House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009

Second Reading

12:49 pm

Photo of Robert OakeshottRobert Oakeshott (Lyne, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I also rise to strongly support the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009. In summary the purpose of the bill is to amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 to include a specific torture offence and also to amend the Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to extend the application of the current prohibition on the death penalty to state laws to ensure that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced anywhere in Australia.

Turning firstly to the offence of torture, the definition, essentially, that is being included as a specific torture offence includes very generally four points: it must involve a public official in some form; it must be an infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering; there must be an intent to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering; and that it is for a specific purpose such as extracting a confession or information.

This is a difficult but welcome addition to the laws of this land. It addresses an issue that was raised in this place by several people, including me, with regard to Guy Campos, an individual who was in this country last year, who was allegedly involved, but all the evidence would strongly suggest was involved, in offences in East Timor throughout its transition to being a sovereign nation. He was identified as being in this country last year, from memory, on a World Youth Day visa. He was identified by people who are local Australian residents now, people who had escaped what was a torturous regime at the time in East Timor. One of the TV stations—from memory I think it was Channel 7—identified him as an individual of concern. I think they faced him at a community event and all but got an admission of guilt out of him on camera.

The AFP became involved and several trips to East Timor were undertaken. A brief of evidence was prepared and, I think, upwards of $500,000—well over, at least, $400,000—of Australian taxpayers’ money was spent. Despite many people in the community saying that Guy Campos was going to skip the country if this brief of evidence was acted upon, the Australian government could ping him on no specific offence. As far as I know—and I would be happy for the Attorney-General to tell me otherwise in his response—Guy Campos is still at large, overseas, out of the Australian jurisdiction, despite a brief of evidence and half a million dollars of Australian money being spent potentially to do some good work on behalf of the Asia-Pacific region and to bring to justice someone who looked to be quite clearly involved in a good example of torture, as is defined in this new legislation.

I would hope that this legislation is a start in addressing the anomaly that occurred only in 2009. Much of the debate I have heard and many references that have been made to particular pieces of legislation go back a long time, to the seventies and eighties. Clearly, there is a history of bipartisanship and also tripartisanship with regard to torture prohibition and the abolition of the death penalty. That is welcome. The Australian parliament should be proud of that, that it is strong in its defence of the liberty of men and women not only in Australia but throughout the world. If such a clear case, such as that of Guy Campos, emerges again in the future, with such a significant spend of Australian dollars—say, $400,000 to $500,000, as was spent by the AFP—and if there is a courtroom full of willing witnesses, such as there was in the Campos case, I would hope that this legislation will be a trigger to addressing the anomaly that occurred only last year and to ensuring that justice is done within this country and this region.

I wish to make another point, and this is more for the benefit of anyone who is resident on the mid-North Coast or for anyone reading this speech who may be wondering why we may all get so passionate about an ethical issue like torture prohibition—


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