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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Crime and Justice >> The police

Australia is served by police agencies in each state and the Northern Territory, with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) also being responsible for policing the Australian Capital Territory. Among its responsibilities the Australia Crime Commission (ACC) and the ACS also have responsibilities for the maintenance of law, order and safety.

While the principal duties of the police are the prevention and detection of crime, the protection of life and property, and the enforcement of law to maintain peace and good order, they may perform a variety of additional duties in the service of the state. These duties include the prosecution of summary offences, regulation of street traffic, and acting as clerks of petty sessions, Crown land bailiffs, mining wardens and inspectors under fisheries and other relevant legislation.

With the exception of the AFP and the ACC, police in Australia are under the control of the relevant state government and the Northern Territory Government. However their members also perform certain functions on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, such as the registration of aliens, and they enforce various Commonwealth Acts and Regulations in conjunction with the AFP and other Commonwealth officers.

Commonwealth policing agencies

Australian Federal Police (AFP)

The AFP is a Commonwealth statutory authority established by the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cwlth). The AFP has its headquarters in Canberra. Its Criminal Investigations Program is conducted through six Regional Commands, its Headquarters Investigations Department and its numerous liaison officers in many countries.

The AFP is responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences such as drug offences, money laundering and organised crime, identifying the proceeds of crime, and investigation of fraud against Commonwealth revenue and expenditure such as social security and taxation fraud. In the Australian Capital Territory, the AFP provides a full range of general community policing services, including traffic control, special operations, search and rescue services and conventional crime investigations.

National Crime Authority (NCA)

The NCA was established by the Commonwealth Government in July 1984 through the National Crime Authority Act 1984 (Cwlth). Complementary legislation was passed in each state and territory to underpin the work of the NCA in those jurisdictions. This ensured that the NCA's investigations were not limited by jurisdictional or territorial boundaries.

The decision to establish the NCA was taken in response to the findings of several Royal Commissions conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which revealed the extent of organised criminal activity in Australia. The NCA's mission involved the counteracting of organised criminal activity and the reduction of such activity's impact on the Australian community.

Australian Crime Commission (ACC)

On 5 April 2002 a summit of state and territory leaders was convened by the Prime Minister which looked at new approaches to strengthen the fight against nationally significant crime, including transnational crime and terrorism. On 9 August 2002 at a meeting of the Commonwealth, state and territory police ministers, agreement was reached on the functions, governance arrangements and resourcing of the ACC.

Planning is well advanced for the NCA, the Office of Strategic Crime Assessment and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Investigation to be replaced by the ACC. With headquarters in Canberra, the ACC will have the following functions: provide a coordinated national criminal intelligence framework; set national intelligence priorities to avoid duplication; allow areas of new and emerging criminality to be identified and investigated; and provide for investigations to be intelligence driven.

The ACC will have in-house and taskforce access to all coercive and investigatory powers which have been available to the NCA. The first priority taskforce for the ACC will be illegal handgun trafficking, both into and within Australia.

Number of sworn police officers

The number of sworn police officers in the various Australian police services is shown in table 11.3. The figures in the table are not directly comparable across the various jurisdictions, as those for NCA and AFP do not differentiate between full-time and part-time officers, whereas those for the states and territories are on a full-time equivalent basis. Between 1999-2000 and 2000-01, all states and the Northern Territory experienced increases in the number of sworn police officers, with the largest increase occurring in Queensland (5.7%). The Australian Capital Territory was the only jurisdiction with a fall in the number of sworn police officers (6.6%). The number of sworn police officers per 100,000 population was noticeably higher in the Northern Territory than elsewhere, at 475 per 100,000.



Police officers
rate per 100,000
rate per 100,000

National Crime Authority(b)
Australian Federal Police(c)(d)
New South Wales
South Australia
Western Australia
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory

(a) Based on full-time equivalents, except for the NCA, AFP and ACT figures which are based on actual number of sworn officers.
(b) Seconded officers from home force. Figures are based on actual number of sworn officers. As from 1 January 2003, the NCA has been incorporated into the newly formed ACC.
(c) In 1999-2000 total figures exclude temporary staff; however these are included in 2000-01. Figures also include officers serving overseas and are based on actual number of sworn officers.
(d) Excludes the AFP officers who were responsible for ACT policing and who are separately counted against the ACT.

Source: National Crime Authority, Annual Report; Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision, 'Report on Government Services 2002', Attachment 8A Table 8a15; for all other state and territory figures; Australian Federal Police Annual Report.

Further detail on the operations of each police agency may be found in the relevant annual reports.

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