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Published: Australian Financial Review & Canberra Times

The AFP Commissioner of Police, Mick Keelty , is moving on. The focus of attention should be in reforms to the AFP allowing for greater scrutiny and accountability.

Keelty is moving on despite enjoying the support of the Prime Minister. Support in other key areas of government had evaporated or was fast drying up. Keelty’s brand of political policing, which reached its apotheosis under Howard, faded quickly with the public, lawyers and key ministries following the Haneef enquiry.

Now is the time for the Rudd government to insist on the same Parliamentary oversight of the AFP as that applying to the Australian Defence Force. With a budget of $2billion and more promised in the forthcoming budget the AFP must be brought back to earth. The so called ‘war on terror’ saw the Howard Government deify the AFP and put it beyond the reach of the law. ‘Whatever it takes’ was the ethos and this was supported by the Prime Minister’s office, which in essence set the policy framework and general operating philosophy of the AFP.

Rudd must resist the temptation to be the recipient of salacious scuttlebutt relating to his political rivals and others perceived to be ranged against his government. The trouble with the AFP’s terrorism mentality is that a large number of people are perceived to be potentially enemies of the state, including refugees arriving by boat, demonstrated, yet again, by an AFP leak at the time of the SIEV35 fire.

Even if only for its own protection the Rudd government must insist upon greater control over and insight into the running and agenda of the AFP, lest the hand feeding the AFP gets bitten.

Rudd must curtail all planning for an AFP paramilitary force and pull the AFP out of the formation and implementation of regional foreign policy. He must find other means of handling refugees destined for Australia from Indonesia other than disruption programs which rely on feeding the corruption of Indonesian military personnel and officials.