Monday, 18 June 2007
Australian Crime Commission Committee; Report
On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, I present the committee’s report entitled Examination of the Australian Crime Commission annual report 2005-2006, together with evidence received by the committee.
Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.
If only it were normally so easy to have resolutions pass through this House! The report was tabled by the chair of the committee, Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald, on 13 June 2007 in the Senate. I will not repeat the whole of the tabling statement. I will, however, refer the House to the principal finding of the committee:
2.181 The committee found that the ACC appears to be working efficiently and effectively, with appropriate and extensive governance and accountability arrangements and a clear sense of purpose and direction in achieving its goal of enhanced Australian law enforcement capacity.
The committee’s report on this occasion did not make specific recommendations but, as the chair has reported in the Senate, it highlighted a number of recommendations from our previous reports as being of enduring relevance and worth. We would urge that this House, the Senate and the executive government—together, of course, with the Crime Commission itself—act to ensure that they are implemented. These include the recommendation that the Commissioner of Taxation be appointed to the board of the Australian Crime Commission, a recommendation that is awaiting a government response, and a further recommendation that the Australian Crime Commission annually prepare and release a declassified version of the Picture of Criminality in Australia report. I understand work is proceeding on such an unclassified report. The government accepted this recommendation in its response of 17 August last year.
We do look forward to this publication. It would serve the kind of purpose that the Defence white paper provides for Defence spending and initiatives, allowing an informed public debate. Not only has the committee itself on repeated occasions called for such an unclassified version of the report, a practice that was suspended after the election of the Howard government replacing the former Keating government where this initiative was first implemented; now that it has been adopted in principle and the process is being gone through, we can only hope that it is brought out early enough so that we have a serious and substantive debate on issues confronting our law enforcement community rather than the kind of hyperbolic, disconnected-from-reality debates that too often characterise pre-election posturing in election debates in Australia.
Might I also mention the abiding issue that is referred to by the chair regarding how performance can be measured in an accurate, meaningful and useful way in law enforcement. We welcome in this report the Australian Crime Commission’s current efforts, in partnership with an academic institution and a partner agency, to develop a system to better measure the effectiveness and value of intelligence information, and the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement generally. This is an issue that requires serious examination. I do not purport here to speak on behalf of the committee, but my own reflections over at least two decades of public involvement in law enforcement say that there may be some merit in having a Productivity Commission examination of law enforcement across the nation, not with a view to be destructive and to try and impose some kind of neoliberal philosophical straitjacket on the way in which we approach law enforcement but to try and get some rigour into assessment of efficiency and effectiveness in the law enforcement environment.
I very much welcome the ACC’s initiatives in this regard, to step out some of the ground that needs to be marked in order to have a serious and effective examination of an area where we do spend very large amounts of public resources. We expect our law enforcement resources to be utilised effectively and wisely and yet we have not yet developed effective and comprehensive assessment mechanisms for their operational effectiveness. I do not want to discount what the police do or what the Australian Crime Commission or our intelligence agencies do, but developing some sort of effective overarching mechanism of assessment would be in the public interest. I thank the chair for the opportunity to make these comments. (Time expired)