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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2461

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(9.04) —I will make my few remarks on the National Crime Authority Bill 1983 without reference to the contemptible speech just made by Senator Missen and the contemptible allegations that he makes about certain people under parliamentary privilege, including me. To allege that I have lost interest in organised crime in this country is one of the most untruthful, damaging and contemptible allegations ever made in this place.

Senator Watson —What about your statement about Professor Slatyer the other day- intemperate to say the least. You would not have said that out of the chamber.

Senator CHIPP —The honourable senator can take his Tasmanian squeak somewhere else and squeak in some convenient toilet of this place because it would be more appropriate there than in this chamber of the Senate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order!

Senator CHIPP —I will make a deal with Senator Watson of Tasmania. He can have his Tasmanian squeak now for 30 seconds provided he remains silent for the rest of my speech.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! You have the call, Senator Chipp.

Senator CHIPP —I also need your protection from idiots such as that.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Chipp, I think you should withdraw the word 'idiots'.

Senator CHIPP —If he wants to identify himself, that is not my responsibility, but in deference to your admonition, I withdraw. We are dealing with a very serious matter. We are dealing with a proposition that, according to Mr Frank Costigan QC, who in public evidence before a special Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which heard evidence on this, this is an industry that is now earning profits-profits, not turnover-of $5,000m per year. That is the magnitude of the problem the Senate is discussing tonight. To make cheap political points, as Senator Missen has done, of something so important, deserves the Senate's contempt. I remind the Senate that it was essentially an Australian Democrat initiative that established the reference of this Bill to the Senate Committee.

Let me go back to the history of this matter. I have nothing but general praise for what I refer to as the Fraser-Durack model of the National Crimes Commission , brought down in the latter months of the Fraser administration. It was ambitious, it was courageous and it was something worthy of support. There were some of us, including several members of the Liberal Party, who had some misgivings about some of its more draconian measures which intruded into civil liberties. But it was an act of political courage that attempted to do something about the creature that is infiltrating our society, namely, organised crime, which is now of the dimensions which Mr Costigen identified. Then there was a change of government. That National Crimes Commission Bill, I remind the Senate, was passed by both Houses of Parliament. It could be law today if the Hawke Government had sought royal assent and proclaimed it. In its wisdom, or lack of wisdom, it did not. Instead, it brought down an alternative Bill, the National Crime Authority Bill, which-if I sought agreement with any of Senator Missen's speech, I would agree with this-was a pathetic document. It was a document that was clearly a production of something that classicly comes out of a Labor government, namely consultation with the National Executive, with the National Conference and the power brokers in the Australian Labor Party. In this regard I have some sympathy with Senator Gareth Evans, the Attorney-General, who began the exercise with a genuine and sincere wish to bring down before the Senate an instrument to combat organised crime-I am sure that is still his wish-and who found himself frustrated by the Labor Party machine, by the Tammany Hall tactics of the national presidents and the State Ministers of the Labor Party. Therefore we readily, with alacrity, moved for the reference of that pathetic document-the National Crime Authority Bill-to the special Senate committee.

Might I say, as I said on the production of the report, that it has been an exciting parliamentary experience for me, as a member of that Committee, to be associated with it, with its work, with the way in which all members without exception-Liberal, Labor and Democrat-were prepared to try to meet consensus on hearing evidence. It was an exciting experience because party differences were buried in the sense of trying to find a document that would in fact fight organised crime, hence the Committee's report, which both the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) and the shadow Attorney-General have commended. I feel very proud to be associated with that report. Since the production of that report, with the exception of Senator Missen, there have been intense negotiations between the three political parties represented in this Parliament. I pay a great tribute to Senator Durack, the shadow Attorney-General, and his staff. I pay an equally great tribute to the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, and his staff as well as my staff for the way in which they have discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the Bill and the recommendations of the Senate Committee.

