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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2941

Mr McGAURAN(8.37) —In speaking to this very important legislation-the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill-it is not my intention to launch into an unrestrained attack on the Government for its failure to deal adequately with organised crime. The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) would agree with me that nobody disputes that this Government has taken some initiative, even tentative steps, towards dealing with the problem of organised crime. However, together with the honourable member for North Sydney, we utterly reject any contention made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Griffiths), the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) or anybody else on the government benches that the Government has made a full assault on organised crime. There are too many instances of half-hearted attempts for us to be convinced that this Government is totally-I stress the word `totally'-rather than partly committed to tackling organised crime.

Before addressing the substance of the legislation I will comment briefly on some of the matters raised by the honourable member for Maribyrnong. This tired old argument that the previous coalition Government did not do enough to fight organised crime is wearing very thin. I would like the Attorney-General to table his speeches, his questions and his statements made during his years as shadow Attorney-General alerting the nation to the cancer of organised crime. The simple fact is that there has been a sudden awakening from a childish naivete about organised crime. It was not until the early 1980s, following the startling revelations of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, that this chamber, perhaps to our shame, began to address the problem of organised crime. Up until then it was a major concern of the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, the various State police forces and the Federal Police but nowhere were legislators properly addressing themselves to the issue until the Costigan Commission, following from too many royal commissions that had been shelved and reports that had been shelved, brought to light the vastness of organised crime stretching across all sectors of society and even corrupting the judiciary, the legislature and the police forces in a way none of us dreamed or dared to fear.

On coming to office in March 1983 this Government was presented with the undeniable evidence of the extent of the problem. It was, therefore, left to this Government to begin to put into place the agencies and the legislation equipping those agencies with sufficient tools to fight organised crime. I, for one, acknowledge, as part of a collective failing, the absence of concerted effort in past days. I take issue with the remedies suggested by the honourable member for Maribyrnong for the problem of organised crime. He referred to the findings of the Costigan Commission but, for heaven's sake, the Costigan Commission was prematurely wound up long before it could properly complete its own investigations and act upon its recommendations and references, which were then handed, sadly, and in my view in a very much disjointed fashion, to the incoming National Crime Authority. So, honourable members opposite should not hold up the Costigan Commission as the flagship of their flight against organised crime, when they so hampered its efforts that they left a former Royal Commissioner very disappointed-and the Attorney-General knows that that is putting it very mildly.

Moreover, the honourable member for Maribyrnong sought to convince us that the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs Service are now highly efficient, well resourced and successful bodies. Given the resources and the limitations under which they must operate, I have the highest regard for the Federal Police and the Customs Service, but the fact is, as their representatives, particularly from their staff associations, will point out, they have one arm tied behind their back every day; every time they seek to implement the law they find themselves frustrated at every turn.

Mrs Kelly —Who said that?

Mr McGAURAN —The Australian Federal Police Association, for a start, maintains that that is the case. It is strange that the honourable member for Canberra need ask who is telling us that the Australian Federal Police are poorly resourced, as this concerns her own electorate. This has come from their own Association.

Further, on a more specific matter, the honourable member for Maribyrnong has flagged the concern that he has that, under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, Australia may be called upon perhaps to return an offender to face the penalty of death. It is not our place to second guess the penalties of other countries. As the honourable member for Maribyrnong has pointed out, to give him his due, in clause 8 of the Bill the Attorney-General can refuse assistance in certain circumstances. A whole list of criteria are set out but, basically, assistance can be refused if it is merely to fulfil a political action or an action of a political character. In other words, if the Attorney-General believes that there are substantial grounds for believing that the request is made with a view to punishing a person for a political offence or an offence of a political character, he can refuse it. I do not believe that, if the application, from another country is in proper order and a case in relation to a crime has been made prima facie and we know that the offender will be returning for a fair trial, the Attorney-General should refuse that application on the basis that capital punishment is the final penalty if the defendant is found guilty.

Mr Cleeland —You support capital punishment, don't you?

Mr McGAURAN —I am asked whether I support capital punishment. I do; for some crimes I support capital punishment-make no mistake about that-and I think that I speak for a significant majority of Australian people. This is not capital punishment as it was once applied but capital punishment for the most heinous crimes.

