Chapter 1


Committee's duty to examine reports

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement (the committee) has a statutory duty to examine each annual report of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), formally known as the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), under the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Act 2010 (the Act).
Broadly, section 7 of the Act requires the committee to monitor and review the performance by the ACIC of its functions, examine each of its annual reports, consider any trends or changes in criminal activities, and report to Parliament on any matter or changes it thinks desirable pertaining to the function, performance, structure, powers, and procedures of the ACIC.1
The duty of the committee to examine annual reports of the ACIC under the Act stems from an expectation that agencies which have been granted strong coercive powers, like the ACIC, should be subject to additional oversight.2

Report under consideration and process of examination

The ACIC Annual Report 2018–19 (annual report) was presented to the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, on 18 September 2019. The report was tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate on
16 October 2019.3
As part of its examination of the ACIC annual report, the committee held a public hearing on 8 May 2020 at Parliament House, Canberra. One witness appeared at the hearing, Mr Michael Phelan, CEO of the ACIC. Due to coronavirus restrictions, committee members appeared via videoconference or teleconference whilst Mr Phelan appeared in person.

Note on committee comments

The committee’s report from its examination of the ACIC Annual Report  2017–18 (that is, the last ACIC Annual Report examined by the committee) was tabled in the Parliament in April 2020. In that report, the committee made a number of suggestions on how future ACIC Annual Reports might be improved or otherwise adjusted. It should be noted that while the committee tabled its report in April 2020, the ACIC actually presented its 2018–19 Annual Report (the report under examination here) to the Minister in September 2019. As a result, any suggestions made by the committee in its report on the ACIC Annual Report 2017–18 would not, of course, have been available to the ACIC when it was preparing its 2018–19 report. Therefore, where appropriate in this examination report, the committee reiterates its previous comments, while noting that these comments were not available to the ACIC when preparing its 2018–19 annual report.

Background information

The formation of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Act 2016 amended the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (ACC Act) to incorporate CrimTrac into the ACC. The changes were implemented on 1 July 2016, and as noted above, the ACC is now known as the ACIC.4
The ACIC's purpose as Australia's national criminal intelligence agency is to 'make Australia safer through improved national ability to discover, understand and respond to current and emerging crime threats and criminal justice issues'.5 In practice, the ACIC:
conducts special intelligence operations and investigations to reduce serious and organised crime threats to Australia;
builds the national picture of crime with Commonwealth and state and territory partners; and
connects police and law enforcement to essential criminal intelligence, policing knowledge and information through collaborative national information systems and services.6
The ACIC is a statutory authority with investigative and information delivery functions. It has a range of stakeholders including territory, state, national and international law enforcement and intelligence agencies, accredited organisations, the private sector and the community.7
The ACIC sits within the Home Affairs portfolio, and as such the annual report reports against the Home Affairs Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19.
This is the third time the committee has examined an annual report of the ACIC, which is preceded by seven previous examinations of ACC annual reports.8 The reporting period examined by the committee commenced on
1 July 2018 and ended 30 June 2019.

Australian Institute of Criminology

According to its website, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) is 'Australia's national research and knowledge centre for crime and justice, compiling trend data and disseminating research and policy advice' to inform national and international stakeholders.9
Under a Machinery of Government process in 2015, AIC employees were transferred to the ACIC, and the CEO of the ACIC was also appointed as the Director of the AIC. The AIC is co-located with the ACIC, with ACIC staff seconded back to the AIC to continue criminology research.10
On 14 September 2016, the government introduced the Australian Crime Commission Amendment (Criminology Research) Bill 2016. The Bill sought to merge the functions of the AIC with the ACIC,11 however the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 45th Parliament on 11 April 2019.
At the committee's public hearing on 8 May 2020, committee members sought the view of Mr Michael Phelan, CEO of the ACIC and the Director of the AIC, on the potential benefits of a legislative merger. Mr Phelan responded that '[i]t's been my public position that nothing is lost by leaving it in its current format'.12

Supporting documents and key legislation

The ACIC annual report is supported by the following documents:
The Home Affairs Budget Statements 2018–19: Budget Related Paper No. 1.10 establishes the ACIC's strategic direction, resources, budget measures and expenses, outcome, program and financial statements.13
The ACIC Strategic Plan 2018–23 summarises the ACIC's approach, purpose, functions and strategic objectives.14
The ACIC Corporate Plan 2018–19 to 2021–22 is the primary planning document for the Commission, prepared in accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.15
Key legislation that governs the ACIC's activities includes the:
ACC Act (enabling legislation);
Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Act 2016;
Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013;
Public Service Act 1999;
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979;
Surveillance Devices Act 2004; and
Crimes Act 1914.

Executive and external scrutiny

In addition to the committee, the ACIC is subject to oversight or some form of scrutiny by:
the Minister for Home Affairs;
the Department of Home Affairs;
the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity;
the Inter-Governmental Committee on the Australian Crime Commission;
the Commonwealth Ombudsman;
the Australian National Audit Office;
judicial review, primarily through the Federal Court of Australia; and
the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committees.16

Structure of the committee report

The committee's report comprises the following chapters:
Chapter 2 examines the ACIC's compliance with annual report requirements, agency priorities and activities, staffing profile and diversity, internal governance activities, financial performance, and notable findings from the Commonwealth Ombudsman's reports;
Chapter 3 considers the ACIC's performance against its Portfolio Budget Statements outcome and key performance criteria; and
Chapter 4 details issues discussed during the hearing with the ACIC.


The committee acknowledges the continued co-operation of the ACIC officials who assisted the committee in its examination.

Note on references

References to the Committee Hansard are to the official Hansard.

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