Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Estimates hearings, 14 February 2012
Australian Federal Police
- Mr Tony Negus, Commissioner
- Mr Andrew Colvin, Deputy Commissioner, Operations
Senator RHIANNON: Mr Negus, my recollection is that you and your colleagues have spoken to this committee previously about the AFP operations in Sri Lanka. Considering that there is now a new ambassador there, I did want to ask whether there has been any change in the activities of the AFP officers who are based with the embassy there.
Mr Negus: To the best of my knowledge—and Deputy Commissioner Colvin can probably answer this or add to my comments—we have one person based in Colombo, who is there to focus primarily on people smuggling, but also broader transnational crime issues. He has done a very good job working with the Sri Lankan authorities there in helping to mitigate the flow of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to this country. Do you want to add anything there?
Mr Colvin: We have one person there, and I think it is coming up to three years or thereabouts since we opened that post.
Senator RHIANNON: The bulk of that person's job is trying to stop asylum seekers leaving? You mentioned there were two aspects and I am just trying to understand what the priorities are.
Mr Negus: You are right, the bulk of his job is around preventing people smuggling and asylum seekers leaving on the perilous voyages we have seen that can be undertaken. But because we have only one person there, if there are other matters around transnational crime or other crime types, he would be the person we would go to to properly make those representations in Sri Lanka.
Senator RHIANNON: In working to stop people leaving the country who may want to seek asylum, considering there is only one person there, I am making an assumption—but I just want to see whether you can clarify this—that he or she is not in a position to stop those people themselves; it is more a matter that they supply intelligence to the Sri Lankan authorities. Is that how it works?
Mr Negus: Like all of our officers offshore, he has no police powers in that country and no special dispensation to actually go out and do operational work at all. He is really a facilitator of information and knowledge around what is happening in that context.
Senator RHIANNON: So it is not operational, as most of us think it is, it is collecting the intelligence and then supplying it to the Sri Lankan government?
Mr Negus: That is right, Senator, but I do not want create a perception that he is providing intelligence unreasonably in this context. It is defined as criminal intelligence around active people-smuggling investigations.