Thursday 10 June, 2021

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA (Hartley—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services) (14:00): I seek leave to make a ministerial statement.

Leave granted.

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA: During the early hours of Monday morning, a senior SAPOL detective radioed the phrase 'execute resolution' which sent more than 450 SAPOL officers into action, resulting in the largest number of arrests for serious and organised crime offences ever seen in this state on a single day. As members are likely aware, these arrests were the result of the state's biggest covert police operation, Operation Ironside.

I take this opportunity to thank SAPOL for their incredible work as part of Operation Ironside, a combined investigation with the Australian Federal Police and international counterparts. I wish to thank and praise the many law enforcement personnel who have been involved in this extraordinary operation and who have put in countless hours of their time to ensure that these investigations have resulted in such an unprecedented and outstanding success.

Operation Ironside commenced in October 2018 and involved the use of an encrypted communications network, known as ANOM, used in Australia by organised crime groups. Such networks are commonly utilised among criminal syndicates in an effort to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies. Since early 2020, SAPOL has been working with the AFP as part of Operation Ironside.

The operation in South Australia began with a focus on members of the Comanchero Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMCG) and their close associates who were suspected of serious criminal offending. As Operation Ironside evolved, criminal offending of other individuals attached or associated with other criminal syndicates were also targeted.

Over 70 arrests were made by SAPOL as part of Operation Ironside as well as major seizures of illicit drugs, including 50 litres of fantasy, 90 kilos of methamphetamine, 354 kilos of cannabis and 10,000 ecstasy pills. Industrial clandestine drug laboratories were also located, including one with the capability to produce up to 50 kilos of methamphetamine per week. Firearms, luxury vehicles, cash and other assets valued at over $11 million were also confiscated.

In addition, SAPOL interrupted two alleged murder attempts by members of the Comanchero OMCG and a number of attempts to cause serious harm to others. On occasions, this required a 24-hour policing response to ensure the safety of the alleged victims. The scale of Operation Ironside is truly extraordinary and has resulted in the significant thwarting of alleged criminal activities within South Australia, interstate and overseas.

Those persons arrested during Operation Ironside have been charged with serious offences, including conspiracy to murder, large commercial trafficking of controlled drugs, large commercial manufacture of controlled drugs, firearms trafficking or possession, and money laundering. Many of these offences carry a penalty of life imprisonment.

While the operation remains ongoing, the series of arrests and seizures carried out this week demonstrate the monumental efforts of SAPOL in stopping the scourge of violent and serious organised crime in South Australia. The sheer magnitude of the illicit drugs seized by SAPOL is incredible, and we are all much safer knowing that these illegal drugs will not be on our streets.

The Marshall Liberal government is grateful for our hardworking police, which is why since coming to government we have invested more than $170 million in additional funding for SAPOL to ensure that they have the tools they need to keep South Australia safe and strong.

SAPOL has been integral in South Australia's fight against COVID-19, and that fight continues, which is why today we announced that, as part of the 2021-22 state budget, we will be investing an additional $23.6 million for the recruitment and training of 114 extra protective security officers (PSOs) to reinforce SAPOL's successful COVID-19 response.

We have worked closely with SAPOL throughout the pandemic. In 2020, we provided $21.2 million in funding for SAPOL to recruit an extra 72 cadets and 54 PSOs. Today's announcement increases the total number of additional officers to 240. This resourcing boost will allow SAPOL officers to be redeployed to frontline policing, with the additional PSOs to assist at medi-hotels and undertake a range of other COVID-19 duties.

Operation Ironside highlights the exceptional work of SAPOL in fighting crime and protecting the community. This was one of the most critical and important operations in breaking serious and organised crime in South Australia to date. On behalf of the state government and all South Australians, I thank the officers involved in Operation Ironside and our entire police force for their efforts and for keeping South Australians safe.