Multi department raids

It appears that over the past few years, both Australian federal and state governments have been conducting operations to exchange information in order to catch individuals who are “cheating the system”. Most operations involve roadblocks but can also include work place raids. Vehicles from particular industries are pulled over by state police and the occupants are requested to provide their personal details. The information is then passed on to various agencies such as Centrelink, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and the Australian Tax Office, who do not themselves have general coercive powers. Those departments then run checks on the individual to see if they have broken the law.

Who are the targets?

The major targets are people who work in cash economy industries such as:

    • Taxi drivers
    • Courier workers
    • Agricultural workers (especially seasonal workers, ie fruit pickers, *vineyard workers)
    • Hospitality industry employees
    • In bound tourism operators
    • Tow-truck industry workers
    • Brothel employees and sex workers (illegal and legal)
    • Chicken factory workers
    • Truck drivers (long-distance and interstate)

What happens to the information given?

Your information may be passed on to various agencies such as Centrelink, Department of Immigration and Citizenship and/or the Australian Tax Office.

These agencies may use the information obtained to conduct further investigations on visa status, frauds involving Centrelink benefits and tax evasions.

If you are pulled over

While you are in your vehicle, you may be asked by a police officer to provide personal information:

    • Generally, only the driver is required to provide basic information like their name, age, address, licence and registration number. You may need to show proof of your identity and to have a breathalyser test.
    • Passengers do not have to provide information unless they have potentially committed or witnessed an offence. (e.g. having an open alcoholic beverage in the car).
    • Police can search you, passengers and the vehicle if they reasonably suspect a crime has been committed.
    • You are not legally required to answer any other questions.
    • You may ask the purpose of the officer’s questions.
    • You may ask if the information you give will be passed on to others, such as government departments; and if so, what law allows this (eg. which section of what Act).
    • If the police officer is in “plain clothes” and asks you questions, you may find out his or her name and badge number.
    • Seek legal advice immediately, and ask for a lawyer if you feel intimidated at any time.
    • Always remain calm and polite.

If there is a raid at your workplace

    • If officials visit your workplace and demand information, by law you only have to give your name, age and address. If they want more information, ask to see a warrant:
      • Identify the purpose of the warrant.
      • Check that the warrant is signed by an “Issuing Authority”
    • If they do not have a warrant, you do not have to let them in or provide further information.
    • If you let them in, and they do not have a warrant, they no longer need a warrant.
    • Whether or not they have a warrant, you have a right to a legal adviser (e.g. a lawyer).
    • Ask for an interpreter if you need one.

Getting help and promoting awareness

    • Immediately inform support organisations, your co-workers and/or civil rights groups.
    • You can contact The Welfare Rights Centre, LawRight, Caxton Legal Centre and the Commonwealth Ombudsman for help.
    • You may make a complaint and obtain legal advice.
    • Tell others you know who might be approached in this way by authorities.
    • You are allowed to tell others that you have been approached or questioned by State police.