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

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2945

Mrs KELLY(8.56) —I must say that I was very disappointed with the speech that the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) has just made in response to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 1987. I would have thought that rather than just criticise the Government he would have had some understanding of the complexity of this issue and the initiative that members of the Government, and even honourable members here who, when they were in opposition, took to try to deal with organised crime. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) sitting next to me was the person who, in the 1970s in this very House, moved a motion that we establish a crimes commission to investigate the problems of crime in this country.

Mr Jacobi —But the previous Government rejected it for four years.

Mrs KELLY —That is right. As he said, the then Attorney-General, Senator Durack, rejected it time and time again. That is how much will the Opposition had to do something about organised crime, and at a time when this Government comes forth with a package of legislation which is the most significant package of legislation ever introduced into this Parliament to deal with law and order, all the Opposition can do is say: `Well, they have done all right but it has all just taken a bit too long'. It just shows how little understanding members of the Opposition have about the complexities of government and also about the will of this Government actually to take some action to combat organised crime, instead of just talking about it, as those opposite all did when they were in Opposition.

Mr Jacobi —The Trimbole problem was a result of the extradition treaty which they never put in place.

Mrs KELLY —That was just one aspect of it. Honourable members opposite stand up there and criticise, and talk about the Trimbole farce, but they have to understand what their Government did about those extradition treaties.

Mr Jacobi —Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Mrs KELLY —That is essentially the problem that we had to deal with, the years of absolute neglect in the area of organised crime. This Government has to be congratulated, and the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is at the table, should be congratulated on the initiative not just of this legislation but on the whole package of legislation, because this Government acknowledges that crime knows no State boundaries, nor borders between countries. This Bill acknowledges the reality of modern international crime and sets up for the first time in the history of this country the legislative basis for Australia to negotiate treaties with other countries which will make it possible for the Government to get witnesses and accused back here to face the courts. It will also, when it meshes with the Proceeds of Crime Bill which is due for its second reading straight after this legislation, enable the Government to freeze profits generated from criminal activities and salted away in deposits overseas and ultimately to get them back. At the same time Australia will be able to export or repatriate any international criminals who have hidden here rather than them store their ill-gotten gains. They are fantastic initiatives. We did not hear any congratulations of the Government for these sorts of initiatives. All we hear is the sniping from the National Party because it has no understanding at all of how hard it is to get this legislation in place.

This is incredibly significant legislation, and it stems directly from an Australian initiative that was unanimously endorsed at the seventh United Nations Crime Congress in Milan in 1985. That initiative has resulted in the negotiation of a record number of treaties in the two years since then, and I again wish to make a point of congratulating the Minister and the Government on their success in this matter.

The Bill should also be seen as the Government's unprecedented will to clean up the financial system of this country, an area that the Opposition neglected for all its years in government. The Bill results from the same clear-sighted realism as the deregulation of the economy by the Treasurer (Mr Keating)-deregulation that recognised, and at last responded to the realities of the world economy, world trade and Australia's position in that economy-and the Government's demonstrated commitment to equity in taxation policy. We, as Australians, do not like bottom-of-the-harbour schemers; we do not like those who rip off the rest of us; above all, we do not like the criminals who turn our children into junkies for their own selfish profit.

It is not enough not to like them-we must do something about them. It is not enough to stand up, as the honourable member for Gippsland did, and say: `Bring in capital punishment; that is what we want'. It is the simplistic view-that to bring in capital punishment would solve a lot of problems. We must be as sophisticated in our approach as the criminals are in theirs; we must be as sophisticated as are the international criminals. We need to understand the way that profits are sent outside this country, the way that they get shuttled from one tax haven to another until they have almost disappeared. These two Bills demonstrate how Australia's sophistication has grown.

