TUESDAY, 28 MAY 2002, pp. 247-266]

Australian Federal Police

CHAIR-I welcome Commissioner Keelty and officers of Australian Federal Police.

Senator Faulkner-I was interested in understanding a little more about the role of the AFP in countering people-smuggling but more particularly I suppose the resources that, as a result of the last budget, are being applied to that task. I take you to page 202 of the PBS. I think it would be fair to say that the PBS does give a lot of emphasis to countering people-smuggling. Is that reasonable, Minister?

Senator Ellison-Yes.

Senator Faulkner-In outcome 1 on page 202 I note the dot point which says `countering and otherwise investigating organised people smuggling'. I assume this is an indication of the current priority of that particular task for the AFP. Would that be right, Commissioner?

Mr Keelty-That is correct, Senator.

Senator Faulkner-On page 209 of the PBS I read, in relation to the LECP: The Government will provide additional funding of $47.0m over four years to expand the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program (LECP). The additional funding comprises $43.0m over four years for expenses and $4.0m over two years for capital.

Commissioner, could you or one of your officers indicate to us, given that there is some detail there, how this program works? It is not entirely clear from reading the PBS. I am concentrating on the expansion that is relevant for this area that I am looking at-the people-smuggling role.

Mr Keelty-Yes. The expansion of the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program is built upon the success of the program that was commenced under the National Illicit Drugs Strategy in 1998, and it has resulted in a large number of narcotics seizures. In fact, 6.5 tonnes of narcotics have been seized since the commencement of that program.

This funding will be for an additional 16 AFP officers to be placed in strategic positions overseas and some 18 support staff in Australia. It will also be used to further enhance cooperation with the overseas law enforcement agencies and to increase the flow of intelligence information through cooperation with overseas law enforcement authorities.

Senator Faulkner-Could I take you to the second last paragraph on that page, the second last sentence. It says: There is also a well documented increase in the incidence of unauthorised arrivals, particularly those aided by people smugglers.

I was wondering to what extent this expansion was actually going to counter people-smuggling. You may not be able to completely identify it, but I wondered if it was an important element of the expansion of the program.

Mr Keelty-It is an important element of the expansion of the program in the sense that the previous Law Enforcement Cooperation Programs were largely directed at narcotics trafficking. With this program, insofar as it extends to the investigation of people-smugglers, there are a number of law enforcement agencies that we have historically had relationships with through work in the area of narcotics. That does not necessarily spill over into the area of people-smuggling, because some of the routes are different, some of the agencies involved are different, and some of the countries of source are different. So it is intended to address those issues.

Senator Faulkner-Are you able to say, in relation to the 16 additional officers for the AFP, whether there is a particular focus with people-smuggling?

Mr Keelty-The work of those officers, as far as it extends to people-smuggling, will be to engage cooperation from the law enforcement agencies in source countries but also to identify methodology. One of the difficulties with people-smuggling is that, with the large numbers of people globally attempting to cross borders illegally each year, there tends to be a displacement effect. You may have law enforcement activity in a particular country or region that might stem the flow and displace the flow to somewhere else. So part of this is about understanding those sorts of issues. Part of it is about understanding where, for example, counterfeit documents are created for travel-which is a large part of this. Some of it is about understanding the money flow. So it is a whole raft of initiatives.

Senator Faulkner-Are you able to say where those 16 officers are going to be placed? It does say here that you are going to place them strategically. Could you indicate where?

Mr Keelty-It would be inappropriate for me to identify the individual countries until such time as we reach agreement to allow a liaison officer to operate in that country. We need to engage those countries first and foremost. To put it in general terms, it will be central Asia, parts of South-East Asia and parts of Europe.

Senator Faulkner-If I understand you correctly, once the officers have been placed, those constraints do not apply to the answer? You would not be having any problem in answering my question if those discussions had been concluded?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-So you would be able to tell me now-it may be publicly available and if it is please excuse my ignorance-how many AFP offices are currently placed overseas and where they are placed?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-Is that sort of material in the annual report, which I did peruse? I would be lying to you if I said I read it thoroughly. I simply have not had the time.

Mr Keelty-I can give you that answer now.

Senator Faulkner-Before you do-and this is obviously a standard question for a Senate estimates hearing-is it something that is published normally in the annual report or whatever?

Mr Keelty-It is. In the current annual report of the AFP it is found at output 1.3, International services, on page 49. The only thing I would point out to you is that it is a bit of a movable feast in the sense that we do close posts as much as open posts in a given financial year. As their relevance diminishes we move on.

Senator Faulkner-So you would be happy to give me the updated figures?

Mr Keelty-Certainly. Currently there are 40 liaison officers in 24 posts in 23 countries.

Since 1 July 2001 we have made some changes to the network. We opened Beirut and closed Nicosia. We closed Rome, opened Phnom Penh, opened Dili in East Timor, reduced Manila by one, increased Kuala Lumpur by one and opened in Fiji. We have an additional officer placed in Port Moresby. We have sent two officers to Vanuatu and one to the Solomon Islands.

That is in addition to officers we have in London, the Hague, Los Angeles, Washington, Bogota, Brazilia, Bangkok, Islamabad and Singapore. I think that covers the range, but if I am wrong I will give you some more detail.

Senator Faulkner-So what would be the biggest post in size-the top half-dozen?

Mr Keelty-I am sorry; one of the posts I did not mention was Hong Kong. Bangkok and Hong Kong would be by far the busiest posts.

Senator Faulkner-And after them?

Mr Keelty-After that, Jakarta and then Islamabad.

Senator Faulkner-Which are the countries-and there may only be one or two-that have more than one post?

Mr Keelty-Currently we have more than one in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Senator Faulkner-In Thailand.

Mr Keelty-Yes.

