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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement
07/03/2012
Commonwealth unexplained wealth legislation and arrangements

ANDERSON, Mr Iain, First Assistant Secretary, Criminal Justice Division, Attorney-General's Department

ASHTON, Mr Graham AM, Deputy Commissioner, Crime and Operations Support, Victoria Police

ATKINSON, Mr Robert, Commissioner, Queensland Police Service

CARMODY, Mr Michael Joseph, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

D'ASCENZO, Commissioner Michael, Australian Taxation Office; Board Member of the Australian Crime Commission

GLEESON, Ms Kathryn, Solicitor for the Northern Territory

HINE, Mr Darren Leigh, Commissioner. Tasmania Police

HYDE, Mr Malcolm, Commissioner, South Australia Police

LAWLER, Mr John APM, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Crime Commission

LAY, Mr Kenneth, Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police

McROBERTS, Commissioner John, Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services

MEDCRAFT, Mr Greg, Chairman, Australian Securities and Investments Commission

NEGUS, Commissioner Tony, Australian Federal Police

QUAEDVLIEG, Mr Roman, Chief Police Officer, ACT Policing

Committee met at 09:36

CHAIR ( Mr Hayes ): I declare this roundtable hearing open. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement is hearing evidence on its inquiry into Commonwealth unexplained wealth legislation and arrangements. I welcome you all here today. The committee has set up this roundtable to seek the views of representatives of the Australian law enforcement community on the current status of unexplained laws and arrangements around Australia and the potential benefits and issues arising from the harmonisation of these laws. I remind witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to the committee. Such actions may be treated by the Senate as contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee. I remind committee members that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions to a superior officer or to a minister. Officers of states or territories appear by invitation and cannot be compelled to answer questions. On behalf of the committee I thank all those who have made submissions and sent their representatives here today to cooperate with this inquiry. I invite you to make an opening statement, after which we will ask a few questions.

Mr Negus : To begin, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the committee for inviting all members of the board of the Australian Crime Commission to take part on this roundtable on unexplained wealth. I understand that there are a number of matters that you wish to get to, so I will be very brief. Unexplained wealth provisions present a valuable tool for law enforcement. However, as submissions and evidence to this inquiry have already demonstrated, more work is required to ensure that they can be effectively and efficiently utilised against organised crime. This inquiry is an important opportunity to address a fundamental gap in the operation of Commonwealth unexplained wealth laws, a gap created, we believe, by constitutional limitations that apply to that regime. There has been evidence provided on that previously.

I commend the committee for inviting the heads of state and territory police forces as well as other ACC board members to this roundtable. The work that you are progressing in this Commonwealth arena will assist the entire Australian law enforcement community in its efforts to address serious and organised crime, and we thank you for that opportunity.

CHAIR: Thank you. I acknowledge that participating in this roundtable today we have the heads of the country's law enforcement agencies, people who are at the pinnacle of efforts to address serious and organised crime. It is a privilege for our committee to have you appear before us today. We are a multiple of states and territories in a federation. However, the issue has constantly been raised that crime does know geographic boundaries and certainly does not observe constitutional restraint. Could you give us some indication from a policing perspective of the importance of having nationally consistent application of laws and of avoiding the creation of windows of opportunity for crime in that respect.

Mr Negus : It is agreed across the board of the Australian Crime Commission that criminals will exploit any weaknesses that they can identify, and that includes weaknesses in legislation across jurisdictions or the weakest link, if you like, in the way that legislative processes have been constructed. It is also quite clear to us that criminals are underpinned by the creation of wealth—that is one of their key objectives. Anything that we can do to identify how we may appropriately strip assets from criminals with the right safeguards in place and present those people before courts where those courts can make determinations on the appropriateness or otherwise of their accumulation of wealth would be a significant tool in the fight against organised crime.

CHAIR: Would effective use of unexplained wealth laws serve to protect the community from the recommissioning of crime into the future?

