Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3099 ..
I have not read or heard any substantial consideration by the government or the opposition regarding the lack of adequate supervision over the Australian Crime Commission and ACT Policing to whom we are entrusting these new powers.
George Williams, professor of public law at the University of New South Wales, notes:
Over recent years the AFP has exploded in numbers and responsibility.
He goes on to say:
Dedicated parliamentary oversight is needed for law-enforcement agencies.
I agree with him. There should be at least an Assembly committee with realistic powers to oversight our own police force. Perhaps a future ACT government will see fit to lobby the federal government to grant them the powers necessary to effectively manage the public servants who enforce the laws that we make.
I echo the concerns raised by the Families and Friends of Drug Law Reform that these powers could lead to more drug users as opposed to drug dealers and financiers being drawn into the criminal justice system. I also share their concern that these kinds of operations could result in the entrapment of drug users or small-time users and dealers who deal drugs to support their habit, by inducing them to commit crimes which are more serious than they might otherwise have contemplated and committed.
The arrest and conviction statistics for the percentage of dealers and users arrested and convicted make depressing reading. The conviction rate for the so-called Mr Bigs is very low. The powers in this bill have been justified as being necessary to catch the Mr Bigs and the organised crime gangs. Their effectiveness remains to be seen and will be measured by the impact they have on organised crime, the conviction rate of the Mr Bigs and the availability of drugs on the street.
It is disappointing that there is no statutory evaluation period for this legislation. I urge the government to remain vigilant that these powers are not abused and to ensure that they are not used for entrapment purposes or to incite people to commit crimes which would otherwise not have occurred.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (6.13): This is a difficult bill, as it raises an area of law which is replete with serious pitfalls and dangers. It is an area in which we must tread very carefully so as not to undermine our police system and our legal system, both of which are central to having a safe, law-abiding community.
Controlled operations by police are a contentious issue, and for good reason. There is always a great danger involved in providing anyone, even a qualified police officer, with immunity from prosecution for breaking the law, since police involvement in a criminal operation always raises some danger of entrapment or other abuse of power. Historically, we have seen instances of entrapment and corruption in cases where police have been given excessive powers, and these give us pause in granting special powers or immunities to police.