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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5033

Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (15:57): It is a pleasure for me to speak in relation to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Bill 2011 and cognate bills, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy (Collection) Bill 2011 and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011. They all relate to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre supervisory cost recover matter.

Listening to that previous speaker and others from the opposition, I think they will be supporting these bills but that they are waiting to hear what the Senate committee report has to say on these matters. I will pick up on one of the issues that was raised by the previous speaker. Essentially, the member was saying there is no need to have organisations and businesses that carry out supervisory activities paying a fee in terms of providing that information. The reality is that this happens across a lot of areas. There is a cost, and cost recovery in any government department or any agency is a normal process. It is something that goes on. The previous speaker also mentioned that it is the case that it is not a lot of money. The cost recovery is in the order of about $89 million for the period 2011 to 2014 and represents those people involved in activities paying a fee in the process of having those activities properly recorded.

I want to briefly say how important AUSTRAC is. AUSTRAC does an enormous job. It does a great job and it provides a great community benefit, particularly against organised crime. It is estimated that it saves the community something like $15 billion a year. Organised crime, as we know, is a significant national security threat and it is a growing challenge. I think people ought to understand that.

The Commonwealth, through the Organised Crime Strategic Framework, is ensuring that Commonwealth intelligence, policy, regulatory and law enforcement agencies all work together in partnership to prevent, disrupt or investigate and prosecute organised crime in whatever form it takes. These bills ensure that there is proper financing and access so that AUSTRAC can do its job properly. AUSTRAC intelligence has a number of very important roles, specifically to detect drug and chemical precursor transactions and to prevent people smuggling, corruption, card skimming, Ponzi schemes, tax evasion, fraud and a whole range of other activities. It is there to protect the community; it is there to protect business; it is there to protect the Commonwealth and ordinary people. It has a very good track record. In fact, for the 2009-10 financial year, information that was provided by AUSTRAC brought about 3,700 cases conducted by the Australian Federal Police with other agencies, more than 1,800 cases for the Australian Taxation Office, which resulted in recovery of evaded taxes in excess of $272 million, and more than 1,200 cases involving Centrelink, leading to a recovery of more than $7 million per year.

So I think we can all agree about the great work that is done in this area. The case for the justification of cost recovery is as strong as it is easy to make: quite simply, it is good policy and it is policy of recent governments that entities which have created the need for government regulation should bear the cost of that regulation. Other regulators such as APRA already recover the cost of their regulatory activities from the entities they regulate. This happens in a number of areas. Rather than being a burden or merely a cost, it is actually an assistance to business. It prevents international crime, fraud and a whole range of other activities from being perpetrated on Australian business and, therefore, Australian consumers as well. It has a larger benefit to all those involved.

This is a comprehensive package of three bills that reduce the burden on small business. The government is committed to reducing the regulatory burden on small business and, as a result, small business entities of a certain type will not have to pay this levy. Affiliates of registered remittance networks are excluded on the basis that AUSTRAC's primary regulatory relationship will be with the registered remittance networks rather than individual affiliates. This removes a range of small businesses such as licensed post offices and newsagents from the operation of the levy.

The government is committed through these bills and, of course, through its broader policy to proper governance and ensuring that organised crime, people smuggling, fraud, card skimming, money laundering and all of those illegal financial activities do not occur and that, where they do, they are detected, there is proper reporting, there is proper funding and that funding can be created via cost recovery through the agency. I commend the bills to the House.