Press Conference - Senate Courtyard, Parliament House

 

Topics: Integrity legislation, Nauru

JASON CLARE: This morning I have introduced legislation to increase the corruption resistance of our law enforcement agencies. Our law enforcement agencies do a great job. They do a job that's very difficult and sometimes very dangerous, as we've seen over the last few days, and they don't get thanked enough for the work that they do.

The vast majority of our law enforcement officers are good, honest, hard-working people but because of the nature of the work they do, the powers that they have, the information that they receive, they are sometimes targeted by organised crime.

Now, there is no place in the public sector for corruption and where we find it, we have to weed it out and that's what this Bill is designed to do. It does three things.

First, it introduces integrity testing. Integrity testing is a covert operation designed to test if someone is corrupt. It can involve offering a bribe to see if it's accepted; it can involve leaving cash at the scene of a crime to see if it's taken; it can involve putting false information on a database to see if that information is misused.

And this is designed to put the fear of God into people that are thinking of acting corruptly. The next time that you take a bribe from a criminal, you could be accepting that bribe from a police officer.

The power of this is in its deterrent effect. You never know where and you never know when you could be tested. This will apply to officers of the Australian Federal Police, of the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

The second reform in this legislation is an increase in the powers of the chief executive officer of Customs. Customs do work that is just as important as police and they're just as likely to be targeted by organised criminals and so, they need the same tools and the same powers to target corruption and to weed it out.

This legislation gives the chief executive officer of Customs the power to conduct drug and alcohol testing, to make an order to terminate an employee for serious misconduct and to issue orders to require Customs staff to report any serious misconduct.

The third and final element of this Bill is the doubling of the number of agencies to be over-sighted by our corruption watchdog.

Our corruption watchdog, ACLEI, currently oversights the Australian Federal Police, the Crime Commission and Customs and this will now be extended to AUSTRAC, to CrimTrac and to officers who work within the Department of Agriculture in the area previously referred to as Quarantine.

The sort of work that these officers do means that they can also be targeted by organised crime and it's important that they are also over-sighted by ACLEI.

So, this is a major package of reform to make sure that our law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to prevent corruption and where it occurs, the power to weed it out.

Happy to take some questions.

QUESTION: Minister, this policy package was announced earlier this year. Why has it taken this long to get the legislation in to Parliament?

JASON CLARE: I announced this a few months ago, and in the course of the last few months I've been working with all of the relevant agencies to develop this legislation and I've also consulted with the Australian Federal Police Association, as well as with the Community and Public Sector Union, to make sure that we've got this legislation right.

It takes time to develop good legislation and I think that we've got the right legislation that we can now implement.

QUESTION: Are you expecting any bumps along the way to get this through Parliament? Obviously, it's something you want to get through quite quickly. Are you expecting agreement from the necessary players?

JASON CLARE: Look, I hope so. This is important legislation. It's the sort of legislation that is much needed. It should have been introduced years ago but it wasn't. When I worked in the New South Wales Government 17 years ago, I worked on the implementation of recommendations from the Wood Royal Commission and I've applied the knowledge that I learnt there to this job.

And I think these sorts of powers, these sorts of tools, are critical to make sure that our law enforcement agencies have got the tools that they need to weed corruption out. Corruption's like a weed and it won't go away if you ignore it. It will continue to grow and that's why you need to make sure that you've got the powers and the tools that are necessary to dig it out. And that's what integrity testing is all about.

QUESTION: Money's looking tighter and tighter for the Labor Government at the moment. Are there any budget implications for this?

JASON CLARE: The integrity tests are funded from within existing resources. Another measure that I have taken though is to give additional funds to ACLEI for their oversight of Customs and funds are being allocated for the oversight of AUSTRAC, CrimTrac and those officers from Agriculture as well.

QUESTION: Minister, can I ask you about Nauru? The Nauruan Government has come out and said it wants [indistinct] measures put in place for [indistinct] women and children to be processed on the island. Is this a problem for the Australian Government because they've put a spanner in the wheel of things? How quickly can the Government resolve these issues?

JASON CLARE: Well, we made it clear that these are temporary facilities and we're building permanent facilities. We'll work closely with the Nauruan Government on that and we'll work closely with the Salvation Army on that as well.

Minister Bowen has also made it clear that there'll be a range of different people, families included, people from different countries seeking asylum that will be transferred to Nauru.

Okay. Thanks very much.

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