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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3206


Mr KEENAN (Stirling) (10:32): I acknowledge the member for Fowler as chair of the committee and compliment him on the work that he has done in preparing this report. He and Senator Parry in particular have had a longstanding interest in unexplained wealth that goes back many years. I know that they have championed the committee's inquiry into unexplained wealth legislation in Australia. This report is the culmination of that. I welcome the report as a member of the committee but also as the shadow minister responsible for justice, customs and border protection.

Serious and organised crime is a serious national security issue, in my view. It threatens the Australian economy, our wellbeing and our Australian way of life. It is very difficult to get an accurate estimate, but the financial cost of organised crime to the community is estimated to be at least $15 billion a year. The Australian Crime Commission informed the committee during the course of the inquiry that, while serious and organised crime groups continue to prove resilient and adaptable to legislative amendment and law enforcement intelligence and investigative methodologies, the reduction or removal of their proceeds of crime is likely to represent the most significant deterrent and disruption to their activities. We heard lots of evidence from law enforcement agencies during the course of this inquiry. Something that particularly struck me was the evidence provided to the committee by one of the police, who related an incident where he saw a hardened criminal cry when the police came and collected his Ferrari under state proceeds of crime legislation. Clearly, if you can go to the point of the crime, illegal profit, and take it away you can deliver heavy blows to organised criminals. That is why it is very important that the federal parliament look at the regime surrounding unexplained wealth and at ways that we can more effectively use that regime as a deterrent to organised crime.

The committee makes a number of recommendations. Unexplained wealth provisions are a very important tool but unexplained wealth investigations can be particularly intrusive. The committee was aware of that and made a number of recommendations to try to alleviate that prospect: firstly, the inclusion of a statement of intent in the objects clause relating to unexplained wealth, noting that the provisions are for use primarily against serious and organised crime; the leaving in place of judicial discretion about making an unexplained wealth order in cases where the amount of unexplained wealth in question is under $100,000; and, finally, in place of judicial discretion, the introduction of additional oversight by accountability agencies. While this remains an effective tool, we were mindful of the fact that these are very intrusive types of inquiries and so we have sought to provide a framework to alleviate some of that intrusiveness.

We also recommended further support for unexplained wealth investigation. Clearly, agencies need to be properly resourced to be able to go after these ill-gotten gains. We believe that we need to ensure that ACC examination material can be used as evidence. The committee recommended exploring the possibility that the ACC conduct examinations for the purpose of unexplained wealth proceedings in a manner consistent with proceeds of crime court proceedings. Finally, we recommended the amending of search warrant provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act to allow for the collection of evidence for unexplained wealth proceedings. The committee made a number of other recommendations that members and the public will be able to ascertain through looking at the committee's report.

I join with the member for Fowler, the chair of the committee, in congratulating the committee secretariat for the work that it put into preparing this inquiry. I believe that this has been a very important parliamentary inquiry. It has the potential to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies have at their disposal the tools to go to the heart of organised crime and to rip away those ill-gotten gains. If we can do that we can make a difference in squashing organised crime, which, as I said, represents a clear national security issue for Australia and is something that, if it remains unfought, can undermine our Australian way of life. I hope that the government takes these recommendations very seriously, as the opposition does. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the honourable member for Fowler wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?

Mr HAYES: I move:

That the House take note of the report.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: In accordance with standing order 39(d), the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.