The Australian Institute of Criminology is likely to be absorbed by the Australian Crime Commission before the end of the year, and renamed the Crime and Justice Research Centre.
Legislation to give effect to the change will be introduced to federal parliament in the next session, from October 12 to 22. Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said the CJRC would be “an independent research branch” of the Crime Commission.
A plan to merge the research body into the nationwide criminal intelligence agency was widely expected following the appointment of ACC chief executive Chris Dawson (pictured) as acting director of the AIC in July. Dawson, a former deputy commissioner of the Western Australia Police, will remain in charge of the body.
The announcement confirms a tip-off received by the ABC in May, just before delivery of the federal budget, was on the money. The ABC also reported the concerns of University of South Australia law professor and former Labor candidate Rick Sarre, as well as another, unnamed criminologist, around the potential for such a merger to weaken the independence of the AIC, and the lack of consultation with academics working in the field.
According to Keenan:
“This is not about cutting costs or personnel of either agency; it’s about creating a unified workforce incorporating staff of both agencies.
Combining the expertise, capabilities and data and information holdings of the AIC and the ACC will significantly enhance support for law enforcement in counter terrorism efforts and in bolstering Australia’s response to serious and organised crime.”
Keenan suggested the research into criminology that the institute undertakes currently “to promote justice and reduce crime” could be focused more on supporting the “police on the ground, at our borders and in our intelligence agencies” in their day-to-day work:
“The more we strengthen our research capabilities, the better evidence base we have for our agencies to identify the patterns and associations that can help detect, disrupt and undermine those who seek to do our communities harm.”
The proposed merger could also result in changes to the employment conditions for some staff of the AIC, as it is a statutory body with “dual staffing powers” while the Crime Commission employs all staff under the Public Service Act.