House of Representatives Speech- Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2013

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill delivers on the Gillard government’s continuing commitment to combating corruption and to protecting and supporting the victims of serious Commonwealth offences such as slavery and human trafficking. The bill also includes a range of measures which strengthen existing laws and ensure that the criminal law in this country is responsive to emerging threats.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill delivers on the Gillard government’s continuing commitment to combating corruption and to protecting and supporting the victims of serious Commonwealth offences such as slavery and human trafficking. The bill also includes a range of measures which strengthen existing laws and ensure that the criminal law in this country is responsive to emerging threats.

This Labor government is committed to a safe and secure Australia. That means making sure that we have the right laws and processes in place and that law enforcement agencies have the right tools to fight crime and corruption.

The bill will improve and clarify aspects of Commonwealth criminal law including:

amendments to support victims and witnesses in proceedings for federal offences during prosecution and sentencing

amendments relating to the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of people-smuggling offenders

amendments to ensure the effective operation of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

amendments to facilitate assistance to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals

procedural amendments to the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, to facilitate the provision of services by the Australian Federal Police in the external territories and ensure that proceeds of crime proceedings are not impeded in particular circumstances, and

amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 to reflect the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 and the Victorian Inspectorate Act 2011.

I will address each of these measures in turn.

This Labor government is committed to looking after the vulnerable in our society. We understand that victims of crime are among the most vulnerable and they need support and assistance to seek the justice they deserve.

That is why we established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and passed legislation earlier this year so that people could share their experiences with commissioners in private sessions. The government recognised that relating these traumatic experiences is difficult and that special provisions need to be put in place so that the voices of these people can be heard.

In the same way, the government recognises that victims of particular Commonwealth offences need to feel properly supported and to give evidence of the horrific crimes that have affected their lives so deeply.

Historically, Commonwealth offences were, for the most part, offences where the victim was the Commonwealth, such as social security or tax fraud. However, more recently, Commonwealth offences have come to encompass some of the most inherently traumatic offences against the individual—slavery, slavery-like and human trafficking offences.

In addition, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act, passed by the government earlier this year, introduced new slavery-like offences with individual victims, including forced marriage and forced labour.

While the Crimes Act currently provides vulnerable witness protections for children in proceedings for sexual offences, there are no similar Commonwealth protections for adult victims of slavery, slavery-like and human trafficking offences, nor any specific protections for witnesses who may be vulnerable due to a particular characteristic—for example, a witness who requires support or alternative arrangements to effectively give evidence due to a disability or their cultural background.

This bill will provide protections for vulnerable witnesses giving evidence in proceedings for Commonwealth criminal offences and provide a scheme for the use of victim impact statements in the sentencing of federal offenders.

These protections will ensure that witnesses can present their best testimony in court, without intimidation, re-traumatisation, fear for their safety or undue public embarrassment.

A scheme allowing the use of victim impact statements will benefit victims by providing catharsis, vindication and healing. It will also promote the rehabilitation of offenders by confronting them with the impact of their offending behaviour.

This bill also contains measures to strengthen the ability of the Integrity Commissioner to prevent, detect and investigate corruption.

The government is committed to fighting corruption. Even though Transparency International consistently rates Australia as one of the ten least corrupt countries in the world, we must not be complacent.

The government has already introduced a number of measures to make law enforcement agencies a more hostile environment for corruption. These measures include targeted integrity testing for Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission and Customs officers suspected of engaging in corrupt conduct.

The government has also doubled the number of law enforcement agencies under the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and doubled the resources available to the commission to oversee Customs.

This bill includes two amendments which will assist the Integrity Commissioner in its oversight capacity.

One of the agencies that will come under the jurisdiction from 1 July this year is AUSTRAC. This bill will amend the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act to ensure that the Integrity Commissioner is able to access all information held by AUSTRAC when it is relevant to a corruption investigation, and grant appropriate protections to that information.

The bill will also amend the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 to allow the Integrity Commissioner to second employees of the Australian Federal Police and other police forces who are not sworn police officers. These officers often have important technical skills which can be of assistance to the Integrity Commissioner in undertaking his or her functions.

