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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 9

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:58 AM) —I foreshadow that the government has seen this amendment and agrees with it. It proposes that the amendments to schedule VI do not apply for longer than 12 months; that is a sunset clause. The government, as I mentioned in summing up the second reading debate, intends to replace the drug offences in the Customs Act with `serious drug offences' under the Model Criminal Code in the new year. This 12-month period will allow more than ample time for the government to achieve passage of the new Criminal Code offences, which will be referred to a Senate legislation committee, and that process will take some time.

We have a situation where these amendments can take effect on royal assent, so the new regime of life imprisonment for these drug offences will apply to anyone found guilty of committing an offence. That sunset provision will apply for 12 months. In the meanwhile, the government will introduce its new bill early in the new year, which is a more comprehensive approach to the issue of serious drug offences. It has come about as a result of working with the states and territories in relation to serious drug offences. This has been a work in progress, if you like, and one which is much needed. Of course the government has undertaken that the bill will be referred to a Senate legislation committee. Whilst that is being dealt with, this amendment bill will be in force in the interim. The opposition's amendment, which deals with the 12-month sunset clause, is not inappropriate. Therefore, the government sees its way clear to agree to that amendment.