4 May 2016

3rd Reading Speech

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE ( 23:13 ): On behalf of the Labor Opposition I oppose the third reading of the Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Bill 2016 and the Criminal Legislation Amendment (Organised Crime and Public Safety) Bill 2016. The Opposition applied itself diligently and seriously, as befits the important subject matter of the serious crime prevention orders and the organised crime and public safety orders proposed in the two bills before the House. The Opposition did so because of the very serious and important objective of securing public safety and dealing with and disrupting serious and organised crime, an objective on which the Opposition has a significant record and which we support.

However, when creating novel and innovative mechanisms for law enforcement bodies to deal with the serious and pervasive nature of organised crime, we must ensure that there is proper supervision, proper safeguards and checks and balances to ensure that in our desire to protect the public we do not also harm the public and that we also provide protections for persons who, although under suspicion, may turn out to be not guilty. 

With that in mind, we proposed a series of sensible and balanced amendments to ensure the probity, the integrity and public confidence in the two regimes of orders proposed in the bills. It is regrettable that the Government did not find within itself the maturity or the non-partisan spirit to embrace at least the most important of the amendments that we proposed in good faith. It is regrettable that the Government does not wish to have only the Supreme Court make serious crime prevention orders, to restrict the classes of applicant to the Director of Public Prosecutions and to at least have those who would be subject to such orders limited to those persons who knowingly engage in proscribed conduct. It is regrettable that the Government finds it necessary to abrogate the hearsay rule on the admission of evidence, that it does not wish to provide any appeal mechanism for persons who are to be subject to public safety orders and that it thinks it is fair and reasonable that relatively junior police officers from the rank of inspector are able to make such important and powerful orders without the persons having the right to be heard or the right to appeal against any of those decisions.

Most regrettably, the Government does not feel the need to enact in statutory form protections for vulnerable persons—persons who are under 18 and persons who have impaired intellectual or physical functioning. We also regret that the Government did not provide a clear statutory protection for those within our community who wish to engage in the lawful pursuits of non-violent advocacy, protest or dissent or for those working people striving for better conditions through industrial disputation. The touching on those subjects in the public safety orders regime is very sketchy and, we believe, leaves many persons at significant risk of this legislation being used to curtail people’s implied constitutional rights and their implied freedom of association and political communication.

We have done our best, through the power of argument and the framing of amendments, to address the concerns we had with the legislation—to improve it, to make it properly fit for purpose and to render it in a form where everyone in the community can have confidence in the probity and the integrity of the regime of orders to be created by these two statutes. It is regrettable that the Government has chosen to play politics with this legislation and has chosen not to embrace at least some, perhaps the most important, of the amendments but to simply set them all aside and hide behind its assertions that everything will be all right. It is not all right when a government creates powerful tools to be used by law enforcement but no-one has the right to have them reviewed by the independent courts. That is what will be created with the public safety orders.

It is an overreach. In these two bills the Government is simply going too far—and I think most members opposite know that. Let us hope that when enacted the legislation is used sparingly and appropriately and without mistake. But any system is only as good as the people in it, and everybody is fallible.

Any system created by people usually will have mistakes. The most obvious of those mistakes could have been addressed in the framing and creation of this legislation but the Government has chosen to take the low road and not the high road and this is to be regretted.