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Senate Estimates: Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

Legal and Constitutional Affairs  Committee

Estimates hearings 16 October 2012

  • Senator RHIANNON
  • Prof. Triggs
  • Ms Broderick
  • Mr Negus
  • Mr Drennan
  • Mr Colvin

 Full transcript available here


Page 11

Senator RHIANNON: What advances are being made to introduce domestic and family violence as a separate ground of discrimination?

Prof. Triggs: Thank you very much for that question. I will pass to my colleague Elizabeth Broderick, who is the commissioner on sex discrimination.

Ms Broderick: There has been a lot of discussion over the last probably six months about domestic and family violence, recognising that it will take all sectors of the Australian community to take action to remove this blight from Australian society.

In relation to progress under domestic and family violence, there has been, I think, a much more engaged discussion with business around this. That is the one thing that I have sensed has really changed in the last six months. Secondly, a number of businesses have started to put in policies which support those women who are experiencing domestic violence. They are things such as the ability to keep a locked bag at work, the ability to access a flexible work arrangement, the ability to change telephone extension numbers et cetera.

The third thing is that there is discussion about whether or not domestic violence should be a protected attribute under the consolidated anti-discrimination laws. The fourth thing that is happening is that a number of organisations have introduced domestic violence leave. I do not have the exact figures on that, but there are several hundred thousand workers who are now covered by enterprise agreements which include domestic leave.

 

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Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that. Could we explore some of those responses you gave? How is progress on it becoming a protected attribute?

Ms Broderick: We have been meeting with various groups on that. We have been meeting with women's groups but we have also been meeting with business—ACCI, COSBOA and others—to talk about that. The reality is that two-thirds of women who are living in or have lived in an intimate relationship characterised by violence are in paid work, at least initially. If we can keep them in paid work, that is the best chance they have of leaving that relationship should they choose to do so.

There have been discussions across a whole range of stakeholders. We made a submission to the consolidation of Commonwealth law, discrimination project. We will not know whether or not it will be picked up until the exposure draft of the consolidated laws is released.

Senator RHIANNON: So you were supporting discrimination related to domestic and family violence being unlawful in the workplace?

Ms Broderick: Yes, we were. We understood from our discussions across the community that there are many women who request a flexible arrangement to deal with legal issues, medical issues and whatever who have been refused flexible work arrangements—for example, the ability to maybe come into work late and all the things for which women who are experiencing domestic violence will need some, I suppose, accommodation. The fact is that domestic violence has a cost to business as well as a significant personal cost. So, for a number of reasons, we took the view that domestic violence should be a protected attribute under the new anti-discrimination laws.

Senator RHIANNON: You mentioned another point in your opening remarks about enterprise agreements. You outlined some very good developments in that area, but I wonder whether you could outline further what direct support, as well as businesses being proactive on this, is being given for this measure to be adopted in enterprise agreements?

Ms Broderick: I know the union movement has been quite instrumental in progressing this agenda. As I understand it—and this information is from the domestic violence clearing house—almost 650, 000 workers are now covered by enterprise agreements that have domestic violence leave. It is probably for a short period, about five days, but it enables two things. Firstly, those women who need to attend court hearings and medical hearings have the ability, at least, to use their domestic violence leave.

Another thing that I care about is that we can have a conversation about domestic violence in business. When I first came into this role I could talk about sexual harassment and I was able to have a good conversation with business about that. But the minute I went into the realm of domestic violence, that was seen to be a private matter. So I think we have really moved forward and initiatives such as the ones I have outlined have helped us do that.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Commissioner, and congratulations on how this work is advancing.

 

Australian Federal Police

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Senator RHIANNON: Mr Negus, on the work in Afghanistan, I was reading that there is both an international network and an International Deployment Group. What is the difference between those two groups?

Mr Negus: In Afghanistan we do have an international network and we do have an International Deployment Group. With the international network we have just under 100 officers situated in 28 or 29 countries currently around the world—that has changed a little recently—as liaison officers. They work in the high commissions and embassies around the world. They facilitate inquiries on behalf of all Australian law enforcement, so if there was a murder in Sydney and it had some connection with the United States, our officer in Washington or Los Angeles may make those inquiries with the FBI or somebody else on their behalf. They also work in international drug trafficking and terrorism around the world. That is the international network. The International Deployment Group is a group of people specifically there for capacity building and peacekeeping operations through the region. They are in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, South Sudan and places like that. They are the ones in Afghanistan. We do not have an international network person in Afghanistan, but we do have 28 officers from the International Deployment Group doing capacity building in Afghanistan.

