question is yes. As a matter of longstanding practice, we provide security to the residence of the Prime Minister.

Senator WATT: Do you have a figure there for what those costs are?

Mr Colvin : I know the figure but we do not put it on the public record. That is not something that we have ever done and would do. I noticed some media reporting this morning, which, frankly, I was very disappointed to read—media reporting specifically talking about numbers of officers protecting a premises and amounts. It is my view that it is never appropriate for public commentary on security arrangements of Australian high office holders. That is not something that I am seeking to change tonight, but I will say that the reporting that was in the press this morning—and has been in the press recently—about the Prime Minister's residence is actually inaccurate.

Senator WATT: Inaccurate?

Mr Colvin : Correct.

Senator WATT: I can well understand that it is not in anyone's interest to give details of what security is provided, but you are saying there is a longstanding practice where the dollars spent are not disclosed either?

Mr Colvin : That is correct. We will talk in general terms about our overall protection spend, which is on a number of different responsibilities that we have, but we do not talk about specific spend because you could extrapolate from that how many people we have got involved in the protection.

Senator WATT: Does the Prime Minister make any personal contribution towards the cost of that security?

Mr Colvin : The Prime Minister is very conscious of security at his personal residence and he does have strong security in place that has been purchased privately. On occasion he will pay for things himself, yes, because it is his own private security.

Senator WATT: Private security or Federal Police?

Mr Colvin : He does not pay for my officers or the work that I do, but, like any citizen, he is entitled to provide certain measures for his own personal residence, and he does that.

Senator WATT: So is the Federal Police who protect his residence at Point Piper paid for by taxpayers?

Mr Colvin : Yes.

Senator WATT: That has been a past precedent?

Mr Colvin : Yes, and not all prime ministers—

Senator WATT: Have a harbourside mansion.

Mr Colvin : No, not all come from Sydney.

Senator WATT: Sure. In addition to that, he hires his own security guards, effectively?

Mr Colvin : No, I should be clear. When I say 'security', it is physical security: measures that he has taken to secure his own premises.

Senator WATT: But he does not make any personal contribution to the cost of Federal Police officers there?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator WATT: So there would be no invoicing of him or anything like that in that case?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator WATT: Has there been a consequential reduction in policing costs at Kirribilli House?

Mr Colvin : We have responsibilities to protect official establishments such as Kirribilli and of course Admiralty House, which is all on the same footprint. So we do protect that. We move our resources around according to the threat. I do not wish to say publicly whether we have increased or decreased security at Kirribilli and Admiralty House.

Senator WATT: I am not going to ask you to disclose the dollar figures, but do you know whether the cost of providing Federal Police officers at Mr Turnbull's Point Piper residence is greater than what has been incurred providing police protection at former prime ministers' personal residences?

Mr Colvin : The costs will differ because the arrangements differ. I do not wish to be drawn on whether it is higher or lower because what we normally do is remove resources around according to the threat. So there will be times when we may have had more officers or more need to protect a facility that a Prime Minister was living in and there would be times when we felt that the risk was such that we could treat it with less resources. It varies significantly.

Senator WATT: The situation here is that, as a result of Prime Minister's decision as to where he lives or sleeps on a particular night, there are costs incurred providing Federal Police officers at Point Piper but also there are costs incurred in protecting Kirribilli House—

Mr Colvin : Kirribilli House and Admiralty House, yes.

Senator WATT: and the Lodge as well?

Mr Colvin : Yes. When a Prime Minister is in residence there is more cost than when nobody is in residence, for instance. As when the Prime Minister travels to Melbourne there is additional expense for me to secure wherever his lodgings are in Melbourne.

Senator WATT: But it would be fair to assume that, if the Prime Minister did not live in his personal residence at Point Piper, those costs would not to be incurred.

Mr Colvin : No, I do not think it is fair to assume that, Senator, because we would still need to put security on the known residence of the Prime Minister.

Senator WATT: Thank you.

CHAIR: Just before I pass to Senator Xenophon and Senator Leyonhelm, did these same arrangements apply when Mr Rudd, who is a multimillionaire, was Prime Minister? Do you recall?

