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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6966

Mr IRONS (Swan) (18:53): I rise in support of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Amendment (Registration of Foreign Proceeds of Crime Orders) Bill 2011. It is always a pleasure to follow the former member for Werriwa and current member for Fowler. It is interesting to note that the three speakers from the coalition side are all from Western Australia, the engine room of our economy at present. All crime is abhorrent, from graffiti and antisocial behaviour through to more serious assaults and the taking of lives. Crime is perpetrated by people in the community who do not want to live by or respect the standards that have been set to maintain law, order and peace in our society. However, there is something deeply disturbing and concerning about organised crime, which can spread quickly and undetected without tough policies and the resolve to tackle it. If left unchecked it can rapidly undermine the rule of law and break down societies. You do not have to look too far to see troubling examples around the world.

Organised crime costs nations financially as well as socially. The Australian Crime Commission puts the cost of organised crime to Australia at between $10 billion and $15 billion every year—a staggering amount of money that suggests this is an issue which government needs to tackle. The Constitution gives the federal parliament some degree of responsibility to take the fight to organised crime, and it is the federal government that must be held to account for action in this area.

When we talk about organised crime we are talking about a range of offences that include activities as varied as identity crime, environmental crime and fraud. People smuggling is of course classified as organised crime, and the coalition has spoken about this on many occasions before. Stopping the people-smuggling business is a major priority for the coalition. We stopped the boats before and have the record to prove it. Yet the Labor government takes a different approach—boat after boat, policy mess after policy mess. The Minister for Justice in his second reading speech stated:

In an age where borders are increasingly permeable, effective and efficient international crime cooperation is increasingly important.

It does not have to be this way, Minister. The reason that our borders have become increasingly permeable is this government's failed policies. Opening the doors to the people smugglers has led to an inhumane situation where people are risking their lives to come to Australia. Why doesn't this government go back to the policies of the coalition, the policies of the Howard government, which stopped the boats? Why doesn't the Prime Minister pick up the phone to the President of Nauru? The people of my electorate of Swan are rightly concerned at the collapse of our border security and the numerous lives that have been lost at sea under laws that this government has set in its approach to people smuggling. The government stands condemned by both houses of parliament for its ineffective people swap deal with Malaysia.

I now want to discuss a particular type of organised crime that is significant in Western Australia and in my seat of Swan—that is, clandestine laboratories. Clandestine laboratories, or 'clan labs', are used for the manufacture of illicit drugs, in the majority of cases the dangerous methylamphetamine. They can be particularly dangerous facilities and are often run in residential areas. The Australian Crime Commission reports that more and more clandestine labs are being detected across the country, but the largest shift in detection numbers has occurred in Western Australia, from 30 labs in 2007-08 to 78 in 2008-09—a reported increase of 160 per cent.

Western Australians have been noticing this trend with some alarm, thanks to several high-profile incidents that have occurred over the last few months. Members may be aware that on 20 March WA was shocked to learn that a high-profile policeman's son was involved in a drug lab blast in Bishopsgate Street in Carlisle, in my electorate of Swan. One of the dangers of drug labs is explosions and fires caused by highly reactive chemicals, and that is why it is so important that they are eliminated from our suburbs. Just a few days ago there was another high-profile incident where the man arrested over the death of a grandfather in a road accident in Gosnells was discovered to be operating a drug lab. One of my constituents reported a suspected clandestine drug lab to me at one of my recent mobile offices. I subsequently reported this to the police and the Minister for Police, and the premises were raided a few days later.

I appreciate that some action has been being taken at a national level to better coordinate action against clandestine laboratories. The National Organised Crime Response Plan 2010-13 has been agreed to by all states and territories, and Western Australia Police has produced its own Serious Organised Crime Strategy, which is aligned to it. The WA strategy has five aims:    target high-impact crime and influential participants, stifle and disrupt business, undertake joint operations across WA Police with other agencies, restrict opportunities for organised crime groups to use legitimate business enterprises to facilitate criminal activity, and confiscate profits of crime.

The bill we are considering today pertains to the last of these aims, to confiscate the profits of crime. Confiscating the proceeds of crime is important. It is also a means of achieving some compensation for the community. A great example of this is the funding round run by the Liberal-National state government on the proceeds of crime. In May a total of $150,000 was provided for a new south-east train line patrol to be operated by the Nyoongar Patrol System and $199,836 has been allocated to the trustee of the Save the Children Australia fund to address the presentation of vulnerable young people aged eight to 15 in Northbridge and the suburbs serviced by the Perth-Armadale train line. Both projects have been funded under the Criminal Property Confiscation Grants Program and, because of reforms made to the program under the Liberal-National state government, the recipient organisations will be contributing additional funds, at least 50 per cent of the total project, in cash or through in-kind services. The Thornlie-Armadale Train line is consistently reported to be the most dangerous line in Perth, and as members would be aware I have been campaigning for measures to address this. Whilst the CCTV network in Perth is extensive, people wanted to see security and foot patrols on the ground. This funding is a step in the right direction and will help address the problem of gangs of youths hanging around stations causing trouble and committing crimes. It demonstrates the cost to society of organised crime and is a great example of how the proceeds of crime, in this case those seized by the police and the Director of Criminal Prosecutions, can be redirected to benefit the public.

Debate interrupted.