Senator RHIANNON: On the International Deployment Group, I think you have about 730 officers in total. Are all of those paid for out of the overseas development allocation to AFP?

Mr Negus: No, they are not. Some of them are, but it depends on the eligibility under the very strict criteria for ODAs. There are components of the International Deployment Group that would be paid. Deputy Commissioner Drennan could elaborate as he is in charge of that area. Before I hand over to him, I would like to correct the international network figures. We are in 30 countries with 96 people, to correct the record. Deputy Commissioner Drennan can tell you more about ODA and the process that we go through in regard to that taking place.

Mr Drennan: Your question was about what aspects of the International Deployment Group are ODA. It is quite complex in some regards in that some parts of our missions are and some parts are not. I can run through each mission, if you want, where we have an ODA component. In Afghanistan—

Senator RHIANNON: I would appreciate that on notice. I am really after the bigger picture at the moment so I can understand the situation. Do you have a breakdown of the percentage of those 730 that come under the international network that are funded by ODA, even if it is not the number of positions but the percentage of the overall program for which you receive ODA funding?

Mr Drennan: Yes, the total funding for the International Deployment Group is $286.2 million, of which $188.5 million is ODA eligible.

Senator RHIANNON: Are any of the officers working as part of the International Development Group based in Australia?

Mr Drennan: In the International Deployment Group there are at the current time 692 people. It is broken into three components. There is a mission component which is 471 people. Those people are based offshore or as

 

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part of the mission rotation which means that they are not necessarily offshore at a particular time—as you would appreciate, they need to have leave, training et cetera.

There are 115 people who are permanent A-based, which are the support staff for the International Deployment Group and then there are another 106 people who are what we call the SRG, who are the public order tactical operators Specialist Response Group. That adds up to 692.

Senator RHIANNON: That is the 692, and then you are receiving about $188 million from ODA. Which of those positions receive the ODA funding out of those three categories?

Mr Drennan: The ODA funding is in relation to our IDG missions offshore. As I started to go through before, that picks up from Afghanistan, through the Pacific, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and the United Nations missions in South Sudan and Timor Leste.

Senator RHIANNON: Just to clarify, are any of these positions under the IDG, the ones that receive ODA money, based in Australia?

Mr Drennan: No, ODA is mission-specific funding, so it is for our activities for the people in the missions offshore.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much.

Mr Negus: There is quite a complex process, which I am sure AusAID could articulate much better than we can, but we have to submit through AusAID to Finance the process that we expect the mission will take and what people what do what roles, and they will tell us which are ODA eligible and which ones are not. Certainly, people based in Australia providing support would not be eligible to be paid for under ODA. Even some of the people that perform roles in-country may not eligible, depending on what role they are performing at the time. There is a very strict criteria that needs to be met.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Mr Negus. Are all the AFP activities in Afghanistan considered to be ODA eligible?

Mr Drennan: Yes, they are.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand the AFP officers at Tarin Kot are confined to the base as, I think, the security environment in that area is not considered safe enough for the mentoring given the fact that the Afghan National Police is a primary target of the insurgency. Is it the current situation that they are confined to base?

Mr Drennan: Confined is probably not the best word but they operate within the base, yes. That is because the work that they do—that is, training and mentoring the Afghan National Police—is best conducted within that structured and safe environment. To go outside to do work out there would place our officers at a greater risk than would be the benefit of putting them out there. So you are right: they operate within the Tarin Kot base. They are not outside of that.

Senator RHIANNON: So there is no field training at all is what we can conclude from that.

Mr Drennan: There is no field training in the field. Some of the scenario work that they do within the confines of the base replicates what they would do externally. So, to be precise, they do field training work, but it is inside the base. They do not do it outside of the base.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. How long has that been the protocol? Did that come in when the NATO forces made the decision to withdraw or was it more recently, with the latest round of green on blue killings?

Mr Drennan: Our members have always operated in that manner since their deployment to Afghanistan.

Senator RHIANNON: So there have never been field operations in the field. Right. Do you feel that that compromises the training for the Afghan National Police? Clearly, police operations are out in the community; they are in diverse situations. It must limit the effectiveness of your programs if you have always been confined to base.

Mr Drennan: There are parts of Defence NATO forces who provide mentoring in the field for the police officers, so there is a follow-up there to ensure that those things that they learn within their basic training are reinforced in the field.

Senator RHIANNON: Just talking about that training, I was surprised to read of the low levels of literacy amongst the ANP. I should not say I am surprised because it has obviously been a real challenge for Afghanistan in terms of their education programs. That surely must also limit the effectiveness of your own training if these officers are not able to read the laws of their country. How is that handled?

