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These amendments commenced on 20 September 2012.

The development of the reforms

The package of legislative amendments contained in the Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Act 2012 was developed following an extensive public consultation process.

In 2005, discussion papers on broad reforms to the extradition and mutual assistance legislation were released for public comment. Out of this process, a package of legislative reforms was developed. In 2009 and again in 2011, the former Australian Government released exposure drafts of the proposed legislative amendments for public consultation. In response to feedback received during the public consultation process, some of the reforms were amended and a number of new proposals were added before the reforms were introduced to the Parliament.

Parliamentary scrutiny

Following the introduction of the Bill to Parliament on 6 July 2011, the Bill was referred to the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs for inquiry and report. The committee tabled its report on 12 September 2011.

The committee made a number of recommendations which the former government responded to during debate of the Bill in Main Committee on 19 September 2011.

The Bill was also subject to review by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.

Information about debate on the Bill in the House of Representatives and in the Senate can be found in Hansard.

About the Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Act 2012

The evolving and changing nature of telecommunications, technology and travel has made it easier than ever for criminals to conduct their illicit activities across borders. Accordingly, Australia’s international crime cooperation laws need to also evolve to meet the growing threat posed by transnational crime.

The Amendment Act makes a number of important reforms to the Extradition Act 1988 and the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 to equip Australian law enforcement authorities with the legislative tools they need to cooperate with international partners to effectively and efficiently investigate and prosecute these offenders, while maintaining appropriate safeguards.

A copy of the Amendment Act and Explanatory Memorandum can be found at the ComLaw website.

Reforms to extradition

The amendments to the Extradition Act 1988 are designed to streamline the extradition process and reduce duplication in the decision making process, while maintaining the integrity of key safeguards and protections for the individual. Significant amendments include:

  • ensuring that a person can be prosecuted in Australia by Australian authorities if Australia has refused to extradite the person to a foreign country
  • allowing individuals to elect to waive the extradition process
  • streamlining the early stages of the extradition process by reducing duplications in decision making
  • extending the availability of bail to the later stages of the extradition process
  • allowing a person to consent to their surrender for a wider range of foreign offences, and
  • extending the mandatory grounds for refusal to require Australia to refuse to extradite a person if he or she may be punished or discriminated against upon surrender on the basis of his or her sex or sexual orientation.

Reforms to mutual assistance

The amendments to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 will streamline some of the processes for providing certain types of assistance to foreign countries where it is appropriate to do so. 

The amendments will also increase the range of law enforcement tools Australian authorities can use to assist in a foreign investigation or prosecution. Significant amendments include:

  • enabling Australian authorities to apply to use surveillance devices to assist in a foreign investigation or prosecution following a formal mutual assistance request
  • allowing Australian authorities to request a foreign country to use a surveillance device to assist with an Australian investigation or prosecution
  • streamlining the existing process for providing lawfully obtained telecommunications and stored communications information to a foreign country
  • enabling Australian authorities to carry out a forensic procedure on a suspect or a volunteer to assist in a foreign investigation or prosecution following a formal mutual assistance request
  • allowing Australian authorities to request a foreign country to conduct a forensic procedure to assist with an Australian investigation or prosecution
  • strengthening safeguards where there are concerns about a person being subjected to torture or the death penalty
  • expanding the discrimination ground for refusing a request for assistance to cover circumstances where there is discrimination against a person because of their sex or sexual orientation, and
  • ensuring that Australia’s provisions on ‘take evidence’ and ‘production of documents’ in the Mutual Assistance Act allow for the provision of assistance via live video link.

Reforms to the jurisdiction of Federal Courts

Amendments to both the Mutual Assistance Act and the Extradition Act will also allow federal magistrates to perform functions previously restricted to state and territory magistrates. These amendments are designed to increase the number of judicial officers available to conduct proceedings under the two Acts.

Separate amendments to the Extradition Act will also confine jurisdiction to hear appeals under the Extradition Act to federal courts. This amendment is designed to overcome the jurisdictional complexities that can arise when proceedings in the same matter are brought in both state and federal courts.

Submissions

We received

public submission(s) in response to this consultation.

The opinions expressed in the following submissions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government, the Attorney-General or the Attorney-General's Department. If you are having difficulty with the accessibility of any of these submissions please contact the Attorney-General's Department .

No submissions are available for this consultation.