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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2389

Senator FOREMAN —Can the Special Minister of State comment on reports of charges laid against two of the principal figures involved in the Barlow and Chambers drug case?

Senator TATE —In answer to Senator Foreman, I am advised that following investigations by the National Crime Authority, in both Malaysia and Western Australia, in conjunction with the Western Australian Police, charges have been laid against two senior members of the drug ring which employed Barlow and Chambers. That particular drug ring was one of the largest importers of heroin into Australia and the investigations concerning the drug ring have, as I say, been carried out in Australia over some time. That particular collaboration between the National Crime Authority and the Western Australian Police reminds me that that co-operation between Federal and State law enforcement authorities is very important to the successful prosecution of the fight against organised crime, and particularly drug trafficking, which I am sure all honourable senators would wish to see conducted in as efficient a manner as possible.

One is reminded, for example, that quite recently, as a result of the National Crime Authority's investigations in conjunction with the Victorian police force, heroin worth some $30m was seized and four persons were arrested. The success of that operation was certainly the result of the close co-operation between those two law enforcement agencies. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know that as at the end of February 150 persons had been charged with a total of 386 offences, the bulk of these being drug related, as a result of National Crime Authority investigations. Major offences, besides drug offences, for which charges have been issued include firearms, passport, tax, murder, kidnapping and grievous bodily harm offences. Charges have been preferred against principal targets-major figures-of four Commonwealth references and three general investigations undertaken by the Authority. I make the general point that the Authority's success in investigating, gathering intelligence, assembling evidence and undertaking arrests and pressing charges, has generally been the first to disrupt organised crime which was getting such a grip on the Australian community, despite many of the individuals concerned being well known, having been named in various royal commissions and allegations having been made against them involving criminal conduct for many years.

I think the Authority, which is very much the creature of this chamber, invested as it is with quite extraordinary powers, although subject to some supervision both by the parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority and by the intergovernmental committee which grants it its special references, has well served the Australian people in the few short years of its existence. As I say, not only has it disrupted a lot of criminal organisations, but it is also of interest to note that action is in train as a result of the NCA's investigations to recover some $18m from proceeds of criminal activity through pecuniary penalty orders, civil remedies penalties and taxation assessments. This particular aspect of the Authority's work is probably not as well known as the more spectacular arrests and pressing of charges. But in fact it will well supplement the work that we hope will flow from the passage through this Parliament shortly of the Proceeds of Crime Bill. It will ensure that those who accumulate assets through nefarious criminal activities do not enjoy those assets; for example, they will not merely be subjected to gaol terms, come out of gaol and then enjoy the fruits of their criminal activities. We believe there should be restitution to society and that people should not profit from their illegal activities. We hope that that particular part of the package of legislation introduced by the Attorney-General in another place will get a speedy passage to enable that to be done.