House debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


Law Enforcement Committee; Report

10:38 am

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, I present the following reports: Inquiry into the gathering and use of criminal intelligence, Examination of the Australian Crime Commission annual report 2011-12and Examination of the Australian Federal Police annual report 2011-12.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the reports were made Parliamentary Papers.

By leave—I support the three reports of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement. I will direct my remarks to the inquiry into criminal intelligence before addressing the committee's examination of the ACC and the AFP annual reports respectively.

The committee initiated an inquiry into the gathering and use of criminal intelligence in May 2012. During the course of the inquiry, the committee received evidence from all Commonwealth, state and territory agencies engaged in gathering and using criminal intelligence. On behalf of the committee, I thank all those agencies and individuals who contributed to the inquiry and specifically acknowledge the cooperation of the Australian Crime Commission and its chief executive officer, Mr John Lawler.

The scope of information gathered and shared by agencies is reflected in the fact that over 450,000 information and intelligence products were uploaded to the ACC's criminal intelligence database in 2010-11. In 2010, 1.7 million individual searches of companies were conducted on the Australian Securities and Investment Commission's database. Evidence to the committee suggested that the level of cooperation across agencies is as it has ever been. There are numerous challenges and impediments which, quite frankly, limit intelligence sharing.

The inquiry brought to light serious legislative, technological and other challenges to the flow of intelligence, which has produced unequal intelligence holdings and incomplete pictures of crime threats and has undermined stakeholder confidence. Criminal intelligence is currently stored in more than 30 systems operated by law enforcement, police, national security and other government agencies with limited interoperability between them. Without a single consistent methodology for criminal intelligence, different agencies apply different approaches and methods and are at different stages in developing their criminal intelligence capabilities. The siloing of intelligence brought about by these challenges and the absence of an agreement on a consistent way to collect, collate, analyse, store and disseminate criminal intelligence was identified by the ACC as a primary obstacle to producing an interoperable criminal intelligence system and a complete picture of the criminal threat in Australia.

In late 2012 the 15 ACC board agencies, together with CrimTrac and the Australia New Zealand Police Advisory Agency, endorsed a proposal to establish an Australian criminal intelligence model in response to these challenges. The model, ACIM, brings together for the first time 17 agencies from three different and distinct operating environments: serious and organised crime, national security, policing and community safety.

The model seeks to provide a consistent approach to managing national intelligence assets across these three environments through the establishment of common standards, protocols and processes. During the inquiry the committee focused its attention on the development of the ACIM and the role of the Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies in relation to it. Matters raised concerned the appropriate handling and protection of intelligence shared from unauthorised disclosure and dealing with data duplication.

The committee made 12 recommendations relating to the use, gathering and sharing of criminal intelligence. These recommendations are directed at ensuring that the ACIM agencies are all accountable for the information and intelligence contributed to the national holding, which has in place a strong, accountable oversight regime. Amongst the recommendations, the committee supports the establishment of a national repository for criminal intelligence.

The committee highlighted the need to establish a repository that provides timely intelligence and interoperability across the respective agencies that complements the current databases as well as the information management systems operated by those agencies. The committee considered a number of options raised in the evidence in relation to a repository, including the establishment of the police Google system. The committee also highlighted the key determining factors for selecting the most appropriate repository including addressing legislative impediments, sovereignty, jurisdictional ownership and privacy considerations.

The committee considered a number of options raised in evidence in relation to a repository, including the establishment of a police Google system.

The committee also highlighted the key determining factors for selecting the most appropriate repository including the address of legislative impediments, sovereignty, jurisdictional ownership and privacy considerations.

The report goes into some detail about the determining factors raised in evidence which must be taken into consideration in the design of such a repository.

While the evidence brought to light the different systems, processes and approval mechanisms in place across law enforcement agencies, it also highlighted to the committee the complexities in establishing a national interoperable system.

However, while there were varying views about a national model and how it should be realised, no single agency or individual argued that the status quo provided an adequate criminal intelligence system.

The committee recognised that there are no quick fixes and the establishment of a national model is complex not least because cultural change is part of the solution. Flexibility and compromise will be required on the part of all involved agencies but there must be a risk appetite for and appreciation of the benefits from establishing these reforms.

