Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Page: 7917


Mr WALLACE (Fisher) (13:06): I rise in support of the Unexplained Wealth Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. AUSTRAC has estimated that crime generates between $2.8 billion and $6.3 billion every year. Depriving criminals of their wealth is a key element in discouraging and combating serious and organised crime. As a barrister who, once upon a time, used to practise in criminal law, I know that the best way to stop crime is to disincentivise it. To be able to take the proceeds of crime away from criminals—particularly, from organised criminals—is a terrific way of stopping them in their tracks, and certainly a way of giving them something to ponder about.

We know that organised crime flourishes in places such as casinos, and, Mr Deputy Speaker Mitchell, you might be aware that I've spoken in this place on many occasions about my opposition to the construction of a casino on the Sunshine Coast, one that the mayor of the Sunshine Coast, Mark Jamieson, wanted to see built in Maroochydore. I, with the assistance of 6,500 locals on the Sunshine Coast, fought tooth and nail against the building of a casino on the Sunshine Coast, because we, Sunshine Coast locals, know that, if a casino was ever built on our beautiful stretch of the Earth, it would have, absolutely, a significant, detrimental impact on the way that we lead our lives.

A casino would be like a magnet to organised crime, because casinos enable organised criminals to launder money, whether it's drug money or money gained through other types of offences, such as extortion—all the sorts of offences that organised crime gets involved with. Casinos enable them to launder that money: to turn it into gambling chips and convert it back into cash—to wash it. They clean that drug money, that money that they obtained through crime—those ill-gotten gains. So one of the best ways that we can stop organised crime, in my view, is by restricting the business of casinos. And that is why I fought so hard to ensure that a casino does not happen on the Sunshine Coast.

In fact, it has been estimated that more than a billion dollars in total in drug syndicate money passed through Crown Casino in Melbourne between 2002 and 2012. Police raids on major drug syndicates in Melbourne saw more than $1.2 million in casino chips confiscated in 2014 alone.

I'm very proud to announce that the Labor state government in Queensland has finally, after a great deal of persuasion and arm-bending, come out and indicated that they will not grant a casino licence for the Sunshine Coast. This is a terrific win for Sunshine Coast locals, because we know it will stop, or certainly put the brakes on, organised crime on the Sunshine Coast.

Organised crime in Queensland is most often associated with bikies on the Gold Coast but, unfortunately, the Sunshine Coast is not immune. In 2016 and 2017 Caloundra was the fourth worst suburb for ice use between Gympie and Strathpine, according to the Queensland department of child safety. According to the vice-president of the Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association, Dr Wayne Herdy, throughout 2017 the incidence of doctors treating acute crises caused by ice use on the Sunshine Coast doubled. Most GPs are dealing with at least two of these crises every week, and Dr Herdy expects this problem to increase by another 50 per cent this year.

My daughter works as a nurse at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. She sometimes tells me stories of young men coming into hospital absolutely charged up with ice and how these men can be almost uncontrollable. It is a real scourge on our community. The Health Retreat, a rehabilitation facility in Maleny owned by Francis McLachlan, suggests that ice is as readily available and cheap as a pizza on the Sunshine Coast. This ice comes, more often than not, from organised criminals operating on the coast. Often they have links to wider criminal organisations nationwide. In July 2018 Queensland police seized more than $1 million in illicit drugs, including cocaine, MDMA and ice, and arrested 28 people on 110 charges following the targeting of a sophisticated Sunshine Coast crime syndicate. This group had links with others in Sydney.

Preventing a casino on the Sunshine Coast will help prevent money laundering on a local level and will discourage the further growth of criminal organisations. At a national level, this legislation before us will give us extra tools to ensure that organised crime does not pay. The scheme of the bill will provide a national approach to target unexplained wealth, enabling all participating jurisdictions to work together to effectively deprive these criminals of their wealth, irrespective of the jurisdiction in which they operate. It will mean that instead of what is currently in place—a patchwork of orders that would otherwise be sought separately by the Commonwealth and, sometimes, state and territory authorities—a single unexplained wealth order could be used to target a national criminal syndicate.

