Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Australian Federal Police Annual Report 2016–17

2.1        This chapter outlines key matters arising from the Australian Federal Police Annual Report 2016–17, including compliance with legislative requirements, performance against key performance indicators (KPIs) and issues discussed at the public hearing on 22 February 2019.

About the AFP

2.2        The AFP is the Australian government's primary policing agency. Section 8 of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (the AFP Act) outlines the functions of the AFP, including:

2.3        The AFP also performs functions under the Witness Protection Act 1994 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Annual report compliance

2.4        The AFP is required to prepare an annual report under section 67 of the AFP Act:

The annual report prepared by the Commissioner and given to the Minister under section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 for a period must include particulars of:

  1. the AFP conduct issues that were dealt with under Part V [Professional standards and AFP conduct and practices issues] of this Act during that period; and
  2. the action that was taken, during that period, in relation to AFP conduct issues that were dealt with under Division 3 of Part V [dealing with AFP conduct or practices issues] of this Act.[2]

2.5        As a Commonwealth entity, the AFP must comply with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), which requires Commonwealth entities to provide an annual report to the entity's responsible minister for presentation to the Parliament on the entity's activity during the reporting period,[3] and with the PGPA Rule 2014.[4]

2.6        Under the PGPA Act, a Commonwealth entity is also required to prepare annual performance statements and include a copy of these statements in its annual report that is tabled in the Parliament.[5] The AFP's annual performance overview is included at chapter 3 of the annual report.

2.7        Based on the committee's assessment of the AFP's Annual Report 2016–17, these requirements have been fulfilled.

2.8        In addition to the agency's 2016–17 report on its performance, the report also includes the following annual reports on:

Key performance features in 2016–17

2.9        In his introduction to the annual report, the AFP Commissioner, Mr Andrew Colvin APM OAM, highlighted that the AFP now 'must deal not only with many traditional crime types that have evolved but also with an increasingly broad range of new and complex crime types',[6] requiring it to evolve and adapt to a changing operating environment.

2.10      The Commissioner noted that the AFP had delivered a range of services and achieved a number of significant outcomes over the reporting period, within one per cent of its budget, and with a net decrease in staffing levels over the period.  Highlights included:

2.11      The annual report notes the following results arising from its analysis of its performance over 2016–17:

Organisational structure and cultural change

2.12      On 22 August 2016, Mr Colvin released the Cultural Change: Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Australian Federal Police report (Culture Change report). The release of the report followed a review by the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick AO, and was based on qualitative and quantitative data, namely:

Data from a Survey instrument, focus groups, one on one interviews with individual AFP staff, review of academic literature and the AFP’s own policies and statistics, as well as advice from senior leaders.[9]  

2.13       In the foreword of the report, Ms Broderick stated she was 'not surprised by what has been found' with respect to 'the elements of culture that require strengthening', but noted that 'urgent action' was required in respect of sexual harassment and bullying.[10]

2.14      The following extract from the report illustrates the prevalence of harassment and bullying in the AFP:

The Survey results show that 46% of women and 20% of men report that they have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the last five years. These percentages are almost double the national average. In relation to bullying, 62% of men and 66% of women reported that they have been bullied in the workplace in the last 5 years.[11]

2.15      The Cultural Change report contained twenty-four recommendations,[12] eight of which had been finalised at 25 August 2017.[13]

2.16      In the previous reporting period, 2015–16, a new organisational structure came into effect in the AFP, to 'focus on aligning capabilities with operational needs, both now and into the future'.[14] In the Commissioner's review of 2016–17, Mr Colvin noted that the:

Cultural Change: Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Australian Federal Police report, delivered by Elizabeth Broderick in August 2016, highlighted that the AFP must change to provide a workplace reflective of the norms and expectations of the community and our people. The commitment to this reform is evident across the agency.[15]

2.17      Further changes to the organisational structure were made during 2016–17:

2.18      The Reform, Culture and Standards business area was established with three teams: Safe Place, Reform Initiatives and Workforce Engagement. The annual report states that these areas provide a response to sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace; coordination of implementation of the recommendations of the Cultural Change report; and innovatively engage and influence the workforce.[17]


2.19      The AFP's Operations function provides a law enforcement investigative response to illicit drugs, people-smuggling, victim-based crime, cybercrime, financial crime and corruption, as well as child protection assessments, international operations and counter-terrorism. The annual report identifies a number of key operational outcomes in 2016-17, including the:

2.20      The annual report notes that on 1 July 2016 the AFP received an additional $20.4 million over four years in response to recommendations arising from the Australian Government's Cyber Security Strategy.  This initiative, the AFP states, assisted in the appointment of dedicated cybercrime liaison officers in London and Washington DC.[19]

