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Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Page: 9353


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (12:37): I thank senators for their contributions to the debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious Drugs, Identity Crime and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and all senators, including opposition senators, for their support for this bill. I also thank the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for its report and recommendations that the Senate pass this bill. This bill delivers on the government's continuing commitment to combatting serious and organised crime and corruption. It ensures that we have the right laws in place to counter identity crime, drug importation and white-collar crime.

With respect to points raised in the debate, I know Senator Brandis has raised the issue of the budgets of law enforcement agencies. The fact is that border protection and law enforcement budgets have been substantially increased since 2007. Our agencies are also increasingly successful in seizing illegal drugs and disrupting serious and organised crime. This is because Customs and the Australian Federal Police are using criminal intelligence and targeting instead of relying on X-ray alone. In developing the budget, the Commonwealth consulted law enforcement agencies to ask whether they want more screening or more criminal intelligence, and law enforcement agencies indicated that they want more criminal intelligence. That is why the government has established a firearms intelligence targeting team within Customs and has invested about $100 million in a new Australian Federal Police forensics facility to do things like firearms testing and bullet tracing.

Across the agencies, it is also important to note—and I ask Senator Brandis, respectfully, to do so—that the Australian Crime Commission's budget is more than $20 million higher now than it was in 2007, the Customs and Border Protection Service budget is $67 million higher than it was in 2007, the Australian Federal Police budget is more than $340 million higher and there are 600 more sworn Australian Federal Police than there were back in 2007.

What does all this mean when it comes to fighting serious crime? It means getting impressive results. Last year we seized more heroin, more cocaine and more amphetamines than ever before. In July we seized half a billion dollars worth of illegal drugs, the largest seizure of ice in Australian history and the third-largest heroin seizure. That is more than we often seize in an entire year. The amount of drugs and illicit materials we have seized in air cargo has more than doubled since 2007. In 2007, Customs detected some 870 parcels containing drugs or other prohibited items. Last financial year, using criminal intelligence and targeting, Customs detected over 1,800 parcels. That is quite an extraordinary increase.

This bill will allow drug laws to keep pace with the market for new and emerging drugs by moving lists of illicit substances from the Criminal Code to regulations. This will make it substantially quicker to update the list in response to new threats and will make the list more responsive to law enforcement needs. The government is committed to minimising the impact of harmful drugs in Australia, as you can see from these measures.

The bill will also target identity crime, which is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Australia. The government's comprehensive identity security strategy will be bolstered by expanding identity crime offences to cover people who use a carriage service, such as the internet or a mobile phone, to obtain identification information with the intention of committing another offence. It will also criminalise the use of identity information with the intent to commit a foreign offence. Travelling under a false identity is a tactic commonly used by organised criminals in Australia and overseas to evade law enforcement detection, and this bill will make it a crime to use a false identity to book a flight over the internet or to use a false identity when identifying oneself for the purposes of travelling on a flight.

This bill will also increase the value of the penalty unit by more than 50 per cent, to $170. This increase ensures that financial penalties provide a strong deterrent to white-collar criminals in serious and organised crime groups. Corruption will be targeted by making improvements to the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 and the Commonwealth superannuation order laws. Finally, this bill represents a significant step in the effort to combat serious and organised crime and white-collar crime, and I commend it to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.