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 Programme 1.2: Attorney-General’s Department operating expenses—National security and criminal justice

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Programme objective

This programme contributes to Outcome 1 by protecting and promoting the rule of law and building a safe, secure and resilient Australia.

Programme deliverables

  • Combat criminal activity in the online environment, including through the implementation of an Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.
  • Strengthen the Australian Government’s approach to identity security, to improve trust and confidence in the online environment and support the growing number of services that make use of new and emerging information and communication technologies.
  • Implement the commercial offering of the Document Verification Service to the private sector to assist the sector’s compliance with client identification obligations under various legislation designed to combat terrorism and organised criminal activity.
  • Further develop effective and fair national security and criminal laws informed by the Council of Australian Governments’ counter-terrorism laws review and the National Security Legislation Monitor.
  • Ensure a coordinated, collaborative and priority-driven approach to combating organised crime including in relation to unexplained wealth, illicit drugs and firearms.
  • Continue to develop and implement Commonwealth anti-corruption policy, including through continued strengthening of the Commonwealth’s law enforcement integrity framework.
  • Lead Australia’s international engagement on anti-corruption, including through the United Nations, the G20 and the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation and by building capacity in our partner countries to prevent, detect and disrupt corruption.
  • Develop and implement a Rule of Law Aid Strategy as part of the cross-departmental approach to international work, to advance and facilitate coordinated and effective delivery of the Department’s strategic priorities and Australia’s rule of law aid priorities.
  • Inform strategic priority-setting across the broader national security community under the National Security Capability Plan.
  • Complete and participate in the implementation of the national security fusion capability, further refine counter-terrorism capability through the Australia – New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee and enhance the coordination of crisis management through the Crisis Coordination Centre.
  • Lead work on modernisation of telecommunication interception laws through government response to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation.
  • Promote greater national focus on disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery by improving information-sharing arrangements and financial reporting and assessment frameworks with state and territory governments and by implementing the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience.
  • Continue to examine how best to manage cyber threats, including examination of a telecommunications sector security reform proposal.
  • Ensure that governments and industry are able to plan and react to events impacting upon the integrity of critical infrastructure, and maintain public confidence in the Australian Government’s ability to provide a safe and secure environment by implementing the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy.
  • Promote a safe and inclusive Australia by assisting individuals to disengage from violent extremist influences, help build communities that are less vulnerable to violent extremism and reduce the potential of home-grown terrorist attack by implementing the Countering Violent Extremism Strategy.

Achievements contributing to programme deliverables

National security legislative reform

The department led the development of five significant national security legislative reform measures.

Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014 was passed by Parliament on 30 October 2014. It introduced substantive reforms to the criminal law regime and addressed the most pressing gaps in Australia’s counter-terrorism framework. The Act also enhanced the capabilities of Australia’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to take proactive and effective action against the threats posed by foreign fighters to Australia and its national security interests.

Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2014

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2014 was passed by Parliament on 2 December 2014. It included enhancements to the control order regime, reforms to the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (IS Act) and expanded the review functions of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2014

The National Security Legislation Amendment Act (No. 1) 2014 (NSLA Act) was passed by Parliament on 1 October 2014. It implemented a series of targeted reforms to modernise the legislative framework governing the activities of the Australian Intelligence Community, primarily the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and IS Act. These reforms ensure Australia’s intelligence-collection and related powers keep pace with evolving technologies and methodologies, while retaining strong safeguards and oversight mechanisms.

Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015

A government priority in 2014–15 was the introduction of a mandatory telecommunications data retention regime through the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015. The Act, passed by Parliament on 26 March 2015, requires telecommunications service providers to retain and secure a limited subset of telecommunications data for two years. It also includes additional privacy protections and oversight arrangements governing access to data by national security and law enforcement agencies.

Telecommunications sector security reform

During 2014–15 the department continued consultations with government agencies and key industry stakeholders to progress telecommunications sector security reforms, leading to the release for public comment of the exposure draft of the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 in June 2015. The reforms will formalise and strengthen the joint efforts of industry and government to protect our telecommunications networks from unauthorised access and interference.

Contribution to Operation Sovereign Borders

Combating people-smuggling activities in the region through Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) continued to be a key government priority in 2014–15. The department is one of 16 government agencies contributing to the Joint Agency Taskforce. The department continues to assist with consideration of legal issues and litigation. This work was supported via the secondment of two departmental staff members to the Joint Agency Taskforce to provide legal and policy analysis.

