Legislation has been introduced into Federal Parliament to enable Australia's national DNA database system to be used to identify the victims of disasters within Australia, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.
Tabling a report into provisions in the Crimes Act 1914 that allowed the identification of victims of the Bali bombings, Senator Ellison said such provisions would be extended to apply to domestic mass casualty incidents.
The report, by a committee chaired by Tom Sherman QC, covered DNA matching provisions introduced following the Bali bombing which had originally been introduced to assist in law enforcement investigations and had only been available for that purpose prior to the introduction of the provisions.
"This report not only concluded that these provisions are effective and should remain in operation, but recommended that they be extended to apply to domestic mass casualty incidents," Senator Ellison said.
Legislation to implement this recommendation was introduced into the Parliament on 24 June 2004 in the form of amendments to Division 11A of Part 1D of the Crimes Act 1914.
These amendments are part of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 3) 2004, which is designed to improve Australia's counter-terrorism legal framework. The Bill has been passed by the House and is due to be debated in the Senate shortly.
"In the aftermath of the tragedy in Bali, it was essential that the Australian Government do all it could to assist in the identification of the victims and the criminal investigation into the incident," Senator Ellison said.
"This report highlights the role of forensics in disaster victim identification and confirms that the Government's response to the tragedy, by making the national DNA database system available for victim identification, was both necessary and appropriate."
The committee, chaired by Mr Tom Sherman AO, has made five recommendations to the Australian Government to extend and improve the application of the provisions.