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New anti-hoax legislation.
NEW ANTI-HOAX LEGISLATION
A re-elected Coalition Government will introduce new laws to crack down on people who seek to exploit community fears by sending hoax material.
The Coalition is deeply concerned about the escalating number of security incidents around the country involving packages or letters that have been suspected of containing hazardous material. Most of the incidents have proven to be false alarms. This has caused great fear among those who handled and received the material. It has also cost emergency services a great deal of time and money and diverted these important resources from dealing with real threats to people and property.
The sending of hoax mail is a serious offence under the Federal Crimes Act and offenders face a maximum five-year jail sentence. There are similar State and Territory offences that can involve a maximum penalty of over 7 years imprisonment.
Of course, tougher penalties apply where the mail actually contains a dangerous substance.
I announced on 2 October that the Coalition will introduce a package of new anti-terrorism laws to deal with the new security and intelligence environment in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States. This new legislation will specifically cover situations where a chemical, biological or radiological substance (such as anthrax) is sent and includes stiff new maximum penalties of life imprisonment.
In response to the growing number of hoaxes around Australia, we will also introduce new anti-hoax legislation designed to specifically target those who seek to terrorise others by exploiting their fear of terrorism.
The new criminal hoax offence will make it a federal criminal offence to cause an article to be carried by post, courier service, or prescribed method of delivery with the intention of inducing a false belief or fear that the article consists of, encloses or contains an explosive or a dangerous or chemical, biological or radiological substance; or that an explosive, or a dangerous or chemical, biological or radiological substance, is or will be left in any place.
The maximum penalty will be 10 years jail and the offence will operate from the time of this announcement.
This new offence will apply in a broader range of circumstances than existing offences. It will cover not just Australia Post deliveries but also courier services. The legislation will also cover other methods of delivery (as prescribed) if necessary.
16 October 2001