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National Crime Authority Amendment Bill 1992
House: Senate Portfolio: Attorney- General
Purpose To provide for the re- appointment of all categories of National Crime Authority (NCA) members.
Background The NCA was established in 1984 with the main purpose of conducting investigations in relation to organised crime, and was established after agreement with the relevant State and Territory Ministers. The Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers comprise the Inter- Government Committee, which oversees the general operation of the NCA.
The NCA conducts two types of investigations, special and general. Special investigations are based on referrals from the Commonwealth, State or Territory Minister after consultation with the Inter- Governmental Committee. When undertaking special investigations, the NCA may use coercive powers to force people to appear before NCA hearing to give evidence and to produce documents. Between its establishment and 30 June 1991, the NCA has received 12 references for special inquiries, nine of which have involved joint Commonwealth/State references. References have related to matters such as tax evasion, the importation and distribution of narcotics, bribery and corruption, and murder. The references usually involve more than one category of such offences. General investigations are initiated by the NCA.
Performance of the NCA is very difficult to judge due to the nature of the work undertaken and the absence of any figures on the totality of organised crime in Australia and the level of certain illegal activities such as drug importation and corruption. However, the 1990- 91 Annual Report of the NCA provides a summary of the NCAs work during the year. The statistics include: * 15 people were charged with 40 offences; * 40 people were convicted; * assets worth $29.002 million were seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 and the Customs Act 1901.
Section 37 of the National Crime Authority Act 1984 (the Principal Act) deals with the terms and conditions of appointment of NCA members. Under section 37 of the Principal Act, NCA members may be appointed for a maximum period of four years. No provision is made for re- appointments except in respect of a member holding an office under sub- section 7(8AA) of the Principal Act. Sub- section 7(8AA) of the Principal Act provides for the appointment of additional members to deal with a particular references.
The principal effect of the amendments proposed by this Bill is to remedy problems that have arisen because the Principal Act does not provide for the re- appointment of all categories of NCA members. As explained in the Second Reading Speech to this Bill, the terms of appointment of two NCA members who are involved in current references will end on 30 June 1992. It is stated by the Minister that "It would create serious problems for the Authority (the NCA) to loose both .... on 30 June 1992." In effect, the Minister is saying that NCA work currently being worked on will suffer unless re- appointments occur.
Problems with changes in NCA membership have recently been highlighted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority (the Committee) in its November 1991 report Who is to Guard the Guards ? (the Report). The Report indicates that the problem with changes of NCA membership has been raised on a number of occasions. For example, the Senate Standing
Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in its 1984 report on the clauses of the National Crime Authority Bill 1983 noted:
"It is important for the effective operation of the Authority (the NCA) that there should be continuity of leadership and direction. This could be jeopardised where all three members' terms are congruent. The Committee favours a system whereby the members' terms are staggered, so as to ensure a significant overlap between the terms of experienced members and those of incoming members." 1
In the Report, Justice Stewart is reported to have indicated in June 1989 that:
"One thing that ought to be made very clear, by some- body, to the Government is that for the sake of reason do not appoint them all (replacement NCA members) for three years. When their appointments finish on 30 June 1992, they are going to be in the same terrible position that Mr Faris now finds himself in, of trying to learn everything in five minutes and with no continuing assistance from members who have been here and know the ropes. ..." 2
Main Provisions Clause 3 provides for the re- appointment of all categories of NCA members. Any period of re- appointment, when added to a members initial period of appointment, is not to exceed four years.
References 1. Senate Standing Committee on Constitution and Legal Affairs, The National Crime Authority Bill 1983, 1984, para. 7.9. 2. Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, Who is To Guard the Guards?, November 1991, para. 3.80.
Bills Digest Service 25 June 1992 Parliamentary Research Service
This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Commonwealth of Australia 1992.
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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1992.