Mr Colvin : Chair, I do not wish to get involved in personalities, obviously. Every Prime Minister regardless of where they come from has a private home that we generally protect particularly if they are living in that home.

CHAIR: So Mr Rudd had a private home in Brisbane,—

Mr Colvin : He did.

CHAIR: which was subject to the same sort of security, and he also had Kirribilli House which was subject to the same security.

Mr Colvin : That is correct, Chair.

CHAIR: So that applied to Mr Rudd who—this is irrelevant to my questions—was a multimillionaire, I understand. Did he ever contribute to AFP costs for either his own private house or Kirribilli House?

Mr Colvin : I could not say, Chair, I would have to check that. Of course the measures to protect that residence would be very different to the measures to protect a different residence.

CHAIR: Of course.

Mr Colvin : I cannot compare apples and apples because they are not.

CHAIR: I actually knew the answers, I was just sort of making the comparison. I am not quite sure what those previous questions were about but, as I have understood from my long experience at these sorts of hearings, that is a very standard procedure.

Senator Brandis: I think you will find that Mr Rudd had two residences in Queensland, one in suburban Brisbane and one at Sunshine Beach.

CHAIR: Would they have both been subjected to AFP protection?

Mr Colvin : If the Prime Minister was at any time lodging in them then they would have been subject to protection.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. Senator Leyonhelm.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I have one question for Commissioner Colvin. At the previous estimates I asked about Mossack Fonseca and the Panama Papers. You outlined that evidence had been seized including silver bullion and that no-one had yet been charged. Has anyone been charged since then and do you still hold the silver bullion?

Mr Colvin : No-one has been charged, I am advised, and I think we would still hold the silver bullion because the investigation is ongoing.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Is it anticipated that there will be a prosecution and that the bullion will be confiscated or used in evidence or both?

Mr Colvin : Potentially both but that is still subject to an ongoing investigation.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Is a prosecution anticipated?

Mr Colvin : That will depend on where the investigation takes us.

Senator LEYONHJELM: All right, I give up, thank you.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Colvin, thank you very much for your opening statement addressing the matters raised in respect of mental health issues, issues of bullying and harassment and, of course, the cultural change report following the independent review, which I understand was released in August of last year, conducted by Elizabeth Broderick and team. I also note you are familiar with the news reports by Megan Palin from News Limited. My office has been contacted by numerous current and former AFP agents in recent times and I am grateful for the meeting that I had with your chief of staff recently in Adelaide, and that was quite helpful.

I do have a number of concerns. With a number of the AFP officers I have spoken to there is a common theme. They actually say they trust you. They believe you are generally committed to bringing about cultural change. But they do not feel the same way about middle management in the organisation. I make that as an observation. It is something that was said to me on a number of occasions, which I find interesting, from unrelated parties. Take what you will from that. There is a lot of trust in you and your integrity to deal with this issue.

Can I ask you very quickly, because time is limited, and I will put many questions on notice: in terms of the Broderick report, you have said that you have implemented seven of the recommendations. On notice, can you tell us what those recommendations are and how you have implemented them. Also, can you comment in respect of the balance of the recommendations? The sorts of matters raised by Ms Broderick referred to a lack of trust in the reporting system; believing that a complaint can have a negative impact on a member's career—and that is a common theme that officers are still concerned about, as we heard directly from Ms Broderick; and the prevalence of bullying and harassment. Can you tell us when the balance of the recommendations will be implemented and how they will be implemented? I know that will take a fair bit of detail, but if you could provide that that would be very useful to those officers who have contacted me.

Mr Colvin : Absolutely. Very briefly, of course I am aware of the News Limited reports, and I do know that people have contacted you and News Limited. Thank you for your comments. It troubles me, of course, that I have former and/or current members who still hold concerns. What I would say to them is that we have embarked on a journey that will not end quickly. We will be doing this for the long term. A lot of the work that Elizabeth Broderick has done already takes us a long way towards resolving some of those issues. We will absolutely put that on the record because I want to make it very public where we are with the 24 recommendations, particularly the ones we have already completed, but also more broadly with our mental health programs. We have a very robust mental health program. But, like any program, it is only as good as the last time that we updated it and made sure it was still relevant. That is the work we are doing, and which I am sure your constituents who have contacted you are concerned about, to make sure that we are updating and listening to their concerns.