2.21      More information about these liaison officers was provided to the committee by the AFP at the hearing on 22 February 2019:

The liaison officers in Washington and London have probably gone past liaison, if you like. They're actually embedded with our counterparts overseas. That has been invaluable. Not only do we get notification of real-time threats and intelligence exchange in a real-time process's upskilling our people. The people we currently have in those two locations are world's best in relation to investigations of cybercrime, and they'll come back when their term is up and be able to pass those skills on to our people here.[20]

2.22      The 2016–17 reporting period saw the end of the Australian police participation in the United Nationals Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus after more than 53 years service.[21] Australian police peacekeepers have not been active in any other country, aside from one officer in Liberia whose three year term has recently been completed. This decision, the Commissioner told the hearing, is a "foreign policy judgement" made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.[22]  The AFP stated that there were still AFP officers active in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea but these operations were based on bilateral arrangements.[23] 


2.23      The Capability group comprises the AFP's technical and specialist functions, including professional development; ICT capabilities to support operational and other AFP activities; forensics and intelligence; and covert and specialist response groups.

2.24      A key development in 2016–17 was the publication of Policing for a Safer Australia: Strategy for Future Capacity, which was published in March 2017.[24] In the Commissioner's foreword to the paper, he noted that it, and the Future Directions Strategic Context Paper that preceded it, 'are different in that it is the first time the AFP has taken such a comprehensive look at itself, its environment and its future'.[25]

2.25      The paper:

addresses the world in which the AFP will have to operate – a world affected by globalisation, changing technologies, population growth, migration, international conflict, failures of governance, violent extremism, climate change and a growing demand for resources.[26]

2.26      The paper identifies two complex challenges that the AFP will face in future: globalisation and disruption. In order to realise its strategy for future capability, the AFP stated that it 'will develop and implement a capability framework comprising four strategic capabilities: policing, law enforcement, people and asset protection (incorporating critical infrastructure), and international engagement'.[27]

2.27      In order to develop the four capabilities of policing, law enforcement, people and asset protection and international engagement for the future, the AFP will pursue a raft of activities, with particular focus on:


2.28      The role of the Capacity group is to ensure that 'the AFP has the financial and human resources to respond to current and emerging requirements and is particularly focused on creating an agile, diverse and inclusive workforce’.

2.29      A significant initiative during the 2016–17 period was the development of a Mental Health Framework and Action Plan, which the AFP developed in partnership with Phoenix Australia, the National Centre for Excellence in Post-Traumatic Mental Health, to develop the framework and action plan. The annual report notes that commencement of implementation of the plan would be in the second half of 2017.[29]

Contribution to law reform and parliamentary inquiries

2.30      The AFP has continued its engagement with various parliamentary committees. The AFP lists the following contributions in its annual report:

Reporting against KPIs

2.31      The AFP has two outcomes: Outcome 1 comprising Program 1.1 (Federal Policing and National Security) and Program 1.2 (International Police Assistance); and Outcome 2, comprising Program 2.1 (ACT Community Policing).[31] There are nine key performance indicators (KPIs) defined for Program 1.1 and two KPIs defined for Program 1.2. Each KPI is addressed in detail in chapter 3 of the annual report.[32]

2.32      This section considers the AFP's performance outcomes against the AFP's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Programs 1.1 and 1.2. It examines the measurement tools used to inform the KPIs and to track performance over time.

2.33      The AFP's performance under Outcome 2 (ACT Policing) is published in a separate annual report and is not considered here.

2.34      The AFP examined its performance against each KPI by analysing the result and discussing relevant case studies.

2.35      The AFP met nine of 11 KPIs for the 2016–17 financial year, the same result as 2015–16. The AFP noted that KPIs 5 and 8 were not met.[33]  This was consistent with the results for KPIs 5 and 8 in the 2015–16 reporting period.[34]

2.36      The annual report notes that the AFP achieved a conviction rate of 95% for cases before court, exceeding the 90% threshold.[35] At the public hearing, the committee questioned whether this high threshold even discouraged the AFP from prosecuting cases on occasion. Mr Colvin stated that the Commonwealth DPP 'has a big role' in deciding which prosecutions proceed. In relation to the AFP's role in laying the charges and preparing briefs of evidence, he stated '[w]e are not conservative in the way that we go about deciding who and went (sic) to charge somebody'.[36]

