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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3798

Mr SPENDER(6.02) —We support the amendment. In doing so, I refer briefly to the work of Professor Richard Harding, the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, who is now retiring. I think everybody will agree that the work he has done has been most valuable. In referring to that work, I mention the criticisms he has made of the way in which the Government goes about dealing with criminal law and what he calls the criminal pie in this country. He recently listed 16 government agencies that have a finger, as he put it, in some part of the criminal pie. They are the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of the Special Minister of State, the Australian Customs Service, the Health Department, the Department of Territories, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Transport, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Social Security, the Australian Federal Police, the National Police Research Unit, the National Crime Authority, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Office of Youth Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The problem is well illustrated by the saga of the Taillon amendment. Honourable members of this House will recall that a Mr Taillon came to this country in July 1985. He was in transit from Bombay to Canada. Eleven kilos of hashish, worth an estimated $300,000, were found in his suitcase. But Mr Taillon was in transit and was not prosecuted because there were doubts as to whether or not he had committed an offence. I think all of us would believe that it is an astonishing state of affairs that because a person is in transit, and because he may not be carrying baggage in his hand, he can use Australia as a convenient conduit for the purposes of smuggling hashish, cocaine or anything else between one friendly country and another friendly country, or indeed between unfriendly countries.

This matter came to the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) and Senator Button. Each had a finger in that particular pie. Let me remind the House of what has taken place. Nothing has taken place. Nothing has happened. The Government has said it has a commitment to stamping out organised crime. We all recall how high on the list of commitments is the Government's detestation of organised drug running. We share that view, but where is the action? On 24 September this year Senator Button was asked a question in the Senate about the loophole that was thought to exist in the Customs Act. He said this in the other place:

The matter is in the hands of the Attorney-General and I will obtain an answer to the honourable senator's question from him.

The question was: `What is happening?' On 9 October the Attorney-General in this House was asked a question on the same subject. He stated:

Because the importation aspect is not a matter within my portfolio but one for the Australian Customs Service, that opinion-

I interpolate and say that he was referring to an opinion that had been obtained from a Sydney Queen's Counsel on this loophole-

and advice has been forwarded to my colleague the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button. I understand that arrangements are now in place to amend the Act to ensure that, whether a case relates to importation and/or possession, prosecution can be launched.

Senator Button thought the Attorney-General was dealing with it and the Attorney-General thought Senator Button was dealing with it. It is now November 1986. The act took place in July 1985. The amendment that is required is a very simple one, and nothing has happened. Time and again we are told of this Government's commitment to stamping out organised crime, to dealing with drug offenders and various other matters in the area of organised crime. The best way to test things is to say: `Well, what have you done?' If there is a simple and obvious loophole, what do we do? We move quickly to shut that simple and obvious loophole. That has not taken place.

I conclude by saying that there are two things the Government can do: It can act swiftly to deal with obvious loopholes and, at the same time, it can state what its view is on the recommendations that have been made by royal commissioners such as Stewart and Costigan, recommendations by special prosecutors Gyles and Redlich and others so that we have an informed view of what the Government intends on recommendations, some of them made years ago, which have been allowed to gather dust in the archives of the Government. That is the first thing it can do if it is serious. The second thing it can do if it is serious about organised crime is to tell, in broad terms, what its strategic plan is for dealing with organised crime. Unless we have an understanding and a plan for dealing with such simple things as closing loopholes, it is perfectly plain that we can have no overall strategy whatsoever for dealing with organised crime.