House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013


Law Enforcement Committee

12:01 pm

Photo of Darren CheesemanDarren Cheeseman (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

() (): On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, I present the committee's report entitled, Integrity of overseas Commonwealth law enforcement operations,

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

by leave—on behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, I present the report into the integrity of overseas Commonwealth law enforcement operations. During the inquiry, the committee heard from a wide range of Commonwealth agencies. These included agencies under ACLEI's jurisdiction as well as agencies with law enforcement functions. The latter includes many agencies which are not widely associated with law enforcement, the Australian Taxation Office, for example.

Drawing on international standards, the committee considered the integrity resumes of these agencies in relation to their overseas operation, with a focus on the acceptance of risk, organisational leadership, management of misconduct allegations, reporting culture, the management of locally engaged staff and the external oversight committee. The committee also considered the involvement of former and current Commonwealth owned and/or largely controlled entities. These included the Australian Wheat Board, Note Printing Australia and Securency International Proprietary Limited. These matters were raised in evidence to underscore the reputational damage to Australia that corruption allegations of serious misconduct can cause. The key issues brought to light by the Note Printing Australia and Securency matters included robust integrity and reporting systems, oversight, whistleblowing provisions and due diligence and informed the committee's deliberations throughout the inquiry.

Furthermore, revelations during the AWB, NPA and Securency matters triggered, for many Commonwealth agencies, a review of their integrity and anticorruption regimes. The committee noted in its report that these issues were of critical importance to integrity standards and due diligence and demonstrated the need for a strong reporting culture underpinned by effective private sector whistleblower protections.

Most Commonwealth agencies recognised that overseas operations carry higher risks of compromise and corruption than domestic operations, regardless of the length of an officer's deployment. These risks relate to both the function of the operation and the circumstances in which it is carried out. However, the physical presence of the individual officers overseas was not the determining factor in relation to the period of heightened risk of corruption. Organised crime transcends international and national borders and technology boundaries, as it has the ability to target officials regardless of their geographical location. Australian officials may be susceptible to corruption on their return home where they perceive the risk to be minimal. For these reasons, agencies must be alert to the possibility of both onshore and offshore compromise.

The committee pursued this line of inquiry with Commonwealth agencies to establish which agencies have a post-deployment risk assessment for returning officers. The committee found that there was post-deployment context and identified the need for post-deployment corruption risk assessment. To this end, the committee recommended that the Commonwealth integrity bodies consider the feasibility of developing an integrity risk assessment framework for officers on their return.

Another area of susceptibility to corruption involves the acceptance of gifts. Evidence to the committee highlighted the need for caution in relation to gifts. The United Nations Convention against Corruption recognises gift giving as a potential source of corruption which requires Australia and other parties to establish measures and systems which require public officials to make declarations regarding gifts and benefits. The committee considered the gift giving policies of agencies before it. The committee took the view that discretion provided for under the APS Code of conduct guidelines regarding the acceptance of gifts should be recognised. To this end, the committee recommended that the Public Service commission a review and amend the APS Code of Conduct guidelines on the acceptance of gifts for consistent application across the APS.

The committee also considered evidence regarding the need to focus on misconduct in the integrity regime of Commonwealth agencies. Evidence to the committee highlighted that a reactive approach has led to ad hoc integrity measures rather than a systemic approach to corruption and integrity across the Commonwealth. The committee took the view that the preventative, pro-active approach to corruption requires recognition and steps to address misconduct at emergent stages.

For these reasons, the committee supports the integrity focus of the proposed national anti-corruption plan and emphasises in the report the need for a holistic integrity based approach. As part of such an approach, the committee recommended that the Public Service Commissioner conduct a review of the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct training. Currently, such training is voluntary. The committee noted that APS staff should undertake training in the APS Code of Conduct and values as a matter of course., regardless of whether they are deployed overseas or not. Finally, I would like, on behalf of the committee, to thank all of the agencies, organisations and individuals who participated in the inquiry. I move:

That the House take note of the report.

Debate adjourned.

I move:

That the order of the day be referred to the Federation Chamber for debate.

Question agreed to.