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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2108

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(10.05) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This Bill provides for amendments to the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966 which governs extradition between Australia and other member countries of the Commonwealth.

That legislation is based on a scheme, known as the London Scheme, agreed to by Commonwealth Law Ministers in 1966 to regulate the extradition of fugitive offenders between Commonwealth countries. All Commonwealth countries have based their domestic extradition legislation insofar as it relates to extradition with other Commonwealth countries on the London Scheme.

In 1983 Commonwealth Law Ministers met to review the London Scheme and agreed to certain changes to it to improve its operation. Putting these changes into effect requires amendment to the legislation of the various Commonwealth countries and this Bill provides for those amendments to the Australian legislation. In addition the Bill incorporates amendments considered necessary to resolve difficulties which have arisen in the practical operation of the legislation and to tidy up the drafting and organisation of the legislation. The more significant amendments provided for by the Bill are as follows-

Voluntary return-this procedure will allow a fugitive to waive the full extradition process and be returned voluntarily to the requesting country.

Appeal by requesting country-at present only the fugitive may appeal against a magistrate's decision on an extradition application. This amendment will permit an appeal to be lodged on behalf of the requesting country if the magistrate rejects the extradition request.

Executive discretion to refuse extradition-this amendment will extend the Attorney-General's discretion to refuse to extradite in any situation where it would be unjust or oppressive to grant extradition. At present the discretion may only be exercised if the triviality of the offence, mala fides or lapse of time would make it unjust or oppressive to grant extradition.

Extradition for fiscal offences-this amendment will make it clear that offences against laws relating to taxation, customs duties, foreign exchange control and other revenue matters which have hitherto not been extraditable, will be extraditable provided there has been a fraudulent intent.

Speciality rule-this amendment will make clear that an extradited person may not be tried in the requesting country for offences other than those in respect of which his extradition has been granted until he has been given an opportunity of leaving that country. At present the legislation provides that a person may not be tried for any offence other than an offence in respect of which extradition was sought until he has been given the opportunity of returning to the requested country.

Offences of a political character-this amendment will provide that a decision to refuse extradition because the offence in respect of which extradition is sought is of a political character many only be taken by the Attorney-General and not the magistrate. Decisions of the courts in this area have not been helpful and it is considered that in any event such decisions would more appropriately be taken by the executive. This is the practice in the United States of America.

Evidence that may be led by a fugitive-an extradition hearing is not intended to determine the guilt or innocence of the fugitive but whether a case exists which could justify the fugitive's trial in the requesting country. Magistrates have in the past permitted fugitives to lead evidence to challenge the merits of the prima facie case sought to be established by the requesting country. This amendment will make it clear that such evidence may not be led. The fugitive may of course argue that a prima facie case is not established.

Convictions in absentia-this amendment will make it clear that, where a fugitive is sought for an offence in respect of which he has been convicted in absentia, whether that conviction is final or not, the requesting country must produce evidence of guilt as well as of the conviction.

Application for habeas corpus-at present a fugitive committed to prison to wait extradition may apply for habeas corpus to any court of competent jurisdiction. The proposed amendment will make it clear that application may be made to the Federal Court or the appropriate State Supreme Court but not both. Any appeal from the Federal Court or a State Supreme Court will be heard by a Full Court of the Federal Court.

The amendments proposed will significantly improve the Extradition ( Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966 and facilitate the processing of extradition requests by and of Australia. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.