Mr Negus : One of the things that we have identified in a range of operational activity—and I am happy to open this up to my colleagues for them to support this or otherwise—is that criminals, when accumulating wealth, regularly reinvest that wealth into the commission of more crimes. We have investigated a number of drug-trafficking syndicates over the years. They collected massive amounts of cash. That cash was reinvested into the commission of more crimes, including further drug importation and the like. From the perspective of the Federal Police, we have seen the reinvestment of accumulated assets and wealth into the commission of further crimes.

CHAIR: If moved more effectively down the route of tackling unexplained wealth, would that move away from crime and punishment to community protection? Is that how it would be viewed by leaders of law enforcement?

Mr Negus : Across law enforcement over the last decade or more we have realised that the arrest of offenders is one very strong deterrent, but it is only one and there needs to be a range of other treatments put in place. Prevention is very much at the forefront of the thinking of most law enforcement agencies around the world these days. If we can devise processes and systems that help to destabilise or undermine the creation of wealth across those criminal syndicates then prevention will be one of the outcomes that we will be looking for. There have to be different ways of attacking the root of serious and organised crime. These are very resourceful and sometimes very clever people who will devise methods to avoid detection and apprehension. We need to be very creative in the way that we look at dealing with the wider syndicates.

CHAIR: Would it be fair to say that dealing effectively with unexplained wealth may lead to the protection of the community against further harm or extreme harm from serious and organised crime?

Mr Negus : I would strongly agree with that. It is another tool that law enforcement needs in the current environment to attack organised crime and protect the community.

CHAIR: During the course of this inquiry, we have found that issues to do with the proceeds of crime and more particularly unexplained wealth are recent additions to the psyche of law enforcement compared to simply catching, prosecuting and locking up criminals. Is the contemporary law enforcement view about protecting the community from the ravages of criminal enterprise?

Mr Negus : We have seen cases in state jurisdictions—and others may speak to this—in which the use of unexplained wealth laws has been effective in undermining the activities of organised crime. We have also seen it in countries such as Ireland. I know that the committee has taken some evidence in that regard already. This has been an extremely effective tool in ridding the jurisdiction of criminals or undermining and attacking the financial base of crime.

CHAIR: The committee has also had the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory and see how effective the laws to do with unexplained wealth that Commissioner McRoberts has up there are in terms of targeting criminal enterprise. Those tools are capable of working within our jurisdictions presently.

Mr Negus : While I speak on behalf of the Australian Crime Commission board, I am more than happy for any of the other commissioners to provide comments on their respective jurisdictions and the effectiveness or otherwise of the legislation. As you and the committee well know, at a Commonwealth level, even though we have had laws in place now for two years, there has not been one matter brought before the courts in relation to these laws. That is because of some of the gaps that we, with the Director of Public Prosecutions, have identified. I am aware also that South Australia has had similar issues, law enforcement there not being able to bring matters forward to this point. The structure of the legislation is very important in determining whether or not these particular tools will be effective or not.

CHAIR: It has been raised in the past that perhaps two years is not long enough to determine the effectiveness of these laws. But this committee is certainly concerned with protecting the community against the activities of organised crime. Our view is that determining whether the laws are effective is maybe not so much about the way that courts treat the laws but whether the laws as passed by the parliament enable law enforcement to do their job.

Senator MASON: Mr Anderson, you had the benefit of a conversation on a technical issue that we had in the in camera hearing. We were discussing the referral of powers. It is fair to say that your evidence was that that was one of the preferred ways in which the Commonwealth could pick up the power to have consistent legislation throughout Australia. I cannot speak about the in camera evidence, but I can ask a question. Suffice to say, there was discussion about it. In the briefing that you provided to the committee you spoke about subject referrals and text referrals, which one of the commissioners mentioned in passing. You also spoke about hybrid referrals. You said that that generally refers to a situation in which a lead state refers power to the Commonwealth to create relevant legislation and other states subsequently adopt the Commonwealth law and simultaneously give an amendment referral to the Commonwealth. There are other issues, such as the equitable sharing programs that were discussed earlier, and mechanisms under the enforcement of corporations law. But just on that issue, would it be possible, for example, for the Commonwealth to take the legislation from the Northern Territory as in effect its initial model and then have other states adopt that through a hybrid approach? From a legal point of view, would that be a generous way to go?