This legislation is an important part of a package that the Attorney-General has introduced. He has foreshadowed the introduction of further legislation in the weeks to come. I refer to the extravagant claims of the honourable member for Maribyrnong that this legislation is a very significant advancement in the fight against organised crime. This legislation, by itself, cannot possibly in any way deal significantly with the fight against organised crime. It is a very important tool to be added to several other pieces of legislation which, collectively, will add up to a very significant and, in many cases, successful tool against organised crime.

Later this evening we will debate the Proceeds of Crime Bill. That legislation will also assist in this matter, but I ask the Attorney-General: Where is his supposed legislation requiring the financial transactions above $10,000, for instance, to be recorded? For instance, where is his RICO type-racketeering, influence, corrupt organisations-legislation from the United States of America? Further, why are we seeing Press reports that the Attorney-General cannot get the measure through Caucus? Why cannot the Attorney-General get through those financial recording legislation measures so desperately needed?

Mr Lionel Bowen —Next week.

Mr McGAURAN —The Attorney-General thinks he can get it through Caucus. Well, the Attorney-General deserves our congratulations. In fact, while speaking of congratulations, I might say that the Attorney-General deserves qualified congratulations for having brought the legislation to this point. We know that he has had to deal with some lunatic members of the Left, who regard in an antiquated way the civil liberties of an individual to an absurd degree. Of course it is a balancing act between equipping law enforcement agencies with the necessary legislative powers to fight organised crime as against the rights of individuals. However, for too long the Labor Party has tipped that balance in favour of the criminal. It has taken until this time, some 4 1/2 years after this Government came to power, to find some legislative base being provided to combat organised crime. It is not too little but it is certainly very late. Moreover, the Attorney-General's telecommunications interception legislation does not go far enough, and he knows that it does not go far enough, with its absurd Central Telecommunications Interception Agency. The legislation does not go far enough in that the crimes upon which a warrant can be obtained for phone tapping are not extensive enough.

The National Party has a number of worries in regard to this whole legislative process. We congratulate the Attorney-General. Given the constraints under which he works, and being a member of the Labor Party, quite frankly, he has really made a mighty effort. However, anyone who tries to convince us that the legislation is sufficient is, quite simply, either, first, misunderstanding the nature and powers of organised crime and the sophisticated techniques employed by those in organised crime or, secondly, is totally ignorant of the subject altogether. Sadly, too many honourable members on the Government benches fall into that latter category.

Mr Hodgman —Or are protecting the New South Wales Right.

Mr McGAURAN —The honourable member for Denison would suggest that too much of this legislation is to protect the New South Wales Right. It is not the time or the place to pursue an allegation like that, except to say that the honourable member for Denison has had some experience in these matters and is speaking from a point of view of some knowledge--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —If the honourable member for Denison wishes to interject he might do so from his own seat. I think it is some time since the honourable member for Denison has occupied the seat in which he is now sitting.

Mr McGAURAN —I have always found the honourable member for Denison to be extremely helpful in discussions such as this, and I am grateful for his assistance.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Gippsland may realise that interjections are never really helpful and in fact are not in accordance with Standing Orders. If the honourable member for Denison wishes to interject, he might do so from somewhere more appropriate to his standing.

Mr McGAURAN —It is simply that one can hardly term the honourable member for Denison `normal' in the sense that his actions in this place will always be of an abnormal character.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is also a standing order about ironical expressions, I think, to which the honourable member for North Sydney has drawn the attention of honourable members from time to time.

Mr McGAURAN —The National Party's position is quite simple: This is good legislation, and those who have assisted in the drafting of it deserve credit. It is remarkably complicated; it seeks to deal with some of the most complex and sophisticated problems associated with international crime. We have an immense amount of respect for the draftsman and those members of the Attorney-General's Department who have assisted in preparing it. After all, they can only work within the guidelines laid down by the Attorney-General-and therein lies our criticism. I worry still that this legislation, breaking as it does new ground in Australia, can hardly be expected to be the panacea for all evils in dealing with international crime. I very much suspect that in the not too distant future we will be considering in this chamber amendments to the legislation. That is certainly not a criticism of the Attorney-General's Department but rather an acknowledgment of the extraordinarily sophisticated--

Mr Millar —Nature.

