AFP Commissioner opening statement before Senate Estimates

Good morning Senators.

One of my responsibilities is to ensure stakeholders understand our mission in Australia and offshore.

Simply put, the AFP is like a Swiss Army knife – multi-functional, inventive and durable. There are not many police forces around the world that have the mission of the AFP.

Many know that we protect high office holders plus provide a uniformed presence at our major airports.

We also counter terrorism, foreign interference, illicit drug trafficking, cyber crime and online child exploitation.

But what is not well known, is that the AFP has been deployed globally to provide disaster victim identification, to provide specialist investigators to war zones and to assist in UN missions.

Currently, the AFP has a member deployed to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to assist the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Ukraine.

We are assisting Europol for crimes against humanity against Yazidis during the ISIS insurgency.

We are represented at the United Nations, shaping Australia’s engagement in police peacekeeping and transnational crime issues, advancing our national interests in the world’s largest multilateral organisation.

We are sifting through battleground evidence in Jordan with partners to identify intelligence and evidence to support counter terrorism law enforcement priorities.

We are working with partners across the Horn of Africa to combat terrorism and human trafficking.

The AFP has four members attached to Europol, working with more than 50 countries, to combat crimes directly impacting on Australia and Europol partners.

We have two members seconded to INTERPOL - one, the director for counter terrorism driving strategic and operational outcomes across the 195 member countries, and the other focused on INTERPOL Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta- Italian Organised Crime Group.

And we are also working with our Pacific family, who teach us so much. It would be hard to find AFP members who have not served in the Pacific.

Our Pacific colleagues make our workforce more well-rounded. And I acknowledge the Government’s recent Budget investment in further supporting the AFP in the Pacific.

What all of this highlights is that our results are far reaching given we have a workforce of fewer than 8000.

For example, with international partners, we helped seize about 19 tonnes of illicit drugs offshore this financial year to May 2023.

Some of those illicit drugs were bound for Australia and had the potential to cause about $5.7 billion in harm if they reached our communities.

It is critical we try to stop high-harm drugs, like methamphetamine, hitting our shores because illicit drugs contribute to the road toll, child neglect and domestic violence.

Currently, we are working with partners to determine if we can use a small hand-held tool that in real time can identify illicit drugs, including drug type, composition and purity.

This will expedite investigations and determine if some illicit drugs contain lethal substances like fentanyl.

We are also collaborating with Monash University on the ethical, responsible and transparent use of AI through the Artificial Intelligence for Law Enforcement and Community Safety lab.

The lab is progressing innovative projects, including deep fake identification through algorithmic analysis.

The project includes training AI models to help in automating the identification and classification of firearms.

And then there’s the initiative to use AI to identify and classify child exploitation material to help locate victims and reduce the detrimental effects viewing this material has on law enforcement and non-government organisations.

Our forensic capability is world-leading and is working on many projects that remain classified.

However, I can reveal how the AFP delivers the National Threat Letter Database, which contains more than 1800 letters.

In 2022, almost three-quarters of threatening letters received were addressed to Members of Parliament, government employees, foreign embassies, consulates or high commissions.

The database has provided key evidentiary value that has enabled charges being laid.

I also want to reveal the value of the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce.

In 2019, when I became Commissioner, I set CACT a five-year target to restrain $600 million in assets suspected of being purchased with the proceeds of crime.

CACT has exceeded my target, with $900 million in assets restrained. Soon we will reach $1 billion.

The assets restrained go into the Confiscated Assets Account, and once liquidated, the money is redistributed by Government to fund crime prevention programs.

Finally, I want to thank the AFP workforce, in particular ACT Policing and our Protective Service Officers, who keep airports, and residents of the ACT, and our external territories, safe every day.

Working in policing can be confronting and dangerous, but it is extremely rewarding, especially when we remove victims from the most heinous of circumstances.

It’s fitting that today is International Missing Children’s Day - where people around the world celebrate the children who found their way home, remember those who have been victims of crime, and continue efforts to find those who are still missing.

I am proud of the AFP workforce, and I am as equally proud of how we support them through SHIELD, the AFP’s personalised model of health care for all employees.

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