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Monday, 23 September 2002
Page: 4654


Senator HARRIS (5:34 PM) —I take this opportunity to encapsulate the consequential amendments in this piece of legislation. This Proceeds of Crime (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2002 can only be described as another piece of draconian legislation where the executive is again attempting to usurp hundreds of years of defined legal authority in English statutes and Australian precedent. The executive is attempting to disingenuously transfer property rights to the state without the right of recourse for those affected.

It has to be asked: how ethical is it for the Commonwealth to assume rights to possible proceeds of crime other than those proceeds which go to the person who committed the crime in the first place? So now the Commonwealth will be benefiting from the proceeds of crime. There seems no doubt that the bill contravenes sections of the Australian Constitution and, if enacted, there should and probably will be challenges to it. There have been many detailed responses received from competent authorities, and these objections should be taken seriously by the Attorney-General's Department.

Ideally, the original bill and the related bill should be abandoned and the jurisdiction for recovering proceeds of crime should be left to the states, as that is what we have now. At present we have civil forfeiture legislation at a state level, and we now have the situation that where this federal legislation is in conflict with the present state legislation the federal legislation will prevail. I believe that that will lead to some interesting challenges.

I also believe that the Commonwealth government have been late getting out of the starting blocks in realising the immense financial benefits to be gained from the implication of civil forfeiture. They are saying, `We have been slow in starting this. Let's catch up in a hurry, because there is a fair slice that the states have got already. Where can the Commonwealth get their cut?' I believe it will be a very difficult argument for the Commonwealth to sustain that they could not, through consensus with the states, have had the states alter their legislation to cover any inadequacies and that this is anything other than the Commonwealth government getting their slice of the pie.

Question agreed to.

Bill agreed to.

Proceeds of Crime Bill 2002 and Proceeds of Crime (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2002 reported without amendment; report adopted.