Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Law Enforcement Committee; Report
On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, I present the following reports: Examination of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission annual report 2017-18 and Examination of the Australian Federal Police annual report 2017-18.
Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).
by leave—Firstly, on the ACIC report, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement has a statutory duty to monitor and review the performance of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, or the ACIC, by examining each of its annual reports. The committee is pleased to present its latest report on the ACIC annual report for 2017-18. The committee acknowledges the work undertaken by the ACIC throughout the year, understands an integrated picture of crime that is impacting Australia and acknowledges the results that it achieved in 2017-18. The ACIC's intelligence guided several strategies and responses to crime in Australia in the reporting periods, including the establishment of the national Illicit Tobacco Taskforce, led by the Australian Border Force; the Department of Home Affairs approaches to illegal labour hire syndicates, visa migration fraud and visa fraud in the education sector; and, separately, 14 operations conducted in locations across Australia based on data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program.
That Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program gives us a far greater insight into the problems that we have with illicit drugs in our country. The ACIC estimates that expenditure in this country on illicit drugs is $12 billion. That's the equivalent of almost $1,200 in every Australian household being spent on illicit drugs over a year. All of us in our electorates see the problems that we have, especially with crystal methamphetamine, and the wastewater reports show that the current strategies are not working. We need to continue to think outside the box about what we can do to tackle that problem.
The other issue that the wastewater analysis shows is that our war against cigarette smoking is failing, even though we've had the high rates of excise and duty continuing to increase the retail price. We've actually had a decline in sales of legal cigarettes, which we can monitor and manage and get a real, exact figure, through excise and duties. The illegal sale of tobacco we can only estimate. If we look at that latest data from the wastewater programs, we see that we are actually having an increase in nicotine, an increase in cigarette smoking. So, we need to be very careful about the duty increases and excise increases so that we are not turbocharging an illegal black market, which is actually increasing in size and undoing the good work in other areas.
Separately, on the AFP annual reports of 2017, the committee commends the work of the AFP as outlined in its annual report. In particular, there are three things of specific note. During this period the AFP delivered public value for money by providing a return on investment of $16 for every dollar invested in combatting transnational crime; 98 per cent of the investigations that went to court resulted in at least one conviction; and the results of the satisfaction survey of the AFP's partners and stakeholders showed satisfaction of around 98 per cent for the past seven years.
I think across our society there is great respect for our police forces, including the AFP. But we need to be very careful going forward about some of the unintended consequences that we have had from some of the more-restrictive prohibitions during the COVID crisis. Our police have been given the task of enforcing that legislation. With some of the legislation we are seeing paddleboarders being arrested. We are seeing people sitting in the park by themselves being questioned and harassed by police. We are seeing people playing backyard cricket being arrested. We have seen a lone swimmer at Bondi who dived in off the rocks being tackled by the police. All these images that we see on our social media and on our TVs have the effect of undermining the public's support for our police forces, and that does an enormous amount of damage.
So, one thing we need to be careful about and learn from this current crisis is that whenever we put prohibitions in place we ask our police forces to enforce them. We've got to think about how they will do it and how that will be perceived by the public. If that loss of reputation, that loss of support happens to our police forces, it is a very heavy price that we will pay in our society.