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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 1208

Senator PARRY (5:24 PM) —I also support Senator Brandis’s comments earlier and I rise to support the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill 2010. In particular I have an interest in the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Bill. This bill will be doing two things: first of all, expanding the role of the current Australian Crime Commission and changing the Australian Crime Commission PJC into the law enforcement PJC, which will then have responsibility for oversight of the Australian Crime Commission and, in addition, the Australian Federal Police.

The Australian Federal Police have not had an opportunity to report directly to a parliamentary committee, as the Australian Crime Commission has. The Australian Federal Police have really had the oversight through the estimates process, as all agencies and government departments do. By the very nature of the work that the Australian Federal Police undertake, to be able to report to a committee that can meet in camera and can take in camera evidence and can discuss things in a far more private way, it means that parliamentary oversight becomes far more effective. If officers, in particular senior officers, of the Australian Federal Police feel more comfortable discussing more sensitive issues with a parliamentary committee, which would be comprised of members of all sides of this parliament and also both houses, I think that will serve the oversight process far better than currently is the case when every single question is asked from a public scrutiny perspective. The public scrutiny perspective will still continue and is essential, but we need to have the additional ability for the Federal Police to be confident in being able to report to a committee and the committee having the confidence of maintaining a tight jurisdiction and oversight of the Australian Federal Police, as we do with the Australian Crime Commission.

I think that when the public elect members to parliament and the oversight of important agencies such as the Australian Federal Police occurs, the public need to know that the committees are bipartisan and have an ability to probe without damaging any operational aspects and without alarming the public in more sensitive areas. That is the role when you are dealing with agencies that have a more difficult and more secret aspect. However, having 10 parliamentarians with the ability to probe in more detail and feel comfortable probing in the format that a committee such as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement will enable, just adds scrutiny in a far better way to the parliamentary oversight process and should give the public more comfort. I am very, very supportive of that aspect of the bills that we are debating today.

As indicated by Senator Brandis earlier today, we will not be supporting the amendments proposed by the Greens. That is the only contribution I wish to make in relation to these bills, Madam Acting Deputy President Troeth, so I will not detain the Senate any further.