Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Australian Crime Commission Amendment (Criminology Research) Bill 2016; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
We live in an information age and the challenges associated with managing that information are clearly something that law enforcement agencies in particular are grappling with. You appreciate in Australia that we have the Commonwealth police and every state and territory has its own police force. The cooperation between those police forces is very good, but of course different police forces keep different information sources, they keep it on different systems. There is the enormous challenge of making sure that a policeman on the beat anywhere in Australia—in Adelaide, in Brisbane or in a regional area—has the information that they need, the criminal intelligence that they need, in a timely manner when they require it. That is very important. It is a big challenge for our law enforcement community to make sure that that is the case. This can be lifesaving information. As a policeman goes about their business we need to make sure that, if they are talking to somebody or apprehending somebody, they can get the background on that person. It is very important. There are legions of examples where police going about their business have not been able to access information in a timely way and have not been able to access accurate information about the job they are about to do. It is dangerous for those law enforcement personnel.
We need to find ways to bridge this gap. We need to find ways so that police officers doing their job can get the information that they need. To do that we have created the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. This brings our intelligence analyst capabilities together with our datasets when we merged the Australian Crime Commission with CrimTrac. We are also merging into that new entity the Australian Institute of Criminology to give the ACIC all of the resources that it needs to be able to do this job of providing timely criminal intelligence to Australia's law enforcement community.
Thisbill brings together the national criminal intelligence, analysis and research capabilities and specifically it merges what used to be the Australian Institute of Criminology into the new entity. We see great opportunity in combining the resources of the Australian Institute of Criminology and the ACIC to provide Australian law enforcement agencies with central access to a consolidated and comprehensive criminal research and intelligence resource.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has actually commenced operations—it did so on 1 July this year—as a result of the merger of CrimTrac and the Australian Crime Commission. Bringing three of our nation's justice, law enforcement and intelligence agencies together does significantly enhance support for law enforcement around the country and bolster Australia's response to serious and organised crime and national security issues. The new agency allows police, justice agencies and policymakers at all levels of government to adopt a more effective, efficient and evidence based response to crime.
Following the merger, the AIC will form a new research branch of the ACIC—the Australian Crime and Justice Research Centre—which is headed up by a senior criminologist.
With increased access to classified information, research conducted by the Australian Crime and Justice Research Centre is expected to have increased value and relevance for Australian policy decision-making. It will provide an enhanced evidence base to support a proactive and targeted response to crime by all of Australia's law enforcement community.
The research centre's activities will continue to be subject to peer review to maintain the ACIC's capability to produce independent research in order to inform evidence based policy.
While some of the criminological research may be aligned with law enforcement's high-level priorities, the remit of the ACIC's criminological function will continue to be widely defined as crime and justice issues of national significance, extending beyond purely law enforcement.
The Australian Crime and Justice Research Centre will also continue to carry out some of the AIC's national monitoring programs, including the national deaths in custody program, and will continue to carry out commissioned research on a fee-for-service basis.
The bill contains a number of measures that would give effect to these proposed arrangements for the merged agency.
Primarily, this bill amends the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002(ACC Act)to enable the ACIC to carry out the AIC's research work. This includes conducting criminology research, sharing that research and other resources, such as the JV Barry library, with the private sector and the public, and holding seminars and conferences on important research issues.
Recognising the importance of making research available to the research community and the Australian public, the Australian Crime and Justice Research Centre will continue to have access to the datasets currently available to the AIC, and will continue to make that data and research available in the same way that the AIC did.
The bill also amends the ACC Act to ensure that the ACIC is able to charge for commissioned research, as the AIC did, with charges paid into the Criminology Research Special Account. This will enable states, territories, universities and other interested organisations to continue to commission specific work from the merged agency, as they have from the AIC.
The bill also repeals the Criminology Research Act 1971 to abolish the AIC as an independent statutory agency. As the position of the AIC director will not be required post-merger, the provisions dealing with this position are not replicated in the ACC Act.
Criminology Research Advisory Council
Subsequent to the merger, the ACIC board will become responsible for determining the ACIC's high-level research priorities. However, in setting these priorities the ACIC board will take advice from a non-legislated advisory body, comprising of existing Criminology Research Advisory Council members (being state and territory justice agencies and the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department), two law enforcement representatives, two members from the ACIC and a representative from the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology.
This will ensure that state and territory justice agencies continue to play an important role in shaping the future direction of the merged agency's criminological research program.
The bill implements an important consolidation of Australia's criminal research and intelligence capabilities. The merger will enable the ACIC to better fulfil its role as Australia's national criminal intelligence agency, supporting and informing the efforts of law enforcement agencies around the country.
Similarly, the new Australian Crime and Justice Research Centre held within the ACIC will continue to prepare and disseminate world-leading criminological research, which informs our understanding of the trends and developments in crime and justice.
I therefore commend the bill to the House.