Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 August 2015


Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015; Second Reading

11:47 am

Jo Lindgren (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015. This bill strengthens our existing laws and law enforcement to further protect Australians. Increasing powers of law enforcement is no small matter. It has to be measured, relevant and have a minimal impact on the day-to-day lives of ordinary, law-abiding Australians but must reach deep into those who seek to commit crime. To that end, Australia's commitment to human rights has been considered every step of the way and I am pleased to note that there is minimal impact if any.

We have also considered in a general sense the impact on the efficiency of law-enforcement agencies. These agencies are publicly funded organisation where the people of Australia have a right to expect the highest standard and efficiency. This bill will increase the ability to fight crime and give the people of Australia greater value for their tax dollar. Little things such as the transfer of a federal prisoner have had to take place at a prison and not at an airport, police station or other places of convenience. This has been corrected to allow for more efficiency and better spent tax dollars. It is far-reaching and takes into account the events in today's world. It is sad but necessary to update war crimes to take into account non-international armed conflict—in other words, what we are now seeing in Syria. We must stand in the international world and act as a civilised nation, extending our laws to deal with outrages on personal dignity. I need not remind everybody here of what we are seeing on TV of the atrocities against people in the Middle East. As they reach out to us, we will reach out with our laws so that anybody who thinks that they can go out and contribute to these outrages with impunity will need to think again.

This bill also tackles money laundering and counter-terrorism to address enforceability and operational constraints, again making our investment in crime more efficient and not creating any onerous impost on our citizens. Today we have to tackle the black market on illegal weapons and also the grey market. The grey market is weapons that could be legally owned but have disappeared into a grey area, and we risk losing sight of them. Firearms are designed for one purpose: to kill. To treat them as anything less is a mistake.

This legislation does not take away any rights or make it harder for anyone to legally own a firearm or weapon. It merely serves to increase the punishment of those who break the law and as a deterrent to those who are considering breaking the law. No person acting legally has anything to fear. It strengthens our drug laws to prevent precursor materials being brought into Australia and to prevent illegal drugs being manufactured. Many of the ingredients are common and have legal usage, but it is illegal to use them in this way, and we must prevent it. We simply cannot let this pass us by and leave it to the state agencies to deal with once it has been made into an illegal substance. This adds another weapon into the nation's fight against drug use and the subsequent negative effects on our society.

This bill will prevent people belonging to an organisation involved in crime knowing what is occurring but, as long as they have taken no active part, not being responsible. They can no longer hide behind the defences of: 'But I didn't do anything active. Yes, I knew,' and, 'Yes I belong, but I did not actively participate.'

There are stronger enforcement laws on forced marriage aimed not at any culture but to protect those who cannot protect themselves, regardless of their background. It is to protect children and those without the capacity to fully understand what marriage means; just because they agreed does not mean they were not capable of making an informed decision. It makes the penalties commensurate with slavery-like offences.

As federal offences are heard in state courts and offenders dealt with in the state justice and corrections systems, we need to be able to share information with them for better management of offenders. It is no small impost we ask of the states, so therefore the federal government needs to make state activities undertaken on our behalf as easy and efficient as possible and as safe as possible for state employees. Consider not being able to inform a state corrections system of a violent offender or an offender with mental health issues. In that situation, we put corrections officers at risk.

Some of this legislation addresses the Law Enforce Integrity Commissioner overview of the law enforcement agencies. The LEIC has the important role of maintaining public confidence in law enforcement agencies, but must do this with a balance that does not unnecessarily hinder their operations and assures personal liberties are not unduly hindered. It is a balance that is achieved with these amendments. The nondisclosure sections of not giving updates or outcomes to a complainant are not to be taken lightly nor used to shield senior officers—as in my home state of Queensland. They are there to maintain the operational integrity of the law enforcement agencies and the LEIC. This is no small measure and was not considered lightly in gaining that balance on detecting and preventing crime and the right to know.

In all, this is a well-considered bill which will enhance our law enforcement agencies in Australia, and I fully support this bill.


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