Senator Faulkner-Would you be able to say where in Indonesia your posts are?

Mr Keelty-We have a post only in Jakarta.

Senator Faulkner-I thought you said you had more than one post in Indonesia.

Perhaps I misunderstood you.

Mr Keelty-It might be my misunderstanding. There is more than one officer in Indonesia.

When you said `offices', I thought you meant persons.

Senator Faulkner-I did not intend to put an `r' in it. I meant `offices' without the `r'.

I should have said `posts'.

Mr Keelty-In Indonesia there is only one post. In Thailand there is only one post currently.

Senator Faulkner-But there must be some country that has more than one post.

Mr Keelty-The United States is perhaps the only one.

Senator Faulkner-Okay.

Mr Keelty-Sorry; we are in Beijing and Hong Kong in China.

Senator Faulkner-I appreciate that. If that is the case, that adds up. Are you able to say to us-and this would be more relevant in some of these posts or countries than in others-what sort of amount of time might be spent on countering people-smuggling? I expect, for example, in the post in Jakarta that that would be more significant than it might be in some of the European posts that you mentioned. Would that be right?

Mr Keelty-That is correct. In the AFP we have a thing called time attribution, which is similar to the way a legal practice might work in that we require our people to document the time that they spend on any particular line of inquiry or investigation. So I can give you quite accurate figures on that, except that I do not have those figures here. But your general description is quite correct.

Senator Faulkner-Would you be able to take that on notice?

Mr Keelty-Certainly.

Senator Faulkner-So there is logically a geographical interest, if you like. Is that a fair way of describing it?

Mr Keelty-That is correct. I accept your proposition that our people in Indonesia, whilst they might have initially gone there with a narcotics focus, have largely now focused their efforts on people-smuggling. Similarly in Bangkok, we are there largely for narcotics trafficking but there is a raft of activities that occurs in Thailand to do with counterfeit documents and so forth. We have a person placed at their transnational crime centre dealing with people-smuggling. The post in Manila was initially to do with narcotics trafficking but it now also looks at some elements of people-smuggling.

Senator Faulkner-Let us take Indonesia, for example. Are you able to say how many agents you currently have in Indonesia?

Mr Keelty-Yes. We have two.

Senator Faulkner-Are there any other descriptors of AFP personnel?

You say Indonesia has two agents; what about other AFP personnel? Are there any other AFP personnel?

Mr Keelty-In Indonesia? No.

Senator Faulkner-I see. Let us go back to the 16 new additional AFP officers. What were the other 18 that you were speaking about? I may have misunderstood. I thought there was another category.

Mr Keelty-The other category of 18 are support staff based here in Canberra.

Senator Faulkner-That is what I meant. I was not sure whether there were any support staff at the posts. That was the purpose of my question. So the additional support staff are all Canberra based or based here in Australia?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-I was not clear on that. I am focusing on countering people-smuggling in this questioning. As to the $47 million, the $43 million over four years for expenses and the $4 million over two years for capital in the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program, are you able to say to us in any more detail what that is going to mean in terms of enhancing our capacity to counter people-smuggling?

Mr Keelty-I have already touched on the substantial increase in counterfeit identity documents. Some of it is in the area of money laundering. A lot of it is to do with the start-up costs of establishing new posts. As an example, take Indonesia. If we were to seek to open an office in Kupang, for instance, which has been identified as a large trafficking route, there would be a lot of start-up costs in initiating that office. In some places, for example, Colombia-not that this is to do with people-smuggling, but it gives you an example of what I am talking about-

Senator Faulkner-I do appreciate that. I suppose it is the break-up between expenses and capital that I see in relation to the $47 million that is not clear. Some people might say that a lot of the start-up costs might be capital costs, for example, but that is quite a small proportion of the $47 million-well under 10 per cent.

Mr Keelty-We are talking about 34 additional staff. The travel expense is a considerable amount. Those start-up costs I talked to you about - office furnishings, those sorts of issues - are included in that.

Senator Faulkner-They are included as expenses, not capital?

Mr Keelty-That is correct. I am advised that some equipment costs would be considered capital. I should point out that the expansion of the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program is not only to do with people-smuggling; people-smuggling is one element of it.

Senator Faulkner-I do appreciate that. That is helpful. On page 210 of the PBS there is mention made of double the strike team capacity of the AFP. Does that extra funding of $47 million also have a people-smuggling component?

Mr Keelty-Not specifically. It is for 116 federal agents to be deployed around Australia who will be doing some people-smuggling work here, but it also includes terrorism and politically motivated violence and a continuation of the success of the drug strike teams.

Senator Faulkner-This is all onshore, isn't it? This is all based in Australia itself. In the third or fourth sentence there it says: `The strike teams respond to crimes such as people-smuggling ...' Again, I am just wondering, in the broad, what this will mean. I do not want chapter and verse; I am just trying to get the picture of it.

Mr Keelty-If I compare it with the line of questioning that you took up previously, obviously one of our aims has been to take the fight offshore and stop crimes at their source.

The other angle is to attack the crime domestically. The crime of people-smuggling is sometimes perpetrated from inside Australia or, if not perpetrated inside Australia, it is carried out by people from within Australia, and that is what those teams would be looking at. There is also the issue of unlawful arrivals in a remote location. For example, we have had arrivals in Cairns, we have had arrivals from off the east coast of Australia and, of course, we have had the ones up north and to the west of Western Australia. The Darwin office of the AFP had been almost entirely focused on people-smuggling for about the last 18 months. So a lot of this is about being able to put the teams where the investigations are.

Senator Faulkner-Are you able to say in broad terms, again in relation to this particular new funding, what proportion of that $47 million for doubling the strike team capacity - I will not hold you to it, but just give me a rough idea - might at the end of the day be used to combat people-smuggling?

