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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 643


Senator TATE (Special Minister of State) —I seek leave to make the Government's response to the second report of the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority and to incorporate the statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

I am pleased to note that the second report of the Joint Committee on the NCA, which was tabled on 27 November 1986, records a marked improvement in the relationship between the Joint Committee and the NCA from the differences revealed in the first report. Indeed the Committee notes at paragraph 7 of its report:

This relationship is characterised by a degree of mutual trust, a regular exchange of information and a willingness by each body to allow the other to discharge its statutory duties.

As a result of the discussions which my predecessor instigated between the Joint Committee and the Authority to examine these differences both bodies have developed a greater appreciation and understanding of the other's responsibilities and concerns. I am pleased that an appropriate working relationship has now been established. In this regard I am pleased that the Committee records its satisfaction with the level of co-operation of the Authority in providing it with information.

I also note that the Joint Committee has reviewed the administrative methods and information systems employed by the authority. One of the Committee's concerns was the potential increased threat to civil liberties posed by the Authority's computer database. However, the Committee's report records that these concerns have been allayed by the Authority's approach.

The Committee's report also raises the matter of the future of the NCA after 30 June 1989 when the sunset clause in the National Crime Authority Act 1984 is currently due to come into effect. As the Joint Committee has noted, a review of the achievements and impact of the Authority will need to be undertaken in order to come to a view regarding the future of the Authority and its modus operandi.

In this context, the Committee points out the great difficulty of establishing criteria by which to evaluate the Authority's effectiveness. It rejects as a `simplistic measure' any attempt to judge effectiveness solely by the number of prosecutions resulting from the Authority's work.

The Committee's report suggests looking to another criterion, namely that it may be possible over a period of perhaps five to seven years to disrupt the financial structures and organisation which surround much of the activity of organised crime.

I agree with the Committee's `caution against making hasty judgments as to its effectiveness', as the issues to be considered in conducting such a review are complex. Nevertheless, proper and timely consideration of them is vital as a means of assessing progress made in the fight against organised crime and in order to ensure that Parliament may be given an informed assessment in good time before the sunset clause operates.

In reviewing the NCA's performance the Government will need to take into account a wide range of views, and acknowledges that the joint committee will have a particularly important contribution to make to this progress.

I thank the Joint Committee for its second report and look forward to its continuing contribution to the process of assisting the Parliament understand and combat organised crime in Australia.


Senator TATE —I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.