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Thursday, 18 November 2004
Page: 70

Senator LUDWIG (2:35 PM) —My question is to Senator Ellison, the Minister for Justice and Customs. I draw the minister's attention to the 2003-04 CrimTrac annual report and the Auditor-General's audit report on the implementation of CrimTrac. I ask why last November there was a shortfall of capital funding for the development of the Australian national child offender register. Can the minister advise whether this capital funding shortfall delayed the implementation of the register which replaced the national child sex offender system? Is it not the case that CrimTrac advised the Auditor-General that there were insufficient staffing resources in the CPRS capability development team to progress this report? Was it not also the case that the Commonwealth guaranteed $50 million for the establishment of CrimTrac under the intergovernmental agreement and, at the time of the last audit, $17.1 million of the $50 million remained unspent?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Australian National Child Offender Register requires the cooperation of all jurisdictions and we had hoped to have it in place by the end of June this year. I launched it on 1 September, with the agreement of all states and territories. If Senator Ludwig wants to look at any delay with this register, he needs to look at the fact that all states and territories, with the exception of New South Wales, have yet to pass legislation. CrimTrac has in place the Australian National Child Offender Register—it is there, set up and ready to go—but we do need legislation in the states and territories.

I fully appreciate that the states and territories are willing to take part in this—that the intention is there—but if the opposition is going to say that it is the fault of the Commonwealth government, then let us look at it and see just why there was that delay. In arriving at an agreement as to how this should be run, there was a difference between the attorneysgeneral of the states and territories and the police ministers. I can go further into that. I had a meeting with a state AttorneyGeneral and a state Minister for Police to broker an agreement between the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral and the Australasian Police Ministers Council. I am not about to divulge confidential discussions, but attorneysgeneral and the police ministers, who are all state and territory ministers, were trying to come to agreement on how this register would work. I can tell you that there was no problem at the Commonwealth level, none at all—we were quite set in what we wanted from this register—but if the opposition wants to pursue this we can go further into the issues that the Labor governments in the states and territories had internally about setting up this register.

Senator LUDWIG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, isn't it the case that the ANAO audit report found major irregularities with project management, including a lack of policies and project management guidance, an inconsistent application of the project definition and a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities for the project partners? Minister, in light of these criticisms by the AuditorGeneral, can you explain to the Senate how your lack of ministerial oversight contributed to the delay in implementation of the Australian National Child Offender Register?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —There was no lack of ministerial oversight in the setting up of the Australian National Child Offender Register. It is something that we have been pushing at the federal level for some time now, and it is a matter which I pursued at police ministers' councils and the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. We set up CrimTrac with a $50 million capital injection, and we always said that the states and territories would have to look at running costs into the future because they would be the recipients of the benefit of a national DNA database, of a national automated fingerprint base, a national automated palm print base, an Australian National Child Offender Register, a possible national register for firearms as well as other aspects. CrimTrac is doing a great job. There is no question about that. I totally reject that the Commonwealth has been responsible in any way for the delay of the Australian National Child Offender Register. (Time expired)