As the law currently stands, Commonwealth orders can only be used in relation to a Commonwealth offence, an international offence or a state offence with a federal aspect, excluding a large proportion of organised crime activities. This bill will expand that arrangement to all offences referred by the state and territory jurisdictions. The bill will also expand the range of powers available to state and territory jurisdictions, to help them work together with the Commonwealth to be more effective in their investigations. It'll give access to an individual's or an organisation's financial information. That is absolutely vital to identify whether they have illicit wealth. Under the bill, law enforcement agencies in participating jurisdictions will be able to apply for production orders or issue notices to financial institutions under the Proceeds of Crime Act. These compel the production of information or documents to investigators. The supply of that information has to be done within 14 days. To protect the public, participating jurisdictions will be subject to the oversight of the parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, and will be required to report to the minister annually on the use of these provisions. The report will be tabled in parliament.

The bill will also expand access to Commonwealth-intercepted telecommunications information for unexplained wealth matters. Currently, this information can be legally gathered under exceptional circumstances and used by the Commonwealth, but it cannot be shared with other jurisdictions working on another case or even the same case. Under this bill, this sharing will be permitted where the information has been gathered. While providing these benefits, the bill also ensures that the state's unexplained wealth regimes are not undermined. The Commonwealth's unexplained wealth orders will only apply to offences which are referred to the Commonwealth by the states themselves. This will ensure that the Commonwealth never ends up with more control over state offences than the states do themselves.

Further, the proposed intergovernmental agreement on the national cooperative scheme on unexplained wealth, which accompanies this bill, contains provisions which ensure that any overlap between operations can be quickly resolved. This system will require the states to sign up, if they want to be involved, for it to be truly effective. Negotiations with the states have been ongoing since 2014, and the government is bringing forward this legislation now because it wants to ensure that jurisdictions that are eager to join the scheme can do so as quickly as possible.

The bill includes an incentive for states to sign up. The bill will lower the threshold of a contribution that must be made by a jurisdiction for that jurisdiction to receive an equal share of the forfeit property. The scheme recognises all contributions, not just significant ones, including providing intelligence of relevance, securing the original conviction that leads to the wealth recovery, or providing the offences relied on by the Commonwealth in undertaking the recovery. Under the proposed intergovernmental agreement on the national cooperative scheme on unexplained wealth, states will be required, in return, to inform the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions about operations or any legislative changes which may impact on them.

Unfortunately, so far most of the states have not signed up to this system. In particular and of worthy note is the jurisdiction of Queensland. It has not confirmed at this stage that it will participate. The Queensland state Labor government does not, unfortunately, have a good track record of participating in national law enforcement regimes which combat criminal organisations. I refer specifically to the Trade Union Joint Police Taskforce, which has been set up by the Commonwealth to investigate criminal offences that have been allegedly committed by trade unions or their officials. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that some people within the trade union movement, particularly in the CFMEU, are acting and have been acting illegally for a number of years, and yet the Queensland state government refused to sign up to this Trade Union Joint Police Taskforce. This is a blight on the Queensland state government. It is an example of the Queensland state government looking after their union mates, because they know, just as the Leader of the Opposition here knows, that they owe their jobs to the CFMMEU—

Ms Madeleine King: It's a mouthful!

Mr WALLACE: It is a bit of a mouthful. They need to get serious, just as the Leader of the Opposition needs to get serious. He should disown the CFMMEU and make it very, very clear that he will no longer—

Ms Price: Yes, it's quite a mouthful!

Mr WALLACE: You ought to try saying it very quickly! They ought to make it very, very clear that no longer will they take their electoral donations. The Labor Party must distance itself from the CFMMEU and no longer take electoral donations from them. Let's face it: the money that has been extorted from hardworking Australians by the CFMMEU is unfortunately being channelled back in to support this Labor Party and the Labor parties throughout all the states. It is an absolute travesty. The Leader of the Opposition here should distance himself from it. He should disown the CFMMEU. In fact, the CFMMEU should be deregistered—make no mistake. I would strongly encourage the Queensland government to get involved in this important initiative to help us combat the bikie gangs on the Gold Coast and the drug syndicates driving ice throughout Queensland. (Time expired)