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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 5063

Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (16:59): It's my pleasure to make a contribution to this debate and to welcome a new minister to the table in charge of the portfolio that covers the Australian Federal Police. I have to say I had some mixed feelings when the new minister was appointed. It's part of politics. When you have someone competent running a portfolio in which you're shadowing, it's good for the country because it's probably going to make better public policy, but it makes my job a little more difficult. I was a bit concerned because, I have to say, the previous minister in this portfolio—I think I can get some support from the member for Moreton here—is widely agreed to be the most incompetent minister in this government. So I was pretty happy, actually, when he moved out of that portfolio. I thought, 'Finally, we're going to have someone who actually knows what they're doing and is going to sit around the cabinet table and fight for the Australian Federal Police and fight for this organisation.'

I had such disappointment in seeing the forward appropriations for the Australian Federal Police because, instead of what I expected—which was having a new minister in charge and that we might see a different approach—what I saw was a continuation of the policy of cutting into this crucial organisation. Deputy Speaker, I'm not sure that you got the opportunity to see much of Senate estimates in the last couple of weeks, but what we saw there was actually terrible. The Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Andrew Colvin, confirmed that the current budget again cuts into the Australian Federal Police. We see a reduction of $205 million over the coming four years. Commissioner Colvin was able to identify some specific areas where he is going to see cuts to the organisation. He talked about the organisation's ability to tackle fraud, illicit drugs and guns as the areas that would be most affected. Deputy Speaker Howarth, I know these are areas that you're concerned about. I certainly am. The last thing I want to see is the Australian Federal Police lose funding to tackle these issues.

Deputy Speaker, I know you'll also be concerned that the commissioner confirmed that staffing for the AFP is projected to be cut significantly over the coming four years. We would see cuts under the current budget from 6,448 personnel in 2018-19 to 5,881 personnel in 2021-22. That's a reduction of 567 AFP staff. This is an extraordinary cut. I want to make sure that we get these numbers on the record because I suspect I'm going to hear what I heard at the last appropriation discussion, and that was a minister arguing that the numbers in black and white in this budget are not what they seem to be. What I want to know from the minister is: how can he talk about his care for national security and all the important work the Australian Federal Police do while he's presiding over a $205 million cut to the organisation and a cut of 567 AFP staff?

In my meetings with law enforcement, I hear constantly about the very significant challenges they face, from the rise in cybercrime and transnational crime to trafficking in people, drugs and guns. Estimates also confirmed for us—the AFP commissioner told estimates directly—that referrals of drug matters have risen by nearly 300 per cent in three years and that victim based crime matters have risen by 200 per cent. Our AFP officers do some incredibly important and incredibly dangerous work. It is a very significant thing they do, something I've never done in my life: they put on a uniform every day and put themselves in potentially incredibly dangerous situations to try to protect Australians. I'll have more to say about some indications in the budget that the staffing arrangements for this organisation have also been hacked into.

I've asked the minister a question already, but I'll continue that list. I'd like the minister to confirm that he heard the AFP commissioner's evidence in estimates that the AFP will lose $205 million over the forward estimates. Does the minister dispute the AFP commissioner's evidence that the AFP ASL—their staffing levels—is projected to fall by 567 personnel over the forward estimates? Does the minister dispute the AFP commissioner's evidence that the government has cut funding for the AFP employee benefits by $55 million over the forward estimates? Why should 500 AFP personnel lose their jobs because of funding cuts when the government has enough money to give away $60 billion to big business, including $17 billion to the banks? Which officers of the AFP will lose their jobs? Can the minister guarantee that, after this $205 million, no funding cuts will be progressed in the organisation? And how can Australians trust the Turnbull government to keep them safe when it prioritises big-business tax cuts over funding for the people who fight every day to protect us?