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Wednesday, 11 October 2000
Page: 18245


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (9:31 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum and move:

That this 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 amends the National Crime Authority Act 1984 and has been necessitated by the High Court's decision in R v. Hughes. That decision casts doubt on certain investigatory functions of the National Crime Authority and the purpose of this bill is to remedy that situation.

The National Crime Authority was established in 1984 as a national crime body exercising both Commonwealth and state functions. It is the only law enforcement agency in Australia whose investigations are not limited by jurisdictional boundaries. The authority is not confined to only investigating breaches of Commonwealth law but is empowered to investigate offences against both Commonwealth and state laws. It is a truly national body and its existence reflects the seriousness with which the Commonwealth and states view organised crime.

The High Court's decision in Hughes questions the capacity of Commonwealth authorities to exercise powers and functions conferred on them by state legislation, in situations where the power or function is coupled with a duty and there is no federal head of power to support that power, function or duty.

The bill amends the National Crime Authority Act to ensure that when the authority is investigating offences there is a connection with a federal head of powers in as many situations as possible. This is achieved by expanding the scope of Commonwealth references to include offences against a law of a state where that state offence has a federal aspect. In addition, where the authority is under a duty to investigate a matter pursuant to a state reference, then those references will be limited to matters that have a federal aspect. The bill also amends the act to clarify that the authority does not have any duty or obligation under Commonwealth law to perform any function or exercise any power conferred by a state law, unless there is a federal aspect.

The amendments will ensure that the important work of the National Crime Authority in investigating organised crime is not jeopardised by the High Court's decision in Hughes.

Ordered that further consideration of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the 2001 autumn sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.