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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13734


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (12:44): In September and October this year I took the opportunity to visit a number of law enforcement jurisdictions overseas as part of my study leave entitlement, and I would like to table a copy of my study leave report, which I would like to speak to. In applying for my study leave to the Special Minister of State I mentioned the inquiry that was currently underway by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement. As chair of that committee, I saw an opportunity to further extend some of the information gathering in respect to the inquiry by undertaking the study leave. I asked every member of the law enforcement committee, as well as the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Integrity, if they were able to join me. I was also directly approached by the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Federal Police to form a delegation to travel overseas. Mrs Kim Ulrick from the Australian Crime Commission and Commander Ian McCartney of the Australian Federal Police joined with me in my visit to the UK, Ireland, Italy and France to gain a better understanding of how relevant agencies in these jurisdictions deal with proceeds of crime matters and also the recovery of unexplained wealth from serious and organised criminals.

The objectives of the delegation were to consider ways to improve existing unexplained wealth legislation and arrangements in order to maximise the opportunity to counter serious and organised crime in Australia in light of international best practice. The visit reinforced the need for the Australian government to vigorously pursue stronger unexplained wealth legislation and demonstrated that the direction Australia has started to take in this respect has been the right one. As you are aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, organised crime is about money. The cost of organised crime to the Australian community is estimated at up to $15 billion annually, with around $6 billion going offshore each year. Making organised criminals account for their criminal and unexplained wealth is the major focus of the inquiry undertaken by the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement and is therefore considered a vital tool for law enforcement agencies in Australia to disrupt and dismantle organised criminal organisations.

It is clear from the organisations and jurisdictions visited by the Australian delegation that the most effective way to attack organised crime is to attack criminal profits. Many of the organisations visited by the delegation, such as the Serious and Organised Crime Agency in the UK, City of London Police, Derbyshire Constabulary, the Department for Home Office and the Metropolitan Police, cited examples where organised criminals would go to great lengths, including opting for jail time, to avoid relinquishing their assets, criminal profits and consequently their lifestyle. Globally, contemporary methods of policing are focusing very much on unexplained wealth as being a vehicle by which law enforcement can attack criminal organisations with a view to disrupting their businesses by making it more difficult to reinvest in criminal enterprise, and thus protecting the community from crime being recommitted.

While there have been moves towards requiring organised criminals to explain wealth that does not match their legitimate earnings, many agencies visited by the delegation faced a range of challenges relating to this approach, including the need to link to a predicate offence or waiting for a conviction to be recorded before being able to apply for unexplained wealth to be explained to a court.

In the limited time I have available I would like to thank all those people who helped to make this a valuable opportunity for the law enforcement committee and myself, particularly Mrs Kim Ulrick, Commander Ian McCartney, AFP liaison officers Kieran Miller and Ric Cummins, the AFP's Jonathan Eyres at Interpol and Sue Spencer from the AFP Canberra office, who did a fantastic job in coordinating my visit and making sure that we gained significant evidence to present to my committee. (Time expired)