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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Page: 200

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) (4:48 PM) —in reply—I first thank all those members who have participated in this debate on the Crimes Act Amendment (Forensic Procedures) Bill (No. 1) 2006, particularly the members for Gellibrand, Herbert, Swan, Fisher, Werriwa and Wakefield. Can I just say, in relation to the contribution from my friend the member for Wakefield, how much I appreciated his insightful comments about what was happening in his electorate and the relevance of these matters not only to law enforcement but also to the active role the Commonwealth is pursuing in dealing with issues of serious criminality. The commendation that he made about the work of our Australian Federal Police is something that I will pass on to the commissioner when I see him.

The primary purpose of this bill of course is to address specific impediments raised by the states and territories that have prevented the exchange of DNA profiles on a national basis. I think it is very important that we have harmonisation of laws across the Commonwealth. While these matters have relied substantially on the way in which states and territories have implemented arrangements for DNA profile matching, these amendments are designed to allay the concern that the states and territories have and to encourage all jurisdictions to commit to interjurisdictional matching.

The amendments address, amongst other things, the recommendations contained in the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee’s report, and I wish to briefly record my own appreciation for the work of the committee and to thank them.

The intent of this bill was to always grant access to states and territories to the relevant DNA information held and to ensure that officials authorised under relevant state and territory law would have access, not just officials with an audit role. The government’s amendments have removed the word ‘audit’ from the text of the bill, giving effect to that policy objective. The government’s amendments also clarified the intent of the legislation that state and territory databases remain subject to the control of the relevant state or territory. The amendments address the issues raised by states and territories and do not make substantive changes to the way in which DNA profiles will be used, accessed or controlled.

The government’s amendments also change the situations in which DNA profile matching is allowed in order to mirror other jurisdictions’ matching tables and to remove any unnecessary restrictions on the matching of DNA of volunteers for unlimited purposes. These purposes also allow for DNA from suspects to be matched against DNA obtained from suspects at other times. Therefore, these changes implement the eight recommendations of the independent review of part 1D of the Crimes Act by Tom Sherman AO in 2003.

Obviously, I am delighted at the support that has been given to the measure. I think it is a very important contribution to our continuing program of law reform in the area of criminal detection and apprehension and, as I said earlier, I thank all members for their contribution to the bill and commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.