If Senator Walters wants to say, as she so often does to score points, that a deal has been done, she is probably right. A deal has been done. A deal has been done in most cases between the Australian Democrats and the Liberals, in some other cases between the Liberals and the Australian Labor Party and in other cases between the three of us outside this chamber because on something as complex as this where very fine points of law and practice have to be examined it is impossible because of the parliamentary procedure as laid down by Standing Orders and the discipline of the party system to make decisions in this chamber on the run. Therefore, intense negotiations have been taking place sincerely with barriers down, behind closed doors. I think my two colleagues and I believe that the best consensus can be produced in this way. None of us will be totally happy. Senator Durack will be wanting to go further on some things but he will not be able to.

Senator Durack —And I will be moving amendments too.

Senator CHIPP —Of course the honourable senator will. They will be met with the vote of the Committee. I will be moving some amendments as well which will be contrary to those moved by Senator Durack and they will also be met--

Senator Missen —We will argue them all.

Senator CHIPP —Some of our amendments no doubt will please Senator Missen, possibly more than the amendments moved by his own Party.

Senator Missen —They could not be better than my own Party's amendments.

Senator CHIPP —Well, that is a classical objective remark. I answer the interjection simply to have it recorded in Hansard so that the value of Senator Missen's contributions can be read by readers of Hansard.

In general terms, except where the Liberal approach is contrary to the recommendation of report-and I concede that this is where Senator Missen and I would disagree-for clothing the National Crimes Authority with coercive powers from the very start of its investigations, the Democrats would generally be in support of the philosophy and the thrust of the Liberal Party amendments. As I said, we believe that some of our amendments are better than the Liberal Party amendments, but that is a question of judgment. But in general terms we would go along with those amendments.

To explain to probably a very bored listening audience what coercive powers at the beginning of investigations are, let me indicate the philosophical difference. Everybody in this chamber recognises that the nation has a problem in that profits from organised crime are of the order of $5 billion a year.

Senator Georges —That is not quite accepted. It is accepted there is a problem. The extent of it is not properly measured.

Senator CHIPP —I accept that interjection. But let us assume we have a problem. I can make the remarkable observation that never in my 24 years membership of the national Parliament have I known there to be a serious accusation of corruption against any Federal Minister. Most of the Ministers in that time have been Liberal, as a matter of history, but at times there have been Labor Ministers. But not once has there been an accusation of corruption against a Federal Minister in the Federal Parliament. I think that is a record of which we should be very proud. I think we ought to look at it with some wonderment because the same cannot be said about State parliaments. Certainly the same cannot be said about local government. There are certain places in Australia where corruption has been rampant, and known to be rampant, among State and local government politicians. But that is not the case in the Federal Parliament . That is in the past, though, and that is why we cannot look at this Bill, which is a watershed in the fight against organised crime, as being insignificant.

There is that contemptible cliche that every person has his price. I do not believe that; I do not accept that. But what I do accept is that if any crook, criminal or organised criminal identity approached any person of this Senate, no matter of what party, and said 'Here is a $50,000 bribe; do this favour for us', not one person in this Senate would not turn that person over to the Australian Federal Police or report it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, for the matter to be dealt with by the Senate. It makes a person proud to be able to say that. But what if the bribe was $250,000 per year for 10 years? Would there be the same unanimity of rejection of that kind of money? I do not know. I would like to think there would be. But history has shown us that that is not the story in the United States of America. As we have asked before, is there any reason to believe that the pattern of events that has taken place in that society which is similar politically, constitutionally and socially would not happen here? There is the danger. This is the question we have to ask ourselves. That amount of money, the $250,000 bribe per year for 10 years, is petty cash when measured against the estimated profits that organised crime is making in Australia. Therefore, this Bill has to be looked at as a whole document instead of being treated as a means of scoring cheap political dirty little points against individuals or political parties.

I can sympathise with the view that the Liberal Party is putting. That we need a National Crime Authority is beyond question. There is total support for that. But when we establish a Crime Authority we immediately take one step or two steps forward and then before we go to the third step we say: 'Let us look at that other thing we hold precious in our community, particularly if we are members of the Liberal Party; namely, civil liberties'. Should we clothe that body with coercive powers from day one? The Authority may say: 'We have established a target. The target is John Smith. He is a businessman. There is nothing known against him. He just makes lots of money. But he is the target'. Then, from day one we use coercive powers. This is what the Liberal Party is saying. It is a respectable view, but it is one that I believe ought to be looked at with great care.