Senator XENOPHON: There is also the issue of welfare officers. There seems to be some conjecture as to where the welfare officers are, whether they are specifically dedicated to AFP officers. I understand there was an ad online for a welfare support officer only yesterday. Can you briefly tell us what that is about?

Mr Colvin : Yes, I can. We removed full-time, in-office welfare officers a very long time ago. We moved to a more professional mental health regime where members of the AFP could reach out to professionals and clinicians to get advice. What has been overwhelming to me—

Senator XENOPHON: Sorry, I do not want to interrupt your reply, but one of the issues is that, in a sense, going to an external provider they felt that there was not continuity or understanding of their pressures as officers, and sometimes people would end up with different case managers in terms of their employee support.

Mr Colvin : I think that is right. What has been very clear to me recently—but it actually goes back to before the more recent tragic events that were well publicised in Melbourne—is that our officers want someone they can look at, feel and touch, who sits in an office across from them, in our locations across Australia, rather than someone on the other end of the phone who they need to make an appointment with. So we moved very quickly. We were already looking to introduce this as part of a holistic package. We did not wish to wait. The overwhelming view of the work force was that we need to do this. The online advert you were talking about went out yesterday, asking for members to self-select who they thought could perform a more general wellbeing/welfare officer role. These people will not be professionals. What they will be is someone you can sit and have a coffee with, and talk to about your problems. We will provide them with some basic triage training so they can determine what is a problem that needs professional help and what is a problem that might just need someone with a helpful ear, if you like.

Senator XENOPHON: So with the benefit of hindsight you are now shifting to a model of having in-house welfare support officers.

Mr Colvin : That will be part of the model, yes, but I am not going to wait until the model is completely finished and rolled out; we are doing that immediately.

Senator XENOPHON: That is a positive change. I think many officers will see that as a positive change. Will there be welfare officers in each state, or will they be travelling around the country seeing officers? How will it work?

Mr Colvin : No, the intention is that they will be permanently in each of our major locations, because the travelling concept, which we have now, is not satisfying people.

Senator XENOPHON: Alright, so there has been a change in relation to that. I would also like to put some questions on notice. I am also conscious that it seems a trigger for the number of people to come forward is some recent tragic events. I do not think it is helpful to traverse that, for a whole range of reasons, so I do not want to go there.

Mr Colvin : Thank you, Senator.

Senator XENOPHON: I will put some questions on notice. I will put some of them to you—I do not want you to answer them now—to give you an idea of the scope of them. What is the annual cost of the AFP's insurance premiums and what percentage of them are psychological claims? How many of them are bullying claims and accepted by Comcare? How many bullying incidents have been reported? What percentage of members with a psychological injury are successfully rehabilitated back into their original work area, and what is the timeframe? What percentage of physical injuries develop into psychological injuries because of the stigma surrounding having a Comcare claim and the issues of support? In terms of the mental health strategy, if you could outline that further—on notice. In terms of mental health education, are there any mental health training programs within the AFP? I will put some more questions on notice on that. Do your psychologists have clinical training that usually involves specialist training and a masters degree? What mental health qualifications do the rehab case managers in the AFP possess, especially when dealing with complex psychological injuries such as PTSD? In relation to that, I have spoken to officers who have described in the course of their duty protecting and serving the community some pretty horrific and terrible, terrible things where they feel that they were not supported and it was almost as though they were punished for putting in a claim. It concerns me. That is something that does really concern me. What sanctions or jurisdiction does the HR rehab team have to override medical certificates; read and decipher complex psychological medical reports; initiate a medical assessment and to ignore medical advice and reports, and/or the advice of Comcare's independent adviser? That seems to be a theme that has emerged. What mechanisms are there if there is an allegation of bullying from senior management? What is the reporting mechanism? It seems that there is a concern that reporting systems are not operating as well as they can. I think it is best that I put those questions on notice, but do you have any general comments about the reforms that are taking place?

Mr Colvin : We could probably answer 80 per cent of your questions now, but it would take the next couple of hours.

Senator XENOPHON: I would not want to upset the chair.

