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Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Page: 7914


Dr ALY (Cowan) (12:52): As those who have spoken before me noted, the Unexplained Wealth Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 provides a legislative framework at the federal level for a national cooperative scheme on unexplained wealth. I note that this policy was first developed under the former Labor government, which is testimony to this side's commitment to laws and policies to combat crime, particularly serious and organised crime. This bill really improves the Commonwealth's capacity to take profit out of serious and organised crime by extending the Commonwealth regime to referred state offences. While it may seem something quite minor, it has a rather significant impact on the way in which our law enforcement agencies have the capacity to target and combat serious and organised crime. With serious and organised crime, often those who obtain the wealth through the crime are not always directly involved in the commission of the offence. In other words, those who are making money from crime are often the ones who have their hands clean, in terms of actually committing an offence.

Due to constitutional limitations, the current Commonwealth unexplained wealth orders can only be used when a court is reasonably satisfied:

(i) that the person has committed an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a foreign indictable offence or a State offence that has a federal aspect;

(ii) that the whole or any part of the person's wealth was derived from an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a foreign indictable offence or a State offence that has a federal aspect.

That means that, in practice, law enforcement must prove a federal link in order to pursue these orders. Because serious and organised crime groups often work across state boundaries—and not just state boundaries but also transnational boundaries as well—it can be rather difficult to detect whether their unexplained wealth derives from a Commonwealth offence or from a state offence. This bill, by creating a national unexplained wealth scheme, allows states to refer power to the Commonwealth and for the proceeds from the scheme to be divided on an equitable basis between the participating jurisdictions, being either a state law enforcement agency or a federal law enforcement agency.

In effect, the bill extends the scope of Commonwealth unexplained wealth restraining orders and unexplained wealth orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act to territory offences. It allows participating state and territory agencies to access Commonwealth information-gathering powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act for the investigation or litigation of unexplained wealth matters under state or territory unexplained wealth legislation. I think there's an important point here about the participating states. At this stage, only New South Wales and the Northern Territory have agreed to be party to this scheme. I think that other state law enforcement agencies are perhaps waiting to see how this regime works out in both New South Wales and the Territory, but particularly in New South Wales. In some states—for example, Western Australia—state-based law enforcement agencies have only just gotten powers around unexplained wealth. So for them it will be a matter of trying what they have at the moment and waiting to see how this scheme works for similar law enforcement agencies in others jurisdictions, like New South Wales.

Labor, as I mentioned earlier, supports measures to combat serious and organised crime. I just want to take a little bit of time here to emphasise the impacts of serious and organised crime for Australia. The economic impacts are around $36 billion a year. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission estimates that that equates to about $1,561 out of every individual Australian's pocket and adds about 6.3 per cent to the average cost of living. There is profit in crime, and we need to be doing everything that we can to take the profit out of crime.

More than that, unexplained wealth and crimes associated with unexplained wealth extend across a whole range of criminal activities. Among them are modern slavery and forced labour. I note that sometime this week, we hope, we'll be speaking about a modern slavery bill here in this House, so it's quite timely that these two bills come before the House at this time. There have been cases, as a matter of fact, of unexplained wealth that do involve modern slavery and forced labour.

On top of that, we have unexplained wealth that works across jurisdictions and across states, but also transnationally. There are connections not just with serious and organised crime but also with terrorism. So it's very timely that Australia has come to this point where we introduce a more robust framework for tackling unexplained wealth—not just the economic costs of unexplained wealth but also the costs in terms of the potential damage it can do in criminal matters and in matters of violence and terrorism.

But I do have to make the point that, while this introduces a more robust legislative framework for dealing with serious and organised crime, legislation alone is certainly not enough. We also need to ensure that we have well-resourced law enforcement personnel within Australia so that they can utilise the legislation that is available to them. I think that is what we need to stress here today: the capacity and the capability of our law enforcement to take full advantage of and utilise all the legislative tools that we give them in terms of prosecuting serious and organised crime, ensuring that Australia is free from the profits of these crimes.

The Turnbull government like to talk a big game about law and order; they like to beat their chests a bit about law and order. But we know that behind closed doors there have been savage cuts to the Australian Federal Police. In fact, in the 2018-19 budget, the government cut the AFP's core Federal Police work by $139 million over the coming four years. And at Senate estimates this year the AFP commissioner confirmed that he will have to cut a massive 567 AFP personnel over the forward estimates because of this government's cuts to their budget.

Let's not forget that last year the government also threatened the pay and conditions of AFP officers. Even the most robust legislation that gives our law enforcement agencies the tools to be able to deal with the scourge of serious and organised crime and the threat that it has to the wellbeing of Australians—even with the best legislation—we can't make up for the cuts that this government has made to our law enforcement agencies and to our law enforcement capacity.

I know that our law enforcement agencies here in Australia do a wonderful job. They do the best that they can with the resources that they're given. They comprise some very dedicated men and women who give their lives for the protection of all Australians—who give their lives to fighting against serious and organised crime. Last week, my husband, who works in law enforcement, and I visited Mercy College and spoke to some of the year 11s and 12s there who have an interest in taking up a career in law enforcement. We gave them a bit of a career-counselling session, I might say. To see these young people, who also have an aspiration to become part of our law enforcement framework here in Australia and to join a law enforcement agency, was really quite heartening. I think we spoke to them for about two hours, and they had many questions about how they could forge a career in law enforcement. It was very heartening just to see that there are a number of young people who wish to start a career in law enforcement. I do hope that the government takes heed of what we have been saying on this side with regard to cuts to our law enforcement capability and capacity, because it will also impact on the future of law enforcement—particularly on the capacity of law enforcement to attract and retain young people, who—as I've seen and as my husband saw when we went and spoke to these people at Mercy College—have the hunger, desire and aspiration to contribute to Australia's law enforcement capabilities.

Labor, of course, supports our law enforcement agencies and the important work that they do. On this side, we are committed to ensuring that Australia maintains its strong and effective laws to combat serious and organised crime. The establishment of this national scheme plays a critical role in that; it plays a critical control in crime prevention and it plays a critical role in ensuring justice in the community.

But, as I mentioned earlier, thus far we have only New South Wales signed up to the regime. So I think it is a little too early to tell just how truly cooperative this national scheme will be. And, as I mentioned earlier, I know that other states will be waiting and watching, too. We'd like to see better cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth in this regard, and we'd like to see the government work better with the states, and to explain to the House why it has managed to secure the support of only New South Wales for this scheme.

I look forward to watching with interest the future of this scheme and, hopefully, a future of cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth that will allow our law enforcement agencies to tackle serious and organised crime and that gives them those capabilities. But I also look forward to the day when the government fully resources and funds our Federal Police and our federal agencies, as well as our state agencies, to be able to carry out the work that they need to do to continue the amazing work that they do in fighting crime in Australia.