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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3555

Mr CLEELAND(5.24) —When I last spoke on the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Proceeds of Crime (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, prior to the debate being adjourned, I referred to the Government's record of attack on serious crime in this country. Because of the actions of the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), who rightly deserves the title of the Eliot Ness of Australian crime, that record stands unsurpassed in the history of this country. Never before in this country has such a large number of Bills that go to the heart of organised crime been introduced by a single government. This goes back to the establishment of the National Crime Authority. The Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill, the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Cash Transactions Reports Bill form part of this Government's attack on crime. Collectively, these measures form the weapons that any civilised nation needs to stop the tentacles of crime infiltrating the communities that we in this House should all hold so dear. They should be seen as a very strong collective package.

I am very proud to be part of a government and a caucus-I am Chairman of the legal and administrative committee of Caucus-which have worked so hard and done so much to assist the Attorney in bringing these Bills forth. That committee sat for many long hours and went through each of these Bills clause by clause. It did that for a very serious reason. These Bills, quite rightly, start to impede on what would formerly have been regarded as the rights of individuals. They create new rights. They infiltrate commercial activities and require commercial institutions to do certain things to ensure that proper tracing procedures can be carried out to tackle the proceeds of crime. Because of those changes-because, in fact, there is perhaps a diminution in the rights of some corporations and individuals-the committee spent long hours going through each paragraph and clause of the Bills to ensure that the rights of individuals and corporations were not unduly impeded and that the legislation would be able to perform its function quite rightly and properly without going that little step too far.

The reality we must all recognise in Australia today is that crime strikes at the very heart of the financial structure and that organised crime can operate successfully only if it can permeate and gain the respectability of normal commercial financial institutions. That has been done, and it is still being done. We know from the history of the Mafia in the United States of America and from the research and the investigations that have been carried out there that organised crime operates first at the lower levels in the purely criminal activities of prostitution, narcotics, the numbers game and SP bookmaking, where it firstly gains its cash proceeds. Organised crime operates in cash notes, which are readily transferable. A criminal organisation, having got its cash, then finds it necessary to move that cash from the back streets-from the brothels, the street walkers and the narcotics dealers-into the respectability of normal commercial institutions. Of course, that has been done in many ways. Those who are interested in the Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union would be very interested to learn how Mr Costigan discovered organised crime does this.

One of the ways in which it is done is through casinos, where one can quite properly change cash into betting chips. That might be done by one person transferring chips to another person and then recashing them for a cheque. There is nothing illegal in that at all, but it does turn cash into a commercial cheque. It can also be done through the Totalisator Agency Board, and Mr Costigan clearly outlined how that can occur. A person can open a phone betting account and transfer into that account a large amount of cash, running a series of transactions but ultimately drawing from the credit account cash in the form of a commercial cheque from the TAB. The cheque then goes into a banking institution. It has been laundered, and quite legally.

Mr Hodgman —And backing horses you know are going to be scratched.

Mr CLEELAND —Yes, and we have the bookmakers. We were told that on one day at a Sydney meeting many millions of dollars were transferred into the bag of one bookmaker and back out again. It is very difficult for governments to control that cash movement. I suppose there are limits to the way in which governments should impede the normal activities of bookmakers and gambling activities generally. Whatever method may be used to make that dirty money-if one can call it that-clean money, the reality is that those proceeds, once laundered, are put back into normal commercial investments. They may be used to buy shares; they may be invested in normal financial institutions in long term bonds or interest bearing deposits; they may be used to buy real estate. Whatever may be the case, they are transferred from cash at the bottom level to a normal and quite respectable commercial transaction. Of course, in the past it has been very difficult to trace the movement of that money from its original cash source through the laundering process into the financial institutions. Much of the work that is needed to achieve this purpose will be done by the cash transactions legislation, which will be a very important part of a group of Bills that will be debated in the House.

The Proceeds of Crime Bill deals with cases in which a criminal is apprehended and evidence is obtained that large sums of money from illegal means have been laundered and put back into quite respectable and normal commercial structures. It will enable orders to be made so that those proceeds can be taken off the criminal, the criminal's family and those who have benefited from the movement of the illegal cash funds. The proceeds will be put back into the Commonwealth purse. On many occasions it will be possible, no doubt, for those who have been aggrieved by the criminal activities to make a claim against those funds.

This measure is long overdue. We should all remember that when this Government came to office in 1983 the taxation system was one of great rorts and frauds. The previous Government, to its eternal shame, had not tried to do a thing to stop that tax fraud and other frauds. (Quorum formed) It is of interest to note that when one attacks members of the Opposition and shows what a disaster they were, they call quorums. Of course, if we look around the chamber, we see that there are no members of the Opposition present, except for one gentleman sitting on the front bench and one who I think is a National Party member. The others are probably in the corridor looking for their tax policy which they have not yet found.

Mr Snow —That is a good point. They are looking for their tax policy.

Mr CLEELAND —They are certainly looking for some sort of policy because they have not yet found one. The reality is that the previous Government did nothing about public fraud or criminal fraud. The previous Government, to its eternal shame, did not attempt to do anything. The Hawke Government has tackled the tax fraud which occurred in this country prior to its term of office. It is the Hawke Government which is tackling criminal fraud. It is the Hawke Government which is taking on the serious crime elements in this country. It is the Hawke Government which is concerned about the effect of crime on families. We hear a lot about families from some honourable members opposite, but they never produce any legislation to assist families. The Hawke Government is concerned about families and the effect of crime on families. It is concerned to ensure that those who infiltrate our society, who would use illegal activities to raise wealth, those who would use the public purse for fraudulent purposes, will not keep the proceeds of that crime. This Government will make sure that those proceeds will be taken from them and returned to the public purse.

I remind the House that this Bill, in dealing with fraud, includes frauds on revenue. It covers those areas which occurred during the time of the previous Government. It enables the Government to bring back to the public purse money which was gained through illegal acts against the revenue of Australia. Those funds will be recovered and placed in the public revenue, which is where they should be.

These Bills are a credit to the Attorney-General. They are a credit to the Government. I have been very proud to serve as chairman of the Caucus legal committee. I have been very proud to assist this Government in putting forward these Bills. I know that my constituents will be pleased with these Bills. In fact, all Australians will be pleased to see them. People like the late Mr Trimbole will not be able to use their ill-gotten gains and pass them back to their families. Such funds, as a result of this legislation, will be put back in the public purse, where they belong. Again, I congratulate the Attorney. He is one of the best Attorneys that this country has seen. I again say to the House that he deserves the name of the Eliot Ness of Australian crime.