House of Representatives

Crimes Legislation Amendment (International Crime Cooperation and Other Measures) Bill 2016

Second Reading Speech

Mr Keenan (Stirling-Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter-Terrorism)

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The government is committed to ensuring Australia's criminal justice framework is as strong as it can be-striking the right balance between protecting fundamental rights while ensuring justice is served. We are committed to ensuring our law enforcement and justice agencies have the requisite powers to appropriately contribute to the fight against crime at home and abroad.

To that end, we keep our criminal justice framework under constant review-our agencies, policies, laws and processes-to ensure that we have a regime in place that is well equipped for the job of tackling crime.

The bill about which I speak today-the Crimes Legislation Amendment (International Crime Cooperation and Other Measures) Bill 2016-is an another example of our efforts in this respect. It is a comprehensive bill-11 schedules in length-which contains a range of measures that will strengthen the Commonwealth's already robust criminal justice arrangements.

The bill will enhance Australia's position globally in the fight against crime, making improvements to our international crime cooperation arrangements and our ability to assist international courts and tribunals.

It will make amendments to the Commonwealth's Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act to both strengthen that regime and make reporting requirements within it more flexible.

It will amend the AusCheck Act to bolster the government's ability to address serious risks, such as national security and safety risks, related to large-scale events of a national character.

The bill will also enhance the Commonwealth's anti-human trafficking and slavery regime and the protections afforded to vulnerable witnesses within our criminal justice system.

Finally, the bill will make a number of minor amendments to:

·
streamline the annual reporting processes under the War Crimes Act, and
·
enhance the Australian Federal Police's drug and alcohol testing arrangements, enabling it to maintain the integrity of its workforce and enforce its zero-tolerance policy regarding illicit drug use.

The bill also contains minor consequential amendments to facilitate the use of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission as an alternative name for the Australian Crime Commission.

I do not propose elaborating in detail on all of the measures I have just outlined that are contained in the bill. I would, however, like to draw the attention to some of the more significant measures.

International crime cooperation measures

As many of us here appreciate, international crime cooperation is an essential part of fighting crime in Australia and across the world.

Australia needs to ensure that criminals cannot evade prosecution or profit from crime because the evidence or proceeds of their crimes are located in different countries, or because they can move easily across borders.

Amendments in the bill will ensure Australia can respond effectively to requests for assistance from foreign countries and international bodies, in accordance with our international obligations. They will also ensure that the rules on adducing foreign material in Australian proceedings apply consistently throughout Australia. The amendments have been identified from practical experience and will provide certainty in the operation of key provisions.

Specifically, the bill will enhance Australia's ability to assist international courts and tribunals. These bodies are responsible for investigating and prosecuting individuals accused of committing the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, including the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The bill will align the assistance Australia can provide to the International Criminal Court and international war crimes tribunals with the assistance we can provide in criminal matters to foreign countries. Australia's authority to provide assistance to these bodies is currently more limited than our capacity to assist foreign countries. The bill will permit forensic procedures, surveillance activities and telecommunications information to the international bodies.

The assistance would be subject to the same processes that currently apply to the assistance provided to foreign countries and to similar safeguards that apply to the use of these powers for foreign and domestic law enforcement purposes.

The bill will also amend Australia's mutual assistance regime, to enhance the assistance that Australia can provide in response to a mutual assistance request from a foreign country in a criminal matter.

These amendments will ensure that proceeds of crime investigative tools in the Mutual Assistance Act align with those in the Proceeds of Crime Act. They will also modify provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act appropriately for the foreign context.

The amendments will also clarify the types of foreign proceeds of crime orders for which mutual assistance can be provided and confirm that the Mutual Assistance Act applies to interim foreign proceeds of crime orders that are issued by non-judicial government bodies.

The bill will also amend the Extradition Act to ensure that judicial officers and relevant courts have sufficient powers to order the remand of a person in an appropriate facility to await extradition following a surrender decision. This will improve the operation of the extradition process and assist Australia to meet its international extradition obligations.

Finally, the bill will also make amendments to the Foreign Evidence Act. These amendments will ensure consistent application of the rules relating to foreign evidence throughout Australia.

They will provide a process to certify material received from a foreign country in response to a mutual assistance request in terrorism-related proceedings. This will ensure that the certification is prima facie evidence of the fact of such receipt.

Vulnerable witness protections

I would also like to highlight the bill's proposed enhancements to the Commonwealth's existing vulnerable witness protections.

The government is committed to supporting and protecting vulnerable witnesses giving evidence in Commonwealth criminal proceedings.

The amendments will ensure the existing offence of identifying child witnesses or vulnerable adult complainants also extends to child complainants.

The bill will also amend relevant legislationto clarify that the protections afforded to vulnerable witnesses apply to future criminal proceedings, regardless of when the alleged offence occurred.

In relation to the Commonwealth's human trafficking and slavery offences, the bill seeks to broaden the definition of 'debt bondage'. It will also expand the relevant evidence that may be taken into account in determining elements of human trafficking and slavery-related offences.

Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing amendments

In respect of the Commonwealth's anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing framework, the bill makes several amendments. Firstly, to allow travellers departing Australia to electronically report cross-border movements of physical currency-currently, travellers who are carrying $10,000 or more in cash must provide a written report at a specific time and point. The proposed amendments will maintain existing reporting requirements, but provide the necessary flexibility to ensure that a new digital form can also be used.

The bill will also list the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission-the ACNC-as a designated agency under the AML/CTF Act. This will enable the ACNC to access financial intelligence information to assess money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with charities that register with the ACNC. In turn, this will enable the ACNC to better detect, monitor and halt money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal activities involving ACNC-registered entities.

AusCheck Act amendments

Finally, I would like to mention the AusCheck Act amendments.

These will enable AusCheck, a business unit within the Attorney-General's Department, to conduct and coordinate background checks in relation to major national events such as the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

These amendments will enable the government to prevent persons who pose serious risks, such as persons of national security concern, from working or volunteering at major national events and contributing to serious incidents.

The amendments will provide me-as the minister-with a power to declare a major national event by legislative instrument. They will also permit regulations to be made in relation to the conduct and coordination of background checks for a major national event.

The term 'major national event' is intended to capture a type of event that is of such a large scale and national character that it would benefit from the coordination of security and other arrangements by the Commonwealth or across more than one jurisdiction in Australia. Some examples of events that, if held in Australia, could be characterised as major national events include the Commonwealth Games, the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting and major international sporting events. In declaring an event as a major national event, I-as the minister-must be satisfied that it is in the national interest that the Commonwealth be involved in the conduct and coordination of background checks in connection with the accreditation of people in relation to the event.

Using the established AusCheck scheme for these purposes will ensure that the background checks can be facilitated through established mechanisms, which are well supported by technical channels and legal frameworks.

Conclusion

Australia's criminal justice framework is both fair and strong. But it never serves to be complacent. Where we find opportunities to fine-tune aspects of our regime, we will take these up. This bill, which is very comprehensive in nature, is an example of the government doing exactly that.

Debate adjourned.