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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
Page: 59

Mr TURNBULL (1:33 PM) —I too will speak briefly on the Crimes Amendment Bill 2005. This is, in some respects, a tidying-up exercise. Part IAC of the federal Crimes Act deals with assumed identities and permits officers of a number of Commonwealth agencies—the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Customs Service, ASIO, ASIS, the Australian Taxation Office and any other agency specified in the regulations—to obtain documents establishing an assumed identity from Commonwealth agencies. These assumed identities are designed to facilitate intelligence and undercover operations and are a vital part of our continuing battle against crime—in relation in particular to organised crime and more recently the battle against terrorism. They are a vital part of the law enforcement exercise and a vital part of the government’s commitment to defending the security of all Australians. On that note, I welcome the member for Barton’s remarks and the opposition’s support for the bill.

However, the most common form of identification document, the sort of document that people typically produce to prove their identity or, in this case, to establish an assumed identity, is of course a drivers licence. They are issued by state governments for the most part, and the current legislation does not provide a legislative framework for those to be obtained by Commonwealth officers. They have been obtained with a degree of informality in the past, as the Attorney-General said, in the absence of a legislative framework. That obviously is no longer feasible, as each state is now passing and debating in its respective parliament—in great detail in some cases—the regulation of the provision of assumed identities.

This bill will enable duly authorised Commonwealth officers to obtain documents establishing assumed identities from the states. The legislation already enables state participating agencies to obtain such identity documents from the Commonwealth. This bill will provide the link that completes the chain and will ensure that those officers who are undertaking undercover work—and, in doing so, need to have evidence of their assumed identity—will be covered by legislation both on the Commonwealth side and on the state side. Those officers will be duly indemnified and protected from any suggestion that they may be incurring any liability or committing any offence simply because of their use of an assumed identity. This is an important bill. It is an important part of our continuing battle against crime and terrorism and our continuing defence of the security of Australia and its people. I commend it to the House.