Mr Colvin : Your questions are the right questions and they get to the nub of the issue. It pains me that members may feel unsupported or that we have not put in place the proper mechanisms to support them, because there is no doubt in my mind that the work that AFP officers do is traumatic at times, and I know that the Australian community appreciates it, so we need to make sure that they are properly supported in doing that. I think it is best that we answer on notice in full, but I have said many times that I want a change. Some of the issues come from the Broderick work, which we knew about, and we needed to make reforms. If there is bullying by my senior officers then I have been very clear on the record to them personally and publicly that I have no tolerance for that and there will be action taken. Of course I need to know about it, and I am trying to create an environment where people feel more safe and secure to bring forward these allegations. I accept that I do not have that at the moment.

Senator XENOPHON: Because we are running out of time, and we are way over time, I would like you to outline something very briefly. If someone has initiated a complaint and feels that they are not getting anywhere—obviously you cannot deal with complaints as to their merits—will you be establishing some mechanism, taskforce or process to deal with issues if an officer feels that their matter is not being dealt with satisfactorily?

Mr Colvin : That is the safe place concept. Previously, reports were made to a professional standards regime, and that is where the members felt wholly unsupported. The safe place regime gives people an opportunity to go around that process, if you like.

Senator XENOPHON: I understand that, but my understanding of the safe place—and please correct me if I am wrong—is that the safe place concept is such that, if you have a formal complaint of bullying, harassment, an assault or whatever, that actually goes beyond the scope of the safe place concept and it is an alternative pathway. Is that your understanding? Perhaps I misunderstood it.

Mr Colvin : Yes, if the matter is criminal or if the matter involves corruption then it will go beyond the safe place, because there is a much more formal mechanism. If the matter relates to bullying and harassment, there are a number of options open to the alleged victim to work with us. If they are not happy then they will elevate it to senior officers, including me.

Senator XENOPHON: I think the AFPA represents the majority of sworn officers. I think there is pretty good coverage in your organisation. Is there a liaison mechanism? Is there an open method of communication so that these matters can be dealt with as expeditiously as possible?

Mr Colvin : The AFPA represents not just sworn but also unsworn, and they are a very active part. Certainly they bring matters to us when they feel that a matter is not being dealt with adequately. But it is my stated intention—and my discussion with the chief executive officer of the AFPA—that I want them very closely aligned with what we are doing here.

Senator XENOPHON: If constituents come to me, or to other members and senators, and say that people are not getting anywhere and they feel that they have a genuine grievance and that the process is not working, what do I do? What do I tell them? Do I tell them to go to their association, or is there someone in your office that is a contact point for these matters? What is the appropriate process?

Mr Colvin : A lot of them come to me anyway, to be quite frank, and I am very happy to receive direct messages from the organisation. What I invariably say to them, though, is to go back to the safe place first and foremost and make sure that they have exhausted the mechanisms there. They also, of course, have the option of the association if they are members of our association, but I have a very open-door policy in terms of members coming to me directly, and many have.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. This is my final line of questioning and it is very brief. Defence has gone through a similar process. In fact, there has been a Senate inquiry in respect of issues of Defence abuse allegations, and they have gone through a huge process of cultural change, and there is still more work to be done. Whilst you are completely separate and quite different organisations, do you think there are any lessons to be learnt from Defence by contacting your colleagues in Defence as to how they have dealt with these issues?

Mr Colvin : I am happy to plagiarise any good ideas that anybody has. I am certainly talking to Defence about their experiences, and in fact a very senior officer—

Senator XENOPHON: It is not plagiarism if you acknowledge it, so that is okay.

Mr Colvin : Exactly. A very senior officer from Defence, with HR background and experience, will shortly be starting in a band 2 SES role with the AFP. That is one of the reasons.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. I will be following this up subsequently, but again I emphasise that the officers I have spoken to have a lot of faith in you and your office to try to deal with these matters in a fair and appropriate manner.

Mr Colvin : Thank you. I appreciate that.

CHAIR: I have Senator McKim and then Senator Roberts. I cannot restrict your questioning, but bear in mind we are now 50 minutes late for dinner and we are going to finish with the AFP before we go to dinner.

