Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mr Tony Negus APM: 'The Australian Federal Police and the Jewish Community'
Before I commence this evening, I would like to thank the Founder and Executive Director of the Capital Jewish Forum, Mr Manny Waks for providing me with the opportunity to address you tonight.
I would also like to thank Manny for his understanding in rescheduling this presentation from late last year, due to my requirement to travel overseas at short notice.
In fact, as you will hear tonight, my role as Commissioner of the AFP has significant international obligations.
Next week I fly to Canada for meetings with the Royal Canadian Mounted police, the FBI, and others on transnational crime and its impact on Australia.
And next month I travel to India to co-chair the Asia Pacific Group on money laundering and terrorist financing.
This group consists of 40 participating countries (including some of the world’s largest economies, such as the US and China) and was established under FATF to coordinate these issues worldwide.
Firstly tonight, I would like to give you a brief background on the AFP—who we are and what we do.
I will also touch on the emphasis we place on our relationships with multicultural communities, not only here in Canberra but nation-wide.
I will then talk about some of the trends in violence and antisemitism affecting the Jewish community in Australia and also what we are seeing here in Canberra.
As you may know, the AFP was established in 1979 and since that time has grown to be an internationally respected law enforcement agency of almost 7000 people.
I could be a little biased, but I think the AFP is one of the most interesting law enforcement organisations in the world because of the variety and diversity of the roles we perform and accordingly the opportunities it provides our members.
We currently have about 4000 people on a waiting list to join the AFP and in a recent local recruitment campaign for ACT policing, we had almost 1400 applicants in 2 weeks for community policing roles.
The average age of our recruits is 29, the average age of our workforce is 39 and 70% of the organisation has tertiary qualifications.
These statistics are a-typical for most law enforcement organisations.
We are one of very few law enforcement agencies around the world that has local, national and international responsibilities and I will talk more about these in a moment.
We have our National headquarters located here in Canberra and have members working as liaison officers in more than 30 countries around the world, allowing us to be at the forefront of fighting serious, organised and transnational crime.
Earlier today, the AFP held a press conference in Sydney announcing a record drug seizure of 239kg of meth amphetamine worth almost $50 million dollars on the streets of Australia and the arrest of a number of people.
Our investigations encompass a variety of commonwealth crimes affecting the Australian community such as such as:
· international drug trafficking;
· people smuggling;
· money laundering;
· child protection operations;
· cybercrime; and
We also have officers in another 12 countries performing peace keeping and capacity building functions.
These countries include the Solomon Islands, Cyprus, the Sudan, PNG, East Timor, Afghanistan and numerous countries throughout the pacific.
The AFP is also involved in Policing Australia’s Airports, the protection of dignitaries and national infrastructure as well as a range of other functions.
Finally, we perform community policing here in Canberra, as well as Australia’s external territories such as Norfolk and Christmas Islands.
Living here in Canberra, many of you would be much more aware of the role of the AFP as your local police rather than our national or international functions.
This is one of the reasons we have been working with Andrew Denton on the ‘AFP’ television series, which débuted on Channel 9 last week.
Pleasingly, it is topping the ratings and is providing the Australian community with an insight into the broad range of things we do on a daily basis.
One of the key issues that I know concerns you as a Jewish community, is your personal safety and that of your families.
It is an unfortunate consequence of globalisation, instant communications and the increased movement of people around the world that disputes in other parts of the world can lead to violence or indeed potential terrorist actions on our shores.
The AFP has been involved with our State and Territory colleagues as well as ASIO in recent years to stop a number of planned attacks on Australian soil.
These court cases and convictions have been well publicised in the media and working together we have been successful, thus far, in preventing an attack.
We do not take this for granted and as a country we should not underestimate how difficult a task this will be into the future.
I have many dedicated officers following up leads and intelligence every day in this area.
This includes information provided by the public and on the National Security hotline.
Whilst Australia can quite rightly be called the lucky country, we too have our issues of concern and you as a community know this all too well.
According to an article on 18 April this year, published on the website, J-Wire on the security of the Jewish community, during 2008 almost 3000 Jews in Australia had personally experienced or witnessed antisemitism here in this country.
Whilst that may shock many in the community, I expect that this figure would be not so surprising to this group.