It is encouraging to note how keen the world's governments have been to support our initiatives and to legislate to give teeth to those responsible for following the tainted money trail on its slimy course around the world. Yet sophistication, while necessary, is not enough; there must be political will, and that is what the Hawke Government has in abundance. That is what is demonstrated in this legislation. We will attempt to remove the profit motive in crime, just as we have removed the tax shelters and spoilt the tax avoidance schemes of the greedy and the unprincipled. We will follow tainted money to its hiding places and we will impound and confiscate it.

Like all other criminal laws, this legislation aims to become unnecessary. It is aimed at eradicating what it deals with and making crooked and corrupt schemes not worth the trouble for the crooked and corrupt who invent and profit from them. We shall not succeed completely-weeds thrive, we all know that-but we have the will to succeed. With this Bill and the Proceeds of Crime Bill, we have a sophisticated mechanism to enforce our will.

Organised crime is here in Australia. While I was preparing for this speech, I re-read David Hickey's book as a reminder of some of the criminal networks that exist. The serious theme in his book-the theme that builds up out of a mass of details, anecdotes and transcripts of court proceedings and inquiries-is the increase of overseas influence in Australia's crime scene during the past 20 years. That increase in influence is sinister and unwelcome; so, too, is the increase in profit export that has been occurring as a result of that growing overseas involvement. I do not mean to argue that tainted money left in Australia, or laundered at home, is better than tainted money in some off-shore hideaway. I mean to imply that the beneficiaries of tainted money have been persuaded that a lack of international co-operation in hunting them down allows them to be increasingly cheeky in their operations. If they feel that they can safely send their profits to secret and safe havens-to which, when the heat is turned up too high, they can take themselves also-criminal activities appear to be worth the risk.

This Bill, and the growth of co-operation between countries that has made it possible, will disabuse criminals of that notion. The thought of Australia's criminal masterminds basking in the Mediterranean sun or cruising in their gin palaces across the Caribbean will give way to the much more satisfying thought of their faces behind cold bars waiting for escorts back to a criminal court in Darlinghurst or wherever.

The Bill is designed to make the world smaller for the Mr Bigs-smaller, colder and far less glamourous. There is glamour in all this, and a certain fascination. The picture of Ronald Biggs at a recording session with the Sex Pistols in Rio is vivid; it is the stuff of the tabloid Press and the basis of many a sensational film. Many of the prominent racing identities who successfully camouflage their real activities, and send the money that they have allegedly made from a lucky streak with the bookies to a numbered account, have colourful identities that mask a pretty murky daily life. Take their money, follow it, follow them if they take off, and we will catch them. Without profits, they cannot protect themselves; without protection, they cannot survive, and their glamour can pass to those who deserve it. We can have colourful federals instead, serving the cause of justice and truth, operating through international and Australia-wide mutual co-operation, and covered in a much more just kind of glamour.

The Bills' potential for social profit is very high. Take the financial backing away from the heroin trade, make the profits too hard to hide, and we will not only save the cost of addiction-medical costs, legal costs, the cost of wasting human potential and the cost of grief and the cost of policing-we will save the costs to this country of investment in death.

Let us take our notorious friend Cornwell, for instance. We have brought him back to face charges but, and better still because it is unprecedented, we have millions of dollars made by him from drug running, which were found and frozen in Swiss bank accounts-and that before we have even signed the final agreement with the Swiss Government. The agreement, the first made by that government in 50 years, has been accepted by the Swiss Administration, but still has to go through the procedural formalities of the Swiss system. We do not want to count our seizures before we have them, but I think that there is reason for quiet celebration.

We have heard rumours of a flight of money from Swiss banks to other locations. However, no other country has so stable a political record as Switzerland, and criminals like a solid stash for their money. I think that our agreement, once finalised, will be a very effective move against tainted money.

I am not naive and I do not think that any honourable member believes that this Bill alone will be the answer. It will not root out a problem as large as this, and as large and as international in scope as crime has become, but it will make it harder. This Government is trying. The Attorney-General, who is at the table tonight, is trying, and it is impossible not to applaud such efforts, impossible not to cheer and impossible not to commend to the House the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill that is now before us. I recommend it to the House.