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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14611


Mr KEENAN (StirlingMinister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism) (09:27): I thank all honourable members for their contribution to the debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Proceeds of Crime and Other Measures) Bill, which will make significant improvements to Commonwealth criminal justice arrangements. Serious and organised crime poses a significant risk to Australian communities, and the government is committed to ensuring our nation is safe and secure and taking tough steps to strike at the heart of organised crime. The Commonwealth proceeds of crime scheme is an effective weapon in the fight against serious and organised crime. This scheme allows law enforcement agencies to confiscate illegal proceeds from a person to prevent them from reinvesting these funds in further criminal activities. Confiscation proceedings often take place at the same time that criminal charges against a person are being pursued. In response to recent court decisions, this bill clarifies that authorities may proceed with confiscation action under the Proceeds of Crime Act where there are related criminal matters on foot.

The amendments seek to ensure that compensation proceedings are only stayed where absolutely necessary, as staying proceedings until after a criminal trial is complete would create significant delay and undermine the intent of the non-conviction based forfeiture scheme under the act. This measure is supplemented by additional protections that aim to reduce the risk of prejudice to an accused in related criminal proceedings. The bill also makes a technical amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act that will clarify that matters relating to restraint of assets should be heard and finalised before forfeiture applications are heard. A robust proceeds of crime scheme is vital in the fight against crime. This bill takes a balanced approach to maintaining the resilience of the Commonwealth's proceeds of crime laws while ensuring respondents' rights are appropriately protected.

The bill will also introduce two new offences of false dealing with accounting documents. These measures reflect the government's zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption in all its forms. The new offences will implement Australia's obligations under the OECD anti-bribery convention. In particular, they will implement a recommendation of the OECD working group on bribery that Australia should:

Increase the maximum sanctions against legal persons for false accounting under Commonwealth legislation …

By creating these two new offences, the government is demonstrating its commitment to stamping out white-collar crime.

The bill also makes amendments to clarify the serious drug offences. They will ensure that the offences apply to all substances that are structurally similar to listed illicit drugs and to all manufacturing processes, irrespective of whether they create a new substance or convert a substance from one form to another. These amendments will make the legislative framework for the serious drug offences stronger, clearer and more effective. They will assist our law enforcement agencies in their important work to stop the supply of illegal drugs and bring traffickers and manufacturers to justice, forming another part of the government's continued work to tackle serious and organised crime, including serious drug offending.

The bill also contains a number of amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 to remove operational constraints identified by law enforcement agencies, facilitate access to financial intelligence information and remove information sharing. The financial intelligence information obtained by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre plays a central role in identifying and preventing terrorist activity. Recent terror events across the world have highlighted that very little is required to conduct an attack and that the time frame between planning and execution is shrinking. In this environment, the ability to share information quickly between those who need it is critical in preventing the loss of innocent lives. By enabling information to be shared faster and more easily—including with key agencies such as Interpol and Europol—this bill will maximise intelligence value and assist regional and international partner agencies in early identification, targeting and disruption of terrorism and transnational crimes. By providing the Independent Commission Against Corruption of South Australia with access to AUSTRAC's financial intelligence data holdings, this bill will also considerably enhance the commission's ability to investigate serious and systemic corruption and misconduct in public administration.

The amendments made by schedule 5 of this bill will ensure that AusCheck's information-sharing provisions are better suited to the current law enforcement and national security environment. It is important that AusCheck can share information with relevant and accredited Commonwealth, state and territory agencies for law enforcement and national security purposes. Information shared by AusCheck is already protected by strong and appropriate safeguards. These safeguards will continue to apply to information shared under the revised provisions.

I thank all members for their contribution to this debate. I want to correct the record on the rather silly contribution made by the member for Throsby, who had the enormous audacity to claim that the government is misspending proceeds of crime account money when, of course, this is money that the Labor Party actually refused to spend on what it should be spent on, which is law enforcement priorities. When we came to office, the Labor Party had locked up the proceeds of crime account. They had refused to spend it on policing matters or on other matters that might make the community safe. This account, if we had not come to office and unlocked it, would have currently held over $112 million worth of assets that are much better deployed in doing something useful. The only reason the Labor Party refused to spend proceeds of crime money was that they were using it to try to pretend that they had a better budget bottom line than they actually did. I thank the member for Throsby for his contribution to the debate, but it was actually just a reminder of how clueless and hopeless this opposition is that they cannot even get basic facts right about their time in government.

This bill will enhance the ability of Commonwealth agencies to investigate and prosecute criminal offences and ensure that the Commonwealth can effectively target and confiscate proceeds of crime. It will better address law enforcement and national security risks through improved information sharing and it will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of various laws relating to criminals justice administration. I, therefore, commend it to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.