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Monday, 20 May 1985
Page: 2205


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(10.27) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This is a Bill to amend the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983 so as to arm the Director of Public Prosecutions with fuller and more direct power to pursue civil remedies on behalf of the Commonwealth, particularly in relation to the recovery of taxes and duties. The Bill also confers on the DPP the additional functions of carrying on, where requested to do so, prosecutions on indictment instituted by the Attorney-General.

In their final reports both Special Prosecutor Mr R. F. Redlich and Royal Commissioner Mr F. X. Costigan Q.C., recommended enhancement of the Director of Public Prosecutions' role in relation to the taking of civil remedies and the recovery of pecuniary penalties. Special Prosecutor Mr R. V. Gyles, Q.C., also supported this in his 1983/84 report. As recently announced by the Attorney-General, his Department has been in close consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Temby, Q.C., over the past months developing the present measure as a new and effective weapon against crime. The key elements of the Bill are as follows.

Clause 3 firstly confers upon the DPP the functions of carrying on a prosecution on indictment instituted by the Attorney-General. This addition to the DPP's function under section 6 of the Principal Act will permit greater flexibility in the enforcement of the criminal law of the Commonwealth by enabling the DPP to be given authority to carry on such prosecutions where that course is appropriate and convenient.

Clause 3 goes on to enable the Director of Public Prosecutions to take, or to co-ordinate or supervise the taking of, civil remedies on behalf of the Commonwealth and its authorities for the recovery of any taxes (including duties, charges or levies). This function will be conferred directly by the statute, thus removing in respect of such matters the need under the existing legislation for an instrument from the Attorney-General before the Director of Public Prosecutions can act. In addition, clause 3 also removes the existing requirement that a prosecution be actually commenced before, or at the same time as, the Director of Public Prosecutions may pursue civil remedies. The definition of ''relevant matters'' in the new sub-section 6 (8) to be inserted by clause 3 of the Bill makes it clear that the Director of Public Prosecutions' new function may be exercised in respect of matters connected with or arising out of prosecutions (actual, proposed, or under consideration) by the Director of Public Prosecutions or by a person other than the Director of Public Prosecutions, and provision is also made to extend this new function to cases where the Director of Public Prosecutions could exercise his powers to take over or to carry on prosecutions.

Where civil remedies are pursued by the Director of Public Prosecutions provision is made in clause 5 for a Court, before whom such proceedings are instituted, to prohibit or restrict the publication of any evidence or information. Courts will be able to exercise the power to make this suppression order where it appears to the Court to be necessary in order to prevent prejudice to the administration of justice.

Neither the English nor the Australian State Directors of Public Prosecutions have been given functions in relation to civil remedies or to pecuniary penalties. While under common law systems Attorneys-General have long been recognised as having special responsibilities and functions in relation to the enforcement of the criminal law to the exclusion of other Ministers, neither he or officers answerable to him have been regarded as having equivalent responsibilities in relation to the exercise of civil remedies available to the Government. The exercise of such remedies has been regarded as a matter for decision by the Minister responsible for the legislation in question, the Department he administers or the relevant statutory officer such as the Commissioner of Taxation. The Minister is, of course, answerable to Parliament for any such decisions. Considered in the light of the traditional position (and leaving aside the particular provisions made in the Special Prosecutors Act 1982), the present measure is therefore a novel one and the Government has therefore acknowledged that it is something of an experiment.

Hence the Bill provides in sub-clause 3 (2) for the Director of Public Prosecutions to furnish to the Attorney-General after two years' operation of the Bill's provisions, a report for the purpose of a review by government of the new civil remedy functions conferred. Sub-clause 3 (3) requires the Attorney-General to table this report in both Houses thus giving the Parliament an opportunity, at the end of that ''trial'' period, to weigh the costs and benefits of this measure and to decide whether or not it should continue.

The balance of the Bill consists of provisions that are formal or consequential upon the provisions I have outlined.

I should add that, in addition to introducing these amendments to the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, the Attorney-General proposes, by an instrument under sub-section 6 (3) of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983, to authorise the Director of Public Prosecutions to institute proceedings for the recovery of pecuniary penalties in respect of ''relevant matters'' connected with or arising out of, prosecutions of the kinds (actual, proposed or under consideration) to which I have already referred.

Such a step was also supported by Mr Costigan and Special Prosecutors Redlich and Gyles, and it will further enhance the Director of Public Prosecution's capacity to act swiftly and effectively.

There are two matters which I particularly wish to draw to the attention of the Senate. One is the financial impact of the measures proposed in the Bill. Significant increases in staff and resources for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Australian Taxation Office, and the office of the Australian Government Solicitor will be needed to enable these extra functions to be carried out. The likely costs have been estimated as follows: approximately $3 million this fiscal year and $13 million next fiscal year. In the light of current financial constraints, these requirements will be addressed in the context of the Budget, but the Government anticipates that the costs should be more than offset by potential gains to the Commonwealth revenue under this measure.

The second point is that, in taking these civil remedies, the Director of Public Prosecutions will utilise the services of the Australian Government Solicitor for the conduct of civil litigation unless urgent circumstances require immediate initial action by himself in particular cases.

Mr President, this Bill will give the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions wider powers and scope to take civil action to recover unpaid taxes and duties, and will also allow action to be taken to prevent persons suspected of engaging in criminal activity alienating, concealing, or removing from the reach of the courts, their assets in an attempt to prevent payment of their civil liabilities. In addition, the Director will be authorised to take proceedings to recover pecuniary penalties in respect of matters connected with prosecutions or activities considered with a view to prosecution. These measures will strengthen the arm of the Director of Public Prosecutions, particularly in the prosecution of organised crime and drug trafficking.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.