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Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Page: 303

Ms SMYTH (11:38 AM) —I am very pleased to speak in favour of the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill 2010 [2011]. I am certainly pleased to have heard the contributions from other members and to recognise that there has been continuity in the regulatory approach taken throughout various parliaments and, it seems, from all sides of the chamber. We certainly know that identity crimes cause not only monetary losses but also very considerable consequential non-monetary damage. Damage to credit ratings, loss of reputation, considerable distress, disruption and inconvenience are all very familiar by-products of these kinds of reprehensible offences. We know that identity crime offenders are often quite difficult to apprehend. We know that they are therefore fairly difficult to prosecute, particularly in cases where they have engaged only in preparatory activities to the ultimate offence, and so it is very timely that the provisions of this bill are implemented in relation to identity crime and the range of other matters that it seeks to address. It is certainly timely that we reflect the deliberations of the Model Criminal Law Officers Committee in its final report on identity crime.

We know that the impacts of identity offences include the erosion of a person’s name, with or without direct financial consequences. They include widespread scams against consumers and businesses which have direct financial consequences. They have the capacity for the illegal receipt of welfare and other benefits, the procurement of qualifications in fraudulent circumstances and the evasion of law enforcement and surveillance, amongst a variety of other very significant and detrimental effects on individuals, enterprises and whole communities, both in terms of their practical monetary effects and the erosion of confidence. As we increasingly rely on technologies and as we are increasingly reliant on internet communications and internet transactions, we hope to ensure that members of our community, particularly those who are only becoming familiar with those new technologies, have sufficient confidence in them to be able to utilise them and are not deterred from using them and utilising their convenience by situations where they face identity crime activities.

I am very pleased to see that the bill particularly provides for remedies to some degree for victims of crime. The amendments that are proposed under the bill will allow a person who has been the victim of identity crime to approach a magistrate for a certificate to show that they have had their identity information misused. This will go a long way to alleviating the frustration and distress faced by people, often in circumstances which might extend for some years, when they are forced to attempt to restore their credit ratings, their damaged reputation and their standing with financial institutions. The certificate which is proposed to be available under this bill may assist victims of identity crime in negotiating with financial institutions in order to re-establish their credit ratings and with other organisations such as Australia Post in order to clear up any remaining problems from identity theft.

In addition to presenting very practical measures by which these sorts of frauds and ills are able to be combated, the bill before us sends a very clear message to our community that identity fraud will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted vigorously. It is certainly a timely message. We see significant effects from identity fraud not only for individuals but also, ultimately, for the Australian taxpayer and the community as a whole, so I am particularly pleased to see those provisions of this bill that deal with preparatory acts to identity fraud in such a timely manner.

Other speakers in this debate have addressed the variety of provisions in the bill which are very significant across a range of law reform measures. I would like to touch on the range of amendments which deal with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act. These are obviously very significant in the overall fight against terrorism, both in our community and across the globe. The bill contains particular amendments which will establish a much more consistent approach to the restrictions which are placed on the disclosure of sensitive AUSTRAC information and strengthen safeguards to protect against the disclosure of that information. I think that anything that goes to strengthening the role of AUSTRAC in our community and facilitating its more efficient and more rigorous prosecution of its objectives is very laudable indeed, so I am very pleased to be able to speak in favour of those measures in the bill before us.

As a government we are certainly concerned with protecting those who are most vulnerable in our community. In circumstances where those most vulnerable in our community may be exposed to identity fraud and to the inconvenience, the distress and the frustration that it causes, it is particularly pleasing for me to be able to speak in favour of this bill today. I commend the bill.