CRIMES AMENDMENT (INVESTIGATION POWERS) BILL 2013

I rise to make a contribution in relation to the Crimes Amendment (Investigation Powers) Bill 2013. In doing so I indicate that the opposition does not oppose the bill.

Sometimes in this game you wake up in the morning and you are not quite sure how the day is going to go. I see the Treasurer laughing on the other side of the chamber. He probably agrees with me, as does the Leader of the House. You say, ‘It looks like a pretty straightforward sort of day today’, but you never know what is going to befall you.

Let us be clear: we in opposition are fired up and ready to go on this bill. We have a very long list of speakers, but we hear little from the other side. The government benches are silent on this bill, and we wonder why.

The Leader of the House, who graced the upper house for a number of years, advises me that we are working on the upper house protocol. Thankfully I am unfamiliar with that protocol, but I gather that the opposition takes up the cudgels and the government members sit there and listen to our worthy contributions.

Thank you, Deputy Speaker. As always, I appreciate your protection of me in these matters. Some robust interjections are coming from the other side. They are clearly disorderly.

The bill has a number of elements to it, and I want to briefly pass over those in the limited amount of time I have available to me. I hope to finish my contribution tomorrow. To summarise what the bill is about — —

I would like to, but unfortunately talking about some of the broader implications of this bill in terms of how it interacts with the criminal justice process in this state has been ruled out. Sadly the opportunity has not been afforded to me. Perhaps tomorrow, in the light of a new day, we will see what the day brings us.

He is out of his place and absolutely out of order. The bill expands the range of offences for which DNA samples may be collected from suspects and offenders to include all indictable offences. It also clarifies the destruction requirements for DNA samples and profiles. Those of us who have been in the house for some time will recall that the previous Parliament dealt with a range of challenging issues about how DNA samples were collected and stored. A number of cases were subsequently tested, which required the government, with the concurrence of the then opposition, to support closing a very difficult loophole.

The clarification of these destruction requirements is an important element of the bill.

At the close of business last night I was indicating to the house the broad scope of what the bill entails. It expands the range of offences for which DNA samples may be collected from suspects and offenders to include all indictable offences. The bill clarifies the destruction requirements for DNA samples and profiles, and it was at that point that I indicated a number of issues that were confronted by the previous government in relation to contaminated DNA.

In the course of an appeal a loophole had been created in relation to the failure of appropriate storage and classification of DNA samples and the then government moved to close it. We obviously support the clarification in this bill. The bill streamlines the process of questioning suspects held in custody for other matters and allows police to retain samples provided by adult suspects who are subsequently convicted or acquitted due to mental impairment. It restricts the use of DNA samples voluntarily provided by police and forensic personnel for elimination purposes.

The impact of this suite of initiatives of course requires consequential amendments to the Corrections Act 1986 in relation to questioning suspects and to the Police Regulation Act 1958 in relation to DNA samples being provided for elimination purposes. In that context the opposition does not oppose the bill, as a number of my colleagues indicated in their contributions. However, there is a broader sweep to this bill as well.

While it is important to make these strong and robust investigatory tools available to police to continue their important work of investigation and to ensure that there are appropriate checks and balances in place, particularly for people who are suspects who suffer from certain impairments, we have to also consider the challenges that are being confronted by this government in relation to legal aid matters and how it seeks to address those. It is fair to say that the Attorney-General has tried to turn his mind to the challenge presented where courts have refused to have matters heard on the basis that defendants were underrepresented.

The Attorney-General indicated that this was a logical corollary of expanding the range of offences for which these investigatory tools may be used, which will of course lead to people being charged and these matters being brought before the courts. Obviously if people are found guilty of these, in some cases, indictable offences, sentences will be given that may require jail terms. Again, this is a serious challenge to the government as we find that prisoners are being housed, we would argue in quite inappropriate circumstances, in police cells where police resources are being consumed in minding prisoners who — —

However, he needs to devote the bulk of his remarks to addressing the bill rather than to debating other issues. The honourable member has had a fair degree of leeway in this regard already, and I would invite you to ask him to return to addressing the substance of the bill.

Returning to the bill, the obvious bridge I was seeking to build, which is not contested, is that we do have strong investigatory tools made available to police. The inevitable outcome of people being charged is that they enter the criminal justice process, and I was simply providing a brief commentary as to some of the challenges that confront this government, and indeed confronted the previous government, in relation to how we ensure there are appropriate checks and balances in place.

I am satisfied in the context of this bill that suitable protections are being put in place, particularly for people who have a mental impairment. However, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge in my contribution that there is an obvious corollary between particular aspects of this bill and how these matters might ultimately end in the courts and for some people in the criminal justice system. These are challenges which, frankly, the government is going to need to confront because they are serious, they are here and they are now. In the context of this particular crimes amendment bill, the opposition does not oppose this bill.