Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3094 ..
Crimes (Controlled Operations) Bill 2008
Debate resumed from 3 July 2008, on motion by Mr Corbell:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.53): This is a significant piece of legislation, and what the Crimes (Controlled Operations) Bill 2008 will put in place are provisions to make legal those actions that are untaken by law enforcement officers in the ACT that would otherwise be considered illegal. It arises from concerted efforts by the commonwealth government and all the state and territories to develop common legislation that will enhance the fight against crime, particularly new forms of crime and crimes that cross political boundaries.
I thank the attorney’s office for a briefing on this bill. It offered some very useful insights. I note that it is a very complex matter. I do not intend to speak for long, however, because the essence of the proposal itself is quite straightforward.
There are essentially two purposes envisaged by this bill. The first is to provide protection to law enforcement officers when they undertake controlled operations—and I emphasise “controlled operations”—to identify suspects and to ensure that evidence obtained as part of a controlled operation can be used in prosecutions. The ultimate target of the provisions in this bill is those criminals who organise and finance crime, in contrast to those people who may be involved in much lesser roles in criminal activity. Perhaps the most significant issue that must be considered with this bill is the balance to be achieved between tackling crime and apprehending criminals, on the one hand, and enabling law enforcement officers to break the law, on the other.
I note the opinion of the great late 18th and early 19th century social reformer William Wilberforce on this matter. Wilberforce’s opinion was sought continually on a range of significant matters. On one occasion the Society for the Suppression of Vice was considering the idea of using deceit to secure convictions. When he heard of this idea Wilberforce rebuked the society for suggesting such an approach. However, 200 years later, we live in quite a different era. In contrast to the situation in Wilberforce’s day, many things have changed.
The driver for legislation of this type is the changing nature of criminal activity, the increasing use of the internet in criminal activities and the reality that many criminal activities extend over state boundaries. I know that the ACT is an island within New South Wales and, as such, that crossborder activities are increasingly likely. To this end there has been a lot of development work undertaken over the past 10 years or so to respond to those issues.
This work has been done by the commonwealth but it has also been done by the states and territories so that there is a common legislative regime across Australia. I note that the passing of this bill this evening will bring the ACT into line with the commonwealth and with those states that have already put equivalent legislation into place, that is, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. A model bill was developed in 2003 to provide the legislative framework for this consistent approach across