Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Assistant Treasurer
Minister for Housing
Minister for Homelessness, Social and Community Housing
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Intelligence and Security Committee: Presenting Reports to Parliament

Mr SUKKAR (Deakin) (12:02): On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present advisory reports on the Criminal Code Amendment (War Crimes) Bill 2016 and item 28 of the Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (State Bodies and Other Measures) Bill 2016.

Reports made parliamentary papers in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr SUKKAR: by leave—I am pleased to present the committee’s advisory report on the Criminal Code Amendment (War Crimes) Bill 2016.

The bill amends several of the war crimes offences in division 268 of the Criminal Code to introduce the concept of ‘organised armed group’ in non-international armed conflicts. The proposed amendments draw a distinction between civilians and members of organised groups.

The bill also introduces the principle of ‘proportionality’ in relation to attacks on military objectives in non-international armed conflicts.

The amendments are consistent with international humanitarian law and will provide legal certainty for the Australian Defence Force in operations that target members of organised armed groups, such as Daesh, with lethal force.

The committee heard that organised armed groups like Daesh operate as state-like entities with military forces similar to state entities. In armed conflict, it is therefore crucially important that members of these groups do not benefit from the protections against attack that are afforded to civilians.

The committee carefully scrutinised the key aspects of the bill, including how membership of an ‘organised armed group’ would be defined. The committee concluded that the amendments in the bill would provide appropriate protection for civilians while maintaining the capacity to strike against legitimate military targets.

Importantly too, the bill will harmonise Australian law with the interpretation of international humanitarian law applied by our key allies and coalition partners.

In its bipartisan report, the committee has recommended that the bill be passed by the parliament.

The second report I am tabling today fulfils the committee’s statutory obligation to review any bill that amends the list of criminal law enforcement agencies in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

Criminal law enforcement agencies are able to apply for warrants to access stored communications (such as emails or SMS messages), issue preservation notices to a telecommunications carrier requiring it to preserve communications, and authorise the disclosure of telecommunications data to support investigation of serious contraventions of the law.

The committee has stated previously that, given the intrusive nature of such powers, the range of agencies able to obtain such warrants needs to be carefully circumscribed.

In this instance, item 28 of the Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (State Bodies and Other Measures) Bill 2016 will remove the New South Wales Police Integrity Commission from the list of criminal law enforcement agencies and replace it with the newly formed Law Enforcement Conduct Commission or LECC.

The LECC will bring together the functions of the former Police Integrity Commission, the Police Division of the New South Wales Ombudsman’s Office and the Inspector of the Crime Commission to streamline police oversight in New South Wales. The LECC will have similar powers to other integrity bodies in Australia to investigate serious misconduct and serious maladministration.

The committee was satisfied that the inclusion of the LECC in the list of criminal law enforcement agencies is appropriate and accordingly recommends that item 28 of the bill be passed.

I would like to thank all members of the committee for their contribution to both of these inquiries.

I commend both of the reports to the House.

Click here to access a PDF copy of the Hansard transcript of this speech.