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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3580


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Attorney-General)(9.40) —I wish to reply briefly. I acknowledge what the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) says: There may be circumstances where the court has to give special consideration because the rights of people may not be clearly evident at the time of forfeiture. He mentioned though that there were some assets such as cash, bank accounts, diamonds and bullion, et cetera, that there would be some difficulty about. One thing he did not mention was possession. The Commonwealth would not have those assets in possession in the initial stage. I would be very surprised if those who did have them in possession were not aware that there might be some person who would certainly have another interest in them. I accept the view that there might be special circumstances where that would not arise. If there were circumstances where a period had elapsed and somebody, for some reason that I do not understand at this stage, felt that he should have had an opportunity to declare an interest, I am sure we would need to consider that matter.

We want to make the point that there are a number of provisions giving opportunities for people to appear and adduce evidence. The honourable member acknowledges that if land or real estate are involved there is likely to be a registrable interest. I can understand that, but I am very conscious of the fact that in the taxation area at present the Taxation Office is able to actually take assets on the basis that it feels they are able to be taken at that stage because of tax due. There is an opportunity there for a person to rebut that presumption.

I thank the honourable member for his understanding of the difficulties in this matter. We are entering into a new area of punitive action. I think it will require all the judicial capacity for which our courts are noted. I am sure that, if there is any suggestion that a person has an interest and if that person is not known, every effort will be made to try to find that person through the relevant provisions, particularly considering clause 45 (5) and other such matters. We will do the best we can in accordance with the knowledge that the courts now have as to how to try to find people who may have an interest.

We are getting near the end of the parliamentary session. The honourable member was gracious enough to suggest that he may be shadow Attorney-General or Attorney-General, but he was not confident enough to suggest that he alone would be. I notice that the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) is smiling anxiously. Honourable members will notice that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) talks every time the honourable member for North Sydney speaks. He has the field-marshal's baton in his knapsack, so be very careful of that.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with an amendment; report-by leave-adopted.