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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4220

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice) (17:10): I rise to thank the honourable members for their contributions to this important debate. The members for Stirling and Fowler have focused on some of the elements of the bill before us. The Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011 contains amendments designed to ensure the integrity of our law enforcement processes and to strengthen the efficacy of our responses to serious and organised crime. That is why it is such an important bill.

The bill contains amendments to the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006 to bring the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service within the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. I think that is a very important and vital reform. It is one that resulted from an examination by a parliamentary committee and, as the member for Stirling indicated, one that was agreed by the chief executive officer of Customs at the time as a good approach. It just shows that the chief executive officer was correct in his view that we need, from time to time, external and independent oversight of our agencies. I want to pay tribute to Michael Carmody for that enlightened view about the way in which we consider examining that from within the agency. This is a very important element of the bill.

In line with the government's Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework, the bill also contains amendments to key Commonwealth legislation to ensure the streamlined operation of the government's new Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce. The task force, a multi-agency initiative that represents a new, more holistic and dynamic approach to the complex area of proceeds of crime, illustrates delivery of another Gillard government election commitment. By combining the expertise of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Crime Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions we are ensuring the close cooperation of intelligence operations, forensic accounting, litigation and specialist law enforcement in detecting and confiscating the financial motivation and fuel of organised crime. As has been said before—and will be said in the future, no doubt—money is the lifeblood of organised crime. The government believes that this new, integrated approach will be very effective in combating organised crime.

To that end, the bill will facilitate the new litigation role of the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce by extending the power to conduct proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to the AFP. The bill also contains other important enhancements to the proceeds of crime regime. Amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 will allow a stay of family law proceedings relating to property and spousal maintenance when action is being taken at the same time under state or territory proceeds of crime legislation. And proposed amendments to the definition of property-tracking documents in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 will allow a magistrate to issue a production order for all documents relevant to unexplained wealth proceedings, ensuring that these production powers are consistent with other proceeds of crime tools. Finally, the bill will increase the court's flexibility under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in dealing with the complex interaction between tax related liabilities and proceeds of crime proceedings. These improvements to the proceeds of crime scheme are part of a consistent commitment to cracking down on organised crime, removing its incentive as well as its capacity for reinvestment. The stronger our proceeds of crime infrastructure, the weaker the criminal architecture that props up organised crime. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.