AUSTRALIA'S criminal intelligence agency says its battle against organised crime is hamstrung by budget cuts and an inability to share information with other law enforcement bodies.
The Australian Crime Commission has urged the federal government to give it greater power to share intelligence with state and federal police, Customs and state crime commissioners in order to tackle major organised crime.
''In an ideal situation there would be sufficient harmonisation between Australia's law enforcement, policing and national security agencies to secure access by the ACC and its partners to the free flow of criminal intelligence across these domains,'' the commission says in a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into whether the national intelligence-sharing framework needs to be strengthened.
However, civil libertarians say the commission has already become Australia's answer to the FBI and CIA combined, and warned that the US agencies' ''history of abuse'' of secret intelligence should be a cautionary tale for the government.
The commission says a scattergun approach to intelligence sharing means there is an ''absence of agreement on a consistent way in which Australian agencies collect, collate, analyse, produce, store and disseminate criminal intelligence''.
''These issues can cause much duplication of effort and inefficiency amongst law enforcement, policing, national security, other government and private sector bodies in understanding the most effective response to the threat and impact of serious and organised crime,'' it says.
The commission also says its ability to tackle organised crime is being undermined by budget and staff cuts. For 2012-13, the commission drew $91.727 million in funding, a reduction of $1.69 million on the previous year.
The Herald reported in February civil libertarians feared employees of private companies could be sacked - without being charged with any crime - on the basis of information secretly provided to their bosses by the commission under proposed new laws. The laws - allowing the ACC to share intelligence with private companies - were subsequently passed.
Civil Liberties Australia has warned in its submission the commission seems to be expanding its role by stealth.