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Monday, 22 February 2016
Page: 619

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:54): With reference to the Hansard of the Tasmanian government when Senator McKim was part of that government, it will be interesting to see how many legal advices were tabled in the Tasmanian parliament when the Greens had control of that. I answer Senator McKim by saying: we do have a bill of rights in Australia at the present time. It is called the common law and the courts of the land, which protect the human rights and other rights that we as Australians enjoy, perhaps more so than any other nation in the world.

The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation committee, which I chair and of which Senator Collins is the deputy chair and Senator McKim is a member, inquired into this bill, receiving 12 submissions. The committee has issued a report, which until today I thought was a unanimous report, recommending that the bill be passed. I note that, unusually, the Greens have a set of amendments. Those were not raised in the committee's report to the Senate.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Proceeds of Crime and Other Measures) Bill 2015 does a number of things. Principally it amends provisions relating to serious drug offences in the Criminal Code to ensure that they capture all relevant substances and processes. With the Greens recently suggesting, as I read in media reports, that ice was okay and should be decriminalised—I may be verballing the Greens on that—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: No, I am not talking about water, either; I am talking about the drug. I may be verballing them; if I am I stand to be corrected.

Senator Siewert: I raise a point of order. The senator knows very well he is verballing us and I ask him to withdraw.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Lines ): I do not believe there is a point of order.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I am only going on what I read in media reports. You will have plenty of opportunity to explain the Greens' provisions and thoughts in relation to the drug ice. The bill that we are dealing with today is another measure in the government's ongoing campaign against dangerous drugs. Whilst Senator McKim says that sometimes we have to get the balance between human rights, our legal rights and the fight against serious drugs, then we have to look at legislation like that we have here. Indeed, this bill is brought about because regrettably in Australia at the moment, there are amongst other things real problems with serious organised crime—not petty criminals down in the backyard—proceeds of that crime and very serious drugs.

This bill is intended by the government—and it seems with the support of the opposition—to tighten up areas, so that our law enforcement agencies can better address the scourge of very serious drugs distributed by serious organised criminal elements. One of the elements of this bill relates to that. Other provisions of the bill enable a wider range of agencies and officials to access and share information obtained by AUSTRAC under the money laundering and counter-terrorism financing bills and to further clarify the circumstances under which information can be shared. It enables a wider range of our law enforcement agencies to access the information obtained by AUSTRAC and also extends the circumstances under which AusCheck can share background checking information it gathers with other Commonwealth, state and territory agencies that perform law enforcement and national security functions.

Senator McKim raised proposed section 319 of the bill, which replaces the old section 319 and relates to a new multipart section dealing with more detailed criteria for any stay on known criminal forfeiture proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Ac Section 319, the new one, provides:

A court may stay proceedings … if the court considers that it is in the interests of justice to do so.

But then the bill goes on to limit the extent to which the court may stay proceedings, through a number of provisions which are set out in proposed section 319(2) of the bill. The new provisions are designed to prevent a respondent from claiming merely a generalised risk of prejudice—

Debate interrupted.