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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 2102

(Question No. 5)

Mr Jacobi asked the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 22 February 1985:

(1) Having regard to the indirect contribution made to the occurrence of organised crime by inadequacies in the legislation of the Parliament, will he give consideration to the systematic provision to the Parliament of crime impact statements in respect of bills as they are introduced.

(2) Will he assure the House he will take steps to ensure that there will be early reference to the National Crime Authority of (a) a general study of the community costs, extent and consequences of organised crime in Australia, (b) investigate the capacity for improvement in the self-policing of professional ethical standards of accountants, lawyers, medical practitioners and other professions, (c) investigate the need for enhanced regulation of banking and other financial institutions in order that their financial services do not facilitate and mediate criminal activity and (d) investigate the need for improved policing, administrative and judicial structures, both State and Federal, and, in particular, the need for specialised courts for the prosecution of organised, corporate and other white collar crime.

Mr Young —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The large cost to the Government of fraud in relation to Commonwealth payments including Medicare, Social Security benefits and the Home Buyers Grant Scheme is a matter of great concern. The Government is presently examining the possibility of preparing crime impact statements as one way of ensuring that the potential for fraudulent abuse of such schemes in minimised. The aim of these statements would be to take into account the possibility of persons, particularly criminals, circumventing the legislative prohibitions. It may therefore be possible to overcome some of these deficiencies while developing the legislation rather than trying to deal with these problems once the scheme is operating.

The Government is concerned that, in the past, insufficient attention has been given to the possibilities for fraud when developing or refining schemes-the concept of crime impact statements could be of real assistance and accordingly, is being pursued.

(2) The National Crime Authority's priority tasks are to investigate serious crime and assemble evidence for the prosecution of offenders. It is authorised by the Act to make recommendations for law reform where, as a result of the performance of any of its functions, in considers a recommendation should be made on such matters to the relevant Minister. In carrying out this function, the Authority could deal with many of the matters suggested by the honourable member. However, the Act does not provide for the giving of a general reference in relation to law reform of the description proposed by the honourable member.