Mr Keelty-I am not avoiding the question, but the way our strike teams work is that they are not necessarily specialists in a particular field. They are often generalists who will be deployed to attack the particular crime that has been committed. So it is difficult to try to apportion or accurately predict how much time they will be able to spend on people-smuggling. At the moment you would say that, if there has been no unlawful arrival of any vessel since November last year, a lot of their effort will be focused on things other than people-smuggling if that trend continues. Or, as often happens when you attack crime in a particular way, it is like a balloon: you can depress the balloon in one part and it expands in another.

One of the things that we are unaware of at the moment is what sort of displacement effect the current strategies have had, and whether there will be a continuation or a more determined effort to bring people to Australia using other methodologies. For example, we have seen in Europe the use of containers; one would think that that would be difficult in Australia given its remote location, but some countries are our near neighbours. To be able to give you an accurate picture now of how much work they will be doing on people-smuggling, the issue is that they will be available to do that work, they will be able to do counterterrorism-which is not a role that we have previously had-and they will continue the work that we have done on narcotics trafficking.

Senator Faulkner-You are saying that to look at any proportion of the funding is basically a dopey question, which is fair enough. On the same page of the PBS, the extension of project Axiom again is talking about funding enabling the ALP-

CHAIR-The AFP, I suspect.

Senator Faulkner-What did I say?

CHAIR-You said ALP.

Senator Faulkner-Did I? I did not even know I had said it. There you are. It just shows what terrible things are in your subconscious, doesn't it?

Mr Keelty-Someone might have something to say if they thought I headed up the ALP.

Senator Faulkner-I can only apologise most profusely if I said ALP and not AFP.

Senator McKiernan-My levy might reduce!

Senator Faulkner-You should not have told me I said it, because the Hansard could have gone uncorrected for a century and even fewer people would have known what I was talking about.

CHAIR-They would have been concerned about the $21.4 million for the ALP, though.

Senator Faulkner-Any donation is gladly received and we would declare it. Again, in project Axiom, there is funding for people-smuggling. Is it a similar story to what you were saying to me in relation to the strike team capacity?

Mr Keelty-Yes, it is. Transnational and organised crime syndicates do not often only deal in one commodity. Often they are involved in a range of commodities.

At this stage, it is hard to predict the actual percentage. It might well be that you put your efforts into a particular syndicate that is involved in all of those types of activities.

Senator Faulkner-On page 214 of the PBS, there is a commitment of $1.5 million over four years to the AFP for the supply of five boats to the Indonesian National Police.

Again, from what we see in the PBS, this seems to be quite direct.

This is assistance for Indonesian efforts to curb people-smuggling. Could you perhaps provide a little more detail than what we see in the PBS? It seems very direct and very clear that it has a particular focus.

Would that be right?

Mr Keelty-That is correct. This initiative arises out of work that we commenced with the Indonesian National Police who, through cooperation, established a number of investigation teams, particularly in the eastern sectors of Indonesia, where the people-smugglers were gathering their boats to depart Indonesia. One of the problems that has emerged in the methodology used by the people smugglers is that-again in direct response, it would appear, to law enforcement activity-instead of gathering large numbers of people in one position, what they have been doing is gathering them in a number of positions.

They go and collect these people and at the last minute put them at the point of departure. The Indonesian National Police do not have a capacity in that area, particularly where there are small boats used, to gather these people up and take them to the point of embarkation. So this is to further assist those teams. If my memory serves me correctly, it might have been an outcome of the ministerial summit on trafficking in human beings that was conducted recently in Denpasar.

Senator Faulkner-Will that fully cover the costs of these boats? I assume we are talking about smaller type boats here.

Mr Keelty-Yes, they are. They are a little bit bigger than a runabout.

Senator Faulkner-You say this is an outcome of the conference. Was that because it was identified by the Indonesian police as a requirement?

Mr Keelty-I stand corrected, Senator. I think the way this happened was that the Prime Minister visited Indonesia and flagged with the government that we were prepared to provide these boats. Then it became one of the outcomes of the ministerial summit and, I think, was signed off by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Senator Faulkner-Was this identified by Indonesian police as a requirement?

Mr Keelty-As a shortcoming. And perhaps I should put some context around this, as well. I might have the figures slightly wrong, but I think I am close.

There are 200,000 police in the Indonesian National Police. They are spread across some 7,000 islands in the archipelago. There are significant challenges facing the Indonesian National Police in terms of the equipment that is available to them and the training that they receive. To seek their assistance to, in effect, provide an outcome for us in Australia means that we are actually asking them to put their resources towards an outcome for Australia that might not necessarily be seen as an outcome for them, which was obviously largely one of the issues that has been discussed at another level. One of the things we look at through the cooperation is how best to assist both of us to work together. Obviously the provision of these boats was one of the outcomes of that.

Senator Faulkner-I see. I take you to the second last paragraph on page 219 of the PBS. It says: The AFP will be increasingly called upon to assist neighbouring law enforcement agencies with institutional strengthening to enhance their capacity to address transnational crime.

I assume this also has, at a minimum, a people-smuggling component.

Would that be right?

Mr Keelty-That is right.

Senator Faulkner-I do not know whether I have picked up every reference to people-smuggling in the PBS but I have picked up all those that hit me in the eye. The second last dot point overleaf says: ... improving the ability to combat transnational crime threats to Australia by disrupting and dismantling such activities in source and transit countries ...

Does that have a people-smuggling component, and what is actually meant?

Mr Keelty-People-smuggling, as I mentioned earlier, is considered part of transnational crime and it also reflects-and these initiatives reflect-that transnational crime syndicates do not necessarily specialise in one type of crime or commodity. Their motivation is money. If they see money and a way to make money, that is where they will direct their attention. That might involve in one activity the importing of narcotics to Australia; in another type of activity it might be to assist people-smuggling. It is largely covered by the description `transnational crime'.

