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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 1149

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (09:31): We are dealing with Greens amendments (20) and (21), which provide that mutual assistance should be refused in all cases involving the death penalty without exception. I have had a long association with this issue. This government and all governments in Australia have continued to remain very strong against the death penalty throughout. The government does not in this instance, though, support removing the discretion to provide assistance in death penalty cases. The existing death penalty ground for refusing mutual assistance is consistent with Australia's strong opposition to the death penalty while still affording sufficient flexibility to ensure that assistance can be provided to combat serious criminal activity, because special circumstances may exist where the foreign country provides an undertaking that the death penalty will not be imposed or, if imposed, it will not be carried out. So we can find the way through this by ensuring that we have mutual assistance with other countries while maintaining our strong voice in international fora about how Australia condemns those countries who use the death penalty.

Another example where mutual assistance for special circumstances may arise is where assistance provided would assist a defendant to prove their innocence. The way the legislation is structured is to ensure that fairness is at the heart of the system. The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act also enables conditions to be placed on the provision of assistance so that, in instances where there is a view taken by the government, we can place strong conditions on that. This could include, for instance, restricting the use of material to investigative purposes or requiring the country to seek the minister's authorisation to use material for the purposes of prosecuting a person. All of that means that the system that is in place will ensure that we continue to be strong advocates against the death penalty.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.