Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice) (11:48): I congratulate the New South Wales police on their 150th anniversary. Like the member for Fowler, I too have a close association with the New South Wales police. I have had the opportunity to work with them and with a number of police commissioners over the last two decades. I congratulate commissioner Scipione on his good work and the work of his team. The Australian Federal Police, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service work very closely with the New South Wales Police Force on many, many areas. It is with great pleasure that I rise today to congratulate them on their 150th anniversary.
I note the comments that the shadow minister made about cuts. I would ask him to urge the shadow Treasurer to contemplate his words as well, because I note the shadow minister in the press this week said that the cutting of 11 SES positions in Customs was, as he described it, ‘drastic,’ yet he represents a party which is proposing, if elected at the next election, to cut the Public Service by at least 12,000 positions. That is what the shadow Treasurer said, if I recall correctly, and I am assisted by the transcript. On Q&A on 27 June last year, the shadow Treasurer said:
Well, for a start—
I emphasise the words ‘for a start’—
12,000 public servants in Canberra will be made redundant over a two year period immediately upon us being elected.
I ask the shadow minister to consider the hypocrisy of the words he has uttered in this debate, criticising the government in this area and describing the cuts of 11 positions as drastic, when their own position here is to cut 12,000 positions. I would ask him to reflect on the hypocrisy of those statements.
This bill amends a number of acts that I as the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice administer. They include the Australian Crimes Commission Act 2002, the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 and the Customs Act 1901. The bill enhances the powers and capabilities of our law enforcement agencies to carry out their important work and includes a range of tools to fight crime. It enhances the information-sharing abilities of the Australian Crime Commission, it improves the ability of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to seize illicit substances and it provides the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity with a contempt power. These are all very good amendments and I encourage members to support them. I am very glad to see the opposition supporting this legislation.
Later in the debate the government will formally move amendments to the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act to allow the term of any Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner to be extended for two years. As the minister responsible for the administration of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, I take this opportunity in this debate to explain why this amendment is important. There is no place for corruption of any kind in the public sector. The responsibility of the government is to make the public sector as corruption resistant as possible. It is an unfortunate truth that organised criminals will particularly target people working in law enforcement because of the nature of their work. The Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework identifies corruption of law enforcement officers as a method used by organised criminals to undertake and conceal illicit activities. It is therefore critically important that we put in place the right measures to address this risk. It is essential that our law enforcement agencies are leaders in mitigating corruption risks and in promoting a culture of integrity. A lot has been done in this respect in recent years, but there is always more work that can, should and needs to be done.
The role of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is to detect, disrupt and deter potential corruption in federal law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the former National Crime Authority. Last year, the government extended the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to cover the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. Last week, I announced that I have commissioned an independent review into the first year of ACLEI’s oversight of Customs. I have commissioned this review to ensure that the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is implementing this new responsibility effectively and is properly equipped to discharge this crucial function. The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and Customs have been working closely together over the past 12 months to build a partnership to detect, disrupt and deter corruption. After a year in operation, it is now important to examine progress and consider whether improvements are necessary.
The amendment that the government will be moving in this debate will allow the government to extend the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner’s term by another two years. It will provide the flexibility for situations where the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is bedding down big reforms or undergoing extensive change, as is the case right now. The amendment will help ensure that the new responsibility of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is fully and properly implemented and that, where corruption is found, it is weeded out. It also implements a recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. The current commissioner is Mr Philip Moss, whose five-year term is due to expire in July of this year. This amendment will allow the government to consider an extension to his term.
Our law enforcement agencies do a very good job but, as I outlined, like law enforcement agencies around the world, they potentially become the targets of organised criminals. That is why, in addition to the action I have just outlined, I have also written to the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and Customs outlining my expectations of them in detecting, disrupting and preventing corruption. I also sought their advice about what further action they believe is required to mitigate corruption risks and promote corruption resistance. The more corruption-resilient our law enforcement agencies are, and the better equipped they are, the more effective they will be in fighting organised crime. Therefore, I commend this amendment and commend the bill to the House.