Senator Faulkner-How do you go about organising the disrupting or dismantling of such activities in source and transit countries?

Mr Keelty-Once we have identified the syndicate we look at the area of least resistance that will actually disrupt the syndicate's activities. For example, if it is a drug matter, rather than look at the people who courier the drugs to Australia - you can imagine there would be no end of people who would volunteer their services as drug couriers - the effort is focused upon the facilitators, the people who know how to obtain the narcotics, launder the money and have the contacts, vessels, planes or couriers. Removing the facilitators from the syndicate disrupts the syndicate because many of these facilitators work with more than one syndicate. We do have a very strategic approach to whom we actually target.

More often than not these people are people who are positioned overseas so we need a lot of work done here in Australia to establish the contacts and who these people are, and then a lot a work overseas with our partner agencies to identify the people. We try to dismantle the syndicate rather than just focus on the individual.

Senator Faulkner-Yes, but you would need a lot of cooperation from the local police or other agencies in order to be able to do that, wouldn't you?

Mr Keelty-That is right, and that is why part of the package is the expansion of the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program.

Senator Faulkner-For that program you work in close liaison with all local authorities, whether they be police or other agencies, do you?

Mr Keelty-That is right.

Senator Faulkner-Is that the cornerstone of it, basically?

Mr Keelty-That is right. Not all police agencies have the same role as police agencies in Australia. For example, sometimes the role of immigration and border protection is within the police agency of a country and sometimes it is spread amongst a number of agencies, as we have it here in Australia. Sometimes you will engage principally one agency and sometimes you will need to engage a number of agencies to seek their cooperation. We do not work operationally overseas; we have no jurisdiction to work operationally overseas. We must engage the services of the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in a particular area that we are focusing upon.

Senator Faulkner-So how does that work? For example, how do you, with the Indonesian authorities, work out the need for five extra boats? How do you get to this? How do you work the cooperative arrangements through?

Mr Keelty-We commenced a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian National Police in 1995, I think it was, although I would stand corrected on that. We commenced that memorandum of understanding to work with them on narcotics trafficking.

As part of that program we identified areas of training that we could help them with-it is not dissimilar to Defence cooperation programs in that regard-and equipment.

I will take it out of the Indonesian context and just mention to you very briefly the operation we did in Fiji. It was the largest offshore seizure we have had of heroin destined for this country. The head of the drugs squad in Fiji had not seen heroin.

In some places some of the constraints on the police capacity are quite high, so what we try and do is work with them to overcome those capacity problems.

With this particular matter we would have been working with the Indonesian police now for two years, I would say, on people-smuggling. The fact that they actually commenced these task forces in their own country at our request was a very good sign of faith on their part and it was also a building of the relationship that we have established since we commenced the memorandum of understanding in 1995. Through identifying the workload that we had created by working with them, we identified the need for these boats.

Hence, the quantum and the kind of vessel that was required was worked out.

Senator Faulkner-Is the MOU still in existence?

Mr Keelty-Since the ministerial summit on human trafficking and transnational crime in Denpasar we have agreed to revisit the memorandum of understanding because, as you can appreciate, the AFP has had a number of commissioners since that first MOU was signed and so, too, has the INP. So we are about to sign a new MOU next month.

Senator Faulkner-But up until then I assume that the other one is still operating? It may not be-

Mr Keelty-There has been some suggestion that we now need to work through their equivalent of our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which put the existing MOU to one side until the ministerial summit. That is what has now turned our attention toward signing a new MOU. In the interim, the Indonesian National Police have agreed to continue to work cooperatively with us despite the existing MOU being dated.

Senator Faulkner-Right. So the existing MOU has been put aside-those are your words.

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-When did that happen?

Mr Keelty-From my recollection, it happened last year about mid-year.

I think it was as a result of their Deplu, which is their equivalent of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, having discussions with the commissioner. I think as it transpired the Indonesian National Police either had not lodged a copy with Deplu or, if they had, were not aware of the current working arrangements.

Senator Faulkner-They had not lodged it since 1995?

Mr Keelty-Yes. I think it is more to do with a departmental arrangement rather than anything else.

Senator Faulkner-It is laid aside by agreement, is it?

Mr Keelty-That is right.

Senator Faulkner-Is there anything in its place in relation to these sorts of activities?

I accept that is broad, overarching-and an MOU can probably be only give you that anyway in terms of some cooperative arrangements and the like-but is there anything in its place after that is laid aside?

Mr Keelty-There is the outcome of the ministerial summit that actually identifies working groups which have already commenced to work together.

Senator Faulkner-Yes; but when did the ministerial summit occur?

Mr Cornall-It was 27 February this year.

Senator Faulkner-I knew it was around that time. What was governing Australian and Indonesian police cooperation between midyear 2001 and the aftermath of the ministerial summit in late February? This was a period where there was a lot of focus, including a policy focus as far as this parliament was concerned, on approaches to countering people-smuggling.

Mr Keelty-There is now an ambassador for people-smuggling responsible for coordinating Australia's contributions to the outcomes of the ministerial summit.

Senator Faulkner-When did that person kick off?

CHAIR-That would be Mr Buckley.

Mr Keelty-I do not have the date that he started. I do recall it was an outcome of the summit.

Senator Faulkner-Yes, it was post summit.

CHAIR-I think Mr Buckley was appointed in March.

Senator Faulkner-I appreciate the chair's intervention. What I was looking at, Commissioner, was what occurs from midyear last year when the MOU is laid aside and then the ministerial summit which is late February of this year. Of course the ambassador and a range of other issues are outcomes from the summit. I am just trying to understand what happens after the laying aside of the MOU and then other initiatives that might come out of the summit. What governs your cooperative work with the Indonesian police?