Mr Anderson : I should first of all confirm—because I was nodding before and that will not appear in Hansard—that we believe that a reference of powers would certainly enable the Commonwealth regime to become much more effective. That would be a regime that could be used by the other jurisdictions. The hybrid referral is the more common way of dealing with references at the moment. One possible approach would be to have a reference of power to adopt the Northern Territory model. Then the other states and territories would join in. A range of issues would need to be explored. I indicated last time that I gave evidence to the committee that no reference of powers is straightforward. There are a number of matters of detail to work through.

Senator MASON: We know that.

Mr Anderson : On the other hand, we have a number of very successful models of references as well. The detail is not a reason not to go down that path. We believe that a reference of powers is strongly desirable. It is a fairly common model to have one jurisdiction on side at the time that the Commonwealth legislates, for example, under the hybrid model. We might delay the commencement of the Commonwealth law under that model until others come on board as well.

Senator MASON: That might be a way to at least commence the process.

Ms GRIERSON: There is agreement that targeting unexplained wealth would help to undermine the financial foundation of crime. But there is not a lot of agreement on how to go forward and make that a reality across the nation. Is there any advice that you want to give to us on how to stage that? We have just looked at some of that. One of the critical questions that was raised that needs further consideration is: what do we do with that wealth that is recovered and how can we make that part of the equation that makes harmonised legislation more attractive? The proceeds of crime legislation is very valuable when it comes to my electorate and community. But it is probably not strategically targeted. How can we make this more attractive? How can we make each jurisdiction want to be part of this?

CHAIR: The unexplained wealth provisions are not working effectively across the board at the moment. But the proceeds of crime legislation is. Can you explain how the agreements between various jurisdictions work in terms of distributing the proceeds of crime?

Mr Negus : From the perspective of the Australian Federal Police, most of the work that we do is in partnership with one or more of the agencies sitting around this table. It is a very successful model. We have also heard from the tax commissioner how they are very much instrumental in many joint taskforce arrangements with other jurisdictions. The law enforcement methodology of this century is very much one of joint partnerships. At the very beginning of any of these investigations we sign a joint agency agreement in which the issues of proceeds and asset confiscation are discussed and agreed to. The appropriate sharing of those assets between Commonwealth and state regimes is also settled and agreed. We go into these things with all that very much upfront so there is no confusion about it.

Ms GRIERSON: Using that experience, what would you do with the unexplained wealth?

Mr Negus : I am very confident that going forward that is no limitation or deterrent on asset sharing between state and Commonwealth agencies that could not be overcome. If the legislation was supportive in that regard and identified that as an outcome that was desirable then the arrangements that we have in place could support that appropriate sharing of whatever assets are seized in that context.

Ms GRIERSON: Do any of the other witnesses want to comment on how we could make a package of legislation more attractive to different jurisdictions?

Mr Lay : From a Victorian perspective, in the road safety space speed camera fines are hypothecated to road safety programs. The community is very comfortable with that. Some within Victoria have a level of unease about any seized funds coming back to the police organisation, for obvious reasons. The Victoria Police view is that having access to part of those funds would make us far more effective and far more prepared for the future. We could use it to invest in tools, technology and the like that will help us become much more effective.

Ms GRIERSON: Should any of it be directed to reducing demand? Or is that a different social requirement?