2.37      Although the AFP met three of the four response times for KPI 5 (priority levels 2, 3 and 4), it did not meet the 5-minute priority 1 target: the result was two per cent below target. However, it was noted that this result was an improvement on the previous reporting period and was attributable 'to amending dispatch protocols and aligning response priorities to the AFP's regulated Counter Terrorist First Response function'.[37]

2.38      The annual report notes that factors that contributed to the failure to meet the priority 1 criterion for KPI 5 'include the continued growth in airport passenger movements, the commissioning of additional terminals, the wide physical spread of terminals within airports and the competing priorities of uniform policing staff'.[38] This explanation was also cited in the previous annual reports.[39]

2.39      In respect of KPI 8, the annual report states:

Substantial restraint figures for the 2014–15 financial year have translated into an increased commitment of resources to complex proceeds of crime matters in lengthy court processes. This continues to impact on [the capacity of the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce] to pursue new restraint action.[40]

2.40      This explanation was also cited in the previous annual report in respect of the failure to meet this KPI.[41]

2.41      The AFP informed the committee on notice that the parameters for both KPIs 5 and 8 have since been reviewed and amended to emulate more realistic expectations and accurate reflections of the AFP's work.[42]

2.42      The AFP met its nine other targets. However, some KPIs measured a decline compared with the previous reporting period:

No analysis was provided as to the reason for the decreases in results when compared to the previous reporting period.

...that improvement in interactions could be made with more frequent contact and that better outcomes might be achieved through a number of different mechanisms, including improving timeliness, follow-up and resourcing.[47]

2.43      In its analysis of the results against its KPIs, which was more extensive than its analysis in the previous reporting period,[48] the AFP noted that it 'maintained its performance position' in its dynamic operational environment 'whilst continuing to focus on delivering efficiencies and operating within 1 per cent of budget and with a net decrease of 1.8 per cent in staff numbers during 2016–17'.[49]

2.44      The AFP acknowledged both the positive and negative interpretations of its performance results for the reporting period, and consequently:

broadened its performance framework for 2017–18, introducing measurement of disruption, prevention and broader return on investment. Performance will also be assessed in terms of the key domains of AFP activity (federal, international, protection and community). This will assist in providing a more comprehensive picture of performance and assessment of value in policing for a safer Australia, both domestically and abroad.[50]

Staffing and financial management

2.45      On 30 June 2017, the AFP had 6540 staff, including 3383 sworn police, 2441 professional staff and 716 protective service officers.[51] This is 117 fewer than at the same time in 2016. At the public hearing, the Commissioner attributed this reduction to the AFP's ability to recruit against attrition, and 'ons and offs according to measures or programs [the AFP] are running'.[52] The AFP continued to experience low attrition rates in 2016–17. Overall, the attrition rate at 30 June 2017 was 2.99 per cent, an increase of 0.38 percentage points from 2015–16.[53] 

2.46      Of the 6500 members of staff at the AFP, the majority of them have had six or more years of service.[54] The Commissioner described this as a 'positive challenge':

...because I have a very experienced workforce. But an ageing workforce is a challenge for a range of reasons in terms of people's planned retirement and our ability to constantly refresh our workforce.[55] 

2.47      Thirty six per cent of AFP staff were female, one percentage point higher than at 30 June 2016.[56] The Commissioner told the committee that part of the work undertaken by the AFP during the 2016–17 reporting period was to examine the type of workforce required in the future:

We have started to bring our average recruit age back down to probably around 25 [from 30]...We are looking for a greater diversity mix in our recruits–not just gender but also background, ethnicity, education...[57]

2.48      In 2016–17, the AFP recorded a surplus for the year of $4 million. The report notes that:

The largely break-even result was achieved through the prioritisation of constrained resources to meet a high level of demand in an increasingly complex and elevated terrorist and criminal threat environment.[58]

2.49      The departmental operating income for 2016–17 was $1304 million comprising:

2.50      The AFP received an additional $30 million ($30 million in 2015–16) in government appropriation for departmental capital expenditure and $90 million ($42 million in 2015–16) in equity injections. The AFP also administered $12 million in expenses on behalf of the Commonwealth government during 2015–16 (a reduction of $2 million compared with 2015–16).[60]

Committee view

2.51      The committee commends the AFP for its ongoing work to develop capacity and capability within the organisation, and in particular, for the development of plans to address bullying and harassment, gender imbalance, and mental health and well-being in the AFP workforce.

2.52      The committee congratulates the AFP on its strong overall performance meeting its KPIs and thanks it for its constructive engagement with the committee.

2.53      The committee welcomes the inclusion of analysis of the reasons for varying performance against KPIs, which had been recommended by the committee in its report on the AFP Annual Report 2015–16.[61]

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