Mr Keelty-I guess what has governed it is the relationship that had been built up in the previous years. The Indonesian National Police have continued to cooperate with us and we have continued to cooperate with them in the absence of an MOU.

Nothing has arisen that has required us to go back to our respective departments of foreign affairs-as far as I am aware from the Indonesian side.

Senator Faulkner-But the Indonesians took the initiative effectively to lay the MOU aside? I think that is what you said to us: this was not an Australian initiative; this was an Indonesian initiative.

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-Given that has governed for such a long period of time your cooperative work with the Indonesian police, which you have said in evidence to us previously is important, you would not underestimate its significance, I would imagine, Commissioner. It is important, isn't it?

Mr Keelty-It is important but it is not a prerequisite. We do not have MOUs with every country in which we have an overseas post. Because we were working so closely together it was considered. Oftentimes an MOU can be a sign of good faith more than going into the detail of how operations will be played out. I guess what I am saying is that whilst the MOU was important it is not a prerequisite to cooperation.

Senator Faulkner-No. I accept that; I take that on face value. But it is a least something to measure your own activity against. It is a framework, isn't it?

Mr Keelty-Yes, it is. To be fair, when the MOU was laid aside it was around a time of intense negotiation at the political level as well as at the agency level. As far as we were concerned, whilst ever the INP was prepared to continue to cooperate we were prepared to work with them.

Senator Faulkner-Yes. I do not expect you to comment about the negotiation at the political level but I would just ask you about the intense activity at the agency level. How is that working? Who is doing it? Who are they doing it with? When are they doing it? Why are they doing it? What are we expecting from that intense level of agency activity?

Mr Keelty-It is occurring largely through our officers in our liaison office in Jakarta-

Senator Faulkner-That is your two agents there?

Mr Keelty-two officers, yes-and those elements of the INP that are relevant to the issue being investigated.

Senator Faulkner-But you described it as `intense'. Is that fair?

Mr Keelty-By `intense' I mean the volume of work.

Senator Faulkner-Intense on what-people-smuggling or more broadly?

Mr Keelty-It has been intense on people-smuggling and there has been other work. There has been narcotics work that we have been doing. We have also been doing some other sharing of information intelligence on people who are transiting the region to do with counterterrorism.

Senator Faulkner-So your two agents in Jakarta are tick-tacking with Indonesian police through this period at an intense level. There is a lot going on as we both know. Who do they report to?

Mr Keelty-They report to what we call the Director of International Operations here in Canberra.

Senator Faulkner-And anyone else?

Mr Keelty-That is their first line of reporting. There is also the General Manager, International Operations, who sits above the director.

Senator Faulkner-But that is also an AFP position.

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-Is there any broader reporting beyond the AFP?

Mr Keelty-Internally within the embassy in Jakarta they would have reporting lines to the ambassador.

Senator Faulkner-But that would be it?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-Did monitoring of that sort of activity become difficult when the MOU was laid aside? Was this a challenge for the AFP?

Mr Keelty-It has not become difficult but it has become something to focus upon in order to continue the relationship.

Senator Faulkner-What was the relationship like during this period?

Mr Keelty-It was good. We have had considerable success in stopping a number of vessels leaving the shores of Indonesia and also large numbers of people leaving Indonesia.

Senator Faulkner-Yes, but you work that out with non-AFP personnel based in Indonesia, I assume. Is that the way it works? I assume it is not just your agents running around doing this.

Mr Keelty-No, this is through the efforts of the INP.

Senator Faulkner-So you are working with the Indonesian police.

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-And other agencies?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-Can you identify the other agencies?

Mr Keelty-I cannot, but it would be the raft of government agencies involved in-are you talking about from the Indonesian side or the Australian side?

Senator Faulkner-I was wondering who your agents were working with on the Indonesian side.

Mr Keelty-They work with the Indonesian National Police and whatever other agency they need to work with on the issue that is before them. For example, if there is an immigration department or a department that deals with identity documents they would deal with those departments, through the Indonesian National Police in the first instance.

Senator Faulkner-But are you able to identify any of the other Indonesian agencies, Commissioner, that your agents work with?

Mr Keelty-If you will allow me to take that on notice, I can get that answer from Jakarta.

Senator Faulkner-Thank you very much, and the names of the Australian agencies would be helpful. Do you work at all with Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs? Do your agents on the people-smuggling issues work closely with DIMIA?

Mr Keelty-Yes, they do. There is a joint People Smuggling Strike Team.

Senator Faulkner-Where does that operate from?

Mr Keelty-Canberra.

Senator Faulkner-Is that its name: the joint People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Keelty-Yes, it is.

Senator Faulkner-So that includes the AFP and DIMA?

Mr Keelty-Yes, and DIMIA.

Senator Faulkner-I can tell you, Commissioner, it is very hard to keep up with all these acronyms, but you are absolutely right.

CHAIR-You ain't seen nothin yet, Senator Faulkner.

Senator McKiernan-The Commissioner knows about acronyms.

Senator Faulkner-Well, I always tell my story about when I became Defence personnel minister many moons ago, in the good old days. I got hit with a couple of briefs that had all these acronyms in them, and I said to Defence, `I don't know any of these acronyms.' I was given 10 ring folders of acronyms in alphabetical order, so I gave it away.

Senator McKiernan-And they were the good old days.

Senator Faulkner-Yes. So I am not sure about that, Madam Chair. So, back to the joint People Smuggling Strike Team, which includes you and DIMIA. Is there anyone else involved in that?

Mr Keelty-No.

Senator Faulkner-Are you the lead agency for that?

Mr Keelty-It reports to a board of management and the AFP chairs the board of management.

Senator Faulkner-I see. Is that a way of saying you sort of are the lead agency? That is how it normally goes in these joint things, isn't it? The chair gets lumbered with the responsibility.