Mr Negus : At the Commonwealth level at the moment there exists a thing called the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund, which the Minister for home affairs has discretion to allocate moneys into. These are not insubstantial amounts of money. In the last 12 months, the AFP, for instance, seized $41 million. Not all of that has been forfeited as yet, but it is potentially a significant amount of money. So the discretion rests with the Minister for Home Affairs with the advice of the Attorney-General about how this could go. It is already reinvested in law enforcement projects, education and other projects around harm minimisation and those sorts of things. Again, that is at the discretion of the Minister for Home Affairs and the Attorney-General. But there are quite strong guidelines. The department might want to comment on that. Agencies such as my own can make application for funds from that, and then it is up to the appropriate ministers to make the determination of how it should be spent.

Ms GRIERSON: Thank you.

Mr Anderson : To add to that: half goes to community based prevention programs and the remainder goes to law enforcement. It is typically not for ongoing purposes of law enforcement, so it is not actually substituting for budget funding but is enabling them to run pilots or test things that they might not otherwise be able to do in that time frame.

Ms GRIERSON: There is generally a lot of paperwork to apply for this, isn't there?

Mr Anderson : No, we do not believe it is too much. There needs to be enough paperwork for the minister to compare the merits of a proposal from one law enforcement agency against that of another, and we do have some procedures in place to enable that comparison to occur. The minister also has an advisory committee on crime prevention, which is a relatively recent body set up to also advise from a community perspective on some of those reduction and prevention measures.

Ms GRIERSON: That is fairly bureaucratic, isn't it? It is not responsive. It is not, perhaps, as strategic as it could be. That is my impression.

Mr Negus : We are pretty comfortable with the way this works. The department administers the processes around this, and of course we can always be more streamlined, but there does need to be a degree of separation between the law enforcement agency seizing the money or asset and how it is going to be utilised. I think what has been put in place so far appropriately strikes that balance. In the United States, for instance, there are law enforcement agencies who may seize a vehicle or aircraft which goes directly to that law enforcement agency for its use. We would not advocate that model from the Federal Police perspective. There needs to be a degree of separation and oversight of how this is actually utilised, and the current framework supports that.

Mr Lawler : I think another important issue is to ensure that it is amplified sufficiently that the work, particularly that which the Crime Commission board undertakes at the moment, deals with both the supply and the demand sides of the equation. As we heard from Commissioner Atkinson, in the context of disruption and prevention there is now a very significant emphasis on demand reduction, particularly in the context of cybercrime and risks to victims on that level. Trying to work the demand side of the equation is very important.

Ms GRIERSON: Is it responsible enough that, if all jurisdictions said, 'This is a real issues across all our jurisdictions, and we want that targeted more than anything else at the moment,' it could say, 'Let's use that aggregation of funds to really target things,' whether it is cybercrime or some new trend or development that you really want to nip in the bud? Could it be better?

Mr Negus : These are really decisions for the people who administer the fund.

Ms GRIERSON: That is true. You make it work the best way you can.

Mr Negus : We make application. We have been well supported over the years, doing a number of pilot programs and having funding come out of that which we have utilised to attack the financial heart of crime. In fact, the confiscated assets task force that we run is partly supported by that fund. So it is seed funding: the money we seize is reinvested into the task force that is seizing that money. These are, again, issues that could always be more streamlined, but at the moment we are working with the department to make them as streamlined as we can.

Ms GRIERSON: Thank you.

Mr Anderson : I can add one thing to that. There have certainly been examples of joint operations between jurisdictions that have been very strategically focused where there has been funding coming from the Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Fund.

Ms GRIERSON: Thank you.

Senator WRIGHT: I have been listening with interest. I am interested in the aspect of using the aggregation of funds or assets received and drawing a link between the disruption of crime and benefits of society generally. I agree with Ms Grierson, who was suggesting that this would make it more attractive to the public. My recollection of the evidence that we heard from the Irish garda was that there was general approval within the community because they could often see a benefit to the community from the action of the garda in seizing assets and unexplained wealth. I indicate that I am interested in thinking about ways that we can look at programs that would be quite responsive in terms of crime prevention. One of the particular areas that I am interested in is very targeted local programs to prevent crime and, potentially, young people being caught up in these larger organised crime networks. It might seem an attractive lifestyle, but if there is a targeted local program that looks at the initial causes of time then that might make a difference. I suppose I am saying it is related. I do not have any specific questions about that at the moment, but I wonder if anyone is interested in exploring that further or how else these assets could be used. I might leave it there. Thank you.

