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Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Page: 5704

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) (09:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Serious and organised crime syndicates are operating in an increasingly fluid manner across jurisdictional borders. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission estimates that the cost is at least $36 billion per annum.

Depriving criminals of their wealth is a key measure in combatting these insidious individuals. Unexplained wealth laws provide a valuable tool for law enforcement to confiscate the assets of these criminals where they cannot demonstrate that this wealth has been lawfully obtained.

However the scale and complexity of this criminal threat has necessitated an enhanced focus on cooperative, cross-jurisdictional responses by Australian governments.

The Unexplained Wealth Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will provide a national approach to target unexplained wealth. It will enable all participating jurisdictions to work together to effectively deprive these criminals of their wealth, irrespective of the jurisdictions in which they operate.

Through a referral of powers from participating states, the scheme will allow Commonwealth unexplained orders to be used where a person or property can be linked to a broader range of state and territory offences.

This will allow the AFP to use a single unexplained wealth order to target criminal syndicates instead of the patchwork of orders that would otherwise be sought by Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies.

The scheme will also enhance the capability of state and territory agencies to contribute to national efforts by providing access to enhanced information gathering powers and the ability to use lawfully intercepted telecommunications information in unexplained wealth matters.

The bill also incentivises greater cooperation between jurisdictions through the establishment of new equitable sharing arrangements. These arrangements will give participating jurisdictions preferential treatment in the distribution of seized assets.

The scheme will not replace existing unexplained wealth schemes around the country, but rather create a more effective and cooperative network of law enforcement working towards a common goal.

I thank the states and territories that have worked with the Commonwealth to design the national cooperative scheme on unexplained wealth. In particular I acknowledge the efforts taken in New South Wales, with the introduction of the necessary referring legislation in their parliament earlier this month. I will continue to negotiate with the remaining states to secure their support to ensure the benefits of the scheme are maximised.

I urge my colleagues to support the passage of this critical legislation. Together we can demonstrate we are committed to working collaboratively to strengthen unexplained wealth laws and strike at the heart of organised crime. I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.