Mr Keelty-That is right. For the purposes of treating people-smuggling as a crime and for prosecuting, we would be the lead agency.

Senator Faulkner-How many AFP officers or officials would you have dedicated to the join the People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Keelty-I have just asked for that information to be provided. I have given it here on previous occasions, but I do not have it here with me today.

Senator Faulkner-I apologise if I have asked a question that someone else has asked at some point. How often does the board of management meet? Who chairs this thing, first of all? Who is the officer who chairs it?

Mr Keelty-If you do not mind, I will take that on notice and get the answer for you shortly.

Senator Faulkner-I would appreciate that. What we know is that someone from the AFP chairs it, and you will find out for me who it is.

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-And you will find out for me how many of your staff are involved in that.

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-No doubt the chair will quickly pull me up if someone else has asked this question, but are you able to tell me what the terms of reference of the strike team and the board are? That may have been asked before; if it has, just point me to that and it will be more than adequate.

CHAIR-I suspect it is contained in answers to questions on notice given in previous estimates. We can either repeat the question now or we can provide you with copies of those answers.

Senator Faulkner-If it has been asked and answered, that is fine.

That is why I was seeking your guidance. I plead guilty for not reading through every single transcript of this estimates committee-

CHAIR-I cannot understand why you would not have done that, Senator Faulkner.

Senator Faulkner-It is quite simple: I have got to read through so many others.

CHAIR-But if you were choosing quality over quantity, we would imagine you would come here first.

Senator Faulkner-I would not presume to make a comment.

CHAIR-If you would indicate which of those issues you wish to pursue, we do have copies of those answers here.

Senator Faulkner-They are issues in relation to the joint People Smuggling Strike Team and how it works-and who does it report to, Commissioner?

Mr Keelty-To the general manager of national operations, who reports to the deputy commissioner. Senator, I have some answers for you now.

Senator Faulkner-Thank you.

Mr Keelty-The people-smuggling team has 10 AFP people and four DIMIA people.

Senator Faulkner-All Canberra based?

Mr Keelty-That is right. The chair is Federal Agent Tim Morris, and it meets monthly.

Senator Faulkner-Did it continue to meet monthly through the latter half of last year when there was a lot of activity with the suspected illegal entry vessels? Or did it meet more often through that period?

Mr Keelty-I would have to check the records on the frequency of those meetings for last year.

Senator Faulkner-Did that play a role in working out the basis for cooperation with the Indonesian police? Was this just a question of your agents in Indonesia reporting through to that body or was it that body determining operational imperatives and priorities and that filtering back through to the agents in Jakarta?

Mr Keelty-From my understanding, it was a combination of both: that the people-smuggling team had considerable contact with the office in Jakarta on operations and it was a proposal developed out of the information gathered as part of those operational activities.

Senator Faulkner-But through this period there is no real basis for formal cooperation, is there? It seems more informal because the MOU is not operative.

Mr Keelty-Prior to the putting aside of the MOU, the people-smuggling team was working with the MOU-or working on the back of the AFP's MOU, I should say-

Senator Faulkner-Yes.

Mr Keelty-but since that time it has just been working on the relationship developed with the AFP.

Senator Faulkner-But there is a lot of people-smuggling activity when the MOU is put aside. For example, I am a member of a Senate select committee into what is described as `a certain maritime incident'. The committee has been looking at a whole range of SIEVs - suspected illegal entry vessels. In relation to those ones that have been examined by that committee, all of the SIEVs have sailed from Indonesia during this time period after the MOU was put aside and before the end of the year. Hence, they have sailed from Indonesia before the end of last year, before the ministerial summit was held and before the outcomes of the ministerial summit were put in place. I am just worried that there is a bit of a vacuum there. I am not suggesting it is `anything goes', but I am wondering what governs the AFP operations in that period.

Mr Keelty-As I said, the MOU was not a prerequisite to the cooperation and the cooperative operations.

Senator Faulkner-I am not suggesting that it was necessarily a prerequisite, but what have we got? You or your predecessor would want to be satisfied about AFP operations, wherever they were, and I am sure you would try to measure those against appropriate standards, requirements and agreed activity with the Indonesian authorities, would you not? I assume that is how your organisation would work. I am just trying to understand how this happens when there is no overarching guidance in place.

Mr Keelty-I think I said to you before, Senator, that the MOU is not a prerequisite to cooperation. The overarching principles are the law in each of the respective jurisdictions.

Senator Faulkner-Is there someone who can talk to me a little bit about what happens at the joint People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Keelty-From my understanding of it, they discuss the intelligence that is flowing in to both agencies from a variety of sources. From that intelligence they identify targets to be investigated and from those target identification activities they commence their joint investigations.

Senator Faulkner-That is it in the broad. For example, did they play a role around the time of the Tampa when the Palapa sailed from Indonesia? Can someone help me with that?

Mr Keelty-The role that I suspect they played there was one of monitoring.

Senator Faulkner-Are you able to be a bit more definitive than suspecting that? Did you directly receive reports from this strike team?

Mr Keelty-Not as a matter of course. Because it is operational I leave it with the deputy.

Senator Faulkner-Let me seek your advice, Commissioner. I would like to explore the role of the joint People Smuggling Strike Team further. I could do it here; I suppose I could do it in the Senate select committee. I assume you would agree that it is appropriate for a parliamentary committee to scrutinise the strike team's work. Would you accept that?

Mr Keelty-Not necessarily. If the strike team's work resulted in the commencement of a prosecution, then I can see that it would be perhaps necessary to consider the impact of discussing a prosecution currently before the courts in a committee such as this. Having said that, outside of that the accountability and the operations of the strike team would be an area of scrutiny here and it has been. I do not mean to be disrespectful, Senator, but it has actually been discussed at some length within this committee over the last couple of months.

