Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 3 July 2008) . . Page.. 2739 ..
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.55): This bill is another in a series of bills which, amongst other aims, brings the ACT into harmonisation with other jurisdictions nationally. The commonwealth Crimes Act 1914 provides for the exchange of information in the commonwealth DNA database system or a state-territory DNA database system and the protection of the information that is exchanged. The commonwealth act has been scrutinised by the Privacy Commissioner. I quote from a 2003 media release from the office with regard to one review of the legislation:
The review makes clear the fundamental importance of establishing effective accountability mechanisms if public confidence in the use of DNA analysis for law enforcement purposes is to be established and maintained.
The use and storage of forensic material and DNA information is a contentious issue. While I take heart from the fact that there will be oversight from the commonwealth government, the Privacy Commissioner and ACT agencies, I remind the ACT government that it bears ultimate responsibility for ensuring that individual privacy and public safety will be carefully and sensitively managed.
As noted by the Attorney-General, the changes proposed in this bill will make it easier for information sharing between jurisdictions and will address the legal concern about using the ACT data kept on the national criminal investigation DNA database. As this is the system that is already utilised by the ACT for storage of DNA, I cannot see any reason to object to this change.
The bill also updates and improves the current act to bring it more into line with the Human Rights Act. I am pleased to see the changes which allow for agencies such as the Auditor-General, the Human Rights Commission, the Privacy Commissioner and the Ombudsman to audit and review the DNA database. This provides a level of oversight to protect the civil liberties and privacy of people with DNA information being held by the authorities. While these agencies try hard to ensure that our human rights are protected—I hope they do—I would still be interested to see the guidelines for their reviews and audits.
I am also pleased to see the changes to improve the treatment of victims of crime and volunteers, and in particular the changes in clause 41 regarding the requirement to have an independent person present when they are undergoing a forensic procedure and in clause 51 when being informed of their rights in regard to the use and storage of their DNA.
The changes for transgender and inter-sex people, such as those in section 6, are also welcome. To be consistent with human rights, these changes are necessary and I support these provisions.
I would like to mention a couple of concerns. I note that we still have not received the government’s response to the scrutiny of bills committee report. While the issues mentioned in the scrutiny report raise no major human rights breaches, I still would have appreciated seeing how the concerns expressed there were addressed.