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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7162


Mr WOOD (9:58 AM) —by leave—I also rise to speak on the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Canada, the United States, Italy, Austria, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. First of all, I thank the member for Werriwa for his kind words. He and his Senate colleague Steve Hutchins, my Liberal Senate colleague Steve Parry and I were all in this delegation, and the Australian Crime Commission committee has been working very effectively together—and that is one of the great things about the ACC committee, how well the political parties are working together for the common cause in combating serious and organised crime. On that note, I also thank Senator Steve Fielding for his involvement. The report has been exceptionally well put together by the secretary, Dr Jacqueline Dewar; she has done a fantastic job.

I would say that the biggest thing which came out of this report—and I will get to it in more detail later on—is definitely the money trail. That is what serious and organised crime is about. It is really about two things: creating great wealth and power, but you cannot have the power unless you have got the great wealth. In every country we visited, there is the view now in law enforcement that you need to go after the money. As an ex-police officer, I can say that, in the old days, our goal used to be to lock up the guys. We put the proceeds of crime at the end of the tail, and if we got some money back that was great. But it does not actually bring down criminal organisations. That is why the unexplained wealth legislation which was introduced yesterday—and obviously it needs to go through our party room—is something that I have been fighting very hard for, with other colleagues on the Australian Crime Commission committee.

I also would like to pay great tribute to people for the assistance we had, in particular from the Australian Federal Police in Canberra. We had members assisting us such as the Assistant Commissioner of Border and International, Tim Morris; Commander Paul Osborne; and Miss Jodie Chapman. In particular, I would like to thank Miss Chapman for coordinating the delegation. If anyone looks at the agenda, they will realise it was very fast and furious.

Another great thing we got to see was how well our federal agents—in some respects, right across the world—are performing and what a magnificent job they are doing. We met with federal agent Gerry Morris in Ottawa and Washington; federal agent Mark Dokmanovic in Rome; federal agent Peter Bodel and federal agent Ray Imbriano in The Hague, in the Netherlands; and federal agent Chris Lines in London. The great news about our federal agents overseas is the amount of access that they have to the highest levels of law enforcement in the countries we visited. You can see that the Australian Federal Police are totally trusted with the most sensitive information. That is a great thing for Australia.

For example, you only need to look at the relationship between the Netherlands and the two federal agents over there—bearing in mind that, sadly, the serious crime groups in the Netherlands are some of the main exporters of ecstasy to Australia. Sadly, Australia is per capita the highest user of ecstasy. We have had some great success working with the police agencies over there, and that simply comes down to trust. They are happy to work with the Australian Federal Police because they know that they can be trusted. To mums, dads and Australians on the streets, that means that they are preventing serious drugs coming into this country. One example was a four-tonne seizure of drugs that they stopped coming into Australia.

We also had great assistance from our ambassadors and high commissioners: Amanda Vanstone in Italy; the Ambassador to Austria, Peter Shannon; Mr Tim Fischer in the Holy See; the High Commissioner to Canada, Justin Brown; John Dauth, the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; and Mr Stuart, the Deputy Chief of Mission in the United States of America.

I strongly suggest that people read the report but, if they do not read it, I note that in chapter 5 we had some key recommendations. It is quite obvious how important it is to follow the money trail. We went all around Italy speaking to the anti-mafia police. They brought down the mafia by simply going after the money. They have these amazingly strong powers, which hopefully Australia can get. It is similar to the unexplained wealth legislation. Every agency we went to in Italy that dealt with the mafia kept on naming Melbourne as one of the places that mafia figures in Italy transfer their money to. In Australia we are a key target for money laundering, particularly Melbourne. That surprised the delegation because we were not hearing it from just one agency—we were hearing it from agency after agency. That is something that our law enforcement agencies in Australia must seriously look at.

We need measures to actually prevent organised crime. That was another important aspect. Having unexplained wealth legislation is the type of thing that will take the incentive away. Taking away the incentive and stopping people getting involved in organised crime is something that it is vitally important that we achieve.

We heard the member for Werriwa talk about the Italian national police and Mr Rafael Grassi, who basically said that the mafia figures are prepared to spend a lot of time in jail if they can keep hold of the assets once they get out. In my experience in the Victorian Police Organised Crime Squad, a number of crooks would actually tell us, ‘As long you don’t take the money from me, I’m happy to plead guilty.’ The biggest thing they were always concerned about was the money trail and what it meant for them.

The way governments around the world are dealing with various issues is interesting. Like us, both the UK and Canada have a street gang problem. One of the issues they looked at is using diversion programs to get young people out of street gangs. One of the big problems they have is that, once you enter a street gang, it is actually very difficult to get out of that gang. I know that in the M-13 gang in America if you try to leave a contract is put out on you and you get murdered. One of the things they are looking at over there—and which has been working effectively—is putting some sort of diversionary program in place for those people who try to leave a gang so that they can say to other gang members: ‘I cannot actually go to the gang because I have got this order. If I go back before the courts, I get a harsher penalty.’

How did America deal with tackling serious and organised crime? Through the RICO law, which is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisation law. I will go into that further shortly. In Italy, as the member for Werriwa mentioned, we heard about the importance of political will. What changed the turn of events in Italy was the murders of Judge Falcone and Judge Borsellino in 1992. That was when you had a huge public outcry. Finally they wanted something to happen, because the Mafia went on the front foot with bombings and mayhem. They really went out of their way to cause great harm.

How did things change in Canada? Sadly, the Hells Angels and Rock Machine were having a huge war in the late 1990s and an 11-year-old boy, Daniel Desrochers, died as a result of a car bomb outside a bikie club house. It was amazing how many people were killed during this war and how violent it got. I remember that in 1986 at the Copenhagen Airport the Hells Angels, using machine guns, ambushed the Bandidos. If you want, you can go to YouTube and look at the history documentary of the Quebec Hells Angels. Their present leader, ‘Mom’, basically said that he ran their state. He was in charge of the state and he was ordering hits on prison officers. They went to such an extent that finally the public called on the Canadian governments to do something about it. That is the political will which is required.

If we look at what has been happening in Australia recently with our outlaw motorcycle gangs we find that we need a national approach. It is vitally important. I know I have spoken many times about the cutbacks to the Australian Crime Commission. To me the obvious way to go forward and tackle this is with a national approach, through the Australian Crime Commission.

I must give credit to Senator David Johnston. When he was in the position of Minister for Justice and Customs he wanted this committee, under the previous government, to look at ways of dealing with organised and serious crime—in particular the outlaw motorcycle gangs. The committee heard that the Canadian model was definitely the way to go forward—that we should use the Canadian approach. The committee hearing revealed to us, through the Australian Crime Commission going overseas and meeting officials from Canada, that everything was going fine and dandy but a problem arose when they brought in a charter of human rights. It made things a lot more difficult for the simple reason that that charter guaranteed a freedom of association.

If you look at what is happening around Australia at the moment with these outlaw motorcycle gangs you find that one of the bases for being so effective is that as a criminal enterprise they are very well structured and they obviously associate with each other. I know that Canada has issues in dealing with this. I know it was never the intention of the charter rights to give the law enforcement agencies a hard time but that is precisely what has happened.

Overall, I would like to thank all the members of the delegation. I truly believe—especially with the unexplained wealth legislation—that this is a great step forward for law enforcement in this country in their fight against serious and organised crime.