The department is also contributing to OSB regional efforts to combat people-smuggling by working with countries in the Indo–Pacific region to promote tougher laws on people-smuggling and related transnational crime. In 2014–15 the department worked bilaterally with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Vietnam to strengthen their capacity to prosecute people-smuggling and human-trafficking cases. The department worked regionally through the Bali Process to develop policy guides on criminalising people-smuggling and human-trafficking, and on identifying and protecting victims of trafficking.

Countering Violent Extremism Strategy

The department led the development of a new Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Strategy to help build the resilience of communities and make them less vulnerable to violent extremism and reduce the potential of home-grown terrorist attacks. This whole-of-government approach has four tiers:

  1. Maintaining a strong, multicultural society
  2. Helping institutions and sectors of our community combat violent extremist ideology in areas where it emerges
  3. Undermining the appeal of terrorist propaganda, especially online
  4. Intervening to divert individuals away from their violent extremist views.

This strategy responds to concerning trends in increasingly young Australians seeking to join or support conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the scale and reach of extremist propaganda in social media. In 2014–15, the department’s CVE activity was funded through Programmes 1.2 and 1.6 and achievements are reported both here and under the Programme 1.6. During 2014–15, the department:

  • produced a set of CVE intervention tools for frontline professionals to assess the level of an individual’s radicalisation and develop a case management plan to divert them away from violent ideologies
  • led engagement with law enforcement, non-government organisations, government departments, communities and schools, to address the radicalisation of young Australians to violent extremism through the development of awareness, education and training initiatives
  • established new channels to remove or restrict access to extremist material online, including the launch of the Report Online Extremism tool and educating the public about the risks of radicalisation through the internet
  • developed a research base to understand violent extremist messaging and its impact on Australian society
  • hosted a successful Regional CVE Summit to build capacity in Australia and the region to combat terrorist propaganda, including attendees from 24 countries, the European Union and the UN, as well as representatives from civil society and the private sector.

Improving cybersecurity

Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network

On 26 November 2014, the Minister for Justice launched Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network ACORN, a joint project between the Attorney-General’s Department, CrimTrac, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and all Australian police agencies. It is an initiative under the National Plan to Combat Cybercrime (2013), which aims to make Australia a harder target for cybercriminals. Since its launch, ACORN has received more than 21,000 reports from members of the public. The collected reports will help develop a national picture of cybercrime trends within Australia and inform policy and operational responses to cybercrime.

Computer Emergency Response Team Australia

During 2014–15, the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia relocated its Canberra-based operations to the Australian Cyber Security Centre. This relocation brings together the Attorney-General’s portfolio cybersecurity capabilities (CERT, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Federal Police and the ACC) and the Australian Signals Directorate. The department has also provided considerable input into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Cyber Security Review.

National Broadband Network Security

The department continues to engage with the nbn company and relevant government agencies to promote the security and resilience of the National Broadband Network (NBN). This involves the transition to a ‘multi-technology mix’ model in the roll-out of the NBN and has resulted in enhancements to information-sharing and cooperative engagement between the nbn company and security agencies.

Enhancing identity security

National Identity Proofing Guidelines

In October 2014 the department released the National Identity Proofing Guidelines to replace the 2007 Gold Standard Enrolment Framework with a flexible, risk-based approach to proofing identity. Modelled on international best-practice, the guidelines will help government and private sector organisations combat identity crime.

National Identity Crime and Misuse Measurement Framework

In line with the National Identity Security Strategy, the department continued to lead work in establishing robust frameworks to counter identity crime and misuse. The National Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2013–14 (NICAM) report provides a detailed picture of the prevalence and costs of identity crime. The report refined methodologies established for the 2014 NICAM Measurement Framework Pilot and, as an annual publication, will map trends and impacts of this type of criminal activity.

National Facial Biometric Matching Capability

As part of the government’s $630m package of counter-terrorism measures announced in August 2014, the department received funding to establish a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability. The capability enhances the ability of government agencies to detect and prevent the use of fraudulent identities by providing a mechanism for secure, automated and auditable matching of facial images. It will assist agencies to:

  • investigate and disrupt terrorists and returning foreign fighters
  • combat the increasingly sophisticated use of fraudulent identities by serious and organised criminals
  • prevent identity fraud involving government-issued documents
  • strengthen the issuance processes that sit behind Australia’s key identity credentials.

Document Verification Service

In early 2015, the department extended the availability of the Document Verification Service (DVS) to private sector organisations with a reasonable need to verify their customers. In addition to helping reduce the compliance costs of legal obligations of private sector organisations, the DVS helps businesses to reduce identity fraud and enhance the privacy of their customers. By mid-2015, a total of 280 private sector organisations had been approved for DVS access. In 2014–15 an additional 31 government agencies commenced use of the DVS. A total of 6.86 million DVS transactions occurred from July 2014 to May 2015.