Mr Negus : These are really issues for the Minister for Home Affairs and the Attorney to make those determinations on on a range of fronts. They have their own criteria which they would set the funding against. As I said, there are literally millions of dollars there. I make the point, though, that the millions of dollars have come from the Proceeds of Crime Act activity, not from unexplained wealth, because at the Commonwealth level there have not been any seizures or assets forfeited at this stage. We think this is because of weaknesses in the legislation and the inability of us to take that action forward. In the context of what we are trying to achieve, it is a matter of strengthening the laws and providing a uniform system across the country which provides all of us with access to restraining more assets of criminals and prevent their activities by stopping them reinvesting money into further crime.

Senator WRIGHT: I understand that. I am thinking ahead to, say, model legislation or whether or not it would be possible to have incorporated in the legislation guidelines about what would happen in terms of the aggregation of unexplained wealth that has been seized. That is all. Thank you.

Senator PARRY: I will pick up on the last point. I thought it was an obvious distinction, but I think we need to be very clear that we are discussing the introduction of unexplained wealth. I think it is not fit and proper for us to discuss here what happens to the seized assets. Commissioner Negus and, I think, Commissioner Lay rightly alluded to this too. It is not fit and proper for law enforcement agencies to be determining, suggesting or even discussing what happens to proceeds. Otherwise the innuendo, if nothing else, is created that law enforcement agencies are seizing assets for their own benefit. We want to make sure we stay right away from that, and I think the chair and others would share my view that that is very much a secondary issue and for us to lobby the minister on a separate issue in budget allocation rather than the proceeds of any seized assets.

I go to the idea of unexplained criminal wealth, picking up Commissioner Atkinson's wise counsel earlier. The whole idea of unexplained criminal wealth is that, because criminals cannot be caught doing other things because they are so sophisticated, if this legislation is successful we are going to be removing assets and property from criminal organisations that otherwise would walk free. These entities and individuals will not be detained and not have their liberty restricted in any way; they will just forfeit assets they cannot legally explain. That then presents a cultural issue, and I am interested—from the state police commissioners in particular—in whether this is going to be a cultural issue inside the jurisdiction, changing a way of thinking. Instead of pursuing criminal elements, putting them behind bars because they have done the wrong thing, now there will be looking at taking away their cash assets and the assets you can possibly seize and then letting them walk down the street free. To me that is a serious cultural shift in modern-day policing. I would be interested in comments.

Mr Ashton : Within the Victoria Police that is the case. We have work to do around shaping our culture within the detective cohort towards tackling unexplained wealth if we get those powers or access to another scheme in Victoria. The current mindset is very much around investigating a particular criminal offence, getting it before the courts and then presenting a worthwhile prosecution. We have had a task force by the name of Piranha that has been tackling top-end organised crime in Victoria for some time, and it continues to be able to take out that layer below the very top end. We use existing provisions under proceeds of crime to tackle the wealth associated with that. But we would have to reshape the thinking of that task force in Victoria to lift up into that top layer and look to have a complete focus on that asset, because we know that those people have distanced themselves from the criminality. They simply access the wealth. It therefore becomes unachievable for us under the existing framework to really tackle them in a meaningful way. As Commissioner Negus has pointed out, it is profit motivated, and they are really motivated by increasing their wealth. So for us there is a gap there at the moment and we are finding that in a practical way in the conduct of our organised crime task forces. We will have to do some education on thinking about the unexplained wealth rather than the criminal offence; but, as the Northern Territory has already shown, it is possible to do that. They have done some good work there. We certainly have some thinking around how we will do that.

