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Thursday, 28 October 1993
Page: 2836

Senator SPINDLER (10.35 p.m.) —I rise to address briefly the fact that today the Victorian Attorney-General, Ms Wade, delivered a second reading speech on the Crimes Amendment Bill (No.2). This bill is relevant to this parliament to the extent that it contravenes international conventions or treaties which the Commonwealth government has entered into. I understand that several months ago the federal Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch) drew the attention of the Human Rights Commissioner to the first edition of this bill. I am not aware that the Human Rights Commissioner has made any pronouncement on this, but I could be wrong.

  However, today the Victorian Attorney-General produced the second edition of that bill and delivered the second reading speech, claiming that this bill takes account of many of the concerns that were expressed by a number of organisations in Victoria, including the International Commission of Jurists and the Youth Affairs Council. A copy of the second reading speech was faxed to me today, with annotations which clearly show that the main alterations made to the bill were alterations which rectified some minor drafting difficulties. But in substance, the bill remains as it was in the first draft.

  The bill addresses three areas. It gives police quite extensive powers to obtain the names and addresses of persons suspected of committing an offence, to fingerprint a person charged with or reasonably suspected of committing an offence, and to conduct, following the consent of a magistrate, a body search, or to obtain hair, blood and other samples with the assistance of a medical practitioner.

  The difficulty with this bill is that it applies to young persons above the age of 15. For example, the Victorian Attorney-General claims that the provisions in the area of obtaining fingerprints will bring the state of Victoria into line with the provisions that obtain in other states. I have had a search conducted and found that this is simply not true. In most other states there is a requirement for a court order, the order of a magistrate or the authorisation of the officer in charge. In almost all cases in almost all states, if the person concerned is under 16 or 14, that person must be in custody before fingerprinting can be carried out.

  Clearly, we are not here to obstruct the lawful endeavours of police to apprehend criminals. However, it is quite a different matter if police are given powers which are in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Australia has ratified. Here we have a bill which delivers, in effect, young persons into the power of police to do as they wish.

  I wanted to put this on the record tonight. I want to advise the Senate that I will be referring the matter to the Federal Attorney-General tomorrow with a request to follow up his original referral to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. I want to see whether we can suggest to the Attorney-General in Victoria to defer passing this bill and to conduct further examination to ensure that we do not pass a bill which is in contravention of international treaties to which Australia is a party.