Hon Brendan O’Connor appointed Minister for Human Services
and Minister Assisting for School Education
The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Statement on appointment as Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting for School Education
I thank the Prime Minister for my appointment to the position of Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting for School Education.
I have enjoyed the past two-and-a-half years in the very challenging portfolio of Home Affairs and Justice, and was honoured to work with the hardworking officers of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Crime Commission, AUSTRAC, Crimtrac, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Classification Board and Classification Review Board, and Attorney-General’s Department.
These professional and dedicated staff do remarkable work, often in dangerous situations and at great personal risk, to protect the interests of Australia, its borders and its citizens.
As the Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, I also valued the work and support of the staff of the National Archives, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the Privacy and FOI branch, first of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and then within the Attorney-General’s Department.
The National Archives is a very important older institution that curates and protects the information that has shaped Australia, while the OAIC is a new body, set up by the Labor Government to preside over FOI and privacy.
Working with the staff in all these agencies, during my time in both portfolios, we have had many significant achievements, including:
- the most significant overhaul of Australia’s anti-dumping system to combat dumping and help support Australian manufacturing and farming jobs
- introduced the first Organised Crime Strategic Framework, the first Commonwealth Organised Crime Response Plan, and the first National Organised Crime Response Plan in which all nine Australian jurisdictions have agreed priorities in targeting organised crime
- major operational successes including the seizure of 300 kilograms of cocaine from a yacht in Queensland last month, the seizure of 400 kg of pure cocaine in Queensland in October 2010, and the seizure last September of more than 288 litres of safrole - a banned precursor used in the manufacture of MDMA (or ecstasy). This could have yielded almost 235 kg of MDMA or more than 2.3 million pills
- established the ACC Fusion Centre, bringing together the capabilities of 22 agencies including the Australian Crime Commission, Australian Federal Police, AUSTRAC, Australian Tax Office, and State and Territory law enforcement agencies to target a range of high-threat criminal groups, including those involved in people smuggling, money laundering and drug importation
- expanded the role of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and set up the Proceeds of Crime Taskforce, to ensure that more ill-gotten gains have been returned to the community for crime prevention projects
- completed the Federal Audit of Police Capabilities, and taken on the policing role at airports
- improved laws and support for victims of human trafficking and forced labour, and draft legislation to toughen our laws against this reprehensible practice
- toughened people smuggling laws and improved regional cooperation between law enforcement agencies to target and disrupt organisers of these ventures, and implemented the first Strategic Border Management Plan
- signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China on combating transnational crime, with work well underway on a second MOU on the control of illicit drug precursors
- overseen the reform of Freedom of Information laws, and started discussion on a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy, and
- in-principle agreement from all jurisdictions to introduce the new R18+ classification for computer games, giving parents more certainty about what games their children are playing while allowing Australian adults access to adult material.
I am looking forward to the new challenge of Minister for Human Services, where I will be overseeing a massive service provider which supports millions of Australians through agencies such as Centrelink and Medicare.
This is a very important department which does fine work to help Australian families and workers, and I look forward to building on the reforms set in place by Tanya Plibersek over the past year and would like to congratulate her on her elevation to Cabinet.
I am also looking forward to working with Peter Garrett on the critical issue of school reform, particularly implementing the Gonski review. This is a historic reform in the true Labor tradition of ensuring equity in education for all Australians.
I also congratulate Jason Clare on his elevation to Home Affairs and Justice. Jason is a very capable Minister who is well suited to his new role.