Australia—unenviably—is one of the world’s most profitable markets for illicit drug importations. This situation places those agencies with law enforcement, border regulation, and anti-money laundering functions at increased risk of criminal infiltration and corrupt compromise by organised crime groups. Corruption pressures also arise from within regulated industries that may seek to circumvent legitimate controls.
Referral and conduct of the inquiry
This long-running inquiry has been conducted across three parliaments, as outlined below. A number of issues raised in historical evidence to this inquiry have been, or are currently being, addressed. This should be borne in mind in reading this report.
During the 44th Parliament, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (the committee) initiated an inquiry into the integrity of Australia's border arrangements. The terms of reference for this inquiry, initiated on 5 March 2015, were:
Pursuant to the committee's duties set out in subsection 215(1)(d) of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 the committee will inquire into the integrity of airport and seaport border arrangements, together with the anti-corruption measures of overseas high corruption risk agencies.
In particular, the committee will consider:
(a) the nature and extent of corruption risks facing Commonwealth agencies involved in border operations;
(b) the extent to which Commonwealth law enforcement agencies are able to prevent and investigate corruption at the Australian border;
(c) the extent to which the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is able to assist in corruption prevention and to successfully investigate or otherwise respond to corruption in border operations;
(d) the nature and effectiveness of integrity measures, models and legislation adopted by other jurisdictions, for their border operations and high corruption risk agencies;
(e) any other relevant matters.
The inquiry lapsed at the end of the 44th Parliament. The committee re‑initiated the inquiry in the 45th Parliament, with revised terms of reference, the substantive difference being the addition of new term of reference "(c)", as below:
Pursuant to the committee's duties set out in subsection 215(1)(d) of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 the committee will inquire into the integrity of Australia’s seaports and airports borders.
In particular, the committee will consider:
the nature and extent of corruption risks facing Commonwealth agencies involved in the management of seaport and airport border operations;
the extent to which Commonwealth law enforcement agencies are able to prevent and investigate corruption at Australian seaports and airports;
the shared work environment and the effectiveness of joint management arrangements at Australia’s seaports and airports;
the extent to which the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity is able to assist in corruption prevention and to successfully investigate or otherwise respond to corruption in border operations;
the nature and effectiveness of integrity measures, models and legislation adopted by other jurisdictions, for their border operations and high corruption risk agencies;
any other relevant matters.
The committee invited submissions from Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement, integrity and border agencies as well as other stakeholders. The committee received eight submissions in the 44th Parliament and seven submissions in the 45th Parliament. A number of the submissions received in the 45th Parliament were from the agencies that had also made submissions in 2015, and wished to provide evidence to address the amended terms of reference. Some of these agencies have undergone changes of name, function and areas of responsibility over the period of the inquiry. Where possible and relevant, these changes are referred to in the text of the report. Where it assists clarity, the name of the agency or department at the time of examination is used. All submissions are listed at Appendix 1.
The committee held two public hearings in Canberra, on 31 July and 1 August 2017. These hearings are listed at Appendix 2.
During both the 44th and 45th Parliaments, the committee made a number of site visits to sea and air ports and other facilities associated with the movement of people and goods across Australian borders in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. A list of site visits is at Appendix 3.
The inquiry lapsed at the end of the 45th Parliament. The committee re‑initiated the inquiry in the 46th Parliament, with the same terms of reference used in the 45th Parliament.
The committee undertook a delegation to New Zealand and Vanuatu in December 2019, to investigate matters in relation to term of reference e. the nature and effectiveness of integrity measures, models and legislation adopted by other jurisdictions, for their border operations and high corruption risk agencies. Findings from that delegation are included within this report, and a delegation report is included at Appendix 5.
The committee held another public hearing in Canberra, on 11 September 2020. The committee received a further five submissions, most from agencies who wished to update evidence presented during the 45th Parliament.
The committee would like to acknowledge the individuals and organisations who participated in the inquiry. The committee would also like to thank the government agencies and private companies that facilitated the committee's site visits. The committee would further like to thank the governments of New Zealand and Vanuatu for their welcome and assistance to the delegation members. The support of our neighbour governments was invaluable to assist the committee in developing a better understanding of regional integrity frameworks.
The management of Australia's borders involves overseeing the movement of millions of people, and millions of tonnes of freight and cargo, via sea and air ports and international mail delivery facilities each year.
There is an increasing awareness of the tensions between facilitating legitimate movements and stopping illicit trafficking across our borders. Within this context, the integrity of Australia's border arrangements is critical for ensuring the current and future economic and social wellbeing of our nation.
In response to a range of issues, including heightened risks of terrorism, organised crime, biosecurity threats and now a global pandemic, successive governments have sought to strengthen the management of Australia's borders through a range of changes to the powers and responsibilities of agencies involved in managing Australia's borders. At the same time, the integrity oversight of these agencies has been strengthened, with the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) expanding beyond the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), to agencies within what is now the portfolio of Home Affairs, including the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs, formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection), the Australian Border Force (Border Force), and biosecurity aspects of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) formerly the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR).
In December 2018, the government announced the establishment of a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC). ACLEI will become a division within the CIC, with expanded jurisdiction to cover the whole of DAWE, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), and the Australian Taxation Office.