What do we mean by 'coercive powers'? We need to remember that although members of the Authority are assisted by computers they are human beings who make human decisions and are subject to human fallibility. They make a judgment that a certain person is a target. If they have coercive powers from day one, they are entitled to visit John Smith's bank and say: 'We want details of all the bank accounts, all the past transactions and all the past, present and future debts of John Smith'. What happens to John Smith at the bank? That bank has suddenly lost interest-and with good reason-in extending or even preserving John Smith's overdraft. He may well be a successful, up-and-coming businessman but suddenly the bank withdraws his credit because the word gets around that he is under investigation, and any bank in its right mind would withdraw the credit of a person who is known to be under investigation by a national crime commission. These are serious matters. Therefore, while I was tempted to go down the same track as the Liberals, on reflection I believe that we should insist that the Authority prove a prima facie case before it can go to the filter, the intergovernmental committee, and say: 'We have this much on the target, John Smith; in order to develop and produce a case we need coercive powers. We need powers to summon him, command and confiscate documents, raid his office and whatever.'

If we give coercive powers to a body right from day one, the kind of people who are at risk are not only suspected criminals but a lot of innocents as well. In Australian society that attracts people who love to knock the successful person this would also allow the dobbers-in a glorious opportunity to report certain things anonymously to the National Crime Authority and cause innocent people all sorts of embarrassment. Therefore, while respecting the Liberal amendment that this Authority should have coercive powers from day one, we have agreed that there should be-as the Committee did unanimously with the exception of Senator Missen, he was the only one--

Senator Missen —I'm proud of that.

Senator CHIPP —The honourable senator may well be and he has good reason to be proud of it. But seven of the eight members of the Committee agreed with the approach of the Government and the Australian Democrats. The point of view of the Liberals is respectable, but we disagree with it. With that exception, the Democrats generally agree with the thrust of the Liberal Party amendments, or the Liberal Party will agree with the thrust of the Democrats' amendments.

Just for the record and in conclusion, I give some idea of the amendments that we will be moving. I issued a Press release four days ago. I am sorry that Senator Missen has not received a copy of it, but it was issued on 1 June. Our amendments will be designed to increase the range of relevant offences by adding some which have been omitted, including the harbouring of criminals, armament dealings and company fraud. They will provide that further activities could be added by regulation to ensure that a proposed investigation could not be stymied too easily by an appeal against the Authority's jurisdiction. We do not accept the exclusion of offences arising out of a dispute between employer and employee , as at present formulated. We believe that unions will welcome the Authority's access responsibly used, particularly where organised crime has spread its tentacles into owning and managing ostensibly legitimate businesses. We will move an amendment to ensure that genuine employer-employee disputes only are excluded.

I remind honourable senators that this Bill was initiated in the Senate. Honourable senators have said time and again that politics is the art of the possible. Can anyone expect the Labor Party to accept a Bill on a national crime authority which gives an authority total access to inquire into any dispute between an employer and an employee? If we insisted on that, the fate of such a Bill would be that the Caucus would throw it out and we would finish up with absolutely nothing. On the other hand, I do not think honourable senators could countenance for one moment the idea of the Builders Labourers Federation being hired by some organised criminal activity-and I regard that as entirely possible in this country-or, as evidence has already shown, the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union being hired by unknown financiers to organise the distribution of heroin in this country, which has been palpably demonstrated, and the Authority being precluded from inquiring into a dispute between the painters and dockers and an employer, where it is indicated that something other than a genuine industrial dispute has been signalled. If it is a genuine industrial dispute I would accept what I believe to be the intent of Senator Georges' remarks.