Mr Drennan: To put this in perspective, I agree that there is a low level of literacy, but the role that they are performing is one of a fairly basic policing role which is security focused. Of course, that will transition as

 

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Afghanistan transitions. So it is not as if these officers are preparing a complex brief of evidence for the court. The training there has basically been in patrolling. There has been training with NCOs, non-commissioned officers, and there has also been training in relation to evidence collection. I have witnessed officers undertaking training on evidence collection, and young, illiterate officers are given a sketch pad and a pencil and also a digital camera and a tag, and are able to draw a sketch plan of where evidence is located. Then they take a photo of that, tag it and keep it for evidence, which is part of what the training is. You would be pleasantly surprised at the level of aptitude they have to be able to pick up some of those very basic and fundamental policing skills without any level whatsoever or a high level of literacy.

Senator RHIANNON: Just on the literacy, does AusAID or does AFP run the literacy programs for the ANP?

Mr Drennan: We do some literacy training as part of their training, but the broader literacy is not something we are involved in.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you ensure that AusAID have done some programs to assist them?

Mr Drennan: AusAID—and I think the question is probably directed to them—have two types of program that they are running across the board in relation to literacy. I know that they do some but, to be specific in relation to the police that we have trained, I would have to take that on notice.

 

(Sri Lanka)

 

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Moving on to Sri Lanka, I have just been reading about some of the developments there. There are a couple of reports I have come across and I wanted to check with you if you understand they are publicly available. I have been trying to get hold of the memorandum of understanding on legal cooperation against people-smuggling between Australia and Sri Lanka from November 2009.

Mr Colvin: Is that an MOU that the AFP is a signatory to? It does not ring a bell.

Senator RHIANNON: I understand that there is an AFP connection. I have just seen it referenced when I have been reading and I thought as—

Mr Colvin: It would be unusual for us to call an MOU on legal cooperation, which makes make me feel that perhaps it is one that the department has entered into. It is not a MOU that we would normally enter into so I could not say whether it is publicly available or not.

Senator RHIANNON: You are also saying it is not your document.

Mr Colvin: I do not believe so. I stand to be corrected. I am sure someone is checking that right now.

Senator RHIANNON: So you will take that on notice to confirm if it is your document or not?

Mr Colvin: Could you just read the title of the document as you understand it again?

Senator RHIANNON: Memorandum of understanding on legal cooperation against people-smuggling between Australia and Sri Lanka.

Mr Colvin: No, I just had confirmation that it is not our MOU.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. The other document that I am after is the MOU on combating transnational crime and developing police cooperation between the Australian Federal Police and the Sri Lanka police service. It is also a 2009 document, dated May.

Mr Colvin: That does sound like a document that would be ours. In fact, I think I may have been the signatory to that document. We would have to check as to whether it can be made publicly available. I will take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I just want to pick up on the issue, which I think may have been covered before, of the brief from the International Commission of Jurists. It raised issues about the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and included allegations of war crimes. The brief was given to the AFP some time ago. Did the AFP investigate the allegations in this brief?

Mr Colvin: We evaluated the information in the brief. I believe some of the matters contained in the brief are still ongoing. However, in relation to some of the allegations we have completed the evaluation and have concluded that we will not be taking the investigation any further.

Senator RHIANNON: Could we just break that up into two parts. When you say 'evaluated', is that evaluation in terms of a desk evaluation, or did AFP officers visit Sri Lanka and speak to witnesses? Could you explain what 'evaluation' means?

Mr Colvin: I can confirm that we did not travel to Sri Lanka and visit and speak to witnesses. An evaluation really depends on the information that we are provided and whether the information can be corroborated and whether we believe that we can elicit evidence to support the allegations or information that we were provided. In

 

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terms of the ICJ referral, it was effectively and mostly a desk evaluation involving the legislation that would be relevant, the ability for us to collect evidence and the allegations. We did not go to Sri Lanka to make inquiries.

Mr Negus: If I can add to that, the evaluation obviously considered issues of diplomatic immunity and also issues around there being little prospect of a prosecution in this country. I understand you have had a private briefing from Assistant Commissioner Jabbour on the facts around this. If there was something more that you needed we would be happy to provide a supplementary briefing to you on that.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much Mr Negus. I appreciated the briefing; it was very helpful. It would also be useful to see what you are free to put on the record. In response to my earlier question, as well as the evaluation you said that there were some matters ongoing. Are you able to give some framework to that?

