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.”