Senator Faulkner-I am aware of some of the background and I have read some of the material in the estimates. I do not believe the committee has gone to where I intend to go with this-in fact I know it has not. I am also very interested in exploring what occurs onshore in Indonesia in relation to the suspected illegal entry vessels. I am not saying that we have to do that today at this committee, but I do intend to progress it-always having in mind, as I think even Senator Ellison would acknowledge, that I am always very careful about the sort of issue you raise and operational questions in the broad. I do try to be careful about not trampling into areas where I feel it is inappropriate for a parliamentary committee to go. But I would like to know more about the role of the strike team in relation to the suspected illegal entry vessels-not only the numbered vessels, SIEVs 1 to 12, but also SIEV X-and a range of other issues which I think is entirely appropriate. So my question went in the first instance to what, if any, the role was of the strike team in relation to the Palapa, the occupants of which ended up on the Tampa.

Mr Keelty-I would have to take on notice the question as to their involvement, if any, in the matter of the Tampa.

Senator Faulkner-Do you have an officer available who could assist me with the role that the strike team played with the SIEV vessels?

Mr Keelty-Again, it would depend on the line of questioning. As to the previous question you asked-whether it is best to be examined before this committee or another committee-I suspect it is not up to me to tell you. I have not got my deputy commissioner here today; he is overseas.

Senator Faulkner-I think it is fair to say that we are trying to work out a time when the deputy commissioner would be available for the select committee. I appreciate the importance and your proper insistence-I think it is absolutely appropriate and I do not question it for a moment-that the officials that you want to represent your organisation do appear before the Senate select committee. That might mean that a little bit more time is involved, but I think that is quite appropriate; it is certainly accepted by me. I think that means that we have got a bit of difficulty in actually nailing down a date, to be honest with you, but we are doing our best.

Mr Keelty-My apologies for that. I was only informed on the Friday before I left for Darwin for the Australasian Police Ministers Council Senior Officers Group meeting that you might have required our presence.

CHAIR-Senator Faulkner, I seek your guidance and that of the commissioner. Where does this leave your line of questioning on this issue with the commissioner now?

Senator Faulkner-It means that it will probably be concluded more quickly than would otherwise have been the case, because the commissioner and I are both saying that there are some issues that might be more appropriately addressed if other witnesses were at the table. I think the commissioner is saying to us that they are not available at the moment.

We might be able to address those issues at a later stage. I do have a few more questions.

CHAIR-Certainly. I was seeking guidance for the committee.

Senator Faulkner-The good news is that it means that you will be able to get rid of me a bit more quickly than otherwise would have been the case, I suspect. Everyone looks very happy about that.

CHAIR-We are just happy that you are here, Senator Faulkner.

Senator Faulkner-In relation to the Indonesian police, after the MOU was laid aside in the middle of last year, would it be correct that no other MOUs or agreements of any description were put in place until those matters that you have spoken to us about arose out of the ministerial summit? This is governing the AFP's involvement with Indonesian authorities on people-smuggling.

Mr Keelty-From my memory, a protocol was established that used the MOU as the head document and the protocol was a subpolicy, if you like, of the head document. Whilst the head document was laid aside, my understanding is that there might have been an agreement with the INP to continue to work towards the outcomes outlined in the protocol which were specifically designed to deal with people-smuggling.

Senator Faulkner-So the status of the protocol is that it was in place? I am not 100 per cent clear from what you are saying. I think you are qualifying the status of the protocol.

Mr Keelty-If I am wrong, I will correct the answer, but my understanding is that the protocol has been in existence despite the fact that the MOU has been put to one side. In other words, the spirit of the protocol might not, in the legal sense, be the policy and law of the protocol, but the spirit of the protocol has been followed by the INP.

Senator Faulkner-See if I have this right: while the protocol might underpin the MOU, while the MOU is put aside, the protocol effectively is ongoing, at least in spirit. Is that the situation?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-Is it possible to get copies of the original MOU, which may well have been provided on umpteen occasions-I understand it is laid aside anyway-and that protocol? If you have provided them to the committee before, let me know and I will hunt through the papers. I will have a paper war and find them. There is no need to do that work; I will do that work if it has been provided.

Mr Keelty-I am not sure that they would have been tendered.

CHAIR-I do not believe that it has been provided to this committee.

Mr Keelty-Can I take that on notice, please.

Senator Faulkner-Yes.

Mr Keelty-The other consideration I have on my mind is that it is an MOU with Indonesia, so I would need to turn my mind to the release of that from their perspective, I would imagine. We are only one party to the agreement.

Senator Faulkner-Does that concern also apply to the protocol?

Mr Keelty-It may. I would like to take that on notice. I am not trying to be difficult; I am just trying to think of other issues.

Senator Faulkner-Would that protocol indicate what you might engage Indonesians to do in relation to the AFP objectives in whatever your tasking is- combating people-smuggling, something in the area of narcotics or whatever? Is that the way it works?

Mr Keelty-I believe so.

Senator Faulkner-I would be very interested in understanding what the guidance was in relation to Indonesians and the Indonesian end of the operation? That would not just be the Indonesian police, though, would it?

Mr Keelty-As far as I am aware, it is, because it was our agreement with them. I think that is right. If I am wrong, I will correct it.

Senator Faulkner-Do you have any intelligence officers working on people-smuggling as opposed to agents? Is there any separate category of AFP officer who does not quite fit the bill of agent?

Mr Keelty-I understand there are two intelligence officers in the people-smuggling team.

For the sake of completeness, they are still federal agents. One performs an investigative role; one performs an intelligence role.

Senator Faulkner-That is what I was wondering-whether you still basically describe your intelligence officers as agents. Are they Canberra based?

