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Monday, 18 June 2001
Page: 27787

Mr LINDSAY (10:55 PM) —Mr Speaker, I suggest that that employee come to Townsville and join the Townsville call centre where the staff are extraordinarily happy. In fact, the call centre is probably the best performing call centre in the nation. I know because I visit that call centre quite regularly.

Later this week the government will be launching the CrimTrac DNA database for the country. That will be a very welcome launch. It is something that is supported by all state governments. It is very strongly supported by the law enforcement agencies in the country. Some weeks ago I put on the national record that I would like to see that database expanded to a national DNA database for all Australians. That caused all sorts of comments, all sorts of interest. It caused a wide debate across the country which continues today. There are some very good reasons for establishing a national DNA database—and it is not the Australia card issue all over again. I have correctly pointed out that anyone's DNA is available virtually instantaneously. It is not a question of privacy: it is available now. So there is no problem, I believe, in storing the technicalities of a person's DNA for good purposes. Those good purposes are that it allows the law enforcement agencies of this country to use modern weapons to fight the ever increasing crime rate. Aren't our constituents across the country getting unhappier and unhappier about the amount of crime that occurs in the suburbs, the towns and the cities of this nation? We need to be using the most modern techniques available. The technique is being used overseas now. In the United States and the United Kingdom there are databases being built and the privacy of those has remained absolutely intact.

Having a national DNA database would allow the law enforcement agencies across the country to track anybody, no matter where they might go. But there are some other good things that it can do too. For instance, it would allow us to identify when people are innocent of crimes. In this morning's Courier-Mail I noticed a report that a fellow in the United States had been in jail for 22 years for six murders and a rape—crimes that he had not committed. Earlier this week he walked out of a Florida prison a free man after all charges against him were dropped. The authorities had discovered that DNA tests had proved, after all those years, that he was innocent. In the press last week the New South Wales police minister was quoted as saying, quite openly, `We have many innocent people in our jails.' If they are there, they should not be there. We should be using modern techniques to make sure that people are not put in jail when they should not be there. If there is an accident and a body cannot be identified, a DNA database is the simplest way of immediately ascertaining that person's identity.

Taking a DNA sample is extraordinarily straightforward. It is only a matter of a cotton bud type swab in the mouth and a bit of saliva and you have got the DNA. In relation to prisoners, the Queensland authorities have been taking DNA for some time. Queensland leads the country in this process. No prisoner has ever refused to give a DNA sample because it is a straightforward matter. There are visions in some people's minds of blood samples. Some people say it is outrageous to collect this information, but it is nothing more than a fingerprint database—a unique identifier that has many more positive attributes than does a fingerprint database. To those who would say that there are privacy and security issues involved, all our medical records are already on computer in Canberra. Those records are never breached, and neither would a DNA database be breached. You need to be a very technical person to understand where that might be used. I am calling for a national DNA database for the Commonwealth of Australia.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 11 p.m., the debate is interrupted.