Mr McGAURAN —I say thank you to my good friend the honourable member for Wide Bay; ever so eloquent and never lost for a word himself. It reminds us of the sophisticated nature of organised crime and that the very best-sadly-legal and accounting brains are employed for the purposes of frustrating the legal processes of not just Australia but those of many other countries also. As other speakers have said, this Bill will provide the legislative base whereby Australia can enter into legislative arrangements with other countries and thereby request from each other and grant assistance to each other in criminal matters. It is worth noting that the assistance is not just related to the prosecution of crimes but also to the investigation of crime, so that assistance can be required at a preliminary stage. Further down the line it relates to the seizing of the proceeds of crime, and that is terribly important.

I understand that although this legislation was introduced in October of last year, the major reason why it has only now been reintroduced into the House is that it needed to align with the Proceeds of Crime Bill 1987, which as I say will be debated later this evening. So there is now a very secure, but certainly not watertight, and very comprehensive package of legislation which will interlock and which will work, as I say, to deter and arrest organised crime.

At present assistance is more or less on an informal basis, and we use Interpol which, as all honourable members would be aware, is very limited in its investigation. The late Senator Alan Missen was a very caustic critic of Interpol, having visited that agency on more than one occasion in Paris, and he was always very concerned about the lax security and the failure of that body properly to protect its informants as well as, of course, to protect evidence that was acquired in the course of investigation. So if anybody believes that he can deal with organised crime on an international basis simply through Interpol, he is sadly mistaken.

Moreover, at present Australia can take evidence with the aid of its extradition legislation, but as all honourable members would be aware, this is done unilaterally and naturally brings no obligation on the other country to reciprocate.

Mr Hodgman —Trimbole.

Mr McGAURAN —The honourable member for Denison highlights the example of Trimbole and that forever will remain a blot on this Government's record and a testimony to the incompetence of a government which was not nearly serious enough about apprehending a most sought after organised crime figure. In saying that, I freely acknowledge that this Government received very little, if any, assistance from the Irish authorities. I shall, of course, invite the Attorney-General to respond further to that. I know it is a matter of great sensitivity to him personally, and he is likely to fly into a rage every time we mention the name Trimbole, and accuse the previous Government of letting him escape in the first place.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member for Gippsland might stick to the debate rather than make aspersions on members of the House or attribute other attitudes to members. He might be better sticking to the substance of the amendment which he might be talking about or to the Bill before the House.

Mr McGAURAN —Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bill really arises out of long discussions over many years between Commonwealth countries and indeed gives effect to the Commonwealth scheme on mutual assistance in criminal matters, which was agreed to by Commonwealth Law Ministers in Harare, which of course is the capital of Zimbabwe, on 1 August 1986.

Other members have listed the provisions of clause 5, which will allow and facilitate the obtaining by Australia of international assistance in criminal matters in areas including, as I say-they have been identified-the obtaining of evidence; the provision of documents and other records; the location and identification of witnesses or suspects; the execution of requests for search and seizure; the making of arrangements for persons to give evidence or assist in investigation; the forfeiture or confiscation of property in respect of offences; the recovery of pecuniary penalties in respect of offences; and the service of documents.

The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Consequential Amendments) Bill is very much as its name suggests. It will amend various Commonwealth Acts as a consequence of provisions in the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 1987. The most important aspect of those amendments is the fact that it will repeal provisions in the Australian extradition legislation in relation to the taking of evidence for the purposes of criminal proceedings overseas, since now the substance of those provisions will be included in the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill.

I congratulate the Government for this specific piece of legislation. It will enormously assist in the battle against organised crime with all of organised crimes international dimensions. I do, however, express concern on the part of the National Party of Australia that this legislation has been so long in coming, that it is part of a package which at first sight seems appealing but which on closer examination falls far too short of the mark in addressing with total determination and commitment the fight against organised crime.