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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20439


Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) (9:34 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The bill amends the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979, the Crimes Act 1914 and the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988.

The bill has two purposes. The first is to amend Commonwealth legislation to confer appropriate law enforcement powers on the proposed Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission and the office of the Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission. The second is to amend the interception act to allow law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, to obtain warrants under the act to assist in the investigation of offences involving people-smuggling aggravated by exploitation, slavery, sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting.

In February 2003, the government of Western Australia announced its intention to establish a new body, the Corruption and Crime Commission, to address corruption and organised crime in Western Australia. The establishment of the commission, which will eventually replace the existing Anti-Corruption Com-mission, will implement a recommendation of the royal commission into the Western Australian Police Service undertaken by the Hon. G. A. Kennedy AO, QC. The Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission, also to be established by the Western Australian government, will in turn investigate and report on allegations of misconduct directed at the commission.

The government believes it is appropriate for the proposed Corruption and Crime Commission to be provided with those law enforcement powers which are necessary to carry out its functions. The proposed powers are consistent with those available to the Anti-Corruption Commission, the body it will replace.

The amendments will enable the commission to receive information collected by telecommunications interception conducted by other agencies relevant to the performance of the commission's functions. The amendments will also enable the commission to be declared an agency for the purposes of the interception act, allowing it to apply for and execute telecommunications interception warrants in its own right. The declaration of the Corruption and Crime Commission as an agency under the interception act is a separate process that may be initiated by a request from the Premier of Western Australia and cannot occur until I am satisfied that state legislation subjects the new body to appropriate record-keeping requirements and accountability measures. Telecommunications interception has proven to be an extremely valuable investigative tool for law enforcement agencies and anti-corruption bodies. These amendments will ensure that the commission receives relevant intercepted information and in due course is able to seek declaration as an agency for the purposes of obtaining and executing warrants in the conduct of investigations by the commission.

The amendments will also allow the Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission to receive intercepted information relevant to the performance of its functions. The parliamentary inspector does not require the ability to apply for and execute telecommunications interception warrants in its own right and it is not intended that that office become an agency under the act.

The bill also amends the Crimes Act to allow authorised officers of the Corruption and Crime Commission to acquire and use evidence of an assumed identity in the course of investigating corruption and serious criminal activity.

Finally, the bill amends the Financial Transaction Reports Act to allow the Commission to access financial transaction reports information from AUSTRAC.

Access to this information is a valuable investigate tool in the fight against serious and organised crime and corruption.

The second object of the bill is to amend the interception act to allow law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, to obtain warrants to assist in the investigation of offences involving people-smuggling aggravated by exploitation, slavery, sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting set out in the Criminal Code. The trafficking of people into Australia and the exploitation of those people is an issue of significant concern to the government. The government has been working to develop a strategy to arm law enforcement agencies with the capacity to investigate these offences and to facilitate prosecutions where evidence of illegal activity is uncovered.

The nature of trafficking means that victims often fear that speaking out will result in action against either themselves or their family. The availability of telecommunications interception warrants will provide law enforcement agencies with a valuable tool to assist in the collection of information that may not otherwise be available in relation to these very serious offences.

The government recognises that telecommunications interception is an intrusive method of investigation and reaffirms its commitment to protecting the privacy of individuals using the Australian telecommunications system. The amendments contained in the bill represent practical steps on the part of the government to assist in the investigation by state bodies of serious and organised crime and corruption, as well as a response to the growing problem of people trafficking. I commend the bill to the House and I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Ms Roxon) adjourned.