Retrospective Crime Commission powers

I mentioned yesterday the Coalition government’s latest demonstration of contempt for due process, requiring the Senate to debate and pass 30 pieces of legislation in one week. What I didn’t mention was that included in that total was a Bill to amend the Australian Crime Commission Act, which was first introduced into the Parliament, through the Senate, yesterday (Tuesday) at 1.22pm and passed at 8.45 pm later that same day (there were other items of business in between, so there was only about 90 minutes spent on the Bill itself.)

I have to admit I didn’t have time to get across it. My broad understanding of the Bill is that it retrospectively validated invalid summonses of the Australian Crime Commission, no longer requiring them to provide reasons for a summons until after the fact. This included retrospectively changing this requirement for summonses already issued.

The government very kindly suggested that the amending legislation could be examined by a Parliamentary Committee (the Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, which I am a not very active member of), although the legislation will have already passed by then.

The Bill was handled for the Democrats by one of my colleagues, Senator Stott Despoja. According to her,

“The Bill will abrogate a fundamental human right not to be subject to retrospective criminal sanction,” and “deals with very controversial provisions which abrogate the right to remain silent.”

“The Bill removes safeguards which are not only procedural, but form part of the substantive process in an examiner being satisfied that a summons or notice to produce ought to be issued, thus invoking the jurisdiction of the ACC to use its coercive powers.”

It is enough of a concern that retrospective provisions regarding criminal law are passed, but even if you think it might be justified in the circumstances, it is a real danger to have it done with next to no scrutiny at all, and virtually zero chance of consulting with people in the community who have relevant expertise.

However, the government’s Justice Minister Senator David Johnston said “significant prosecutions could be derailed or delayed based on challenges to the validity of summonses and notices if we do not make these amendments now.”

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5 Comments

  1. Andrew Bartlett:
    We all know we are now living in a third world country …. so why is this news?

    Just keep doing the best you can.

    By the way, I seem to recall protesting to Australian Democrats Senator Mason way back in the early ‘Eighties about “retrospective” shenanegans that had just been shoved through the Parliament; at that time I did point out that even the pre-invasion Afghan Constitution made a specific prohibition against retrospective laws that harm its citizens!

  2. That is quite astounding. After all the Dr Haneef and other antics involving flagrant transgressions of basic law, they would still contemplate something like the above.
    It’s about what an onlooker would expect.
    After all, Sen. Scullion and his stupid looking colleagues still appeared unable to grasp the irony of something obvious to the village idiot, as regards your supplementary question concerning Aboriginal Housing handed over to the very people Scullion had just called, “incompetent”.
    Am wondering, if the states have responsibility for Aboriginal housing imposed on them, is requesite funding for this then funded from Canberra?
    The reason I ask this is because I just missed your main question,although I think I got the gist right.
    As for things in general, can only echo Graham Bell.
    To think Sen Bartlett may have to give give way for some of the pathological phenomena floating around that chamber appalls this writer.

  3. It’s worse than just contempt for due process. It rewards lazy investigation and makes it difficult to punish and root out poor practice.

    Time was Phillip Ruddock would speak out against this sort of thing. Time was the Liberal Party had other members who would, too. If such Liberals pop up again there will be nothing in the record of the Howard government of which they could be proud.

  4. a little common sense is always best.

    i do not deal in absolutes when it comes to the intent of the ‘justice’ system.

    thus, based on the info’ given by andrew, i have no problem with the changes.

    the reality is that all ‘principles’ are merely a guide, rather than an absolute.

    i ask: “is it fair?” if so, then okay.

    so, the issue is: can we define ‘fair’ in a context, content & conduct – this involves two players or groups [gov ‘agent’ & other who is object of interest].

    the key issue in this case relates more to ‘other’ terror laws and coercive powers of the state and the delegated agents of the state. i question the ethics and competence of our pollies and their agents [sadly, this is a global problem].

    thus, no law or system of laws/codes can be seen in isolation from the whole. for example, the un code on civil rights is an inconsistent and incoherent mess. e.g., do people have a ‘right’ to choose their religion? what if that ‘religion’ is outside those ‘accepted’ by the authorities [who decides what a religion is or is not?].

    for many, greed and arrogance would qualify as a religion.

    based on what i have seen, things can only get worse. our systems of power and distribution of social credit is abysmal – academics lead the charge on this road of tyranny.

    am i against retro laws? sure. am i against laws that ‘punish’ people based on actions that were legal at the time of the now illegal action? yes. still, there is a wider issue that i ask: was the action[s] unfair and against the spirit or intent of the law?

    some people/groups are very good at getting around the law – thus, laws that relate to tax avoidance.

    i am interested in justice rather than slogans as served by ‘self-serving’ legal egg-heads.

  5. Well ‘ghost writer’it’s not OK with me. Perhaps you belong to the ‘jack system’? I’m OK jack, stuff you! Why is the government enacting these oppressive additions to the Crime Authority? If they’re ‘above board’ why didn’t they publicize their intent and reasoning? I haven’t heard a mention.

    Fascism doesn’t happen overnight. When the Nazis started rounding up the dissidents and others, many thought they were safe, as they weren’t a unionist, teacher, communist or Jew, but when they came for them, there was nobody left to protect them. Can’t happen here? It already is! What if Howard is re-elected and people protest at even worse IR Laws, or another invasion, of Iran for instance, and Howard locks up protesters! Then what would you do? Nothing? Why are they doing this now, when the government is almost out of term? Have they got something planned for the next ???? weeks? Something that will change the polls for instance? A securty ‘scare’ just to put some fear into the electorate? Turn those polls around like Tampa did in 2001? I suppose it all depends on how desperate they are to hold power, and how determined their ‘backers’ are. What’s at stake? Heaps of uranium, a nuclear industry, a nuclear waste dump in the short term? Becomming a world nuclear waste dump? Worth millions? Billions?

    What’s the land grab all about in the Northern Territory? Don’t need to confiscate land to protect kids, doesn’t happen in NSW? Ahem? What if there were applications in place to mine uranium, gas, bauxite etc up there, and they cover just about all of the NT? Lots of money could go to waste? “They” wouldn’t do that? Once I would not have thought, that an Australian government would lock up kids and babies until they were driven medically mad either? Or old people or people who’d been tortured, but they do. Or force women to give birth under armed guard without their husband/s present. Despicable lot! Very Scary!

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