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Thursday, 19 March 2015
Page: 2909


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice) (09:08): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015 delivers on the government's commitment to tackle crime and to make our communities safer. By providing our law enforcement agencies with the tools and powers they need to do their job, and by ensuring Commonwealth laws are robust and effective, this bill reflects this government's efforts to target criminals and reduce the heavy cost of crime for all Australians.

The bill contains a range of measures across various Commonwealth acts. These include measures to:

implement tough penalties for gun-related crime;

ensure our criminal offence regimes are robust and effective; and

ensure efficient arrangements for administering criminal law and related provisions.

I will address the key measures in the bill in further detail.

Penalties for firearm trafficking offe nces

It is the government's strongly held view that now, more than ever, we need to do everything we can to ensure the safety of all Australians. Critical to this is disrupting the illegal firearms trade.

We know that firearms trafficking is a deadly crime and a huge threat to the safety of our communities.

That is why the government took to the election a commitment to implement tougher penalties for gun-related crime.

This bill will again introduce mandatory minimum sentences of five years imprisonment for offenders charged with trafficking of firearms or firearm parts under the Criminal Code Act 1995.

Mandatory minimum sentences send a strong message that gun-related crime and violence is a serious threat to the safety of all Australians.

These mandatory minimum sentences are not without safeguards. They do not include specified non-parole periods, nor do they apply to minors, providing courts with discretion to set custodial periods consistent with the particular circumstances of the offender and the offence.

These mandatory minimum sentences and the offences introduced through the Crimes Legislation Amendment (New Psychoactive Substances and Other Measures Bill) 2014 reflect the seriousness with which the government views gun crime, and the gravity of supplying firearms and firearm parts to the illicit market.

Rob ust and effective criminal laws

A key part of ensuring our communities are safe is making sure that our criminal laws remain up to date and able to deal with changing forms of offending. The bill contains a series of measures which support this aim.

Serious Drug Offences

Schedule 1 of the bill aims improve the operation of the serious drug and precursor offences in the Criminal Code. In particular, these measures will make recklessness the fault element for attempted offences and remove the intent to manufacture element from offences relating to the importation of border controlled precursors.

The amendments to the border controlled precursor offences are particularly important in supporting the government's response to the growing problem of methamphetamine and ice, and the widespread devastation and destruction that it causes. The domestic production of methamphetamine and ice is increasingly using precursor chemicals sourced from overseas. The Australian Crime Commission has noted this trend, which involves a steady increase in the number of detections of precursors in recent years.

These amendments will make the enforcement of the border controlled precursor offences simpler and more effective, without affecting legitimate industry. They will improve our ability to bring persons who seek to profit from the trade in illicit drugs to justice, and ensure that they face severe punishment for their crimes.

Forced marriage

The bill will also expand the definition of forced marriage in the Criminal Code. The forced marriage offences currently apply where a person does not freely and fully consent to a marriage because of coercion, threat or deception.

Since the offences came into force in 2013, the Australian Federal Police have become aware of cases such as that of a 12-year-old girl who purportedly consented to marry a much older man. These amendments will make clear that the forced marriage offences apply where a person is incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony, including because of their age or mental capacity.

Forced marriage offences currently carry a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment for a base offence and seven years imprisonment for an aggravated offence. The government has conducted a review of these offences and has determined to increase the penalties to seven years and nine years respectively, to ensure they are commensurate with the most serious slavery-related facilitation offence of deceptive recruiting.

The increased penalties reflect the seriousness of forced marriage as a slavery-like practice, a form of gender-based violence and an abuse of human rights, which puts people at risk of emotional and physical abuse, loss of autonomy and loss of access to education. These amendments will assist authorities to protect the most vulnerable in our society from this insidious crime.

Knowingly concerned

The bill will also make sure there are sufficient prosecuting options in Commonwealth criminal law, by making those who are 'knowingly concerned' in the commission of an offence liable for their involvement. This will ensure that people who actively participate in crime, but cannot currently be held liable for it because they do not neatly fit within existing categories of liability, can nonetheless be prosecuted.

The concept of 'knowingly concerned' was previously included in the Crimes Act, but was not carried over to the Criminal Code when it was drafted in the 1990s. Its absence has since attracted judicial comment, and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has found its absence has hindered prosecutions, often making them more complex and less certain.