Senator McKIM: Yes, we would not want to get beyond you and a good feed, Chair! Can I firstly welcome—

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman—

CHAIR: Senator McKim, why do you always have to be nasty?

Senator McKIM: I am happy to withdraw it, Chair.

CHAIR: I do not want to get between the officers sitting in this room and their dinner. I have some consideration for them, and clearly you do not.

Senator Brandis: Mr Chairman, I am sorry to interrupt, but both the commissioner and I—and the secretary, of course—are required at a cabinet subcommittee meeting at 7.

Senator McKIM: If it helps, I expect—given that obviously I do not know how long the answers will be—that perhaps five to six minutes would pull me up. I do not know about Senator Roberts, but I will do my best to be brief.

CHAIR: I think Senator Roberts's questions, with respect, have already been canvassed, so they may be rather short.

Senator McKIM: I am happy to try to facilitate that. That is important business.

Commissioner, good evening. These questions are in the same vein as Senator Xenophon's, and we spoke about this last time you were here: the response to the Broderick report. I then asked about the rate of complaints post the Broderick report and I think you and I agreed that, in some circumstances, you might expect an increase in complaints—

Mr Colvin : Yes.

Senator McKIM: as confidence grows that that will be responded to acceptably. In your response on notice you said that Safe Place has received 95 referrals, but that providing a response to contrast previous historical recordings will be more meaningful at the six month interval, which I think we are at now. Could you provide a response to the rate of complaint compared to historically.

Mr Colvin : Yes, I can. We anticipated that. I will hand over to Assistant Commissioner Ray Johnson, who heads Reform, Culture and Standards.

Mr Ray Johnson : I can report on the period from 22 August to 21 February 2017, which is a six month period. I will break these figures down into Safe Place referrals and the Confidant Network, which is a connected part of the organisation which has been a longstanding part of the organisation where these sometimes come to as well, and matters directly to our professional standards regime. Total referrals in that period of time were 305. That is broken down subsequently into: matters initially referred as potentially sexual assault—nine; sexual harassment—19; what would fit under the category of bullying and harassment—113; assault, potential assault—three; and in the category of 'other'—161. Sometimes people come to the Confidant Network for support for a range of things which might be just helping them through an administrative process or an issue they might have in a conflict in the workplace, so 'other' would include that.

In terms of 22 February through to 21 August, which picks up the Safe Place referrals as well, I will make these comparisons. The total referrals—sorry, that was the entire period for the 12 months from this time last year all the way through—that was the total sum of all of them.

Senator McKIM: So it was for February to February?

Mr Ray Johnson : Yes, that is right.

Mr Colvin : Basically, for the six months since 22 August—so since the Broderick report—it is 305 referrals.

Senator McKIM: And what was it for the six months prior?

Mr Colvin : For the six months prior it was 159 referrals. As much as I would rather it be zero referrals, of course, I do take some comfort that I have an organisation that is understanding that it is right and proper and safe to come forward.

Senator McKIM: And potentially a high level of confidence in the way your agency would respond?

Mr Colvin : I hope so, yes.

Senator McKIM: I have some other questions, but I will put them on notice in the interests of time. Can I ask about the level of support available for AFP officers who have potentially suffered from PTSD? Commissioner, do you think there are potentially cultural issues within the AFP that may prevent officers from seeking support for PTSD?

Mr Colvin : We are a microcosm society, and I think with mental illness and PTSD there are cultures in society that make it difficult for people to want to come forward. I think there is anecdotal evidence across law enforcement that that is more exacerbated in law enforcement because we are a paramilitary organisation, and nobody wants to acknowledge vulnerabilities and weakness. We are working hard to overcome that stigma but, for more broad information about what services are available, I will ask my chief operating officer to answer that.

Mr Wood : To summarise, Senator, firstly we put a chief medical officer in charge of the area that is responsible for progressing our mental health strategy. She has just returned from a trip overseas to look at best practice in like organisations, and I will finish on that point in a moment. There are 5.6 full-time psychologists in the organisation, a full-time chaplain plus six others throughout the country. We have two social workers within ACT Policing and the particular requirements within that sort of policing, plus one social worker who works particularly with family members of AFP employees who have been posted overseas, so we are looking after the family members who are back here in Australia while they are overseas.