Similarly, a 20-year study of antisemitism in Australia by researcher Jeremy Jones revealed that incidents of violence, vandalism and harassment reported to Australian Jewish organisations had reached an all time high in 2009.
Mr Jones emphasised that importantly, his research also indicated that Australians are fundamentally tolerant and opposed to discrimination, vilification or harassment of Jews and other segments of the population.
He also stated that internationally, Australia scores very well as a successful multicultural society.
Mr Jones stated that in most cases, particularly with regard to interfaith understanding and cooperation, along with legal recourse provided to victims of racism and in international activity to strengthen tolerance, Australia’s progress over 20 years has been outstanding.
Whilst this research in 2008 and 2009 is obviously concerning, pleasingly, a report published only this week from the Tel Aviv University stated antisemitic incidents worldwide, had dropped 46 percent during 2010 compared with the previous year.
Interestingly, 3 countries, UK, Canada and France accounted for 60% of all reported incidents.
These figures, whilst an improvement, are still higher than they were a decade ago.
Whilst we do not record crimes on the basis of the victim’s race or religious beliefs here in Canberra, my advice from ACT policing is that reported incidents of crime relating to cultural or religious groups is extremely low.
In fact, Canberra remains one of the safest cities in the world, well below the national average for violent crime.
This does not mean we shouldn’t be vigilant and we encourage people to report any incidents where they have been subject to any type of criminal act, whether or not it be related to their Nationality, religion or ethnicity.
Along this line of thinking, many Australian state and territory police have built strong relationships with the Communal Security Group also known as the CSG, who you would be aware of.
We have been working constructively with the CSG for a number of years on a national level around significant Jewish community events such as:
· Jewish Memorial Day; and
· National Day.
As part of our mission here in the ACT to protect the community, we place great importance on the relationship between police and all members of Australia’s culturally diverse communities.
Forums such as this evening are vital, as they provide us with an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns.
We are fortunate to live in a country of such rich cultural and linguistic diversity.
One where the value of religious freedom is keenly felt, and one that allows people to truly express who they are within a society.
Devotion to one’s chosen religion, however, should not exclude loyalty to Australia and in turn, should not divide us.
I have said this to every community group I have spoken to since becoming Commissioner in 2009.
I believe that the essence of a multicultural society is not merely the coexistence of different cultures and ethnicities but is about embracing cultural heritage and enabling all Australians to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or animosity.
It is indeed a society where compassion, trust and respect for each of our differences is an accepted part of our everyday lives.
We in the AFP have understood for some time, that if we are to do our job effectively, we need to have strong ties with the communities we protect.
To that extent, AFP Community Liaison Teams have been established to help build positive, trusting and cohesive relationships within the community.
These teams work closely with government agencies, NGOs and community groups such as the Multicultural Community Forum, to help promote a greater understanding of how we are working together to build resilience against extremist activity of any sort.
Of course, members of the AFP also benefit from being exposed to different cultures and religions both personally and professionally.
These interactions help to develop a broader understanding and awareness of the specific needs and issues faced by different sections of the community.
The AFP also sponsors a number of cultural and sporting events throughout the year.
Most recently, we brought together a cross-section of Melbourne’s culturally diverse communities with police for the fourth annual Australian Rules Unity Cup.
This year, teams from Victoria’s Jewish, Muslim and Indigenous communities competed for the Cup, but more importantly, came together to make a statement against cultural, racial and religious intolerance.
While I can tell you that the AJAX Jewish Football Club received support this year from the Western Bulldogs, I sadly have to report that they didn’t win the cup.
While sport is an ideal forum to forge stronger community relationships, the community liaison teams also play a significant role in many other local events such as attending community programs, providing advice at schools and career days and even attending the Jewish Centre, here last year to deliver personal safety presentations.
I hope tonight’s presentation has provided you with a bit more of an insight into the varied and diverse role of the AFP across this country and indeed across the world.
In closing, I thought I would share a quote with you from the founder of modern policing in the UK.
In 1829, Sir Robert Peel, said that “the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence”.
I know the Jewish community takes this principle seriously and continues to work closely with private security, such as the CSG and law enforcement agencies to ensure their safety and that of their families.
Thank you again to Manny, for providing me with the opportunity to speak to you here tonight and I am happy to take any questions you may have.