Page 3098 - Week 08 - Thursday, 7 August 2008

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wiretapping and covert operations essential to root out corruption.” Let me reiterate: I am not satisfied that ACLEI can provide the level of oversight which ACT Policing and the ACT electorate deserve.

This is what the ALP’s own Wayne Sievers, one of its candidates in this year’s ACT Legislative Assembly election, has to say on his website:

Organisations such as the AFP now have so much unaccountable power that oversight is needed to protect the democratic rights of people.

Mr Sievers advocates a new national anti-corruption body which would answer to a panel of judges rather than a government appointee. According to his website, Mr Sievers briefly worked with Mark Standen in the AFP Sydney’s drug unit in the 1980s and believes that corrupt federal officers like Mark Standen were allowed to leave quietly in the mid-1990s rather than face investigation.

He says that, while he worked with the AFP, he was once offered an envelope stuffed with cash by his senior sergeant and told it was his share of the take from the search warrant. Sievers says that, after making a complaint to a more senior officer, he was immediately punished by a transfer to an non-operational area. It is obvious from the way in which this bribe was offered to Mr Sievers, and the way in which he was subsequently ostracised, that it was not an isolated incident.

The Wood royal commission in 1997 disclosed major corruption in the AFP drug unit, and the subsequent Harrison report named dozens of law enforcement officers, including AFP officers, who were subsequently sacked, but most of the report was kept secret, so we still do not know the extent to which the corruption permeated our law enforcement agencies.

I raise these facts because in this place there is always a tendency to try to score political points by being seen to be standing shoulder to shoulder with our police officers and to launch personal attacks on anyone who might raise legitimate points of concern about their effectiveness and probity. This mindless knee-jerk populism seems to occur regardless of factual reality and regardless of whether such one-eyed blustering serves the interest of the broad AFP community who are honest and hardworking and who do not deserve to be tarnished by being associated with those very few corrupt officers who are able to hide in their midst, thanks to the smokescreen created by the very politicians who pretend to be protecting them.

If anyone here feels like doing the same today, I would like them to first address these facts because that is what they are—facts—and explain why we should not be concerned about handing over even more powers without seeking or receiving any reassurance that these proven systemic problems have been resolved. This is what Justice Brennan said about controlled operations in the High Court case Ridgeway v the Queen:

It is manifest that there will be anomalies, if not corruption, in the conduct of such operations in the absence of adequate supervision. But provisions of that kind cannot be prescribed by courts; they are appropriate matters for consideration by the Parliament.

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