We shall seek to eliminate the potentially restraining effect of the three-year penalty bench mark by enabling the Authority to investigate offences carrying less than three years gaol if it suspects that such an offence is linked with another major offence. We believe that this course is a rational alternative to the Opposition's intention to remove any restrictions on the Authority's jurisdiction and the Government's attempt to hamper the Authority by drawing it too narrowly. We will remove the need to have a proposed Commonwealth reference approved by the IGC, but see no need to extend it also to State references as the Opposition seeks to do. While we praise the intention of the Opposition, we wonder whether that proposal is anything more than window dressing. We will also ensure that an investigation can be stopped only by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. We will also move, as recommended by the Committee, that the IGC must consider whether a matter could be investigated more effectively by a law enforcement agency; in other words, to take into account whether State police forces could investigate something, rather than having a situation where a State government consults its commissioner of police and asks him whether he can handle a matter. If the State commissioner says 'Yes we can fix that' then the State can veto a reference to the Committee. We think that that is intolerable. The only thing which should happen is that the IGC should consider or take into account, to use the Committee's words, 'whether a matter can be more effectively investigated by a law enforcement agency'. I remind the Senate that one of the most efficient, admirable and honest police forces in Australia, the Victorian Police Force, under a magnificent Chief Commissioner, Mr Mick Miller, was asked by the then State Government whether it could handle an inquiry into the painters and dockers. That police force quite honestly and with total conviction said that it could handle the matter. It said it knew that the Painters and Dockers Union was full of criminals who had served gaol sentences and that it was into murder, extortion and drug running, but the force still said it believed that it could handle the matter.

Senator Georges —Did it actually say that?

Senator CHIPP —Yes. That is an honest reply from a police force. History has shown what happened, and the Costigan Commission has uncovered a litle more action on behalf of the painters and dockers than originally thought. Yet that claim was made quite sincerely.

Senator Georges —I think that somebody else discovered crime in a big way and the painters and dockers were just petty.

Senator CHIPP —There is a lot I admire about Senator Georges but I wish he would not turn truth and fact to one side when making judgments. Senator Georges would have us believe that the painters and dockers would be the ideal organisers of the Sunday School picnic that I am about to organise. It is quite absurd. The Democrats consider that it is too restrictive to organise a reference only when the IGC is satisfied that policy methods are inadequate. We will move that an item may be seized during a search authorised by warrant and also passed on to another agency if it is relevant evidence for other investigations.

Organised crime will never be brought to its knees unless the enormous profits and the accumulated wealth are attacked. The Mr Bigs laugh if one of their minor executives is caught and gaoled and, in most cases, they make sure he or she does not talk. They will take notice if they start losing what motivates them and that is money or assets. To make this possible, we are moving an amendment which will enable the Authority to seek a court order to prevent assets being moved out of Australia. It can be obtained only when the court is satified that a person is likely to be charged as a result of evidence assembled by the Authority and that that person is likely to remove assets from Australia. Again a judgment has to be made. Does one infringe civil liberties? The Mareva injunction stops criminals saying: 'I will cop a couple of years gaol sentence but I will ship $2m to a bank account in Geneva and live the rest of my life in luxury'. Surely that brings justice to no one. Hardened criminals have rarely been stopped from leaving Australia by withdrawal of their passports. Our amendment will enable the authorities to seek a warrant for an arrest if the Federal Court of Australia is satisfied that a person is likely to leave Australia even though that person has been ordered to give up his or her passport.

Finally, we are moving an amendment to do away with the judicial audit as recommended by the Committee. That would be an impossible task to carry out unless the judge concerned were to sit in on every hearing of the Authority. Instead, we are moving for the establishment of a parliamentary joint committee to monitor and review the performance of the Authority and to recommend any necessary changes. We believe that such nonpartisan oversight is essential to exclude any suggestion of political bias and to enable adjustments to the functions and procedures to be made to ensure that the Authority is an effective instrument with teeth to fight organised crime. We believe that the Authority needs a watchdog. We do not believe a judicial audit can do it because to do it effectively, if one reads the terms of the original Bill, would require the services of a judge and an enormous staff all the time. I personally doubt the value of an ombudsman because the wealthy criminals can easily get the ombudsman to harass continuously the activities of the Authority. The Authority should have a parliamentary watchdog, a committee made up of ordinary men and women who happen to be members of parliament. The Authority should be responsible to it for either one of two things, namely, if the Authority offends civil liberties some one can complain to it and have that complaint heard or, if someone complains to the Authority about criminal activity and is of the belief that that criminal activity has not been properly investigated by the Authority it can go to the parliamentary committee. The fact that the Authority will know someone is watching it will be an advantage.