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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2898


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (13:39): Labor in this place today supports the Criminal Code Amendment (Impersonating a Commonwealth Body) Bill 2017. The bill introduces two offences into the Criminal Code Act 1995 and prohibits false representations that a person is a Commonwealth body or acting on behalf of a Commonwealth body. I note in this respect the comments of my own colleague, the shadow Attorney-General Mr Dreyfus in the other place, that this bill is a near mirror provision to those protections relating to impersonation of a Commonwealth officer. Together with the offences established, this bill outlines penalties of two years imprisonment for the primary offence and a maximum of five years for the aggravated offence.

Labor supports these protections in order to provide faith to the Australian people that the information distributed by Commonwealth agencies is from a genuine source and can be relied upon. It is vital for our Australian democracy that the system of democratic debate be not only be fair and balanced but also seen to be fair and balanced. The public's confidence in the political system and in political communication itself is a key tenet for maintaining a healthy democracy.

Earlier this year provisions that Labor supported have come into force, providing the Australian Electoral Commission a greater discretion over the authorisation of material. We trust the AEC as an impartial and independent body and indeed as the cornerstone of our democracy. We've always sought to improve disclosure, transparency and integrity surrounding our political system and therefore we're here today to support these reforms.

That being said, it is, however, disappointing that this bill has been introduced purely as a response to the prime ministerial dummy-spit on election night in 2016. No member or senator in this place should be fooled. We know that, following the Prime Minister's tantrum, which blamed everyone but himself, he sought to construct a conspiracy to explain the lacklustre election result back in 2016. So I feel for government ministers here and in the other place who've had to prosecute the argument that it was Labor's defence of health care and Medicare that cost the Prime Minister his sanity on that night in July 2016.

We remain concerned on this side that, in order to explain the outburst of the Prime Minister, the government has introduced legislation out of step with the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. We remain concerned as to the method and scale of the government's overreach in relation to such issues as this. However, here today I clearly say we support these provisions to satisfy not the government but the Australian people that there is at least one party in this place that will act in their interests alone. I commend the bill to the Senate.