Building resilience

Over the past year, the department has worked closely with states, territories and other stakeholders to strengthen Australia’s resilience to natural disasters, by:

  • continuing to implement the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience and reviewing its operation to determine areas for future focus
  • committing to the UN’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, which seeks to enhance international efforts to reduce disaster risk and build resilience
  • supporting the Productivity Commission inquiry into natural disaster funding arrangements and considering its recommendations to streamline the national funding system and increase investment in mitigation
  • scoping a new National Fire Danger Rating System
  • introducing new Arrangements for Interstate Assistance (Fire and Emergency Services) to improve the cross-border sharing of fire and emergency services personnel
  • developing new National Emergency Risk Assessment Guidelines to help jurisdictions and communities to better understand and manage their risks
  • finalising the Australian Government Enhancing Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment Capability and Investment Plan
  • gaining national agreement to a standardisation of services provided by the Bureau of Meteorology to ensure that emergency service agencies get the highest-quality services where they are needed most and that public warnings are consistent across state boundaries.

Critical infrastructure resilience

The continued operation of Australia’s critical infrastructure in the face of all hazards is the aim of the Australian Government’s new Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy. The strategy was launched by the Attorney-General in May 2015 and includes a range of new activities to deliver greater stakeholder value from the business–government partnership. The department also developed a framework to enhance the identification, assessment and mitigation of national security risk arising from foreign involvement in critical infrastructure which was endorsed by the government in February 2015.

The Critical Infrastructure Program for Modelling and Analysis (CIPMA) completed several projects in 2014–15. A domestic medicines supply chain project, in partnership with the Department of Health and the pharmaceutical industry, provided insights into the survival times and critical demand levels of medicine stocks for unexpected supply cut and demand surge scenarios. A project for Defence identified and mapped the essential service and resources dependencies of selected Defence bases.

Combating serious and organised crime

National Organised Crime Response Plan

The department led the development of the National Organised Crime Response Plan 2015–18, working closely with Australian Government, state and territory law enforcement and justice agencies. The response plan, launched by the Minister for Justice in May 2015, identifies key organised crime threats and outlines the strategic national priorities for all governments over the next three years:

  • tackling the increasing prevalence of methamphetamine in the community
  • reducing gun-related crime and violence
  • targeting organised crime groups committing technology-enabled crime and cybercrime
  • developing a national approach to targeting financial crime
  • tackling the criminal proceeds of organised crime
  • reducing barriers to information-sharing between agencies.

Legislation to address X7 v Australian Crime Commission and other cases

The department led the development of the Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Powers) Act 2015, which seeks to place the questioning powers of the ACC and Integrity Commissioner on a clearer and stronger legislative footing, in response to a number of recent court decisions. Developed in collaboration with key law enforcement stakeholders, it strikes a balance between the operational needs of the ACC and Integrity Commissioner to question people about their involvement in serious and organised crime and law enforcement corruption, and the need to preserve a person’s fundamental right to a fair trial.

Import ban on new psychoactive substances

The department worked with 15 agencies to develop the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures) Act 2015. The legislation represents a significant shift in approach for Australian drug controls, banning the importation of new psychoactive substances based on their effect rather than their chemical structure. The changes come into effect later in 2015 and are expected to improve the flexibility and operation of existing controls on illicit drugs.

Combating foreign bribery

The department continues to lead the whole-of-government response to bribery of foreign public officials. The department is responsible for Australia’s engagement with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery, which monitors enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. In December 2014, Australia reported to the working group on progress on recommendations made following Australia’s 2012 Phase 3 evaluation. The working group commended Australia for its progress on important recommendations from the 2012 evaluation, and welcomed the significant steps taken by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), including the establishment of the multi-agency Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre. At the June 2015 meeting, the chair of the working group noted that Australia’s efforts put it in the upper echelons of countries in relation to enforcement of foreign bribery laws.

Australian FATF presidency

Under Australia’s presidency, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) worked on countering the financing of the terrorist organisation Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), issuing guidance on a risk-based approach to regulating virtual currency, addressing the issue of ‘de-risking’ where financial institutions terminated or restricted business relationships with customers without proper risk assessments, and furthering work on beneficial ownership and transparency to prevent the misuse of corporate vehicles for money-laundering, terrorist financing and other illicit purposes.