Australia's border management arrangements are not static or isolated. The agencies involved, the nature and scope of their operations, and the challenges facing them, seem to change with increasing frequency. For this reason, corruption and integrity risks, too, are constantly evolving. Achieving a balance between ensuring secure borders and facilitating the legitimate movement of people and goods to and from Australia's shores remains, and will continue to remain, a significant challenge for the Australian government.
The integrity of Australia's border agencies has been of interest to the committee for some time. Over a number of years, the committee has reviewed the annual reports of ACLEI and has examined the challenges ACLEI faces in helping to address corruption and maintaining the integrity of Australia's border agencies and operations. For example, during the committee's inquiry into the jurisdiction of ACLEI, the committee heard arguments for expanding ACLEI's jurisdiction to include the entirety of the DAWR, and transferring responsibility for the administration of air and sea port security identification cards to an agency within the ACLEI's jurisdiction, in order to better manage corruption risks associated with biosecurity and port operations. The committee is pleased that both of these recommendations have been heeded as part of the creation of the Home Affairs portfolio in December 2017 and the announcement of an expanded jurisdiction for ACLEI in December 2018, although the latter announcement has not yet been put into effect.
Context of the inquiry
In September 2017, a former DAWR biosecurity officer was convicted of corruption offences after using 'insider knowledge' to profit from a sideline private business he established.
In August 2017, one former and one serving Border Force official was arrested for alleged corruption, facilitating the criminal activities of an organised crime syndicate. Nine people in total were arrested, and 80 kg of cocaine was seized, along with $740 000 in cash, as part of two concurrent joint investigations targeting organised crime and corruption. Operation Astatine was undertaken by the Joint Organised Crime Group, comprising members of the AFP, the NSW Police Force, Border Force, the ACIC and the NSW Crime Commission. Operation Zeus was undertaken by ACLEI, the AFP, and the then Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).
These cases provided examples of the kinds of corruption that occurs at our borders, and the extensive resources and time often required to detect, investigate and prosecute offenders. The second example also highlights the often close connection between organised crime and corruption, and the high stakes involved in maintaining border integrity.
Currently, oversight of Commonwealth law enforcement agencies operating at Australia's borders is undertaken by the Integrity Commissioner with the assistance of ACLEI, often working in partnership with those agencies under scrutiny, other national and state law enforcement agencies, and international counterparts.
This inquiry was initiated by the committee in light of the observations and findings of ACLEI and other agencies, including the AFP, Home Affairs and DAWE, in relation to the impact of increasing volumes of people and goods moving across Australia's borders, and the increasingly sophisticated methods being used by individuals and groups to undertake illicit movements of people and goods.
Since the inquiry was first initiated in March 2015, many changes have occurred in border management and law enforcement agencies, and in the integrity oversight of these agencies. In addition to examining corruption and its detection and investigation, this report also provides an overview of the key changes that have occurred in border law enforcement, given the challenges that these changes themselves may pose as contributors to higher risks of corruption.
Other parliamentary inquiries
Certain issues relating to the integrity of Australia's borders have been canvassed by this and other committees. In 2016, this committee concluded an inquiry into ACLEI's jurisdiction, which considered, among other issues, whether the then DIBP, and the entire DAWE should be included within ACLEI's jurisdiction. Prior to the completion of that inquiry, DIBP was brought under ACLEI's jurisdiction.
In 2011, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement completed an inquiry into the adequacy of aviation and maritime security measures to combat serious and organised crime. It made a number of recommendations seeking to ensure that aviation and maritime security measures directly addressed serious and organised crime. Of particular relevance to this inquiry are:
2.92 The committee recommends that the scope of the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 be widened to include serious and organised crime in addition to terrorist activity and unlawful interference.
4.94 The committee recommends the development of a system that enables the confidential movement and examination of containers that increases the likelihood that trusted insiders involved in serious or organised crime are not alerted to law enforcement agency interest in a container.
5.45 The committee recommends that the Attorney-General's Department, in consultation with the Australian Crime Commission, reviews the list of relevant security offences under the Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) and Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) schemes to assess whether any further offences are required in order to effectively extend those schemes to protect the aviation and maritime sectors against the threat of infiltration by serious and organised criminal networks.
5.138 The committee recommends that current ASIC and MSIC issuing bodies are replaced by a single, government-run, centralised issuing body.
The Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport have conducted numerous inquiries including: Airport and aviation security (2017); the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 [Provisions] (2016); the Biosecurity Bill 2014 [Provisions] and related bills (2015); and Australia's biosecurity and quarantine arrangements (2012). Issues raised and recommendations made in these inquiries are referred to throughout this report, where relevant.
Additional to those inquiries, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee has conducted two relevant bill inquiries: the Transport Security Amendment (Testing and Training) Bill 2019, which has subsequently been agreed to by the Senate and has been introduced and read a first time in the House of Representatives, and the Transport Security Amendment (Serious Crime) Bill 2019, which has been introduced in the House of Representatives but not yet in the Senate.
However, insofar as the committee is aware, this is the only inquiry that has focused on Australia's border environment, agencies and operations in terms of identifying and preventing corruption and the adequacy of existing oversight of these efforts.
This report is divided into four chapters:
Chapter 1 – Information about and background to the inquiry;
Chapter 2 – Australia's borders and border integrity systems;
Chapter 3 – Challenges in creating and maintaining border integrity; and
Chapter 4 – Options for improving border integrity.