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

I would like to thank members for their contributions to the debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2013. This bill delivers on Australian government priorities to combat corruption, protect vulnerable witnesses and victims, and strengthen Australia's response to people smuggling. It contains a range of measures that will improve powers to investigate corruption within Commonwealth law enforcement agencies, support victims and witnesses during criminal proceedings, and contains new measures to deter people smuggling. These measures include removing references to wrist X-rays as a prescribed procedure for determining whether people-smuggling crew are minors and clarifying that the prosecution bears the onus of proof in establishing age where age is contested during a prosecution.

I would like to thank members for their contributions to the debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2013. This bill delivers on Australian government priorities to combat corruption, protect vulnerable witnesses and victims, and strengthen Australia's response to people smuggling. It contains a range of measures that will improve powers to investigate corruption within Commonwealth law enforcement agencies, support victims and witnesses during criminal proceedings, and contains new measures to deter people smuggling. These measures include removing references to wrist X-rays as a prescribed procedure for determining whether people-smuggling crew are minors and clarifying that the prosecution bears the onus of proof in establishing age where age is contested during a prosecution.

The member for Stirling suggested that there should be some further inquiry or examination of these measures. This is not necessary. The member for Stirling should note that there have already been two inquiries into this area and that these amendments address recommendations made by both. In particular, these measures address recommendations made by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee report into the detention of Indonesian minors in Australia, and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's report into the Crimes Amendment (Fairness for Minors) Bill 2011. One could add that they address recommendations made by the Australian Human Rights Commission's report of the inquiry into the treatment of individuals suspected of people-smuggling offences who say that they are children.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2013 will extend support to witnesses in Commonwealth criminal proceedings who are vulnerable either due to the nature of the offence or due to personal circumstances such as age, background or disability. These protections will apply automatically to victims of human trafficking, slavery and slavery like offences such as forced marriage. These protections will include the ability to give evidence by closed-circuit television, video recording or video link, and to have a support person accompany the witness when giving evidence.

The bill will also allow the Integrity Commissioner authority to access information held by AUSTRAC in relation to investigations of corruption to ensure that such investigations are not inhibited by current privacy and secrecy provisions in Commonwealth legislation. The bill introduces a number of technical and enabling measures to ensure that investigation and prosecution of people-smuggling offences is efficient and fair, including by allowing personnel assigned to border protection command to issue evidentiary certificates in relation to factual matters, and ensuring time spent in immigration detention by people-smuggling offenders is taken into account at sentencing.

The bill will amend Australia's anti-money-laundering regime to strengthen existing offences, to ensure the effective review of AUSTRAC decisions and to provide relevant agencies with access to AUSTRAC data. The bill will also make a number of amendments to ensure the currency of Commonwealth law in relation to international criminal tribunals, provision of policing services in external territories and references in telecommunications interception legislation.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2013 reflects an important step towards ensuring the integrity of Australia's law enforcement agencies and the protection of vulnerable witnesses and ensures that Australia's criminal laws remain current. I commend the bill to the house.