A Parliamentary Joint Committee is putting its weight behind the creation of a new national repository for criminal intelligence that would allow unprecedented data sharing among law enforcement agencies.
The committee tabled its report on the gathering and use of criminal intelligence in Australia early yesterday.
Despite finding legislative, technological and cultural hindrances to creating a national approach to sharing intelligence data, the committee saw the project as "fundamentally important".
"The committee takes the view that the establishment of an effective national criminal intelligence repository is of vital importance to the future of policing in Australia," it said.
The central approach is known as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Model, or ACIM. The concept won approval from federal, state and local enforcement agencies in November last year, but now requires implementation, which could take years.
The current approach to criminal intelligence gathering, storage and sharing is characterised as a "patchwork of models and systems".
The Australian Crime Commission has the legal mandate to run a national database of criminal intelligence, but it acknowledges its databases are "based on outdated technology and no longer fit for purpose".
Police described the existing national databases as running "technology from the 1980s". They are unable to keep track of intelligence from CCTV, telephone intercepts or social media, resulting in limited use by police.
States and agencies ran their own intelligence systems on disparate IT systems, the committee found.
"The challenges for involved agencies in establishing an interoperable national criminal intelligence system are exemplified by the fact that criminal intelligence is currently stored in more than 30 systems operated by Australian law enforcement, policing, national security and other government agencies," the committee said.
"These systems have limited interoperability.
"There is no single and complete 'point-of-truth' for Australian criminal intelligence holdings nor an automated process for searching across all such systems simultaneously."
The committee found some intelligence data sharing via memorandums of understanding, agreements or inter-agency requests.
Multi-agency task forces — such as Project Wickenby, which targets tax crime — were one way that police and agencies got together to facilitate intelligence-sharing in certain areas.
"In order to meet the expectations of governments and communities regarding policing and community safety, better methods and interoperable systems to exchange information in a timely manner across all jurisdictions are needed," the committee noted.
A report on the technological requirements for a new national database is due out sometime next month. The report is funded by proceeds of crime.
The committee is seeking a detailed debrief on that report's findings, including how "interoperability between existing databases and systems" can be achieved while the new national model is formulated.
It wants to know "how the [Crime Commission] will ensure that all current information technology systems are fully utilised and accessible under the [forthcoming] ACIM".
The committee wants licensing for the ACIM to commit all users to upload intelligence data for sharing and analysis nationally.
It also wants to set standards for "information management" to ensure data that is uploaded is consistent, and data security standards to ensure uploaded data isn't misused.