BILLS; Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2017; Second Reading

June 27, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (16:48): I, too, won't take too much time, given that agreement has been reached on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2017. I commend the minister, as well as the shadow minister, on working in a bipartisan fashion to deliver the best results as it applies to law enforcement. I spent many years prior to entering this place representing the interests of police officers, state and federal. So I take an interest in issues of law enforcement generally. The bill before us is an omnibus bill that covers many, many things. I was initially going to speak about two aspects of this bill—namely schedule 2, in terms of the issues of notification when wishing to question or when arresting persons of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage; and schedule 3 of the bill, dealing with insider and outsider disclosures.

In terms of schedule 2, we have a very strong view—which I'm very happy to say the minister has now embraced—about notification being mandatory. By the way, the mandatory notifications in respect of the questioning of Aboriginal persons came out of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, so there was not any prospect that we saw of watering down those provisions. There would be no utility in it and no practical purpose. It would, regrettably, cause us to bring ourselves back into disrepute by flying in the face of the commissioner's recommendation coming out of that royal commission. So I'm glad that that has been resolved.

The second aspect that I wanted to speak a little on was controlled operations. Having represented police at both state and federal levels, I've been particularly involved in controlled operations, and many aspects had to be negotiated over a long period of time. At one stage, controlled operations were a little footloose and fancy free, without providing the proper protection for officers. Fortunately, that has now long since been remedied. But the issue of disclosure does raise some concern. The bill creates the new offences of insider- and outsider-initiated disclosures. Within the law enforcement community, we would take a very dim view of an insider disclosing any aspect of a controlled operation. The bill would make a distinction between that and—I know this has been negotiated between the government and the opposition—for instance, a journalist reporting in the public interest on a police-controlled operation or a police operation by the AFP. Making that distinction in the provision of schedule 3, I think, is a good thing and one which I would support.

When talking about policing, we inevitably start talking about police resourcing. It is of concern that the Australian Federal Police commissioner, Commissioner Colvin, at the last Senate estimates was able to confirm a $205 million cut to resourcing for the AFP over the forward estimates. Any cut to the resourcing of law enforcement should be a concern to everyone; not just to those who wear the uniform. According to the AFP predictions, that would mean a fall in personnel from 6,448 in this financial year to 5,881 in 2021-22. That's an extraordinary reduction in AFP staff of 567—I'm not saying that's 567 police officers, it's also staff of the AFP.

This is coupled with the fact that the government has taken almost 2½ years to resolve a wages deal for those on the thin blue line. Police officers of the AFP have waited 2½ years in truncated negotiations to resolve a wages deal. It is right that we regard our police highly. The men and women who are prepared to put themselves into harm's way need all the support we can give them. It is also right that they should be heavily scrutinised, because we are going to continually give more and more powers to police. They support that level of increased scrutiny, more so than anyone else in public life. Yet when it comes to wages, they are treated vastly differently. The government waited 2½ years to settle a wage claim for police officers. These are the people that we put on the frontline, the people who are on shifts from one day to the next, with the preparedness to put their lives on the line for the benefit of fellow Australians, and we treat them like that. I think that is thoroughly reprehensible.

I briefly take the opportunity to advise the House that we are approaching the inaugural Police Week, which will be in September this year. The event aims to draw the policing community together to participate in honour of those officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and also to celebrate the wonderful work being done by police officers and law enforcement generally throughout the country. Australia's Police Week 2018 will draw together supporters of policing from across every state and territory in a range of formal and informal activities. It is envisaged that Police Week will become a major event on the law enforcement calendar in the future. While the focus will be on the National Police Memorial in Canberra from 15 to 29 September, jurisdictions across the country will also be holding very separate and specific events in their own states and territories. One such event is the Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance, which will see over 2,000 police officers and their supporters from around Australia participate in a motorcycle ride en masse to the nation's capital, ending at the National Police Memorial in Kings Park on 15 September this year. This will be the second year that I haven't actually participated in that ride, for reasons that members would no doubt appreciate, but it is a very significant event. It is now in its ninth year. It's to remember fallen colleagues, to raise money for police charities, particularly Police Legacy, and to promote safe and legal motorcycling. To date we have raised over $800,000 for Police Legacy through our participation in that event.

I also advise the House that the fourth annual National Policing Summit will also be held during Police Week, on 17 and 18 September at the Hyatt Hotel. The summit will bring together police from every jurisdiction, along with various government departments and agencies, and strategic analysts, to discuss a range of police reforms and service delivery issues in a rapidly changing law enforcement space. I would also like draw the attention of the House to the inaugural National Police Bravery Awards. They will be held in Canberra on 19 September at the National Museum. The National Police Bravery Awards will recognise exceptional acts of bravery undertaken by the country's serving police officers. The awards will be specifically developed as an award to police officers recognised by fellow police officers, transcending all states and jurisdictional divides, making the recipients truly recognised as national heroes.

Finally, we will have the 22nd annual Police Federation of Australia council meeting in Canberra on 20 and 21 September. One of the key aspects of the council's meeting this year is police officers' mental wellbeing. Last year the PFA was able to access a proceeds of crime grant to help educate officers and those around them of the risks and the early warning signs to support police officers with mental health issues. Despite all the advances that have been made in this space, there's a lot more work that needs to be done, particularly in raising awareness, in understanding, in prevention and in destigmatising mental health in law enforcement. A major thrust is to break down the stigma attached to emotional illnesses and for officers to feel more comfortable about being able to come forward and advise their superiors when they have an issue.

On Friday, 28 September, National Police Remembrance Day observances will be held around the country, and specifically at the National Police Memorial here in Canberra. It's an opportunity for all of us to show our support for police officers and our support for not only those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf but also those who are prepared to go to work day in, day out and face danger at our expense. I've learnt over a long period of time that it takes a special type of person with a special type of bravery to wear the police uniform, and we are extremely indebted to those who choose to do so. They are prepared to face dangers that, thankfully, most of us will never have to encounter. For those who are prepared to wear the police uniform, we should take the opportunity this September to show that we honour and respect them.