Combating corruption

In 2014, during Australia’s presidency of the G20, the department drove Australia’s work as co-chair (with Italy) of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group. The department led the development of the G20 High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership Transparency and the 2015–16 G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan, both of which were endorsed by G20 Leaders in November 2014. Australia is also an active member of the APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group and led the development of the APEC Guide to Mutual Legal Assistance in 2014–15. The guide provides practical step-by-step instructions for obtaining mutual legal assistance from APEC member economies. Mutual legal assistance can play a key role in ensuring corrupt officials cannot avoid prosecution, or hide illicit assets from corruption, simply because evidence or illicit assets are in another APEC economy. The guide was made publicly available on the APEC website in January 2015.

Combating human-trafficking and forced marriage

The department prepared The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery 2015–2019 in consultation with other government agencies and non-government organisations. The Minister for Justice launched the plan on 2 December 2014. It sets out goals and actions for Australia’s response to human-trafficking and slavery and includes key performance indicators for monitoring purposes. Areas of focus include education and awareness-raising, forced marriage, exploitation in supply chains, and international and regional leadership.

In 2014, the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery Communications and Awareness Working Group, in consultation with the community, developed a Forced Marriage Community Pack to provide materials for frontline officers, teachers and vulnerable groups. This supports the implementation of the forced marriage criminal offences that came into force in 2013, launched by the Minister for Justice on 2 December 2014. On 14 July 2014, the Minister for Justice awarded almost $500,000 under the Grants to Australian Organisations Program to Anti-Slavery Australia, the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans, and the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, to progress outreach and awareness-raising activities on forced marriage.

Working internationally

Aid-funded work in the Indo–Pacific region

The department worked with partner countries in the Indo–Pacific region to strengthen capacity to combat people-smuggling and related transnational crime, as well as to support improvements in domestic crime and policing in the Pacific. In 2014–15 this work included training and mentoring 607 law and justice officials. The department supported the development of modern and effective crime and policing laws to improve community safety in Pacific Island countries, including the first Pacific Policy Champions Course. The department also assisted Pakistan to strengthen its terrorist asset-freezing laws and supported the Asset Recovery Interagency Network – Asia Pacific to enhance cooperation on criminal asset confiscation in the region. The department continues to oversee the deployment of Australian Government officials under the Strongim Gavman Program. Our assistance supports Papua New Guinea to advance its law and justice priorities. The department is also assisting Papua New Guinea through the Combating Corruption project delivered jointly with AUSTRAC.

International crime cooperation

Australia signed a Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters treaty with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in July 2014, a Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters treaty with Brazil in November 2014 and an International Transfer of Prisoners treaty with India. The department is working towards domestic implementation of these treaties.

Amendments to the Foreign Evidence Act 1994, which commenced on 1 December 2014, provide Australian judicial officers with greater discretion in deciding whether to admit foreign material in terrorism-related proceedings, while still providing the appropriate judicial protection of the rights of the defendant. Amendments to the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997, passed by Parliament in February 2015, streamline the existing international prisoner transfer processes and clarify certain legislative requirements for the transfer of a prisoner into or out of Australia.

Following legislative amendments which enable Australia to ask a court to register non-conviction-based restraining orders from any foreign country, approximately $20m in assets has been restrained in Australia in response to eight mutual assistance requests from partner countries. At 30 June 2015 proceedings relating to these assets were still in progress.

Countering foreign terrorist fighters

During 2014–15 the department engaged with law and justice agencies from priority countries in the Indo–Pacific and Middle East to enhance legal cooperation to obtain and use foreign evidence to support terrorism prosecutions. This work included:

  • developing Australia’s international crime cooperation relationships with Turkey and Jordan, complementing the expansion of Australian law enforcement presence in this region
  • improving practical cooperation under the Australia – United Arab Emirates (UAE) mutual legal assistance treaty through the inaugural International Crime Cooperation Dialogue with the UAE
  • co-hosting delegations from the Philippines and Thailand to share Australia’s experiences in counter-terrorism, including legislation, countering violent extremism and interagency cooperation in terrorism cases.

East Asia Summit Disaster Management Initiative

In June 2015, Emergency Management Australia (EMA), a division of the department, and National Disaster Management Authority Indonesia launched the East Asia Summit (EAS) Rapid Disaster Response Toolkit at the 3rd Indonesia–Australia EAS Rapid Disaster Response Workshop in Bali, Indonesia. The toolkit is a key deliverable of the initiative and has been endorsed by the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management. It is an innovative reference guide that streamlines rapid disaster response amongst EAS nations, by providing guidance for decision-makers and improving the understanding and awareness of individual country arrangements and capabilities.