The Confidant Network, which we have mentioned briefly a couple of times, has 121 members across the country that people can confide in. Then, as we have referred to a couple of times, we have a contract with an external employee assistance provider which has 790 registered psychs and social workers throughout the country that our staff have access to. Eighty per cent of the contact with that group is face-to-face, not by telephone, and the take-up rate is pretty high. Very quickly, the lessons from overseas are, firstly, that we need to make sure we have that right combination of clinical expertise with the trust and credibility of a local member of the workforce who people are comfortable approaching. The commissioner talked earlier about the role of internal welfare officers. Secondly, we need to have a systemic approach, not a whole lot of ad hoc activities, and that is part of what we definitely have to improve on. Thirdly, the role of families, particularly in relation to PTSD, is absolutely crucial, because generally the family will recognise the behavioural change first, and generally the family is the biggest sufferer from the behavioural change.

Senator McKIM: Commissioner, would you categorise the way your agency is responding to this issue of PTSD as trying to make continual improvements to the way that you support your officers who may be suffering from PTSD?

Mr Colvin : Yes, I think policing has taken too long and has been too slow to realise that PTSD was a real issue with first responders and police work. I think we have had—for good reason—an overreliance on clinical expertise, and we now need to bring a balance, as the chief operating officer has said, to a role with a more familiar face as well. We are learning very quickly. All law enforcement agencies around this country and also overseas are learning very quickly that we have work to do on PTSD.

Senator McKIM: Thank you, I will place another couple of questions on notice about that. My final line of questions is with regard to the Australian Federal Police National Guideline on International Police-to-Police Assistance in Death Penalty Matters. Would there be any problem with providing a copy of that to the committee?

Mr Colvin : No problem at all. I think we have provided it to the committee before, and we will do it again.

Senator McKIM: It has been put to me that the guideline potentially creates too much pressure on individual officers to make what can, at times, be life or death decisions. Do you think that is a fair criticism?

Mr Colvin : I understand where that is coming from, because we have tried to limit the number of officers who can make those judgements about whether to pass or not in certain circumstances—the guideline is very clear about what the circumstances are. It is a balance. I do not want to have too many officers, because I do not want there to be inconsistency in the way that the guideline is applied. It has never been raised with me, nor have I reason to think, that there is too much pressure on any one individual officer to make those decisions. I certainly know who they are, and I talk to them about the decisions. So, no, I do not think that is a concern. I think the greater concern for me would be if I had inconsistency in the way the guideline was being applied.

Senator McKIM: To the best of your knowledge, that inconsistency does not exist?

Mr Colvin : No, because I have a limited number of people who can make those decisions.

Senator McKIM: So, in your view there is no need for the guideline to be clearer or even reviewed in any way?

Mr Colvin : We keep the guideline under constant review, and it is certainly an issue that is topical, both in the media and within the parliament, but I think the guideline is working effectively at the moment to meet our law enforcement, security and crime relationship needs, and also to balance that with the very strong objection that the Australian government has, and has a policy position on: that we stand against the death penalty.

Senator ROBERTS: First of all, I want to express my appreciation for the Federal Police's support and advice, not only for what they do but how they do it—their manner. My first question is to the commissioner. Were any threats of violence made against the Australian Christian Lobby in the year prior to the bombing?

Mr Colvin : I do not wish to link the two together. We understand, from the Australian Christian lobby, post the incident last year, that there were some concerns that they had with threatening phone calls, but the two issues are not related.

Senator ROBERTS: Does the Australian Federal Police collect national statistics on crimes committed by cultural, religious, ideological or racial groups?

Mr Colvin : No, we do not.

Senator ROBERTS: Are you aware that in the United States the FBI collects these statistics and considers them an important part of the data available to analyse and respond to crime?

Mr Colvin : I am not aware of that. I would want to talk to my FBI colleagues, because I would find it unusual if they collected it in the manner that you have described.

Senator ROBERTS: Thank you very much. I will put the rest of my questions on notice.

CHAIR: The hearing is suspended.

Proceedings suspended 18:59 to 20:03