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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 5968

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Government Whip) (14:36): I join in support of the passage of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Law Enforcement Integrity, Vulnerable Witness Protection and Other Measures) Bill in the House. The bill makes a number of significant improvements with respect to Commonwealth criminal law—for instance, to ensure greater protection of witnesses and victims, particularly with respect to proceedings under the federal act in relation to slavery and people-trafficking issues. The bill makes relevant amendments to ensure that we are responsive to the threats of national security and strengthen laws in relation to people smuggling.

When it comes to amendments relating to victim and witness protection in criminal proceedings, this bill extends the protections currently available to child witnesses in federal criminal proceedings to adult victims and special witnesses, particularly with respect to slavery and human trafficking matters. With respect to proceedings for slavery, slavery-like and human trafficking offences, the bill will also amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 to allow courts to hear evidence by video link from witnesses outside Australia. I have spoken a number of times in this place about my strong views against heinous crimes against humanity, particularly when it comes to slavery and human trafficking. This bill will ensure that witnesses in criminal proceedings receive the highest level of support and protection. Witnesses are vital to these proceedings and every effort should be taken to ensure they are protected from possible re-traumatisation or fear for their safety and undue public embarrassment due to their involvement in any such proceedings. We just heard a little about the Migration Act 1958. This bill also amends the Migration Act. It contains certain changes in regulating the process of investigating, prosecuting and sentencing people smugglers. The amendment will also ensure that the onus of proof in establishing the age of a people smuggler lies with the prosecution. To date wrist X-rays have been used to determine whether a person is a juvenile or an adult. As I understand it, great concern has been expressed over the accuracy of the X-ray methods for determining age. So it is considered appropriate that it falls on the prosecution to establish, through appropriate investigative means, the age of the person being charged.

A whole series of things can be taking into consideration. The vast majority of young people who are X-rayed are from Indonesia, and it is appropriate that the Australian Federal Police, in the conduct of their investigations, liaise with their Indonesian counterparts with a view to determining, positively, the ages of the persons charged, as opposed simply to relying on the validity of wrist X-rays.

We were all, once again, distressed last week when we learnt of another 55 people from an asylum-seeker boat dying at sea.

The measures in this bill are not, in any way, meant to frustrate the investigation or prosecution of persons involved in people smuggling. If anything, they are meant to mainstream the activities in those investigations and the way that they are carried out. One thing that always sticks in my mind when we talk about people smuggling is that every boat that we hear of—whether it has arrived on our shores or is likely to be lost at sea—is a million-dollar profit centre. Not one of these vessels is operated for altruistic motives. As I said, these vessels, operate on the basis of a $1 million profit per vessel.

So the people-smuggling trade is alive and well. It exploits the vulnerable and it does not give guarantees of arrival in Australia, despite what people might think. These unscrupulous people smugglers play on the concerns of vulnerable people to get them to part with their money in order to arrange a passage.

When I was in Indonesia I had the opportunity to speak not only with the Australian Federal Police over there but with their Indonesian counterparts. I know full well about the way some of these operations have been established. I know that in many instances the vessels are commissioned. The people on the vessels are provided with a compass. A mobile phone, pre-dialled with the number of the Australian authorities, is given to them. They are told how long they should be at sea before they dial the number.

The people who are running these operations take very few risks. One of the things that was also clearly established when I was there is that the people smugglers have a preference for recruiting very young people to crew these vessels, on the basis that if they are young enough they will be returned and avoid criminal prosecution. So it is in determining the age of these crew members it is in our interest to work with the Indonesians on these matters.

Very briefly, I would like to talk about the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, which is also amended by this legislation, particularly with respect to new public sector anti-corruption arrangements in Victoria. On many occasions I have spoken in this place about the value of telecommunication interception. It is a very powerful tool in contemporary law enforcement, particularly at this time, when police are being challenged in terms of technology by those operating on the other side of the fence. Gone are the days when we would refer to the crooks as poor, uneducated people with limited resources to make good their crimes. A lot of planning and a lot of technology goes into the developing of a criminal enterprise. This amendment allows police not only to intercept telecommunication information but, more importantly, to disrupt and prevent the commissioning of a crime. For every crime that is committed one thing is certain; there is always a victim. Telecommunications interception is one of the most powerful tools that we have currently in law enforcement in terms of disrupting and preventing criminal enterprise.

One of the things that I have also learnt is that while criminals are everything that we think they are, they are also businesspeople. They are out there with a very clear profit motive and they are going to exploit that. If we have loopholes in our legislation that apply from one state to another, you can expect those loopholes to be exploited by those who operate criminal enterprise. This moves to shut down one of those areas of inconsistency that apply and the way they apply in the state of Victoria. I know the minister is here, and I might let him go ahead and sum up. I think I am the last speaker, but in relation to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, the amendments it makes to AUSTRAC are very good, particularly in addressing the issues of involving the Clean Energy Regulator. The AFP have been flagging that as an area of potential involvement of organised crime for some time. To involve the Clean Energy Regulator and ensure that the jurisdiction of the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity has oversight of that, as well as allowing the Integrity Commissioner of Tasmania to be able to access AUSTRAC material, are very good.

This bill shows that the government is serious about looking at the vast suite of arrangements necessary to combat serious and organised crime. My friend might have been a little forgiving when he wanted to make a complaint about certain parts of this legislation because it is many and varied. What this shows is that we are ensuring that changes are made where changes need to be made to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have access to the best suite of technology necessary to do the job that we require them to do and protect our communities.