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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 8599

Mr HAYES (11:39 AM) —I do not often have the opportunity to follow my colleague from La Trobe. I would normally have some difficulty with his political views but, when it comes to the issue of law enforcement, whilst we may have some differences about the application of federal laws and some elements of constitutionality, I have to say that the member for La Trobe has been very consistent in his fight to ensure that the police officers and other enforcement agencies who represent us are front and centre in the minds of government when it is considering resources. I congratulate the member on his comments.

I would like to continue the remarks I made when this report was introduced in the House. It is a significant report about something that does go unnoticed. It seems to me that great attention has been given, and rightly so, to counterterrorism since 2001. I will come back to this point a little later. We have seen a considerable diversion of law enforcement resources into counterterrorism, not only across Australian law enforcement jurisdictions but across the globe and, in my opinion and certainly in the opinion of others—and I am sure the member for La Trobe shares this view—it has created an opportunity for organised crime and for criminal enterprises to put down their roots in various areas of our society. We need to be conscious and always vigilant of that and we need to ensure that those people who are sworn to protect us have the appropriate tools and resources with which to do their job.

The Prime Minister, in his national security statement to the parliament on 4 December last year, said:

Organised crime more broadly is a growing concern for Australia, one the Government is determined to combat. The Australian Crime Commission has estimated that organised crime costs Australia over $10 billion every year.

The Government will develop two initiatives in the related areas of border management and serious and organised crime …

Second, we will clearly define the role of the Commonwealth in combating serious and organised crime and enhance coordination among Commonwealth agencies.

He went on to say:

We have highly capable police services which respond to a spectrum of challenges from threats to public safety to terrorism; and emergency response organisations that protect the community in our most vulnerable times.

At any time, this country faces a threat from a range of different sources; our respective institutions of state, our people, our economy and even our technologies are placed at risk. In the past, people may have had the view that, if there is a criminal enterprise and there is certain money to be made from it, a criminal will likely be involved. That is true, but the underpinning thing in all this is that there is a monetary value to crime.

One of the less contemporary approaches to modern policing is to evaluate our police services simply on their arrest rates. That is after a crime is committed; and, after every crime is committed, there is a victim of that crime. If I were to follow the theories of defence lawyers, the appropriate application of criminal law is to wait until the crime is committed, prosecute that crime and, should the case be made, record a conviction. But the whole problem with that notion is that there has to be a victim of crime in the first place; the crime must take place. One of the things that we have been agitating for regarding the committee overseeing the Australian Crime Commission is to look at those underpinning models of criminal enterprise itself. Criminals operating out there operate businesses. I will not say that there is no difference between them and any other businessperson out there—they are certainly nefarious and they are there to pursue an illegal enterprise—but they have a for-profit motive in mind; they are there simply to get a return on their capital and they will operate in the areas of least resistance possible. Areas which are overburdened with regulation, where courts are hamstrung in terms of prosecution or where police are perhaps less resourced are all areas of opportunity for criminal enterprise. This is something that the Australian Crime Commission committee has been trying to get out there for some time—that this is not just going through a statistical exercise and working out how many people have been convicted for crimes that have been reported. We are more concerned, on behalf of the community, about how much crime we can prevent, how much criminal enterprise we can disrupt and, by doing that, and by looking at strategies that underpin that, we think we are in a better position to protect the community in the future.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you are well aware, the committee members had the opportunity to look at some international jurisdictions and contemporary law enforcement, particularly the regulations and laws that underpin their fight against criminal activity, particularly with regard to organised crime. Together with the member for La Trobe and other members of the delegation, I had the opportunity to visit North America, Europe and the UK. From that journey we found five consistent things. We have summarised them this way: the importance of following the money trail, which I will come back to; the need for greater information sharing amongst law enforcement and other agencies within the government and between governments; the benefit of developing measures to prevent organised crime rather than simply reacting to it; the critical role that political will plays in combating serious and organised crime, and I will come back to that as well; and the need for governments to take a holistic approach in tackling organised crime through a whole package of legislative and administrative measures.

When we travelled overseas we found a range of things. The contemporary method of overseas law enforcement agencies is no longer to simply react to crime, because they know they are on a hiding to nowhere, quite frankly. As soon as you put one enterprise down, another is going to spring up in its place. And more often than not the principals behind these various enterprises are in common. Raffaele Grassi, of the Italian national police, put it best when he said criminal members:

… are prepared to spend time in prison, but to take their assets is to really harm these individuals.