The committee argues that it is critically important that all agencies invest in change, build on commonality and cooperate to provide full accountability and an interoperable national criminal intelligence model.

Examination of the ACC Annual Report 2011-12

I will now turn to the committee's report on the examination of the Australian Crime Commission's Annual Report. The committee has a statutory duty to examine the annual report of the Australian Crime Commission as well as the Australian Federal Police.

During its examination of the ACC Annual Report 2011-12, the committee focused its attentions on the ACC's key performance indicators and raised a number of concerns. Of a total of seven KPIs, three are quantitative measures of performance and the remainder are measured by stakeholder feedback.

The committee noted the complexities in measuring the ACC's results which have moved beyond the traditional methods of measuring law enforcement outcomes.

However, the committee recognised that the most useful of the ACC's KPIs would be enhanced if there were a balance between qualitative and quantitative indicators and targets against which to examine performance.

In addition, while the committee recognises that the stakeholder survey is an important means of gauging the ACC's performance, it should be used as one of a number of tools of performance measurement.

The committee recommends a focus on the KPIs and it encourages the ACC to continue working towards a greater balance between the qualitative and quantitative KPIs which can be measured over time. The committee also recommends that the 2012-13 ACC Annual Report detail progress made towards establishing such a balance.

In relation to the ACC's programs and activities in 2011-12, the committee acknowledged the important work that the ACC had undertaken and highlighted initiatives such as Task Force Galilee.

The task force was established in response to concerns about serious and organised investment fraud which cost 2,600 Australians more than $114 million over the last five years. In collaboration with 40 partners including industry organisations, the ACC engaged in identifying and disrupting these fraudulent activities.

The committee commends the ACC on its work in this area and its efforts in detecting and disrupting serious and organised crime.

Examination of the AFP Annual Report 2011-12

I now turn to the examination of the Australian Federal Police Annual Report 2011-12.

Newly introduced amendments in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 empowered the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce to commence and conduct proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act legislation.

As the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce commenced as a permanent taskforce in January 2012, the committee focused its examination on the AFP's activities around the proceeds of crime.

The first litigation to restrain assets was carried out under Operation Beaufighter. This joint investigation and operation dismantled a multimillion dollar tax evasion and money-laundering scheme. The Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce restrained more than $54 million in assets, including luxury cars and real estate. Operation Beaufighter comprised the largest tax fraud investigation since Project Wickenby was launched in 2006.

In relation to operations, investigations and improved efficiencies, the committee noted that the AFP had a most productive and successful year in 2011-12, and we commend Commissioner Negus and all officers of the AFP. The committee recognises that, by focusing its resources on building partnerships at the local and international level while also improving internal processes and procedures, the AFP met or exceeded its targets for all of its 33 KPIs and, for that, they should be congratulated.

Finally, I would also like to place on record my appreciation to the members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, of which Madam Deputy Speaker, you are a member. In my experience, this committee has exemplified the best of committee traditions in that it has operated in a bipartisan way to effect parliamentary scrutiny and cooperation in developing best practices in the Australian Crime Commission as well as the Australian Federal Police. In my humble opinion, this is a committee that has acted in a way that has enhanced the operations of those organisations, and it has indeed been my honour to chair that committee now for a number of years. I commend: the secretary, Dr Jane Thomson; the acting secretary, Ms Fiona Bowring-Greer, who has been the secretary of that committee; and administrative officer, Rosalind McMahon, for their tireless work in supporting all the activities of the committee and its inquiries. Dr Thomson, Ms Fiona Bowring-Greer and Ms McMahon depict what is excellent within our Public Service. They show great initiative and, without putting too fine a point on it, they probably make us as a committee look better than what our actual contributions might suggest. I appreciate their professionalism and their dedication—and that goes to all the other public servants operating in this parliament.

I commend the reports to the House.

Photo of Sharon GriersonSharon Grierson (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Member for Fowler. I certainly congratulate you on the conduct of the committee and endorse your support for our secretariat staff and our public servants, who are highly valued.