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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13273


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (15:24): I rise to speak in support of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Harming Australians) Bill 2015. The bill extends the retrospective application of part of division 115 of the Criminal Code, offences which were introduced with Labor support in the aftermath of the Bali bombings to ensure that, if necessary, those responsible could be prosecuted in Australian courts for the atrocities they committed.

The new offences introduced in 2002—the murder, manslaughter and harming of Australians overseas—were given a very brief period of retrospective operation to ensure that they applied to the perpetrators of the Bali bombings. This bill, which passed the Senate last sitting week, will extend the retrospectivity of the most serious of those offences—murder and manslaughter. This legislation is therefore unusual in two respects: it operates both retrospectively and extraterritorially. This is uncommon in our legal system, and legislation of this kind ought be made only cautiously.

This bill follows an earlier private senator's bill with the same purpose, which was introduced by Senator Xenophon. That bill was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, where difficulties with its unusual operation were highlighted in submissions by legal academics, members of the Rule of Law Institute, the Attorney-General's Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Labor is satisfied that those concerns have been addressed in this new bill.

This bill now implements important safeguards to ensure that prosecutions are fair and that fundamental principles ensuring the integrity of our justice system are respected. It ensures that no-one can be tried in Australia for an offence of which they have already been convicted or acquitted in a foreign court. It ensures that no-one can be convicted for conduct which was not already criminal where and when it occurred. Importantly, it ensures that no-one can receive a penalty in Australia that is higher than that which applied in the relevant country at the time.

With these safeguards, no defendant could reasonably claim that the retrospective operation of these offences are unfair. For the families of Australians killed overseas, however, the measures in this bill will make all the difference.

Though the bill is of general application, it has its genesis in one tragic case. I do not want to comment on the details of that case but I do want to acknowledge the many years of advocacy by the family of Anthea Bradshaw-Hall which have culminated in this bill.

Where Australians are killed overseas and where the relevant authorities are unwilling or unable to bring those responsible to justice, Labor consider it proper that Australia takes steps to ensure that such criminal conduct does not go unpunished. In 2002, we were satisfied that the nature of the crimes committed against Australians in Bali justified the unusual step of retrospective and extraterritorial legislation. Today, we are satisfied that there is a need for a further extension of those measures to deal with a gap in Australia's criminal jurisdiction.

I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.