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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 533

Ms LEY (10:30 AM) —I rise to speak on the Foreign Evidence Amendment Bill 2008. This bill seeks to amend part 3 of the Foreign Evidence Act 1994. Part 3 of the act provides for foreign material obtained as a result of a mutual assistance request to be adduced in evidence in criminal and related civil proceedings in Australian courts. This material is most important in fraud and money-laundering cases. The act applies to proceedings in states and territories as well as Commonwealth courts. However, these amendments are initially intended only to apply to Commonwealth proceedings. Provision exists for the application of the amendments to state and territory courts by regulation.

Some problems have been experienced adducing foreign business records in evidence in state and territory courts. The problems arise because business records must comply with the rules of evidence of the states and territories, some of the requirements of which are technical. The amendments provide that business records obtained through mutual assistance will be presumed to be admissible unless the court is satisfied that the records are not reliable or probative or that they are privileged. In addition, there are measures to provide for testimony to be admitted where the law in the country of its origin does not require such evidence to be given on oath or affirmation or under caution, provided that there is an obligation to tell the truth. These amendments preserve the court’s discretion to refuse to admit evidence where it is in the interests of justice to do so.

The use of foreign business records and other evidence is often a vital component of transnational money-laundering and fraud cases. Those cases should not be jeopardised by inconsistencies between Australian jurisdictions as to how or whether that evidence is received by a court. This bill has the support of the opposition.