Mr Colvin: You may recall that at the time there was the ICJ referral plus there was other information. Some of it was in the media and there was a range of sources alleging certain war-crime-related offences. There is still one aspect of that that we have had an open investigation in regard to and, given that it is an open matter, there is a limit to what I can say on the public record.

Senator RHIANNON: Sorry, I missed the last bit.

Mr Colvin: Given that that matter is an open investigation, I am limited to what I can say on the public record.

 

(RAMSI)

 

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, thank you very much. I want to pick up on some of your work with RAMSI because you provided some useful information to put in questions on notice about the wind-down. It was interesting to read about that. I noticed that in the questions on notice it is stated that the Participating Police Force 'will retain its regional multilateral arrangements under the RAMSI banner'. So, considering the wind-down is occurring, I would like more details of what you meant. There seemed to be a contradiction but maybe there is more to it.

Mr Drennan: It is fairly more accurate again to say that it is at transition, as opposed to a wind-down. As part of that transition there will be a reduction in numbers. The reduction in numbers will be across the Participating Police Forces, which are AFP of course, New Zealand police and the Pacific Island police. As we transition to more of a role of capacity development as opposed to front line support policing, we will require fewer numbers there, so there will be fewer numbers in those three categories of police who contribute to the Participating Police Force.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the PPF the only one out of RAMSI that will be a multilateral arrangement? From my reading, the other arrangements are bilateral.

Mr Drennan: The Participating Police Force forms part of RAMSI. RAMSI is a broader whole-of-government mission for the Solomon Islands. Yes, you are correct; RAMSI will transition in some aspects of that, which are not the police parts, to a bilateral arrangement as opposed to multilateral. But the Participating Police Force will remain as a multilateral or multiorganisational police force to support the Solomon Islands police.

Senator RHIANNON: How many officers are we talking about who will remain there when we move to this new stage and what is the budget for them?

Mr Drennan: The numbers will draw down in total to 154 by June 2013, consisting of 109 AFP, 17 New Zealand and 28 Pacific Islands.

By comparison, currently there are 109 people—110, because there is a member of the New South Wales Fire Brigade there—from Australia who are part of the PPF, 23 from New Zealand and 31 from the Pacific Islands. Of course, that is all subject to budget, but that is our current proposal.

Senator RHIANNON: Can I just check those figures, because there barely seems to be a transition. You said from 110 to 109 for AFP, 23 to 17 for New Zealand and 31 to 28 for Pacific Islanders?

Mr Drennan: Yes, that is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: It really is not significant.

Mr Drennan: It is not. As I say, it is a transition and it will transition over a number of year. But as I said, through to June 2013 that attrition is 164 down to 154.

Senator RHIANNON: So what does transition mean? Statistically it is just not significant, so it would seem as though your police operations will be at the same level.

Mr Drennan: No, that transition, as I explained just a short time ago, is actually the focus of the role. So, transitioning from a participating police role, which was very much in-line, front-line support policing for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, to one that is more one-step back and one-remove, providing capability

 

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development and capacity development. The numbers will reduce over a period of time, but certainly for the next 12 months that reduction is only slight. But, as I said, the focus of the role performed by the police there is what changes more significantly.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you have a plan to actually reduce the numbers? Do you have a target of what the AFP numbers will be reduced to in five years, two years, 10 years?

Mr Drennan: No, other than that it is—I guess the best way to put it—condition based. As the Royal Solomon Islands Police continues to develop, then the numbers that would be required to support them will continue to reduce. Of course, our ultimate goal is that they would not require any support or any capacity development but, to be realistic, that will take some time.

Senator RHIANNON: You said that the job will now shift to capacity building. Can you define that, and would it mean that AFP would not be involved in any operational work and would just be within the station? If you could provide the details, it would be useful.

Mr Drennan: Yes, Senator, it is probably a complex issue to respond to, but in some areas it would mean that instead of being on the front line and working, doing patrols with the Solomon Islands police, they would be back in the station, developing their management and their leadership and their intelligence in relation to where they should do their patrols, on what frequency, and what numbers. In other cases, say public order management, it would actually be providing the public order management training with them, and then providing an oversight role when they are deployed. As that progresses, less of an oversight role would be required and it would be more moving back toward those fundamentals of management and strategic direction. So each area of the Royal Solomon Islands Police will develop at a different pace, depending on the complexity of the particular role they play. It also will develop depending on the geography; as I say, those people who are based in Honiara, where the majority of the participating police force are and where the majority of the Royal Solomon Islands Police work is, will probably progress quicker than those in some of the more remote stations and locations dispersed throughout the Solomon Islands. So, it will depend on the role, it will depend on their location, and it will depend on the individual officers, and areas of the Solomon Islands police as to how quick their capacity develops.