This bill will also amend areas of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 to enable more expeditious review of AUSTRAC decisions, harden existing offences, enable AUSTRAC to engage industry secondees, enhance privacy protections, and strengthen financial intelligence by adding the Commonwealth Clean Energy Regulator and the Integrity Commission of Tasmania as designated agencies.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill also contains amendments to improve the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of people-smuggling offences in Australia.

This government has always been of the view that minors do not belong in adult jails. And that is why the former Attorney-General, the Hon. Nicola Roxon MP, ordered a review of people-smuggling cases where age was in doubt.

Twenty-eight cases were re-examined, following requests from the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian Government, using improved age determination processes that were not available when age was raised in these cases. As a result of the review, 15 crew were released early from prison on licence as there was a doubt they may have been minors on arrival in Australia, two crew were released early on parole, three crew completed their non-parole periods and eight crew remain to serve their sentences, as there was no evidence supporting suggestions they were minors at the time of their arrival.

Consistent with the view that wrist X-rays are no longer an adequate means of determining age, the bill will remove wrist X-rays as a prescribed procedure for determining whether people-smuggling crew are minors.

Further, by amending the Migration Act, this bill will specify that the prosecution bears the onus of proof in establishing age. This is consistent with current practice and ensures that there is no ambiguity on who bears the onus of proof, where age is contested during a prosecution.

These amendments will implement recommendations made by Senate committee inquiries and the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into age determination of people-smuggling crew.

This bill also introduces amendments to the evidentiary process for people-smuggling trials.

It will enable uncontested facts, such as the location of a people-smuggling vessel and number of persons on board people-smuggling vessels, to be presented to the court through the use of an evidentiary certificate. This will reduce delays in people-smuggling prosecutions and ensure that Navy and Customs personnel can focus on protecting Australia's borders.

This bill ensures that courts are able to take time spent in custody for people-smuggling offences, and time spent in immigration detention, into consideration during sentencing for people-smuggling offences.

The bill also ensures that Australia can fulfil its responsibilities as a good international citizen by continuing to support international criminal law through assisting international criminal tribunals.

The bill contains proposed amendments to the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 and the International War Crimes Tribunals Act 1995 to recognise the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which was established by the United Nations Security Council to complete the residual work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

These amendments will ensure that Australia can provide the same level of assistance to the new International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals as it can currently provide to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

This bill will also amend the Australian Federal Police Act.

Currently, the Australian Federal Police Commissioner has delegated his powers, functions and duties as a proceeds-of-crime authority to the Manager of Proceeds of Crime Litigation. The manager leads a team of specialist litigation lawyers that take proceeds-of-crime action on behalf of the commissioner.

These amendments ensure that the delegation applies to an Australian Federal Police employee performing the duties of the Manager of Proceeds of Crime Litigation while that person is on leave. These amendments also ensure that, when the Manager of Proceeds of Crime Litigation takes leave and another Australian Federal Police employee performs their duties, the lawfulness of any decisions is not open to challenge.

Additionally, under the Australian Federal Police Act, arrangements for the provision of policing and regulatory services by Australian Federal Police staff in the external territories can only be entered into between the minister responsible for the Australian Federal Police and the administrator of that external territory.

The proposed amendments will extend this provision to allow these arrangements to also be entered into with the minister responsible for the administration of an external territory, in addition to the administrator.

An exception is provided in the case of Norfolk Island, where arrangements will continue to be entered into with the administrator in recognition that the territory is self-governing.

Not all external territories have an administrator and, in those which do, the duties and responsibilities of the administrator vary significantly.

This amendment will allow greater flexibility in establishing arrangements for policing and regulatory services and better reflect the current governance arrangements in some of the external territories, particularly in Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Island.

In 2012 the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act was amended to recognise new public sector anticorruption arrangements in Victoria. Victoria has recently renumbered the relevant legislation and this bill will amend cross-references in the interception act to ensure that it correctly refers to the Victorian legislation.

In conclusion, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill contains important measures that will ensure that Commonwealth criminal law remains up to date and effective, particularly in combating corruption and protecting the vulnerable victims of serious Commonwealth offences including human trafficking and slavery.

I commend the bill to the House.