Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017
Parliamentary Record 8
Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 19 October 2017 2683 In relation to the Telecommunications (Interception) Northern Territory Act the bill puts in place the processes and oversight that will allow the Territory to apply to the Commonwealth for the ICAC to be exempt from certain Commonwealth offences that criminalise intercepting telecommunications. These powers are standard for anti-corruption bodies in other jurisdictions. Without such powers much corruption would go undetected. However, given the potentially highly intrusive nature of the investigation powers under these acts, independent oversight of the ICACs use of the powers is required. NT Police currently have these powers, and for police the oversight function is performed by the Ombudsman. For the ICAC the equivalent oversight function will be performed by the inspector. The inspector is an independent statutory role created by the ICAC Bill. The bill also provides powers relating to witness protection under the Witness Protection Act. Witnesses for an ICAC investigation become eligible for consideration by the Commissioner of Police for inclusion under the official witness protection program. Outside the official program this bill gives the ICAC power to apply to the court for a person to adopt an assumed identity if they enter into a formal agreement with the ICAC to adhere to certain arrangements. I now turn to the amendments to Divisions 1 and 2 of Part IV of the Criminal Code. The current offences are intended to deter government corruption, but at present most of them only apply to persons employed in the public sector. This has a limited meaning and does not include, for example, ministerial advisors, members of this Assembly, police or judicial officials. The amendments in this bill mean offences which currently apply only to persons employed in the public sector will soon apply to anyone who is a public officer within the meaning of section 16 of the ICAC Bill. The offences themselves require the conduct to have a nexus with the persons official role as a public officer. In the course of reviewing these offences it was noted that the offences had not been reviewed or properly updated since the Criminal Code was introduced in the Northern Territory in the early 1980s. This bill brings those offences up to contemporary standards in terms of policy and drafting style. The offences, as currently worded, are difficult to investigate, charge and prove, and have many unexpected and unjustifiable gaps. This bill reframes those offences in a clear, contemporary language and ensures they cover what the community expects them to. The new offence for disclosing confidential information at section 76 remains very similar to the current provision. The difference is that the new section ensures that a person is still required to observe confidentially after his or her period as a public officer ends. The person must not disclose information they gained access to as a public officer. If that information is confidential and if the public officer is under a duty not to disclose that information, the offences described as official corruption at section 77 have been replaced with modernised versions and models on equivalent provisions within the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995. Section 77(1) provides that it is an offence for a public officer to accept or request a bribe. Section 77(3) provides that it is an offence for a person to offer or give a bribe to a public officer. This revised wording also effectively covers the situation of extortion currently dealt with by section 78. Accordingly, the existing offence of extortion will be removed by this bill. Extortion covers the situation where a public officer accepts a bribe in order to perform their functions appropriately, whereas the corruption offence at section 77 relates to bribes to a public officer to perform functions corruptly. The approach of the new section 77 offences is that they apply whenever a bribe is requested, offered or given to influence or reward a public offer for the performance of the officers powers or functions. If the situation is such that a member of the public is pressured into paying a bribe in order to get services they should have received regardless, then the prosecution is able to charge the public officer with corruption under section 77(1). The prosecution would not be able to prove a charge against a person who was pressured into that situation because the persons conduct would not have been improper in the sense required by the current wording of the offence. Section 78 has been replaced with the offence of accepting a corrupting benefit. This offence, which appears in both the Commonwealth and ACT legislation, has been important in providing accountability where the evidence shows a bribe has been accepted but cannot be casually linked to the public officer performing any particular favour.