You don’t have anything to fear if you don’t have anything to hide

The Daily Telegraph, 28 September 2012

CORRUPTION is like a weed. It won’t go away if you ignore it. It just continues to grow.

If you want to get rid of corruption you have to rip it out and stop it coming back.

It can grow anywhere. No organisation is immune. Law enforcement agencies are particularly vulnerable because of the work they do.

Our law enforcement officers don’t get thanked enough. It’s a difficult job and, as we have seen in the last few weeks, it can be very dangerous.

The vast majority of law enforcement officers are good, honest, hardworking people. But because of the sort of work they do, the powers that they have and the information that they receive, they are sometimes targeted by organised crime.

NSW Police learnt this the hard way a long time ago. I was involved in implementing the recommendations of the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service 17 years ago, and I have applied the knowledge I learnt there to this job. To prevent corruption and weed it out you need the right tools. Last week I introduced legislation to give our federal law enforcement agencies these tools.

One of those is integrity testing. These are covert operations designed to test if someone is corrupt. It could involve offering a bribe, leaving money at a crime scene or putting false information on a database to see if it is passed on.

It is a psychological weapon designed to put the fear of God into people that are corrupt. It means the next time a corrupt officer takes a bribe from a criminal, that criminal could be an undercover police officer.

This will now apply to the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Honest people have nothing to worry about. The power of integrity testing is its deterrent effect on people who are corrupt or are thinking of acting corruptly. They will never know when or where they will be tested.

The work our Customs officers do is just as important as the work our police do – and they are just as likely to be targeted by organised criminals.

It is essential that they have the same tools and powers to prevent corruption and weed it out. That includes drug and alcohol testing, the power to terminate officers for serious misconduct and mandatory requirements to report serious misconduct.

All of these powers are in the legislation I introduced last week.

I have also doubled the number of federal agencies oversighted by our corruption watchdog the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

It currently oversights the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and Australian Customs.

This will be extended to The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), CrimTrac and prescribed staff in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry – what used to be called Quarantine.

Our law enforcement agencies are full of extraordinary people. The work they do every day helps make our community safer. But we can’t be naive. There are always going to be some people who are susceptible to corruption – people who might take a bribe to look the other way or provide information that they shouldn’t.

There is no place for this in our law enforcement agencies. No one wants to work with someone who is working for the bad guys. Where this occurs we have to weed it out. That’s what I am doing. The laws I introduced last week are the first step. There is more work to do.

Jason Clare is Justice and Home Affairs Minister