The other piece for us is the speed of access of those provisions. Once we identify wealth as associated with a key organised crime figure, we want to be able to get after that quickly because what we are increasingly seeing—and I think the ACC has discovered this in spades—is that they will move money offshore and do that pretty quickly. It therefore becomes difficult to do the sorts of assessments required to embark on these prosecutions, so there is a need for speed associated with this type of action as well. When you look at that, that does overall require a considerable cultural shift in police thinking.

Mr Hyde : I am not sure that the cultural shift is such an impediment as it might have been, say, 15 years ago, when police were primarily reactive rather than proactive There has been a big shift in policing culture to adopt a problem-solving, preventative model. That has occurred. I think it is more about organisational design because the reality is the work to use this form of legislation will be highly specialised. It is how you design your legislation to get the outcomes you seek. Most of us around the country are prepared to change our organisations to make sure they are in line with the strategies and tactics that we employ to get outcomes for the community. So I would be more confident that the legislation could be effectively used. It is really more about how you design the focus of your resources to get the outcomes you want.

Senator PARRY: That leads into the resourcing issue. There are probably two methods. You either do it in house, which means you resource up—and I presume you would need additional things like forensic accounting and those aspects—or you rely on an external agency such as the Australian Crime Commission. Is that a palatable move as well?

Mr Hyde : I cannot really say from the Commonwealth level; I am not familiar enough with the dynamics between different agencies and so on. But certainly at state or territory level you would need to have the specialised resources that are needed to get the outcomes you need. That would include forensic accountants and people with highly sophisticated computer skills as well, because a lot of the tracking of resources has a lot to do with finding a trail through technology. With that, of course, I am taking for granted that you do need investigative skills to go with it, so your detectives are going to have to operate in a new environment to deal with that. But that is not new. We are dealing with those things whether they are cyberinvestigations or just drug investigations in general. So you do need specialised people like forensic accountants and people with IT skills, but you need detectives that are going to complement all of that as well.

Senator PARRY: So, in short, I am not hearing any objection to the cultural change. That is a manageable issue. Second, resourcing is a matter for each internal jurisdiction and, again, is not a problem.

Mr MATHESON: Mr Negus, you spoke about the $41 million in a Commonwealth pool that was proceeds of crime. I think Senator Wright was saying: how much of that money is going to be spread around different jurisdictions and to community programs? I want to look at this. With very strong legislation, the funds that we would probably acquire in relation to serious and organised crime would probably be in the billions of dollars. That is what we would be targeting; it would not be small amounts around $30 million or $40 million. If we had strong legislation, obviously there are some really good base models in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, which have roadblocks. I think that there is a consensus of opinion that we are really looking at strong legislation; that is the voice I am hearing around this table. If we are going to fight serious and organised crime, and we are talking about specialists such as forensic accountants and things like that, I think that the resources we would gain by hitting serious and organised crime with the proper legislation would be of great benefit to the community and would even further community programs. So I think the strong sense of opinion is that we have to really work towards getting across boundaries, identifying the problems there—those roadblocks—looking into that and coming up with this nationally consistent legislation, which is going to be great for Australia generally and for policing in Australia. So I think we are heading in the right direction. I think we should really be focusing on it into the future.

Mr Negus : I would agree that there is a substantial amount of illicitly gained wealth out there that, with the right legislation and the right philosophy, if you like, from law enforcement partners, we could certainly attack and that could be returned for the use of government, either state or federal, for community projects, prevention and a range of other serious activities that could work towards the benefit of the community. So I think you are exactly right.

CHAIR: Mr McRoberts, you wanted to join in on that or on the previous comment, I think.

