Press Conference – Sydney Airport

Topics: AFP at Sydney Airport, Introduction of integrity testing laws

JASON CLARE: Today I’m announcing that the Federal Police have assumed responsibility for policing here at Sydney Airport and also we have officially opened this new facility. It will house about 100 Federal Police officers. Their job is to be the first response for counter-terrorism situations. It’s also the work of the Federal Police here to manage the explosive detection work with our detector dogs, or sniffer dogs. They also investigate serious organised crime in the aviation sector and undertake the day-to-day, the everyday community policing work here.

In the past this was done with the New South Wales Police. It’s now the responsibility of the Australian Federal Police. It’s been done in Melbourne, it’s been done in Sydney and over the course of the next 18 months we’ll see that roll out in seven other major airports across Australia including Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast, Hobart and Perth.

Today I’m also announcing something else. I’m announcing that I’ll be introducing legislation to establish integrity testing of Australian law enforcement officers. This means Australian Federal Police officers, it means Customs and Border Protection officers, it also means Australian Crime Commission officers.

The integrity tests are covert or undercover operations intended to test the integrity of our Commonwealth law enforcement officers. They could involve offering a bribe to a police officer or a customs officer, to see if they’ll take it. They could involve putting false information onto a database to see if that information is misused or passed on to a criminal or they could involve putting valuable goods into a container or at a crime scene to see if that good is stolen or passed on to a criminal.

The power of integrity testing is its deterrent effect. You will never know when this will happen, you will never know where it will happen, you never know when your integrity is being tested.

That’s the value in this, in putting fear into people that are up to no good. If you’re doing nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear but if you’re up to no good, if you’re taking bribes off criminals then think again because the next time you take a bribe off a criminal that criminal might just be a police officer working undercover and you could end up in prison.

Now, I think that this reform is going to be controversial. I think there are going to be a lot of people who are going to say this is too tough, but there’s no place for corruption in the public sector, there’s no place for corruption amongst our law enforcement officers and where it exists we have to weed it out and this will help to weed it out.

I know we’ve got plenty of journalists here so I’d be happy to take some questions about all of that.

QUESTION: Minister, isn’t this just tinkering at the edges of a facility which is known for its huge problems?

JASON CLARE: You’re talking about…

QUESTION: Sorry, the integrity test.

JASON CLARE: Let’s make this very clear. We know that crooks target police, we know that crooks target customs officers. For that matter, we know crooks target the waterfront. That’s why we’ve got a national corruption watchdog. They’ve already got extensive powers. They’ve got the power to tap phones, they’ve got the power to search houses, they’ve got the power to force people to come and give evidence against their will.

What the corruption watchdog has said to me is they need this extra power. This is a power that New South Wales police already have and other police forces around the country. Now, the power of it is it means that if you’re thinking of acting corruptly then you might just think again because you’re not sure the next time you take a bribe whether you’re taking it off a criminal or whether you’re taking it off an undercover police officer.

I’ve spoken to a lot of New South Wales police about how this works here in New South Wales and they tell me that it’s very effective, just because it puts the fear of god into people, that if you’re thinking of doing the wrong thing, think again.

So I think it’s a very important extra power that our national corruption watchdog needs to have.

QUESTION: What do unions and associations say, considering you’re talking about entrapment?

JASON CLARE: This is not entrapment. It’s important to know that there is a difference between integrity testing and entrapment and it’s about how it operates.

I should explain – I should explain this in a bit of detail.

Where you have an integrity test you’ve got a clear and equal opportunity for the individual to pass or to fail. Entrapment is where you’re inducing someone to commit an offence that they would not otherwise commit and that’s an important difference.

I’ve developed this working very closely with the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity, the head of our national anti-corruption watchdog. I’ve also done it working very closely with Australian Federal Police Commissioner, as well as the head of the Australian Crime Commission and the Chief Executive of Customs and Border Protection.

They all support it because no one wants to work with somebody who is corrupt. No one wants to work with somebody who’s a bad egg or a bad apple. That might be letting drugs into the country. So no one supports that and the discussions that my office has had with the police unions, as well as with the public sector union, show they support the idea of targeted integrity testing too, because nobody wants to be working alongside somebody else who’s working for the crooks.

QUESTION: Why was it not good enough having the state police forces manage these airports?

JASON CLARE: This was a recommendation that came out of the Beale Review that was commissioned in 2008, reported in 2009. Andrew might be able to assist me with a bit of detail here but it came up with a number of recommendations to improve the work of the Australian Federal Police.

One of those recommendations was this all-in model, that instead of having two police forces working together at the airport it would streamline and assist the process if you had one police force responsible for all of the work that’s done at the airport, whether it’s the counter-terrorism work, whether it’s the bomb detection work or whether it’s the general community policing work that happens here at the airport.

QUESTION: Could we have a comment? How does this actually change at a practical level what your operations are?

ANDREW WOOD: The main advantages that Beale was recommending was to ensure that we had a workforce that was easy to plan and that was more homogenous. In other words, the previous workforce had a mixture of Australian Federal Police officers, Australian Federal Protected Service officers as well as seconded officers from the police forces of each state and territory.

By being a single workforce under the Australian Federal Police it meant that the workforce planning arrangement and hence the efficiencies of the workforce were going to be improved dramatically so already there are a number of cost-savings that have been identified by having a single workforce rather than merging three different workforces into a single capacity at the airports.

QUESTION: So it’s a cost incentive rather than…

ANDREW WOOD: What drives from that, of course, is that by having a combined workforce, that the effectiveness of the workforce also grows because of common skill, common training and the ability for the Australian Federal Police to know what in two years, three years, four years, the workforce composition will be because we’ve got complete control over that workforce over the longer term, not just the short term.

QUESTION: The CPSU says this move could create an atmosphere of anxiety, paranoia and fear for officers. That can’t be good for them trying to do their job, can it?

JASON CLARE: The only people that have got anything to fear out of this are people that are taking bribes off crooks. If you’re not doing the wrong thing you’ve got nothing to worry about and if you are doing the wrong thing then you should think again.

If you’re taking a bribe off a crook you might want to think about not taking that bribe because the crook you’re taking the money off may be a police officer that’s undercover. That is the most important point here.

Nobody that works for Customs, nobody that works for the Federal Police or the Crime Commission wants to be working with people that are working for the crooks and integrity testing will help to weed those people out.

QUESTION: Do you expect a high number of people to be weeded out?

JASON CLARE: My view on this is that our Federal Police and our Customs officials do a very good job but I do know this, and that is that criminals target police officers, they target Customs officials and there are people that are susceptible to corruption. That’s why corruption exists. That’s why we see it around the world. That’s why we need safeguards, that’s why we need anti-corruption watchdogs and that’s why they need the power to do things like coerce people to give evidence, to search their homes, to tap their phones, and to do integrity testing. That’s what this is all about – it will help to find people that are acting corruptly and weed them out.

All right. Thanks very much.