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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5037

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (16:13): I rise to speak in support of the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Bill 2011, the collection bill and the consequential amendments bill. Firstly, I would like to thank the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice for considering at the outset the operations of small businesses in general and particularly in rural and regional areas. In some cases if the legislation had been applied in a blanket way, it could have adversely affected the operations of those small businesses and particularly those small businesses in rural and regional areas. I know from conversations with the minister and from consultations, which he was able to ensure happened around Australia, that we have got a good outcome. The minister took the time to listen to MPs and backbenchers. That was good, because backbenchers sometimes know a thing or two and are engaged on the ground. Ministers are backbenchers too, so they hear views from their electorates as well.

These bills provide exemptions from levy arrangements and businesses can claim if they fall into those exemption categories or will be exempted—as I read it—as of right if they are in certain categories. I am not sure of the mechanism by which they will exercise that but it seems that there are two parts in place for that. I am getting nods around the chamber, so I must have read that bit correctly.

The bills give effect to sensible recommendations announced in the 2010-11 budget that, from this financial year, 2011-12, will allow AUSTRAC to recover the cost of its supervisory activities from businesses regulated by the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act. Those activities have their genesis or their national legislation but they also give effect to part of the package of the counterterrorism conventions—and there are about 13 that we are obligated or mandated by the Security Council to put in place. Indeed, we want to at a national level for reasons that are self-evident but are worthy of reiteration. The minister has quoted the figures—as I think most people in this place have done. The Australian government figures show that organised crime—where a lot of money laundering and financing of terrorism activities do take place and can take place and not just here but also internationally—costs Australia about $15 billion a year. I take it that that $15 billion figure would mean cost by commission and omission.

The cost recovery that is inherent in these three bill is not new. In this area, the cost-recovery guidelines of 2002 lay out that approach. Its essence is simple. It is that entities that have created the need for government regulation should bear the cost of that regulation. People may argue that they do not allow any irregular activities that could facilitate crime and the things that we are talking about—and that may be so. But, when you are setting up a regulatory framework, it is like setting up your rates at local government level—we all have to bear that cost in a collective, coordinated way. It is no different when we are doing it nationally. It is the same cost-recovery model. If you are a beneficiary or are in a business that could cause some of that harm, even inadvertently, we all have to participate in paying in that way. The framework starts with the general and then it deals with the particular—in this case, the particular as well as that category of exemptions.

That brings me back to the small businesses and the rural and regional area and where the government is making sure that we have a coherent and cogent regulatory framework while, at the same time, making sure that small business does not have to bear the burden in a disproportionate way. This legislation is very mindful of that. It proposes that affiliates of registered remittance networks will not have to pay the levy. Affiliates are excluded on the basis that AUSTRAC's primary regulatory relationship will be with the registered remittance network rather than with individual affiliates. This removes a range of small businesses such as licensed post offices and newsagents from the operation of the levy. That is really important in my seat of Page and I know it would be in other seats. It was really important that that was one of the considerations that the minister and those in the department involved in preparing the legislation were able to turn their minds to.

For pubs and clubs in rural and regional areas, I understand that AUSTRAC is currently consulting on a draft rule around that area—again, looking at those venues where there are a certain number of gaming machines. That will be the benchmark for where the exemption is able to be had. It is also proposed to remove non-employing entities, such as sole proprietors and partnerships without employees—which are often run by families—and microbusinesses which employ fewer than five people. That is an ABS definition. They will be able to be exempt from the base component levy. That is rather sensible.

I understand that these three bills will recover $88.9 million in the period 2011-14. That is important, because part of governing is spending. I know that I like spending in my seat of Page and I am always asking ministers for money. But, as responsible members of parliament, we also have an obligation to talk about those bills that allow government to recover moneys and we have some responsibility to be mindful, particularly in terms of such a critical where the costs of organised crime do cost us as a community—that $15 billion a year.

I know that sometimes people think that these sorts of bills are not the bills that necessarily attract a lot of people champing at the bit to speak about them and that cost recovery, white collar crime and things like that might seem a bit pedestrian, but they are really fundamental to the way our criminal justice system operates and to good government. With those comments, I commend the bills to the House.