As the member for La Trobe will recall, while we were in Italy we were told that there were many members of the mafia who are quite happy to parade around in a T-shirt and not draw attention to themselves by wearing flashy things, gold charms and that sort of stuff. But to pin them down, their assets are not necessarily in Italy; their assets are all around the world.

Mr Wood —Melbourne!

Mr HAYES —The member for La Trobe, as he volunteers—we will not go to his campaign fund. I withdraw that! It is a fact that these assets are being dispensed internationally. The member will recall that one prominent European jurisdiction that we visited made very clear to us when we asked about what sort of due diligence they imposed for international investment in their country that, unless there was evidence that the money was the proceeds of crime that had been committed in that very prominent country, there was nothing for them to do. In other words, that was a very green light. For anyone who wants to invest their proceeds of crime in hospitals, roads or anything like that, then this country is all but saying it is free for business. They are the things that legitimise criminal engagement; they are the things that legitimise all those things that people want us to stop—crime being peddled on the streets and drugs and all that sort of stuff. If these big fellas out there are earning that sort of money, but can legitimise their assets, protect their criminal empires and go to the most prestigious functions with Prime Ministers—not ours, of course—and other leaders around the globe and in Europe, they are bound to do that. They are the people who underpin the drug sellers on the streets. People out there selling drugs are an expendable commodity. Every time you knock one of those drug dealers over, someone else will take his place. But there are not that many Mr Bigs out there, and they are the ones we have to get to.

I am concerned that in every jurisdiction we visited they all agree that since 2001 there has been a diversion of law enforcement resources into counterterrorism. Clearly, if we have a terrorism event, it would create great damage to the targets and also affect the psyche of the nation. We understand that. We understand that it is a real and live threat and that therefore we need to take measures to meet it. But clearly simply diverting law enforcement resources into counterterrorism should not be seen to ameliorate the position that we need to take against serious and organised crime. That is consistent. It is there and it is a business model. It goes back to what I said a little earlier about a line of least resistance. Maybe these guys are not about to set up some form of jihad, but they might decide to go out and do some credit scams, get into car rebirthing or go into the processing of amphetamines and other drugs.

There is one consistent thing that has emerged when we have talked to each of the law enforcement jurisdictions, and the member for La Trobe will know this from his own experience in Victoria Police. These blokes are not committed; they are not specialists in one particular area. We see people who travel from state to state. They will move from one form of crime into another. It will depend on the return on capital. Just as any other business decision is likely to revolve around that, so their business revolves around it. To that extent, this is why we need to have a consistent national and global position on the way we deal with crime. I am saying that crime in this country moves from state to state and region to region, but clearly it actually moves from overseas and internationally.

I cannot recall the circumstances, Jason, but someone made a comment to us when we were in Europe. Actually, it was the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. They did an assessment. Kevin Rudd says that organised crime is responsible for costing this country $10 billion annually. Across the world, the UN gives an estimated figure that I cannot recall off the top of my head. But, if you were to add it up in terms of all the advanced economies, the criminal empire would come in as the 18th largest economy in the world. On those sorts of statistics, next time we have a G20 meeting we should actually have the don there, because they probably represent a significant portion of wealth. It is at that sort of magnitude.

That is why we are saying that in this country you cannot put your head in the sand and think that you can fix this just by having more coppers out there on the beat and all the rest of it, doing all those things that they have to do out there to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our people on the streets. That is a form of policing. It is also a form of policing to ensure that we are not subject to a terrorist attack, that we have all that intelligence and that we process it. Again, in this day and age, regrettably that is also core business. But it is core business for us to keep our focus on organised crime because, whilst terrorism may or may not occur, if we allow organised crime to flourish then we will be damaged, because their whole business plan is underpinned by the damage that they can wreak not only on people but on our economy. As I say, going back to the Prime Minister’s comments, there is $10 billion annually that flows out of this country into organised crime.

I have probably wandered on long enough, but I commend this report to my colleagues to read. There are some very serious recommendations. The unexplained wealth provisions, I think, are a key tool that should be given to our law enforcement agencies. (Time expired)

Debate (on motion by Mr Briggs) adjourned.