Mr McRoberts : Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to highlight, whilst we are talking about unexplained wealth, that particularly in the Northern Territory we have two avenues which we can adopt. One is the criminal proceeds upon conviction, and of course there is the unexplained wealth. I think criminal proceeds is well accepted at the community level. I just want to say that there should not be a fear that unexplained wealth activity by police is something that occurs without good and justifiable cause. Unexplained wealth is typically an investigation that is commenced because there has been a catalyst that has led investigators down that avenue. It is not something that—to use an example—a person who drives a Porsche and has a nice seaside home is likely to be subject to just because. There is typically intelligence, there is a lead-up to the investigation and there are very sound checks and balances in place, not only within police but within the Solicitor for the Northern Territory and the Director of Public Prosecutions, to ensure that this legislation is being appropriately used and there is no abuse of power.

CHAIR: And inevitably the courts themselves. Commissioner Hyde, did you want to speak?

Mr Hyde : In terms of the question from Mr Matheson about the level of assets being seized, the dimension of that that I was going to raise is the money that is remitted overseas, offshore. That is very substantial, I have just spoken to Mr Lawler, and he has indicated that the committee would be well aware of money laundering and the scale on which that occurs. So any scheme should be looking at how that can be recouped or frozen and retrieved. That, of course, is a very complex environment in which to operate. I would suggest—and this is without any detailed information—that, from a state or territory point of view, that would be a big limitation for the capacity of the states and territories to trace the funds in that way, and it may well be that the Commonwealth would need to have some legislation because of the international treaties that would be involved and that states and territories might be able to tap into. Eventually, whatever happens on the type of scheme we get, if the states and territories still have their own schemes in place then it may well be that they can link up with a Commonwealth arrangement which is going to be able to reach out and retrieve funds that have gone offshore.

CHAIR: So this could probably be seen similarly to some of the mechanisms such as the national DNA database or the fingerprint database. There is effectively a Commonwealth buy-in in terms of resources because, as I think someone commented a little earlier, some of the resources in respect of unexplained wealth are vastly dissimilar to what police would normally have at their fingertips at the moment. So we would understand that that would need to be made available if we are to expect state and territory jurisdictions to be able to effectively ramp up to do that work.

Ms GRIERSON: You said that, with those safeguards, there are adequate checks and balances to make sure that the laws regarding unexplained wealth are properly targeted. South Australia, I think, is the only state that has court oversight. Is that right? You have other processes? In the South Australian legislation the court has the final discretion to make an unexplained wealth order. It is not the same in the Northern Territory, is it?

Mr McRoberts : It is.

Ms GRIERSON: It is the same?

Mr McRoberts : Yes.

Ms GRIERSON: Is it a barrier? Does it delay things; does it make it unnecessarily complicated?

Ms Gleeson : No. We think that the court should deal with it. Certainly, as Commissioner McRoberts has said, there are numerous checks and balances, from the beginning of an investigation right through every court process, to actually getting a matter before the court. So we do not think that there should be any change there.

Ms GRIERSON: It has not been a difficulty?

Mr Hyde : We have not yet had a case. I cannot talk about the practical end of it. But in principle you would need a court making the final decisions at some point. What might be needed is the capacity to freeze assets. Sometimes these cases take quite a while, so it could be necessary to freeze some assets as part of the process of getting a final determination.

CHAIR: These days, liquid assets could actually be transmitted at the click of a mouse. So that becomes quite important. Also, it is a bit of a challenge—how do you have a court do that? Or are there other mechanisms?

Ms GRIERSON: I think that, under Northern Territory and WA legislation, people have the right to object to their property being restrained within 28 days. Does that facilitate those assets being hidden or disposed of? Have you had any evidence about that 28-day provision?

Ms Gleeson : At that stage the assets are frozen or restrained.

Ms GRIERSON: Then they can appeal that?

Ms Gleeson : The next process is that someone is allowed to object. Obviously, they do have the 28 days and that is also extended by the court on application by a respondent. That normally has not been a problem. These matters are long and complex. We have not really had a situation in the Northern Territory where a court has ever refused such an application by a respondent to provide evidence sometime down the track.

Ms GRIERSON: Have there been any loopholes, which assist the criminals themselves, which have come to your notice in exercising this legislation?

