Committee’s duty to examine annual reports
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement (the committee) has a duty to examine each annual report of the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The duty arises from an expectation that agencies which have been granted strong coercive powers, such as the AFP, should be subject to additional oversight.
The committee is precluded from monitoring, reviewing, or reporting on the performance by the AFP of its functions under Part 5.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (that is, the AFP’s counter-terrorism functions). The AFP’s performance of these functions is monitored and reviewed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Annual reports examined in this report
This report examines the AFP’s annual reports for both 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Typically, the committee holds a public hearing to examine each annual report. Due to the election in May 2022, the hearing organised to examine the 2020-21 annual report was cancelled. After the committee was re-established in the 47th Parliament, it decided to examine both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 annual reports at a hearing on 25 November 2022 in Canberra. Witnesses who appeared before the committee are listed at Appendix 1.
Matters that fall outside of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 reporting periods have been included in this report where necessary for completeness.
Structure of this report
This report contains two chapters:
This chapter provides key details about the inquiry and background about the AFP’s functions and priorities.
Chapter 2 examines key issues relating to the AFP’s performance in the two reporting periods and provides the committee’s view.
The committee acknowledges the cooperation and assistance of the AFP Commissioner and other AFP officers who aided the committee in its inquiry.
Presentation of the annual reports
The AFP’s 2020-21 annual report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 19 October 2021. The letter of transmittal indicates that the report had been presented to the then Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, on 9 September 2021.
The AFP’s 2021-22 annual report was tabled in both Houses of Parliament on 25 October 2022. The letter of transmittal indicates that the report had been presented to the Attorney‑General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, on 12 September 2022.
AFP portfolio arrangements
For both reporting periods, the AFP was in the Home Affairs portfolio. After the change of government at the general election on 21 May 2022, new administrative arrangements orders moved the AFP to the Attorney‑General’s portfolio with effect from 1 July 2022.
AFP mission and functions
In both 2020-21 and 2021-22, the AFP’s mission was: ‘As Australia’s national policing agency, we protect Australians and Australia’s interests’.
The functions of the AFP are provided at section 8 of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (which was not amended during the reporting periods). Both annual reports include the following graphic summarising the ‘core functions’ of the AFP:
Figure 1.1: Core functions of the AFP
Graphic reproduced from AFP, Annual Report 2021-22, p. 8; also see AFP, Annual Report 2020-21, p. 8. The graphics in each annual report appear the same except for a minor formatting change to ‘other policing function’.
AFP strategic direction and priorities
The AFP is guided by ministerial directions issued under section 37(2) of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979. The most recent direction was issued on 16 December 2020 and listed the following ‘expected focus areas’:
Countering terrorism, espionage and foreign interference.
Combatting child exploitation.
Transnational, serious, and organised crime.
Fraud and anti-corruption.
Provision of specialist protection services and operations.
The minister’s direction states that ‘[i]n delivering against these priorities, I have high expectations that the AFP operates in a collaborative, accountable and responsive manner’. It lists the following further expectations of the AFP:
Utilise all available strategies to combat criminal activity.
Work collaboratively to achieve its goals.
Create an efficient, effective workforce.
Demonstrate best corporate practice.
In response to the ministerial direction, on 18 December 2020 the AFP Commissioner issued a ‘statement of intent’ outlining ‘[k]ey strategies the AFP will employ to target the crime priorities outlined in [the] direction’.
The AFP’s strategic initiatives are also outlined in corporate plans. These plans cover overlapping periods of four years and are updated each year.