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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 5670

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (10:23 AM) —I 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

The tragic events in Bali on 12 October have brought home to all Australians the horrors that human beings can inflict on others. It has shown that none of us are immune from the suffering that the evil of terrorism can bring.

This Government is committed to helping the victims of that tragedy.

The Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian National Police have established a Joint Australia-Indonesia Police Investigative Team to investigate the Bali bombings and to bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice.

This Government has also made Australia's new national DNA matching systems at CrimTrac available to ensure that the process of Disaster Victim Identification is completed as quickly as possible. This process of victim identification has commenced, with State and Territory police services now collecting samples from the relatives of those who are missing. The use of the CrimTrac DNA matching systems will enable the deceased to be released to grieving relatives and brought home to Australia as soon as possible.

This Government has also offered CrimTrac to facilitate Disaster Victim Identification for the Indonesian Government and other nations who lost people in the Bali attack.

This is a bill to ensure that CrimTrac and Australian officials are able to fully utilise the forensic procedures that are available to them for these purposes.

Part 1D of the Crimes Act 1914 establishes a national DNA database system, which is designed to enable DNA profiles taken from forensic material to be compared with other DNA profiles. For instance, the database consists of a series of indexes. For example, there is a suspects index, a serious offenders index, a crime scene index, a missing persons index and an unknown deceased persons index.

The DNA profiles are stored on these separate indexes and they can be matched with profiles in another index according to a set of tabulated matching rules. For example, it enables DNA profiles taken from unidentified deceased persons to be compared with DNA profiles taken from property that belonged to persons who are missing or from a blood relative of such a person.

As the CrimTrac DNA database was established for criminal investigation and not for Disaster Victim Identification, it is now imperative that legislation be passed so that the CrimTrac system can be used for victim identification for the Bali incident.

The Australian community expects us to do everything possible to re-unite relatives and friends with the victims of this attack as quickly as possible.

It is essential that this national database can be accessed to enable the full, efficient and automatic comparison of DNA profiles that is necessary to resolve the Bali tragedy. This bill will ensure that this can occur immediately.

Part 1D contains a number of safeguards in relation to access to and use of information held on the DNA database. There are also restrictions on the disclosure of that information. These provisions are critical to maintaining the integrity of that DNA database and to ensure a balance between the needs of law enforcement with the privacy of those involved.

Part 1D provides that the ability of the Commonwealth, States and Territories to share information held on the DNA database, is to be facilitated by arrangements in place between the jurisdictions.

While there has been progress in relation to the settlement of those arrangements, they are not as yet in place.

This bill represents the immediate solution that is necessary now, to address the extraordinary circumstances posed by the Bali bombing.

This bill will modify the existing laws so that Commonwealth, State and Territory officials can access the national DNA database for the purpose of identifying an unidentified person who died in or as a result of the bombings that occurred in Bali on 12 October 2002 or for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigation in relation to that incident. This bill will also enable the information held on a DNA data base to be disclosed to law enforcement agencies, foreign law enforcement agencies and Interpol for the purpose of identifying an unidentified person who died in or as a result of the bombings that occurred in Bali on 12 October 2002 or for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigation in relation to that incident. There is a need to include foreign law enforcement agencies to remove any doubt about this being covered by the existing provisions.

The provisions of this bill will operate to modify the existing restrictions in existing legislation.

The amendments to enable disclosure of information to foreign law enforcement agencies will enable disclosure of the identity of persons who are residents or citizens of that country when they have been identified following DNA profile matchings undertaken by the Australian authorities.

The bill also makes the important amendment to enable the identification of a victim to be provided to a relative, guardian, spouse, de facto partner or friend of that victim.

The situation in which we now find ourselves was simply not envisaged when the DNA database provisions were added to the Crimes Act. Part 1D does not, for example, enable the DNA profile taken from the deceased unknown index to be compared with a DNA profile from the same index. The extent of the devastation in Bali has necessitated that this comparison be available and this bill will ensure that this is the case.

This bill is an emergency measure. However, none of us can predict what might lie ahead. For this reason there is provision in the bill for these special provisions to be activated by way of a Ministerial determination should Australian citizens or residents be killed in a similar incident outside Australia and it is appropriate in the circumstances for these modifications to apply. This determination will be a disallowable instrument.

The bill also includes a provision requiring an independent review of the operation of the proposed provisions. This is a safeguard ensuring that there is proper independent oversight of the proposed regime.