Evaluations and reviews

Australia’s Mutual Evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force

In 2014–15, the department led Australia’s engagement with the inter-governmental FATF on the fourth-round Mutual Evaluation of our anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) regime by an international panel of experts. Australia’s Mutual Evaluation Report (MER), adopted at the FATF plenary meeting on 27 February 2015, found Australia has strong legal, law enforcement, international cooperation and operational measures for combating money-laundering and terrorism financing, and had made sound progress implementing the FATF standards since its evaluation in 2005. The MER includes a number of recommendations for Australian regime improvement, particularly for regulation of designated non-financial businesses and professions, such as real estate agents, accountants and lawyers.

Statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act

On 4 December 2013, the Minister for Justice commenced the review of Australia’s AML/CTF regime, as required by section 251 of the Anti-Money-Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. Extensive public consultation has taken place with businesses, peak bodies and government agencies, including a series of roundtable discussions. The review, which is due to report to the Minister in late 2015, has enabled the department to critically examine the operation of the regime and the relevant findings of the FATF’s MER, consider issues raised by regulated businesses and government agencies and develop recommended enhancements to Australia’s AML/CTF regime.

Evaluation of the Australian-aid-funded Pacific Police Development Program

The department participated in a mid-term evaluation of the Australian-aid-funded Pacific Police Development Program, which the department co-delivers with the AFP. The programme received a highly favourable review with recommendations that the department continue development of its program design and monitoring and evaluation framework, consistent with AFP work in this area.

Results against key performance indicators

Key performance indicator

Accurate, timely and high-quality advice


2014–15: Achieved

2013–14: Achieved

The department provided advice on Australia’s national security law and policy framework, including to the Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Australian Government agencies, state and territory government agencies and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. The advice covered a range of policy areas, from cybersecurity, through critical infrastructure resilience and protective security to identity security and emergency management.

The department provided advice to assist the Minister for Justice to address the threats posed by serious and organised crime (including illicit drugs and gang-related crime), cybercrime, forced marriage, human-trafficking and foreign bribery. The department facilitated effective and adequate investigatory powers for law enforcement agencies and enabled participation in the annual National Roundtable on Human Trafficking and Slavery and the first National Cybercrime Working Group. The department also provided input to several parliamentary inquiries, including inquiries into digital currencies, crystal methamphetamine (ice), gun-related violence and people-trafficking.

The first Whole-of-Government Protective Security Status Report, providing a coherent picture of the Australian Government’s protective security posture, was delivered in 2015. Stronger personnel security arrangements were put in place in September 2014 to mitigate the trusted insider threat.

Key performance indicator

Effective management of national security and criminal justice programmes


2014–15: Achieved

2013–14: Achieved

The department provides national leadership on national security programmes and policy areas, such as Australia’s identity security infrastructure, which was strengthened by the establishment of a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability and expansion of the DVS.

The department contributed to key OSB regional efforts to encourage the establishment of tougher laws to combat people-smuggling. This included training 41 Sri Lankan and 75 Indonesian law and justice officials to strengthen their capacity to prosecute people-smuggling and human-trafficking cases, as well as training 126 Vietnamese officials to help strengthen people-smuggling, trafficking in persons and anti-money-laundering laws. Regionally through the Bali Process, the department worked with member countries to develop regional guides on criminalising people-smuggling and trafficking in persons and on identifying and protecting victims of trafficking.

The department considered a total of 232 federal prisoners for release on parole: 190 of these were granted parole, 30 were refused parole and 12 had existing parole orders amended.

The department received 457 applications to import firearms and firearm-related articles. Import permission was granted in 374 cases, and 9 applications were not approved (some related to applications made in the previous financial year). Electronic processing of applications commenced in October 2014 and, along with the implementation of improvements to processing requirements, resulted in a decrease in the time taken to process applications.

The department completed 73,026 background checks for the Aviation Security Identification Card Scheme, 58,427 background checks for the Maritime Security Identification Card Scheme and 210 background checks for the National Health Security Checking Scheme.

In accordance with the AusCheck Guidelines, AusCheck received 36 separate written requests for access to the AusCheck database seeking information for national security and/or law enforcement purposes. Requesting agencies included the then Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) now the Australian Border Force, the ACC, the AFP, the Australian Tax Office, Defence, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and the Office of Transport Security (OTS). During the reporting period AusCheck provided 11 copies of the current security card inventory to the ACC, nine copies to the AFP and six copies to the then ACBPS. Approved agencies may also apply to AusCheck for direct access to the AusCheck database. At 30 June 2015, only officers from the AFP and OTS maintain direct access to the database.

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