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Wednesday, 20 March 1985
Page: 597

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Attorney-General)(4.02) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill provides for amendments to the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966. That Act regulates Australia's extradition relations with countries that are not members of the Commonwealth and with which Australia has extradition arrangements. Two amendments to this Bill are of particular importance and result from the work of the task force I established in February of this year to conclude extradition arrangements with appropriate countries as a matter of urgency.

The first amendment will enable Australia to conclude extradition arrangements with countries which do not require the requesting country to furnish evidence of guilt but rather information as to the allegations against the fugitive. This amendment is of particular significance to civil law countries whose systems have difficulty in adapting to the provision of pre-trial evidence. The extradition arrangements of most European countries which are reflected in the European Convention on Extradition do not require the production of prima facie evidence.

The second amendment will permit the conclusion of arrangements which permit extradition to be granted for any offence which carries a penalty of 12 months imprisonment or more without specifically describing the offence. This latter amendment will avoid difficulties which have been experienced in the past where the same offence is described differently in law of the two countries concerned. The second amendment reflects the trend to 'no list' treaties in modern extradition law.

Advice of the proposed amendments has been particularly well received by civil law countries in Europe, several of which have indicated a readiness to conclude modern treaty arrangements as soon as these amendments are law. On the question of treaty arrangements generally, I should add that the draft model treaty which I approved recently has already been distributed to some countries which the task force has identified as countries with which the conclusion of treaty arrangements should be given priority.

Apart from these two significant amendments it should be noted that most of the amendments to the London Scheme agreed to by Commonwealth Law Ministers in 1983 to which I referred in introducing the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Amendment Bill 1985 are equally applicable to the legislation governing extraditions between Australia and countries which are not Commonwealth countries. This Bill accordingly incorporates all the amendments proposed to the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966 which are appropriate to be incorporated in the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966. In addition, the Bill incorporates amendments considered necessary to resolve difficulties which have arisen in the practical operation of the legislation and to improve the structure of the legislation. As such the Bill will significantly improve that Act and facilitate the processing of extradition requests by and of Australia.

Finally, I should say that these proposed amendments to extradition law are part of a number of measures by the Government to facilitate the fight against major crime. There is an increasing international element in major crime today and, in particular, major crime involving illicit dealing in narcotic drugs. The amendments should therefore also be seen as part of the Commonwealth's overall plan to combat drug trafficking. We must be able to apprehend effectively our fugitives overseas and to return them to Australia to be dealt with under our law. The proposed amendments will assist in that process, in particular, by providing a proper base for the task force on extradition to enter into efficient modern extradition arrangements with overseas countries. This legislation has no financial impact. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr N. A. Brown) adjourned.