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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1258

Mr NEUMANN (9:00 PM) —I am very pleased to have such a great audience. I speak in support of the Law and Justice Legislation Amendment (Identity Crimes and Other Measures) Bill 2008. This bill includes a variety of criminal law reforms, which are necessary and are indicative of the commitment to justice of the Rudd Labor government. It makes a number of amendments which deal with identity crime. Our passport, birth certificate, tax file number and Centrelink number—all of these sorts of things—are crucial to telling the world who we are. It is crucial that we have this sort of information. When you go to see your accountant, the police or your lawyer or when you want to prove who you are, this sort of information is crucial.

To take someone’s identity, to deal with someone’s identity, to engage in credit card fraud or to pose as someone else is such a heinous crime. It is an offence against what makes us who we are and what we are about. We as a people want to know that, when we make a transaction, when we sign a legal document or when we use our credit card, we can do that freely, honestly and legally. We want to make sure that no-one misuses our money, our identity or our property. It is very important that, when people engage in these types of activities, they are punished to the full extent of the law, so we need new offences. What we are doing here is responding to a request; we are responding to a report on identity crime from the Model Criminal Law Officers Committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. So we are simply responding to a recommendation of a report that deals with deficiencies in our law. Dealing with these amendments is important early in our government history.

The offences range across three main areas, and there are three areas of reform: first is the dealing offence, second is the equipment offence and third is the possession offence. What we are talking about is similar to the Drugs Misuse Act of Queensland, where there are dealing offences, possession offences and offences relating to equipment. So it is similar to what we are used to in terms of the law of Queensland and other states with respect to drugs. The idea of dealing really includes making, supplying or using information. When you are using someone’s credit card or identity to defraud them of their money, their property or their possessions, it is an awful thing.

Offences include the following: dealing with identification information with the intention that a person pass themselves off as another person for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of a Commonwealth indictable offence. We have ensured that such a person will face five years imprisonment. Five years is a long time and it is an appropriate punishment in the circumstances. The second aspect is the possession of identification information with the intention of engaging in conduct that would constitute a dealing offence—again, punishable by three years imprisonment. The third offence is the possession of equipment offence, which is the possession of equipment to create identification documentation with the intention of engaging in conduct that would constitute the dealing offence—again, punishable by three years imprisonment.

What I think is so important in this law reform is this: where a person’s identity has been taken away from them through criminal activity by another person, they can approach a magistrate for a certificate. If, on the basis of probability, the magistrate is satisfied that the person’s identity was used and dealt with in this way, the magistrate has the discretion to issue a certificate. That certificate can be used to assist the victim of an identity crime in negotiating with, say, a bank or a credit institution to re-establish their credit ratings. That is a very important reform because dealing with a bank or a credit union is extremely important. I would seek leave to continue my remarks at a future time if the House prefers.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr NEUMANN —I will now continue because I have got instructions from the Leader of the House and, like the Chief Government Whip, I always listen to the Leader of the House.

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Blair should continue speaking to the bill.

Mr NEUMANN —I will deal with the second schedule now; I will continue on. This is an important reform.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr NEUMANN —No, it is an important reform, because it relates to the administration of justice. It is important because deceiving witnesses and acting in a way that will make the administration of justice difficult to administer undermines the integrity of our court system, the prosecution of criminal offences and the people’s faith in the criminal process. It is very important. We have increased the penalties. The penalty for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice has been increased to 10 years imprisonment. I now seek leave to continue my remarks at a future time.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.