Law enforcement Joint Committee Report — Speech in the House of Representatives 29/02/2024

February 29, 2024

Hansard 29/02/2024  House of Representatives

Mr LLEW O’BRIEN (Wide Bay) (16:10): On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, I present the following reports: Examination of the Australian Federal Police Annual Report 2022-23 and Examination of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Annual Report 2022-23.

Reports made parliamentary papers in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr LLEW O’BRIEN: by leave—I rise as the deputy chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement to speak on the committee’s reports examining the Australian Federal Police’s annual report for 2022-23 and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s annual report for 2022-23. I’m pleased to report that the committee did not identify any major issues of concern about the AFP’s annual report.

As Australia’s national policing agency, the AFP protects Australians and Australia’s interests. Some key achievements in 2022-23 include the seizure of 30 tonnes of illicit drugs and precursors at the border or domestically, avoiding $11 billion in harm; the seizure of 66 tonnes of illicit drugs by overseas police with AFP assistance, avoiding $10.9 billion in harm; and 373 people being charged with criminal offences, with 141 people charged as a result of child exploitation investigations. The committee recently tabled its report on its inquiry into law enforcement capabilities in relation to child exploitation. At its public hearings on the AFP’s annual report, the committee sought updated information on this area.

The committee spoke to the AFP about the triage system in the AFP led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, the ACCCE. The committee was also advised that the ACCCE were working in partnership with their state and territory counterparts, through the joint anti-child-exploitation teams, to prioritise reports and respond rapidly. The committee also asked about the status of Operation Tenterfield, including support for victims and their families, given the large number of victims involved. Operation Tenterfield is an AFP investigation which has led to a former childcare worker being charged with 1,623 child abuse offences against 91 children. While the matter is before the Brisbane Magistrates Court, the committee was advised that a communications network has been set up to keep the victims informed of progress in proceedings. The committee also heard that the ACCCE has a number of partnerships with non-government organisations across the country and internationally which can provide support to victims of these heinous crimes. The AFP Commissioner stressed that end-to-end encryption will make the job of police more difficult, including in relation to child exploitation. The committee shares this concern about the effect of end-to-end encryption on social media and reporting child exploitation, as well as emerging effects of artificial intelligence, and will continue to monitor these areas.

I wish to take the opportunity to thank all those officers working to combat child exploitation. It is a very difficult area of work, and the dedication of these officers to protect children in Australia and overseas is at the absolute highest level and is extremely impressive. In 2019, the AFP commissioner set a five-year target of $600 million for criminal assets restrained. The committee was pleased to hear of the success of the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, which, as at 30 June 2023, has restrained in excess of $940 million in assets. The committee also heard about the innovation paths being pursued by the criminal assets team, including in relation to child protection offences.

I commend the AFP for continuing to perform well in a complex operating environment to protect the safety of Australians. I commend the AFP officers who gave evidence to the committee and also my fellow committee members for their contribution to the committee’s important oversight. I commend the committee’s report to the House.

Turning to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission annual report 2022-23, I note that the ACIC provides vital intelligence and policing information that protect Australia from serious criminal threats. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement is charged with providing parliamentary oversight of the ACIC, which is especially important in light of the coercive powers available to the agency. As part of this work, the committee examines each ACIC annual report and raises a range of contemporary issues with its officials at a public hearing. I’m pleased to report that the committee has not identified any major areas of concern and concluded that the ACIC’s annual report was satisfactory.

The committee’s review also highlighted several important areas of work pursued by the ACIC. One of continuing concern with committee members is the growing illicit tobacco trade in Australia. The ACIC assists with disrupting the illicit trade by providing intelligence and support to its partners. In 2022-23, the ACIC contributed to illicit tobacco seizures with an estimated street value of over $79 million. This continues the upward trend seen each year since 2019-20; it also exceeds the 2018-19 figure of $75 million. The ACIC reported that these disruptions are unlikely to have occurred without the contribution in providing intelligence, which reflects the value of the agency’s work.

Another key focus is the development of a National Firearms Register, which the committee has monitored closely. This will be a major effort by various Commonwealth, state and territory agencies. In particular, the ACIC is responsible for the technical arm of the program, providing the register itself. The committee was pleased to hear that work is well underway, but it remains conscious of the four-year time frame agreed by National Cabinet last December. The committee will maintain a watching brief on this issue as it monitors the ACIC’s performance in future. The committee also examined a range of other issues relating to the agency’s performance, including the staff retention and employee census results. On the latter, it is positive that the ACIC has engaged with its staff about the census results and published a census improvement plan.

To provide a broader sense of the ACIC’s work, I can also report that, in 2023, the ACIC produced 101 analytical intelligence products and over 2,600 tactical intelligence products. The ACIC’s intelligence contributed to 78 disruptions of criminal entities, and, of the ACIC’s surveyed stakeholders, 96 per cent agreed that its information systems are valuable to their work.

I commend the ACIC officers for their valuable contribution to Australia’s law enforcement and community safety. I also thank them for their assistance with the committee’s oversight process, as well as my fellow committee members for their constructive approach to the committee’s work. I commend the committee’s reports to the House.


In the spirit of Australia, I acknowledge all citizens who contribute to making our nation the greatest on earth.

I acknowledge our defence force personnel, past, present, and emerging, for their service to our nation, and particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Australia.

I also acknowledge the Australian taxpayers who, through their hard work, pay for the infrastructure, health, education, and emergency services that keep our proud nation healthy, safe, and prosperous.