This speech was delivered on 19/11/2013 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full speech online here.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Given the repeated critical reports from the NSW Ombudsman, the most recent in June 2013, that show that New South Wales Police are routinely breaching their reporting requirements under section 44 of the Surveillance Devices Act, a breach that carries a maximum criminal penalty of 12 months imprisonment, what has the Minister done to ensure that New South Wales police change their practices to comply with the reporting law?
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: I have been satisfied with the police overall in relation to surveillance. I understand that there are some concerns in regard to them but, in terms of the specific aspects that the member has raised, I will take the question on notice and report back to the House on the aspects that have been identified. It is a serious question because surveillance is an extremely important part of police operational work. It is a much-needed resource to enable them to deal with organised crime. If there are concerns in relation to surveillance, as have been raised in the past, then they have to be taken seriously and addressed. As I have indicated, the concerns identified relate to compliance with administrative procedures, rather than to major breaches of the Act. In the main, I am satisfied with the approach that police take, but I will look at whether I need to report back to the House on concerns about major breaches in addition to those purely administrative concerns.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his response, particularly on how he can be generally satisfied with the police response when the Ombudsman found “for all 276 files, section 44 of the Act was not complied with as the reports were not provided to the Attorney General or the relevant eligible judge”?
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: As I have indicated, my understanding is that the concerns are primarily administrative and that concerns regarding ongoing responsibilities in respect of those matters are normally dealt with by way of consultation between the commissioner and the Ombudsman. Overwhelmingly, the use of surveillance devices and the techniques of police have not been open to major criticism. As I have indicated, the Commissioner of Police and the NSW Police Force will always take on board any matters that the Ombudsman raises with them in relation to these reports.
Mr David Shoebridge: A 100 per cent failure to report.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: As I have indicated, the commissioner will always take these matters on board and discuss with the Ombudsman an appropriate way to address them. But I again make the point that we are talking about administrative aspects of the legislation, as opposed to some major breach of the legislation that would erode public confidence in the police use of surveillance techniques—which I am sure some would love to actually be able to achieve.