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Estimates: Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee (Australian Federal Police)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 28 May 2015

Senator RHIANNON: Commissioner, when AFP personnel travel overseas on official business with family or friends, do the family and friends have to be given a security clearance?

Mr Colvin : The only time that AFP would travel overseas with family, certainly not with friends-are you talking official travel?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, official travel.

Mr Colvin : I could not imagine a reason they would be travelling officially with friends, unless they were officials as well.

Senator RHIANNON: What about partners they may not be married to?

Mr Colvin : Our overseas deployed officers, if it is to an accompanied post, would take their family. Their family would not necessarily be security cleared unless there were a reason they may be accessing secure information; in which case, we would security clear them.

Senator RHIANNON: If a senior officer were travelling overseas to go to an international security conference for a week or so, would their partner, friend or family travelling with them to require a security clearance?

Mr Colvin : There are many permutations of that. Firstly, it is highly unusual. Secondly, presuming they are not going to be participating in any part of the conference but are sightseeing or doing tourist things while their partner is engaged in official duties, no, they would not require a security clearance.

Senator RHIANNON: But some would, if they were-

Mr Colvin : I can only imagine the scenario where their partners are in the AFP and are employed in some way by the Commonwealth government at an embassy. Otherwise, they would have no role or no reason to be security cleared.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that even if they were going to an international conference and they were socialising at that event?

Mr Colvin : If they were socialising at a social event like cocktail drinks-

Unidentified speaker: A security brief but not a security clearance.

Mr Colvin : Yes, they may get a security brief about what to be careful of in the country they are travelling to.

Senator RHIANNON: But they do not need a clearance?

Mr Colvin : No.

Senator RHIANNON: Do senior AFP officers need to declare any extramarital affairs?

Mr Colvin : Only if in their security clearance there are questions about personal relationships. You would need to declare them for security clearances. That includes updating regularly your security clearance. Beyond that, no.

Senator RHIANNON: If your circumstances change, you update it.

Mr Colvin : It is a standard change of circumstances.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that the one to ASIO?

Senator O'SULLIVAN: Chair, is this fit for estimates?

Senator RHIANNON: It is to understand the process.

CHAIR: As it goes to the current operations of the AFP, I guess it is.

Mr Colvin : Internally we have our own security clearance procedures, and then depending on the level of classification it would be Defence who was-

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. How many investigations into allegations of Australians bribing foreign officials are being undertaken at the present time?

Mr Colvin : I have that information. The AFP currently holds 17 active foreign bribery investigations. However, only 16 have foreign bribery as a primary offence. Of those, only 10 are publicly known.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say publicly known, what does that mean?

Mr Colvin : You would be aware that foreign bribery attracts a great deal of attention in the media. Of those 17 matters, 10 of them have been reported or are in the media.

Senator RHIANNON: Ten have been reported in the media. Do you mean, in terms of the details of those 10?

Mr Colvin : Not details provided by police, but investigative journalism, or whatever it might be, uncovering allegations of foreign bribery, and then choosing to report on that.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the one that is not a foreign bribery? How would you describe that one?

Mr Colvin : It has foreign bribery but not as the primary offence. Perhaps we are investigating money laundering, fraud or some other type of offence that has a foreign bribery angle, but foreign bribery is not the principal matter that we are investigating.

Senator RHIANNON: How did the AFP respond when the OECD expressed frustration with the secrecy surrounding Australia's antibribery efforts?

Mr Colvin : I do not know that they have expressed frustration around the secrecy. They have certainly expressed a view that we have not done enough in the past. In fact, going back to 2012, they released an evaluation report on our implementation of antibribery-Australia's implementation, not the AFP's, although obviously we are a part of that-and they were critical of our response to foreign bribery. Since 2012, there have been a range of measures across government, largely in the AFP, to address that. In its most recent report the OECD, while not giving a clean bill of health, recognise that there have been significant advances in Australia's and the AFP's efforts on foreign bribery.

Senator RHIANNON: So there has been some improvement, but not a full, clean bill of health. What measures are you taking to respond to those factors that the OECD has identified that have not yet been addressed?

Mr Colvin : I believe that what has not yet been addressed is that they, of course, would like to see us do more, as many people would like to see the AFP do more on many crimes. There is only so much we can do, but since 2012 we have brought a concerted effort to this particular crime type. We have participated in a large number of efforts to improve the skill of our officers in foreign bribery, to the point that we now have some highly skilled officers in foreign bribery. We now have a number of investigations-you may well be aware that two are before the courts at the moment. These are highly complicated investigations that lead to very complex prosecutions and take some time to work their way through the courts. As I said, we have in the order of 17 investigations at the moment. So quite a lot has been done by the AFP since 2012, when the OECD first raised some of its concerns.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for detailing what has been done. Could you just detail what is being done in the areas that have been identified that need to be improved? While you are looking for that, I was wondering if one of the areas was to better protect private sector whistleblowers. I understand that the OECD identified this. Is that one of the areas that you are working on to improve?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that specific question about protecting private sector whistleblowers on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: It would be wonderful if you could say now what areas you are working on to improve, or do you need to take that on notice?

Mr Colvin : There are a range of things that we are doing, but your question is quite specific to the most recent report, which was only, I think, at the end of last year. I think the AGD and other agencies are currently working our way through to respond to that report. So that is very recent. We need to look at that report and see what criticisms there are, what work they say we are not doing and how we are going to respond to those particular criticisms. I do not have all of that with me. I will need to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: But isn't that five months ago? You do not have information for these estimates on how that response is going?