The bill will ensure those knowingly involved in supporting and enabling crimes like importation of illegal drugs, fraud and insider trading are held responsible, despite the fact that they were not the person taking delivery of the drug, handing over the money or forging the signature.

Foreign bribery, war crimes

Certain measures in the bill are designed to ensure that Australia meets its obligations under international laws.

The bill will strengthen the of bribing a foreign public official to clarify that proof of intent to influence a particular foreign official is not required to establish the offence. This reflects Australia's obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and sends a strong message that Australia takes a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.

The bill will also amend war crime offences relating to violations of dignity of deceased persons in non-international conflict zones. These amendments support Australia's international obligations and reflect our strong commitment to hold those responsible for atrocities in conflict zones to account.

Effective powers for law enforcement

The government has consistently expressed its strong commitment to supporting law enforcement agencies and providing them with the right tools and powers.

Anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing

This bill will make several amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 to address enforceability issues and reduce operational constraints that have been identified by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

A robust anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regime is essential for Australian businesses to remain competitive in the global market and to ensure financial integrity and stability.

These amendments will ensure that AUSTRAC has the necessary operational flexibility to both more efficiently undertake its role as Australia's anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regulator, and more effectively protect the Australian community and businesses from the economic, social and national security impacts of terrorism and organised crime.

Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

This bill will make a range of minor amendments to the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 to improve the general operation of the act and empower the Integrity Commissioner to perform his or her functions efficiently and effectively, while also providing sufficient safeguards around the exercise of those functions.

In particular, the amendments will ensure that the Integrity Commissioner's powers under the act are clear and consistent and that he or she may delegate those powers where appropriate. The amendments will give the Integrity Commissioner greater discretion about how to deal with law enforcement corruption issues.

These amendments support the government's election commitment to stamp out corruption within Australia's law and border enforcement agencies.

Australian Crime Commission

This bill will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of special operations and investigations undertaken by the Australian Crime Commission. The bill will clarify who is eligible to apply for a search warrant under the act, expedite the return of items produced in an examination, and update references to secrecy provisions that preclude an agency from disclosing information to the ACC.

Controlled operations, state anti-corruption bodies

This bill will make minor amendments to clarify the Commonwealth's controlled operation provisions. In particular, the bill will make it clear that only the most senior officers in the Australian Federal Police may authorise certain variations to controlled operations that involve high risks to operatives.

Ensuring effective arrangements for administering criminal law and related provisions

The bill also contains a range of measures aimed at streamlining processes for administering criminal justice measures.

Federal offenders

This bill will make several minor amendments to improve a range of processes in relation to federal offenders.

Technical amendments to part 1B of the Crimes Act 1914 will improve clarity and enhance the administrative efficiency of decisions made under the act relating to sentencing, imprisonment and release of federal offenders.

This bill will make minor amendments to the Transfer of Prisoners Act 1983, which will improve the interstate transfer processes for approved federal prisoners.

The bill also provides clear legislative authority to facilitate information sharing relevant to federal offenders between Commonwealth, state and territory agencies for the purposes of performing specified legislative functions. The amendments will ensure informed decisions are made in line with legislative obligations.

Proceeds of Crime

The government is committed to depriving criminals of the proceeds and benefits of criminal conduct. To this end, the bill will make minor technical amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to:

increase existing penalties for failing to comply with a production order or with a notice to a financial institution in proceeds of crime investigations,

increase the integrity of the process for appointing persons to conduct proceeds of crime examinations,

facilitate the administration of confiscated Commonwealth asset by the Official Trustee in Bankruptcy, and

address ambiguity in existing provisions.

Technical corrections and consequential amendments

Finally, the bill will make a series of technical corrections and minor and consequential amendments to various Commonwealth laws.

The first series of minor amendments follow on from changes to state and territory laws. These amendments will extend information access provisions to the newly established Independent Commissioner Against Corruption of South Australia, consistent with the approach taken for other state anti-corruption bodies, and will update various Commonwealth laws to reflect the new name of Queensland's Crime and Corruption Commission, which changed its name in July 2014.

Finally, the bill makes minor editorial amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to fix errors and provide consistency with current drafting practices.

Conclusion

This bill contains important measures that will protect Australian's from gun-crime. The bill will also ensure Commonwealth criminal law remains robust, and provide the tools our law enforcement agencies need to combat crime.

In this way, the government is delivering on our commitment to tackle crime and keep our community safe.

Debate adjourned.