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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12668

Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (16:31): I rise today to respond on the opposition's behalf and on behalf of the member for Stirling, the relevant shadow minister who is not here this week. He is at home with his new baby, Theodore. We congratulate him on that achievement.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious Drugs, Identity Crime and Other Measures) Bill 2012 contains a range of measures to improve Commonwealth criminal justice arrangements, including amendments to ensure that the Commonwealth serious drug offences framework can respond quickly to new and emerging substances, expand the scope of existing identity crime offences as well as enact a new offence for the use of a carriage service in order to obtain and/or deal with identification information. The bill aims to create new offences relating to air travel and the use of false identities. There are minor amendments to improve the operation of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006. The bill contains a technical amendment to clarify that superannuation orders can be made in relation to all periods of a person's employment as a Commonwealth employee not only the period in which a corruption offence occurred. The bill makes amendments to increase the value of a penalty unit and introduce a requirement for the triennial review of the penalty unit.

The measures have for the most part been swept into the one bill as a housekeeping exercise to ensure that Commonwealth criminal law is improved and clarified. The coalition support the bill in principle; however, we believe it is important for the bill to be thoroughly examined by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee due to the wide-ranging nature of the proposed amendments to the criminal law.

I turn now to schedule 1 of the bill, the purpose of which is to strengthen the Commonwealth serious drug offences framework. Illicit drugs have a serious impact on the Australian community and cause a wide range of social, economic and personal harms. The bill's explanatory memorandum states that the amendments in this schedule ensure that Commonwealth laws are up-to-date and allow for flexible quick responses to new and emerging drug threats, such as substances that seek to mimic the effect of other illicit drugs. This amendment will transfer the list of substances to which the Commonwealth's serious drug offences apply from the Criminal Code to the Criminal Code Regulations 2002, establish conditions and criteria for listing controlled and border controlled substances in regulations, improve emergency determination mechanisms by extending the listing period and refine the criteria that must be satisfied before a determination can be made.

The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service are responsible for managing the security and integrity of Australia's borders, including the detection of illicit drugs and other contraband. Customs officers work hard, day and night, to detect and deter unlawful movement of goods and people across the border. Australian Customs officers do a great job under tough circumstances, particularly considering the damaging staff and budgetary cuts that this Labor government has inflicted on them. Unfortunately, they are also being stretched due to the government's mismanagement of Australia's borders.

Since coming to office five years ago, Labor has cut funding to Customs for cargo screening, making Australia's borders less secure and our nation more vulnerable to the threat of illicit drugs. In the 2009-10 budget, Labor cut the budget for Customs for cargo screening by $58.1 million. This cut to screening by the Rudd-Gillard government reduced the number of potential sea cargo inspections by 25 per cent. Labor's cuts also resulted in a reduction of 75 per cent of air cargo inspections. In the recent Customs annual report it was revealed that only 4.3 per cent of sea cargo is X-rayed and only 0.6 per cent of sea cargo is physically examined. It was also concerning to find out that a staggering 95 per cent of all sea cargo consignments are not X-rayed. We on this side of the House care very deeply about Customs issues, as do many people in Western Sydney.

It is no wonder illicit drugs are slipping through onto our streets under Labor, when only 13.3 per cent of air cargo consignments are X-rayed and only 0.6 per cent of air cargo is physically examined. That means that 86.7 per cent of all air cargo consignments are not X-rayed. What has become quite clear is that Labor's cuts to Customs cargo and vessels inspection systems put Australians at risk by giving a boost to organised criminal gangs that smuggle illicit drugs and weapons into this country. This Labor government prefers to tinker around the edges rather than ensuring our law enforcement agencies are appropriately resourced to perform their tasks.

I turn now to the serious growing threat of identity crime. Schedule 2 aims to expand identity crime offences in the Criminal Code Act 1995 and to create new offences and powers relating to air travel and the use of false identities. Law enforcement agencies, such as the Australian Federal Police, have identified identity crime as a significant threat to Australians and have identified it as one of the fastest growing crime types in Australia. Australians have been quick to adopt the internet in their lives and businesses. For many Australians, it is now part of their daily routine for talking to friends and family, studying, shopping and paying bills. Similarly, businesses have embraced the internet and other information technology to improve efficiency, improve the quality of service and gain access to new markets. Regrettably, our use of the internet has also created new prospects for criminals who seek to access our personal and corporate secrets, steal our resources and intimidate internet reliant businesses.

Additionally, the global community continues to experience an increase in the scale, sophistication and successful penetration of cybercrime and identity theft. As the extent and the importance of electronic information has increased, so too have the efforts of criminals and other malicious actors who have adopted the internet as a more convenient, anonymous and profitable method of conducting their criminal activities.

At this point I would like to acknowledge the good work of the Australian Federal Police and all that they do, along with their state and federal territory police forces. Again, it is unfortunate that this Labor government does not appreciate the key role that the AFP plays in protecting Australia's national security. Labor has cut a staggering $264.5 million from the AFP since it came to office, including $133 million in the 2012-13 budget.

The AFP's High Tech Crime Operations centre, led by Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, does an outstanding job, considering the limited resources it has available and the constant evolution of the cyber threat.

I will now turn to the amendments within the bill that aim to help law enforcement agencies to fight these emerging cyber and identity crimes. This amendment serves to expand existing identity crime offences to include using identification information to commit foreign indictable offences, in addition to Commonwealth indictable offences. This will capture individuals who are located in Australia and who engage in international identity crime. It is no secret that the internet and other new technologies provide ideal vehicles for organised criminal syndicates to capture and exploit the identity information of others.

Part 1 of this schedule seeks to introduce a new offence of dealing in identity information using a carriage service such as the internet. This will capture individuals who use the internet to make, supply or use identification information with the intention of passing either themselves or someone else off as the person identified in the information for the purpose of committing an offence. Part 2 of schedule 2 includes amendments that are aimed at enabling law enforcement agencies to target individuals who travel by air under false identities. The aim is specifically to prevent individuals involved in organised crime from taking flights under false identities in order to commit or facilitate crimes and avoid police detection.

The coalition has long been of the view that more needs to be done on this front, including in our maritime and aviation sectors, which have been infiltrated by organised criminal networks. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement held an inquiry into the adequacy of aviation and maritime security measures to combat serious and organised crime, and it reported in June 2011. The committee heard evidence that individuals involved in organised crime had regularly been travelling by air under false identities in order to avoid police detection in order to facilitate criminal activities such as money laundering and illicit drug trafficking. It is not currently an offence to use false information to travel by air. The committee recommended the creation of this new offence to reduce this vulnerability which is exploited by criminal networks.

This amendment will also give police officers the power to request identity information from individuals where the police officer holds a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed or intends to commit a serious criminal offence. The coalition supports measures that will thwart attempts by criminal syndicates to take advantage of lax conditions; however, it is unfortunate that it has taken the government almost a year and a half to act on these recommendations and respond accordingly.

Schedule 3 of the bill makes some technical amendments relating to the functions of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner, the value of penalty units and superannuation orders. The bill makes wide-ranging changes across Commonwealth criminal law, largely to tighten and clarify existing laws. The bill also creates new offences for identity crimes, which need to be thoroughly examined by the Senate committee I mentioned earlier. The coalition reserves the right to move amendments in the Senate, pending the recommendations of that committee. I commend the bill to the House.