Senator RHIANNON: But surely that work has been going on up until now. Has that not been part of how RAMSI is working? That you have been doing that as well as front line?

Mr Drennan: It certainly has, Senator. Those things have been progressing in tandem. But what I am saying is that the front-line work we are doing will be the secondary type of work and the most prominent work we will be doing will be continuing with the capacity building, but more and more focused on that over time.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for spelling it out, but there is a lack of detail there in terms of assessing how one stage is different from the other stage. Can you supply the committee with any criteria that the AFP have developed in terms of determining where the local police are at so you can make the assessment to what degree the AFP need to remain there?

Mr Drennan: Certainly, Senator. This is an ongoing process and we constantly review the work that we are doing there. There was a recent review of RAMSI which picked up the participating police force as to where we are at. We are constantly readjusting the levers on the type of work we are doing in the capacity development work, and we are constantly planning as to what the next phase is and what the requirements will be for the Royal Solomon Islands Police in their development. None of this is static. This is a constantly moving feast in that we are constantly reviewing, refining and planning for the future. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force is a capable police force which can undertake policing in the Solomon Islands by themselves. The sooner we can achieve that the better. As I said before, we need to be realistic and that is why we constantly review and refine what we are doing, to give ourselves the best chance of success and to be there for the minimum time that we need to, but to ensure that we actually get the job done.

Mr Negus: Could I add one important thing to give this a bit of context. On 26 April this year, the Minister for Defence announced the withdrawal of the combined task force, which is our military component of what is happening over there as well. That was to commence on 1 July 2013 and be completed by 31 December. All of the Australian military who are there will transition out completely. The AFP will have to fill some of the void—not replace them—with regard to the mentoring and development of the local police in that regard. This is also subject to budget next year, and we are currently working through proposals which will be considered by the government at the appropriate time, in the next budget process, about what sort of numbers are required to transition back to zero, because ultimately Australia would like to, from a policing perspective, hand over full responsibility back to the Royal Solomon Islands Police. We are currently pulling together those issues and that

 

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will be considered by the government in due course, about the length of time it will take to transition fully back to the Royal Solomon Islands Police. Beyond 2013 it is really difficult for us to comment on what that will look like.

Senator RHIANNON: You do not have any budget position yet on what is required?

Mr Negus: No. That is to be considered in the budget's lapsing at the end of 2013.

Senator RHIANNON: In summary, do we say that really the role of the AFP in the Solomon Islands has not changed enormously; it is that there may be less front-line work—so we can get it down to a couple of sentences.

Mr Negus: It has been a slow process, but I think it was understandably so. The capability level seven or eight years ago when this started was very low. They have been built up now to a point where the Solomon Islands police do take primary responsibility for responding to incidents. They do that quite well. We continue to transition to them to take full responsibility. Again, they have a new commissioner who has been appointed there earlier this year from the UK, who has a one-year contract. His tenure there will be important in the further development of the Solomon Islands police. We are trying to make sure that we transition in a way that does not lose the security gains that have been made in the Solomon Islands. I was there only a few months ago. It is now a place that is much better; there is a lot more investment, a lot more people feeling at ease than there were only a few years ago. We are trying to transition in a way that does not have that go back to where it was with the riots and the demonstrations that we had some years ago where people were badly injured. It is a delicate balance between having the right amount of people there and transitioning to a point where we can hand over full responsibility to the Solomon Islands police. It is a slow process, I grant that, but it is a process that has been done very carefully.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Commissioner. You have spelled out that the aim is to eventually be able to hand over. Don't you have a target, though, of what you are aiming for? I did ask before and I was surprised, but isn't there some timeline that you are aiming at?

Mr Negus: We do have those, Senator, and they are conditional on the security aims being continued and met at each of those checkpoints, if you like. Again the budget next year will put that to government for consideration about what we think, but it is premature for me to put that on the public record at this stage, because we are working through those issues at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: Just one final question: to go back to the submission of the International Commission for Jurists, when you did your evaluation did you seek any advice from any other departments—from ASIO or DFAT—in making that evaluation?

Mr Colvin: I will take that on notice. We did seek advice from other departments, but as to the specifics of which departments I would need to take that on notice. Certainly, the evaluation is not something the AFP in such complicated matters can do on its own. I have just been advised: A-GD and DFAT.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

 

 

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