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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7868


Senator GREIG (12:51 PM) —The Australian Democrats welcome this legislative initiative of the government which will introduce new offences relating to people-smuggling and the interstate traffic of firearms. Indeed we Democrats have previously called upon the government to address the issue of interstate trafficking of firearms. The Crimes Legislation Amendment (People Smuggling, Firearms Trafficking and Other Measures) Bill 2002 is based on the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. We would, however, like to draw attention to the fact that Australia has not signed or ratified this treaty with which we agree and we encourage the Australian government to do so.

People-trafficking is an ugly crime, quite separate from people-smuggling, which, as we all know, preys upon desperate people in places where their lives are in extreme danger. It is essential that Australia sign protocols such as this and incorporate their goals into domestic laws. The United Nations protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime enforces the rights, obligations and responsibilities of states and individuals under international law, in particular where applicable, the 1951 convention and the 1967 protocol relating to the status of refugees and the principle of non-refoulement as contained within that convention. This is increasingly necessary in the current political climate.

We Democrats support the thrust of the provisions relating to the trafficking of firearms across state borders and appreciate the urgency of addressing this pressing issue. Nevertheless, we do have a concern relating to the absolute liability provision in proposed section 360.2(2). The effect of this provision is that, in prosecuting an offence under section 360.2, it will be unnecessary for the prosecution to prove that the accused knew that his or her conduct constituted an offence under a state or territory firearms law. We Democrats acknowledge the government's argument that in order to be guilty of an offence under a state or territory firearms law it would be necessary for the prosecution to prove that the person intended or was reckless as to the commission of that offence. On balance we accept this argument. However, we urge the government to carefully monitor the application of these provisions and instigate any changes that may later prove necessary.