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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 456

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (11:46 AM) —Serious and organised crime costs Australia more than $10 billion a year. Serious and organised crime also undermines the safety and security of all Australians. Everyone here would remember clearly the horrific incident at Sydney airport last year, when two motorcycle gangs had a violent brawl and a man was bashed to death. This violence took place in front of innocent bystanders, with many women and children caught up only metres from the violence and only a few steps away from where the bikie member was killed. If ever the government needed a wake-up call that it was losing its grip on the fight against organised crime then that violent brawl in Sydney airport was it. Family First believes that outlaw motorcycle gangs are serious criminal organisations; to believe otherwise is a dangerous misconception. Outlaw motorcycle gangs are a major player in serious and organised crime in Australia, particularly in the illegal drug trade, but the Rudd government has decided to go soft on outlaw motorcycle gangs as it refuses to act on anti-association laws and/or laws aimed specifically at dismantling organised crime groups. Family First strongly believes that anti-association laws and/or laws specifically aimed at dismantling organised crime groups are a crucial element of legislative arrangements to control organised crime groups involved in serious and organised crime.

Internationally, laws targeting criminal associations have been used with great effect. In Italy anti-association laws in conjunction with unexplained wealth provisions have been pivotal in prosecuting major figures in the Mafia. In the United States the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, the RICO Act, has been used effectively to prosecute major figures in organised crime, including the heads of the Gambino and Genovese crime families and their known associates. In Canada the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used very effectively laws targeting specific offences for participating with a criminal organisation in order to control outlaw motorcycle gangs, in particular the Hells Angels. In Hong Kong anti-association laws were used with great effect against the triads.

Whether the Prime Minister likes it or not, organised crime is a national issue that does not recognise state boundaries, but instead of dealing with this very real problem the Rudd government has left it up to the states. The Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008 in South Australia includes anti-association provisions, as does the Crime (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2009 in New South Wales, and the Queensland government has signalled its intention to implement similar anti-association laws. The Rudd government has missed a good opportunity to tackle organised crime groups. Family First strongly supports national anti-association laws that would target known criminal associates involved in organised crime. For too long, the police have been fighting with one hand tied behind their backs because of outdated laws that do not give them enough power to take these violent criminals off our streets and put them into the jails where they belong. Australians want to feel safe and secure when they leave their homes and go outside. They do not want to feel like they could be walking to the next crime scene, as we saw at Sydney airport.

Australians must not be terrorised by outlaw gangs that refuse to operate within the boundaries of our society. The two bills before us today, the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill and the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill (No. 2), are an important step in the right direction and finally deliver national unexplained wealth laws in Australia, which Family First strongly supports. Family First believes that both anti-association laws and unexplained wealth provisions are necessary in targeting serious and organised crime.

Organised crime does not just include outlaw bikie gangs; it includes other sophisticated groups that engage in criminal activity and cost this country billions of dollars each year. As I said, the Australian Crime Commission estimates organised crime costs Australia more than $10 billion a year. That is $10 billion dollars this country is losing because of criminals who believe that, unlike all other Australians, they do not have to play by the rules. That is $10 billion dollars that could be spent on improving our health system, on securing our water supplies or on investing in the education system. We are not talking about some petty thieves here. These are well organised criminals who engage in all sorts of activities: drug trafficking, money laundering, identity theft and cybercrime. These are people who have no respect for the law and who inflict substantial harm on our community.

As a kid growing up in Reservoir I saw a lot of things, but the one thing that riled me the most was seeing people not playing by the rules and taking advantage of those weaker than themselves. That is why I made a point of becoming a full member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. I see how serious organised crime is like a social cancer that undermines the safety and security of all Australians.

The bills that we are debating contain a number of important measures, particularly those regarding unexplained wealth. The laws about unexplained wealth should be pretty simple and easy to understand. If you are involved in or connected to crime and you have unexplained wealth then you cannot keep it. I think that is a very good message. Of course, some people will be concerned about how unexplained wealth laws are against people’s civil liberties, but I do not see that as a problem. Unexplained wealth laws are straightforward and simple. If you have not done anything wrong then you have got nothing to worry about. There are serious criminals out there making millions of dollars from illegal activities, and some of them flash it around with fancy cars and fancy houses. It is outrageous. There are idiots out there, and some people are concerned about their civil liberties—what a joke! Who are these people trying to protect? Sometimes I think people forget which side they are supposed to be on.

Family First supports measures to crack down on unexplained wealth because this is another powerful weapon that the police can use to stop organised crime happening in Australia. Family First believes that both anti-association laws and unexplained wealth provisions are necessary and vital in targeting serious and organised crime in Australia and also in making sure that Australians are safe and secure. I believe that most Australians would be pretty peeved with the Rudd government if they knew that the government did not have the guts to introduce national anti-association laws when it had the chance to do so at this time.