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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 1025


Senator LUDLAM (12:05 PM) —The Australian Greens will also be supporting the passage of the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill 2010. In particular, we support the provisions that establish new offences for combating identity crime. We recognise that there are a diverse range of other measures in the bill, but I will confine my remarks today to the offences relating to identity crime.

We acknowledge at the outset the seriousness of such crimes and support attempts to assist in the investigation and prosecution of such offences. Identity crime has become more prevalent in recent years due to our ever-increasing reliance on new technology—a trend that will undoubtedly continue in the future. This is one of the issues that I hope to pursue in the inquiry that we proposed a couple of months ago into online privacy—which was supported by all sides of the chamber. Identity crime fits pretty squarely with the agenda of protecting people’s privacy online so that those flow-on consequences cannot occur. This is a trend that will undoubtedly continue into the future as these technologies become more ubiquitous.

Information from the Model Criminal Law Officers Committee of the Australian Federal Police states that identity crime costs Australia around $4 billion annually. Research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics also highlights the breadth of the issue, with research released in June 2008 concluding that around half a million Australians were victims of identity fraud. Identity theft must therefore be taken very seriously, as it has quite serious repercussions—most directly for the victim but also for the Australian taxpayer.

 We therefore support the bill’s intention to strengthen Australia’s identity theft legislation, which at present is somewhat ad hoc and fails to comprehensively protect Australians. We are pleased that the bill uses language which ensures that, as new forms of identity theft emerge, the offences contained in the bill will remain applicable. This is something we will need to deal with as new technologies, and new communications technologies in particular, emerge.

In addition to supporting the introduction of three new identity crime offences, we strongly support the bill’s inclusion of a remedy for victims of identity crime. The bill provides that they may be granted a certificate by a magistrate to prove that they have been a victim of identity theft when negotiating with the relevant authorities over the misuse of their identity, such as in re-establishing their credit rating with financial institutions. These amendments are common sense. They are certainly well timed, given the emerging ubiquity of these technologies. The Australian Greens will be supporting this bill in its entirety.