Ms Gleeson : Not in our experience in the Northern Territory. We have completed nine unexplained wealth cases. Currently, we have our 10th case before the courts.

Ms GRIERSON: So you are generally pretty satisfied with your legislation and its implementation?

Ms Gleeson : Yes, very satisfied. That is not to say that, once a matter comes before the court and there is a final hearing, we may not then see some loopholes in the legislation or see some things that need to be amended.

CHAIR: Can I briefly bring in Mr Medcraft. I know that a lot of the conversation has been focused very much on the rapid accumulation of wealth, particularly by those dealing in drugs. It does seem to us that there will be very significant complications in respect of investigations involving company structures. This partly goes to resources as well. But you understand the general tenor with respect to what the committee is looking at in terms of unexplained wealth. How do you see that being addressed effectively, particularly from the company and investment side of the equation?

Mr Medcraft : Our key role with the Crime Commission is to assist intelligence gathering. Clearly using our registers is a good way of helping obtain intelligence, and to that end we participate in a number of task forces. We have staff that are embedded in the Crime Commission. So there is a key role that we play, and in fact we are just finishing a new $250 million investment program in IT. It is installing the Siebel customer relationship management system, which will allow searching throughout all of our registers. We will basically be able to do one search across all our registers, which will make things a lot easier for everybody. So I think that is very important.

The second aspect of intelligence gathering is that clearly we have memorandums of understanding with regulators in other jurisdictions which we can use for that intelligence gathering, which is quite important. Also, if you want to go back to Ms Grierson's point, I think that on the demand side we touch a lot of investors and consumers. With our MoneySmart education program we do focus a lot on scams. As you know, MoneySmart so far, since we launched it last year, has had over 1½ million hits, so it reaches a lot of the population. So from the demand side I think it is a very important tool, and that is in addition to what we do in social media with Twitter and Facebook, and also newsletters that we push out. So I think that is where we have a role to play. I do agree as a financial regulator that what is being said here is fundamental. If you cut off the capital to the business model—the oxygen—clearly it is critical. I completely agree, and it is very similar to ASIC; our whole focus is on prevention because clearly an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as Benjamin Franklin once said, and I think that is absolutely true. So we fully support the approach and, we would say, participate actively. Thanks for the question.

CHAIR: Also, applying what you have said there, there is probably a greater need for agencies operating in partnership in terms of these investigations, including your own.

Mr Medcraft : Yes. As I say, we do devote a reasonable amount of resources to supporting the efforts of the Crime Commission. But I do think you have to take a supply view, but equally you have to take a demand view as well. I think you have to look at both. I do agree with that view that is coming through.

CHAIR: Clearly that would apply equally to taxation as well.

Mr D'Ascenzo : We are already committed to joint task force approaches. We think addressing the profit motive fits within the bailiwick of the tax laws and also enhances the community's understanding of citizenship and protects the community from the ravages of organised crime.

CHAIR: We will have the New South Wales Attorney General on line. I intend to indicate to him that we also have representatives from all the boards in this public hearing, so presumably you will stay present for that. I do thank everyone for their participation, and particularly Mal Hyde, who has been very forthcoming with many of his views as usual, as he can be after 15 years as the Commissioner of the South Australia Police. As I understand it, yesterday he announced that he is likely to be retiring. I do not know if there is a date set for it yet, Mal.

Mr Hyde : In July. We have got some young turks who would like to have a go in South Australia.

CHAIR: That is a question—whether you can put wise heads on young shoulders. Commissioner Hyde, bear in mind that, from my previous associations representing police in your state, I am very familiar with your operations down there. Serving 15 years as the head of the South Australia police is certainly a considerable achievement, as I know from my involvement in policing circles and also having a father who was a police officer. What has occurred in 15 years has been extraordinary, and for your time at the helm, adjusting policing operations and developing the young men and women who put their lives on the line serving the community, I thank you on behalf of a very grateful community. We will have a very slight pause here as we bring the Attorney General of New South Wales on the line.