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Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Page: 301

Mr CIOBO (11:32 AM) —I am pleased to rise to speak on the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill 2010 [2011]. It is an important bill in the community because it goes to one of the fastest-growing crimes that is prevalent in the community today. When I move around my electorate and speak with constituents, when I consider the emails that I receive and the letters that are written in, it is clear that there is a growing level of angst in the community over identity crime. In particular, I highlight that it is spread across different aspects of the community unevenly. There are some demographics in the community that are comfortable with the various scams and tricks involved in stealing someone’s identity, and there are those for whom identity crime is a very real threat because of their, for lack of a better term, ignorance with respect to the methods that are employed by those who seek to engage in identity crime.

We know that there are hundreds of thousands of victims, at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion a year, as a result of identity crime. Methods that are employed include, for example, what is referred to as phishing. In addition to that, there are attempts, especially through the use of technology, to attract people to enter their personal particulars into bogus websites. As a member of parliament, using my parliamentary email address, I receive spam emails from concocted addresses purporting to be, for example, from banks and indeed from the Australian Taxation Office. These are false emails that link to false websites that ask people to input their details or to verify their details with the full intent of the perpetrators of that email using the information that you input for nefarious purposes. So identity crime is a very real cost to the community and it is a very real concern to the community. At $1 billion a year, some might scratch their heads and ask why it is only in 2011 that we are actually updating the Criminal Code to ensure that it incorporates the elements that make it a specific offence to engage in identity crime and solicit someone’s information for the purposes of engaging in identity crime.

The bill itself implements changes to the identity crime offences that were outlined by the Model Criminal Law Officers Committee final report on identity crime and it inserts three new identity crime offences into the new part 9.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. In particular, it includes dealing in identification information with the intention of committing or facilitating the commission of a Commonwealth indictable offence. That offence, if you are found guilty, is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. In addition, the dealing offence, possession of identification information with the intention of committing or facilitating the commission of conduct that constitutes the dealing offence, is punishable by up to three years imprisonment; and, finally, possession of equipment to create identification documentation with the intention of committing or facilitating the commission of conduct constitutes the dealing offence and is punishable by up to three years imprisonment.

These are all important new additions to proposed part 9.5 of the Criminal Code Act because they send a clear message from this parliament. As representatives of the will of the Australian people we need to tackle this nefarious crime. We need to deal with this crime and make it clear that we will not tolerate those who seek to take advantage of others in the community who are unfamiliar with the use of technology and with the concerns, especially among the older demographic in the community, about identity crime.

We know that if people do not have confidence in, for example, online retailing, if people do not have confidence in the various technologies that are employed and part of the modern era, they will not use that technology. So not only is there a cost in terms of billions of dollars of actual fraudulent activities undertaken as a result of identity crime; there is also an unmeasurable cost, which is the cost associated as a direct erosion of confidence in the technology itself from those who will choose not to utilise technology and, thereby, potentially cripple to some extent opportunities for information technology-specific new forms of retailing, for example.

So it is very important that we support this bill, and as members of the coalition we support the government’s efforts in this respect. I highlight that it was actually the previous coalition government that started the ball rolling on this in April 2005, when the coalition announced the National Identity Security Strategy to combat the misuse of stolen or assumed identities in the provision of government services. There was a specific coalition initiative that allocated some $5.9 million over two years in the 2005-06 budget, which included funding for a pilot document verification service. Under the former coalition government, the Model Criminal Law Officers Committee released a discussion paper and, subsequently, a final report in March 2008. This bill is effectively the zenith of all the work undertaken, supported by the Labor Party and the coalition. This is a good initiative that is bipartisan in nature.

What I am mindful of when I speak to this bill is the older people especially in the community and in my seat of Moncrieff, on the Gold Coast, who are concerned about whether they can have confidence in the use of online technologies. These are the same people who, unfortunately, more often than not are the subject of phishing scams through emails and the people who are most vulnerable. So, to the extent that this bill will help to provide some disincentive to those who would engage in this kind of conduct, I commend it. I certainly hope that, as a direct result of actions as a consequence of this bill, we will see a reduction in this kind of activity in the future so that identity crime is not as prevalent as people think it is but, in addition to that, that there is also a reduction in the concern and community angst about identity crime. For those reasons, I support the bill.