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Friday, 16 June 1989
Page: 4264

Senator HILL(1.09) —Four significant changes are encompassed within the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 1989. The first concerns computer crime and implements recommendations of the Gibbs committee. We support this reform which creates offences in relation to access to and damaging of data. The second significant change relates to penalties. The Bill provides for imposition of pecuniary penalties and imprisonment and increases fines substantially. We support that part of the Bill.

The third area of significant change relates to spent convictions. This has been an area which has caused the Opposition concern and about which two amendments of substance were moved in the other place. It seems to us that some of the obvious exclusions-that is, convictions which should not be capable of being spent under such schemes-are set out in the Bill but others are not. There is a catch-all provision that says that other cases may be dealt with by regulation. Therefore, we proposed an amendment that the Bill not come into operation until the full range of exceptions has been set out. We also proposed an amendment to new section 85zw which provides for a person whose conviction is spent to make a positive assertion that he has not been charged with or convicted of an offence. I will come back to the matter of spent convictions which is our principal concern in the Bill.

The fourth area of significant change relates to the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The Bill gives the DPP power to grant wider forms of indemnity to witnesses than he has presently and we support that change. The Bill also gives the DPP an unlimited power to issue ex officio indictments. We concluded that that was justifiable, except in the case of war crimes, and we moved an amendment in the other place which the Government agreed to. We are pleased that by that process war crimes became an exception. I think that it is unnecessary at this time to go through the reasons; I just make the comment that there was a long and difficult debate in this chamber and the Government seemed to take a different position from what it finally concluded. Nevertheless, we are pleased that it accepted our position in that regard.

That brings me back to the question of spent convictions and our amendments which we regard as of importance. We recognise, however, that a number of the amendments, particularly to part 8, as I understand it, of the National Crimes Authority Act, are to commence on 1 July 1989. We are anxious that we do not in any way delay the implementation of these provisions and the others that I have indicated we support.

We had negotiations with the Government as to whether the Bill might be proceeded with on the basis that the spent convictions part was removed. That was not our suggestion because we support it in principle. We just had the reservations that I have outlined. However, for a while there was a suggestion by the Government that it would remove the whole of that package. That day has now passed and it decided not to do that. It was put to us that the Government would withdraw the whole of the Bill rather than have it dealt with without the spent convictions provision. We were unhappy that that would occur and, therefore, decided to facilitate passage of the total Bill today.

In doing so, we stress that we stand by the amendments that we moved in the other place and the merit of those amendments. We still put them to the Government for its consideration in the future and indicate to the Senate that, upon coming to government, we will also reconsider the provisions in relation to spent convictions and at that time consider whether the law should be further amended to encompass the areas of concern that we put down in a much more comprehensive form in the other place.