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Wednesday, 17 August 2005
Page: 1

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:32 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill 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—

The purpose of this bill is to make a number of minor amendments to four pieces of Defence portfolio legislation: the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, the Military Superannuation and Benefits Act 1991, the Defence Act 1903, and the Naval Defence Act 1910.

The Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 (the DFDA) is amended to redefine which laws form “Territory offences” under that Act as a result of changes in the criminal law of the ACT. These amendments are considered essential to ensure that this Act continues to reflect the range of offences originally intended for its operation. The scope of these offences has been severely limited in recent times by changes to the laws that are referred to in the Act.

The DFDA imports civil criminal offences into that Act as service offences, in order to extend the ambit of the Act to circumstances that might otherwise not be prosecuted, and to give greater efficacy to disciplinary law. The mechanism currently used to achieve this is the incorporation of the laws of the Commonwealth, the ACT Crimes Act 1900 and the ACT Police Offences Act 1930 as they apply in the Jervis Bay Territory.

Since the introduction of the Territory offence provisions, changes have occurred to the incorporated legislation such that some updating of the DFDA is essential. Most concerning is that the ACT in 2001 and 2002 enacted Criminal Code legislation based on the Commonwealth Model Criminal Code, and since 2002 it has repealed numerous offences from its Crimes Act in favour of the Criminal Code. The net effect of this is that offences such as computer theft, arson and blackmail can no longer be prosecuted by the ADF under the DFDA. Furthermore, it is anticipated that offences such as murder, manslaughter and assault will also move to the Criminal Code by the end of 2005. Also of concern is the fact that the Police Offences Act was repealed in 1996, and references to it are therefore ineffective. The proposed Bill will remove redundant legislation references and refer instead to the criminal law in force in the Jervis Bay Territory from time to time.

The Military Superannuation and Benefits Act 1991 (the Benefits Act) is to be amended to repeal Part 8 so as to remove the retention benefit currently available for certain Australian Defence Force (ADF) members of the benefits scheme.

Part 8 of the Benefits Act currently provides a bonus of one year’s salary to eligible members of the Military Superannuation and Benefits scheme who, on reaching 15 years of continuous effective service, agree to complete a further 5 years’ service. The Review of Australian Defence Force Remuneration 2001 (the Nunn review) considered that issues of attraction to and retention in the Services would be better suited for determination by the Navy, Army and Air Force Service Chiefs based on priority needs and linked to capability. An automatic retention bonus rigidly tied up to a number of years of service, at a fixed rate, is no longer regarded as appropriate.

Despite the repeal of Part 8 of the Benefits Act, it is proposed that access to the retention benefit would continue for current members for as long as they remain eligible but would not be available to new members joining the ADF after the date of the commencement of the proposed amendments.

These amendments are required to ensure that ADF pay arrangements provide an effective, efficient and flexible remuneration framework consistent with reforms in the wider public and private sectors.

Thirdly, the Defence Act 1903 is amended to change references from “investigating officers” to “inquiry officers” to make it clear that these officers are conducting purely administrative rather than criminal investigations. This amendment is an administrative amendment that is required to improve administration of military justice.

The term “investigating officer” appears in both the Defence Act and the DFDA, but has different meanings in each Act. The role of an investigating officer as referred to in the Defence Act is to conduct an administrative inquiry into matters affecting the ADF. However, some ADF members believe that officers are conducting criminal investigations because of the use of the words “investigating officers”. To remove this confusion, it is considered appropriate to change references in the Defence Act from “investigating officers” to “inquiry officers” to make it clear that these officers are conducting purely administrative investigations.

The fourth Act to be amended by this bill, the Naval Defence Act 1910, is amended to align the legislation governing eligible ages of Navy Cadets with the legislation governing their Army and Air Force counterparts. The alignment of the various laws dealing with ADF cadets to provide more consistency between the respective services is long overdue. The amendment to the Naval Defence Act will provide a uniform maximum entry age of 20 years for acceptance into the ADF cadets and will provide for a person to cease being a cadet at the age of 21 years or such lower age as is prescribed under the regulations.

Finally, this bill also contains provisions amending various Defence administered legislation resulting from the commencement of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 and the Legislative Instruments (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2003. These are technical housekeeping amendments to remove redundant references to the Statutory Rules Publication Act 1903 and repealed provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act 1900. These amendments do not in any way affect the operation of the Defence legislation referred to in the bill.

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