Mr Colvin : I am sure we know a lot about the reports, but until such time as Australia has had a chance to respond to the report and the report is finalised in a published OECD report, it would not be appropriate for us to talk about it.

Senator RHIANNON: Who do you work with in regard to the response? Is it just from AFP or are you working with other departments?

Mr Colvin : It is whole-of-government, led by the Attorney-General's Department.

Senator RHIANNON: Within the Australian government, does the AFP have lead responsibility for international counternarcotics policy?

Mr Colvin : No. The lead policy department would be the Attorney-General's Department, but there would be a range of other departments across the Australian government that would have a role in that. Clearly we, from an operational agency perspective, have quite a deal of input into that.

Senator RHIANNON: What are the formalised human rights safeguards applied to ensure funds allocated to overseas counternarcotics efforts do not lead to human rights abuses?

Mr Colvin : I will take that on notice. I think that is the best way.

Senator RHIANNON: Who signs off on evaluations of human rights risks and approves the international counternarcotics spending? I am trying to understand the process. You have the policy. You have put it into place. How does it work within your system?

Mr Colvin : I can only talk from the perspective of the AFP. When you say 'international counternarcotics policy', that is a really broad brush you have there. We could be talking about the UN Office on Drugs and Crime-

Senator RHIANNON: This question is just: who signs off within your system? Within the AFP chain of command, who signs off on evaluations of the human rights risks with regard to counternarcotics operations?

Mr Colvin : It would be the line management of the area in the AFP that has responsibility for delivering a particular program. So it could be capacity building in relation to Pacific island policing. It could be capacity building in relation to narcotics investigations in Asia. It is all done according to our guidelines. We have very strict protocols around what we train in, how we train and who we train. But it is quite a mosaic. It is not as easy as answering that one person is responsible for all of that.

Senator RHIANNON: With all due respect, it sounds vague. Are the human rights risks taken into account?

Mr Colvin : Yes, they are. We have said that many times. Human rights training is a large part of all of our capacity-building objectives. You say it is vague. That is because-and I apologise-the question is quite broad. It could be training delivered in the form of investigations training or it could be capacity delivered through equipment we might be giving. It is a very rich, broad mosaic that you are painting.

Senator RHIANNON: Has an allocation of funds to an international counternarcotics initiative ever been refused on the basis of human rights risk?

Mr Colvin : Again, we have particular operational programs that we run with our partners overseas. Some of those may be aid funded and they may have a counternarcotics angle to them. There is not a simple answer to give you on whether any have ever been rejected on human rights grounds because they would follow so many different permutations to get to the point of delivery. I would have to take that on notice to see if we could find out-

Senator RHIANNON: Take on notice also to give an example of how the human rights component is included and how that assessment is made. That is what I am really trying to understand the process for. Does it actually happen? If so, how does it happen? Take that on notice, please.

Mr Colvin : I want to be clear about what we are taking on notice. You said 'human rights component'. If we are training international police in intelligence investigations for forensic investigations, what human rights component of that are you talking about?

Senator RHIANNON: I will go back to the specific question: has an allocation of funds to an international counternarcotics initiative ever been refused on the basis of human rights risk?

Mr Colvin : I will take it on notice and we will do the best we can to give you a specific answer to that.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Will the AFP be involved in the forthcoming UN Office on Drugs and Crime country program in Pakistan?

Mr Colvin : We certainly have been in the past. I am not sure of one particularly coming up. It is not ringing a bell with any of my officers in the room.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take that on notice, please. If so, what is the AFP's role? Will the AFP be involved in the forthcoming United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime program in Iran?

Mr Colvin : I will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. This is with regard to some developments in the Philippines and their National Bureau of Investigation. The NBI in the Philippines undertook an investigation following a request from PETA Asia on crush videos made for sexual fetishism. I will not go into them. I imagine you understand what that is about. It resulted in a life sentence for each of the two Filipino citizens. That occurred in 2014. It was reported that one of those convicted told the court that an Australian man made payments and provided the couple with the video equipment used to record the videos as well as the scripts used to direct the activities of the girls and young women who were forced to kill animals. Have the AFP been informed of this case?

Mr Colvin : I would have to take that on notice. It rings no bells with me. If the Philippine National Police have referred that information to us then we will have actioned it, but I will have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: If yes, is the AFP investigating the perpetrator? Could you take that on notice. And if no-maybe you could answer this now, Commissioner-is this the sort of case the AFP would investigate if requested, where an Australian national is directing animal abuse and what amounts to sexual abuse in another country?

Mr Colvin : That is the type of matter we would certainly look to work with our partners on, yes.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the process by which such an investigation would occur?

Mr Colvin : Generally speaking, the competent authority of the country would bring to us-in this case the Philippine National Police; we have liaison officers in the Philippines-that information. We would consider the information. We would probably talk to them about entering into a joint investigation. We would certainly make some inquiries to establish if there was any value that we could add to the investigation, and it would start from there.

Senator RHIANNON: Just back on the counter-narcotic initiatives: is the AFP currently involved in any international counter-narcotics initiatives?

Mr Colvin : Again, that is very broad. I would have to say the answer to that is yes. because we are involved in counter-narcotics investigations and capacity building with partners all over the world.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the current AFP expenditure on these initiatives? I would like an overall amount and then country breakdown, please.

Mr Colvin : Are you talking about every counter-narcotics investigation that we are involved in with our overseas partners?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. I was after a total amount and then by country.

Mr Colvin : Senator, I will be able to give you some headline figures of the AFP budget in terms of our drug work and our international engagement work, but to narrow it down more than that will be extremely difficult.

Senator RHIANNON: So you can give us a global figure?

Mr Colvin : It will be quite a generic figure, yes.

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