Media statement: Coercive powers

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s (ACIC) coercive powers, similar to a Royal Commission, are used in special operations and special investigations to obtain information where the Board of the ACIC determines that it is in the public interest to do so.

Our coercive powers authorise our Examiners to compel people to give evidence for the purposes of special ACIC operations or special ACIC investigations.

Our Examiners can also issue notices requiring people to produce documents or things relevant to a special operation or investigation. This power is broad, and may apply to a person, a corporation or a Commonwealth government agency.

Our agency’s coercive powers are one tool that has been effective in collecting information and intelligence to examine structures and links fundamental to organised criminal activity.

This has helped identify and take-action against a range of pervasive criminal threats, which have proved highly resilient to traditional law enforcement methods.

In 2019–20, the ACIC’s special investigations and special operations focused on the eight priority areas of criminal threats affecting Australia, as identified in the ACIC Corporate Plan:

  • high-risk criminal targets
  • emerging organised crime threats
  • illicit drugs
  • national security and terrorism
  • criminal gangs
  • financial crime
  • firearms
  • cybercrime

157 examinations were conducted across Australia in 2019–20, and 139 intelligence products containing examination material were finalised.

Updated figures for 2020–21 will be released in the agency’s annual report in October 2021.

The ACIC takes contempt of its powers seriously and we will not hesitate to seek prosecution of persons summonsed under the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (Cth) (the ACC Act) who fail to answer questions or provide misleading or false evidence.

We work very closely with all Commonwealth and state law enforcement, and Home Affairs portfolio partner agencies. Where national and regional priorities converge, we seek assistance from the state/territory police to support the conduct of examinations. The Commissioner of the South Australian Police is member of the Board of the ACIC, along with all other state police commissioners.

This unique ACIC capability helps to achieve our vision of an Australia which is hostile to criminal exploitation. With the support of the Australian Government, we are committed to enhancing our coercive powers capability. This is why the agency is recruiting 3 additional Examiners.

The ACIC does not comment on ongoing investigations or operational activity. The agency conducts examinations in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002. Examinations are subject to strict confidentiality provisions which, among other things, prohibit the identification of any person who has given or may be required to give evidence at an examination.

A contravention of such a provision by any person—including, but not limited to, the person examined or to be examined—is a criminal offence, punishable on conviction by a fine and/or imprisonment for a period up to two years.

As such, the ACIC does not comment on whether persons may or may not be subject to examination.

Matthew Rippon

A/g Deputy Chief Executive Officer Intelligence