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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 4228

Senator PARRY (6:32 PM) —Before commencing my remarks, I commend Senator Hutchins on leading the delegation. There were four of us on this delegation. It was fast and furious and I think you will find the report goes to in excess of 100 pages not including the appendices. That report is probably one of the longer delegation reports that I have seen in this parliament. We were sent on a particular mission. I commend Senator David Johnston, who, as justice minister, commenced this process, and I also commend the current Labor government for following Senator Johnston’s lead in suggesting that this was an important matter to investigate. Senator Hutchins referred a moment ago to the bill that was introduced today into the House of Representatives. A number of elements that we covered in this delegation report would be contained in that legislation.

I also particularly thank Dr Jacqueline Dewar, the committee secretary of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission. Dr Dewar is the primary architect of this report. She accompanied the four of us and was superb in undertaking her duties. I do not know how she kept up with the pace of the delegation whilst managing to keep accurate notes throughout. Composing and compiling this report has been no mean feat. I particularly commend Dr Dewar and her staff in the committee secretariat, who, as Senator Hutchins and I are aware, have spent many hours and late nights during the past few weeks compiling this delegation report and getting it completed for today.

This report will also form part of the nation based inquiry into serious and organised crime and it will certainly be a valuable input from an international perspective. Senator Hutchins and I and the other committee members have been vigorously attending to domestic matters in relation to serious and organised crime. This report will hopefully be tabled in the next few months, and this delegation report will certainly complement it.

The delegation members included Senator Hutchins, the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission; Mr Chris Hayes MP, who has had a lot of experience in policing as a senior advocate for the Australian Federal Police Association; Mr Jason Wood, a former police officer and former detective; and me. There are three ex-police officers in this parliament and two of us went on this delegation. I know the Prime Minister’s office was particularly pleased with the calibre of the delegation. We were not to be accompanied in any way because the workload was fairly severe but nevertheless very rewarding. To give an example of how quick the trip was in some respects, we flew into Washington one morning and flew out that evening. That was the entire United States of America aspect of the trip. We met with some very senior people in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and also with representatives of the Department of Justice, with whom we again had some very fruitful meetings.

A very key finding which we did not expect to come across as we travelled through many continents was that the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission can hold their heads up high on the world stage. It is quite amazing; the level of regard with which the Australian Federal Police is held around the world is exceptionally good. The officers that escorted and assisted us in various countries were exceptional. The reputation of the Australian Federal Police is very high. I am not saying there are not things that can be improved on, like with every jurisdiction, but they are certainly held in high regard. The calibre of policing in this country at a state and federal level is comparable to that of the best in the world. That is reassuring for me, and I know the other delegates also found that to be the case.

I am not going to repeat what Senator Hutchins has mentioned, but the key findings are quite significant from our perspective. I think the only way to move forward in combating serious and organised crime is disrupting their business plan. By disrupting criminal organisations’ business plans—that is in effect looking at the structures that underpin them and the money that underpins them—we will move forward. The new bill introduced into the House of Representatives today has many elements that will assist in that regard. If we can totally disrupt the money flow into criminal groups, we will start to win the war on organised crime.

I noted from speaking with ex-police officers in many countries—and I myself had this same concept—that police officers tend to have a culture that a crime has been committed and they wish to arrest and prosecute those criminals and put them behind bars. Unexplained wealth provisions have a slightly different tangent; you do not necessarily prosecute, charge or arrest people for committing crimes, but you remove or confiscate the assets of individuals—or groups or companies, but particularly individuals—even without laying any particular charges if they cannot explain how, all of a sudden, they accumulated an enormous amount of wealth. This is a huge difference in policing, and I am sure the cultural change is going to be a big issue. However, it is a plausible one and it should be undertaken vigorously. To dismantle a criminal organisation’s ability to finance and fund its operations is the only way to move forward in tackling organised crime. Hopefully, as a result of that, criminal charges can also be laid against those who perpetrate those offences.

Senator Hutchins has covered very clearly and adequately the purpose, the key findings and the nature of our investigations as we went around the world with this particular delegation. I was very pleased to be part of this; it certainly enhanced my views and supported a lot of my theories, and it has encouraged me to know that our policing standards are amongst the best in the world. For that purpose alone, it has been very good. I commend the report to all senators; it is probably good winter reading. Also, for those senators interested in the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill, placed in the parliament today, I would recommend that they seriously look at that and give great consideration to supporting that bill as it progresses through the Senate at some future stage. Again, I thank the chair, my fellow delegates and Dr Jacqueline Dewar and her staff for their tremendous efforts, as well as all those agencies that assisted us—in particular, the Australian Federal Police.

Question agreed to.