Mr Keelty-That is correct. They are part of the team that I just gave you the numbers for.

Senator Faulkner-They are part of the joint DIMIA-AFP People Smuggling Strike Team?

Mr Keelty-That is correct.

Senator Faulkner-I will check this with you again, Commissioner: do you have any-one with you who can give the detail of the work of the strike team?

Do you prefer to do that at the select committee?

Mr Keelty-I would prefer to do it at the select committee because there will be a lot of issues, I would imagine, you would need to examine that require the detailed knowledge of the individuals involved.

Senator Faulkner-Depending on the nature of the material that comes back from the questions on notice-and I might, Madam Chair, try to conclude this is in reasonably short order so that you can get on with your other work; there might be one or two other general questions that I might consider placing on notice that you, Commissioner, could consider responding to before the select committee meets-that might save a bit of time there. I am trying to get a general understanding, as you can see, of the way this works. I have had some understanding of some of what you have said; I think some of it is new material. I will continue to progress this in the other forum. If I do place one or two questions on notice in the process area, I would appreciate it if you could look at those.

Mr Keelty-Certainly.

Senator McKiernan-I want to go back to traverse one of the areas of questioning by Senator Faulkner: the issue of the five boats to Indonesia. Is Australia equipping those boats and, if we are, what are they being equipped with? In particular, are they going to be armed vessels?

Mr Keelty-The specifications for the vessels are yet to be settled.

Senator McKiernan-Who will be responsible for their maintenance?

Will that be an Indonesian thing or will the boats come back regularly to Australia for refits? Is that part of the agreement about the handing over of the vessels?

Mr Keelty-As I understand it, once they have been handed over it will be up to the Indonesians to maintain them. Again, if I am incorrect with that, I will advise you.

Senator McKiernan-Is it planned that they would operate solely in Indonesian waters?

Mr Keelty-Certainly from our perspective it is. It is only a small runabout type vessel, so I would not imagine that they would have any offshore capability whatsoever.

Senator McKiernan-To go back to one of the earlier questions about equipment, would there be any facility for them to liaise with and operate in conjunction with Australian Customs vessels or other vessels that are engaged in the protection of Australia's coast and borders?

Mr Keelty-Perhaps not in a physical sense-because the vessels are not that large-but in an intelligence sense, yes.

Senator Faulkner-Does the protocol we were discussing go to financial assistance?

Mr Keelty-I am sorry, I will have to take that question on notice. I do not think so, but I will take it on notice just in case.

Senator Faulkner-The other thing that might help, Minister, are the outcomes of the actual ministerial summit on 26 or 28 February. There has been some public discussion of those and you would be aware of that. Now that we are three months on, is there any more detail that can be taken on notice about the way those outcomes have been progressed as background to this sort of issue that we have been discussing? I appreciate that at the time there was some information made public and there has also been some other material in the public arena. As I say, we have moved on a bit and I wondered if some of those outcomes - including any arrangements with the Indonesian police and all that sort of thing - would be able to be tabled at the committee?

Senator Ellison-Certainly, the Indonesian government has proposed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that a further regional conference be co-hosted by Indonesia and Australia on money laundering, which is a relevant consideration. The department has had discussions - and I understand by the department that is the department of immigration.

Senator Faulkner-I am talking about this from an AFP perspective.

Have there been any further developments in the AFP's work with Indonesian authorities since then in terms of substantive nuts and bolts outcomes of the ministerial summit that could be provided? Could you or the commissioner take that on notice and provide any further details?

Senator Ellison-There certainly are a number of outcomes and they are developing as we speak. We can take that on notice and provide that information to you.

Senator Faulkner-I am interested in the level of agreement between the forces.

Senator Ellison-In October last year, during the period you mentioned, an Indonesian delegation attended the Heads of Narcotics Law Enforcement Agencies conference in Sydney.

That was a very important conference and I met with some of the delegates then. They were an important delegation at that conference. Agreement was reached late last year between Indonesia and Australia to hold a people-smuggling conference. So there was action during the time that you mentioned which dealt with law enforcement cooperation with Indonesia.

But we will take the outcomes on notice.

Senator Faulkner-I am talking about the cooperative arrangements between the AFP and others. It is three months down the track now and I wonder if anything can be reported about those agreements-any protocols or MOUs. We have heard the commissioner talk about the draft MOU. It is that sort of thing I am talking about.

Senator Ellison-Yes, we can do that.

Senator Faulkner-I did not mean to cut across you, Senator McKiernan, but you raised that important point and I knew you would not mind.

Senator McKiernan-You can read my mind. I certainly do not mind at all. I have a couple of questions to finish with regarding the provision of boats to Indonesia. Will any training be provided by the Australian authorities to the Indonesian crew of those boats?

Mr Keelty-The answer is yes.

Senator McKiernan-Can you provide further detail on the extent of the training?

Mr Cooney-I understand that two trainers will be provided for about 30 days to help the new crews acclimatise to the vessels.

Senator McKiernan-Would that be in the operation of the vessels?

Mr Cooney-That is correct.

Senator McKiernan-Thank you. Bearing in mind that the sum we are talking about is $1.5 million and it is for five vessels, why is the money allocated over a period of four years rather than a one-off payment?

Mr Cooney-The initial allocation is for the construction and equipping of the vessels, and some initial training. We would expect some ongoing costs related to operating the vessels and we have made some provision for maintenance of the vessels. The maintenance is expected to be in Indonesia, but we have made some provision there.

Senator McKiernan-Where will the vessels be constructed? Has that gone to tender yet?

Mr Cooney-No, it has not gone to tender yet.

Senator McKiernan-There is still a chance it could happen within Western Australia.

I am being parochial yet again, but we do build very good boats in Western Australia. That is the end of that particular matter on the vessels.

Back to sievx.com