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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 304 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Confiscation of Criminal Assets Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 12 December 2002, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (12.18): Mr Speaker, the opposition will be supporting this bill. In fact, the opposition when in government initiated this measure. It all started back in 1999 and since that time it has had very strong bipartisan support. Indeed, the bill mirrors Commonwealth legislation that was introduced in 2002.

This bill substantially improves the current act of 1991. As well as the Commonwealth legislation, New South Wales and Victoria also have very similar legislation to what is now before us. Western Australia has legislation which, if anything, is much tougher than our legislation. I will have to have a look to see whether there is anything in the Western Australian legislation that we could perhaps pick up. The Northern Territory and Tasmania look like adopting the Western Australian legislation. Our legislation and the Commonwealth legislation will be adopted by Queensland. It is very logical, too, that we should follow the Commonwealth, as we did in respect of the 1991 act, because we both share the Australian Federal Police who will have a very big role to play.

This bill picks up a large number of recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission and the National Crime Authority. It is worthy of note, too, that the United Kingdom and the United States have similar legislation to what we will enact here.

Crime knows no boundaries. We are not talking about piddling crime or about someone perhaps committing a serious crime like an armed robbery-we are talking here about very significant crime. Most members of the public seem to think that already the courts can very easily confiscate criminal assets such as the ill-gotten gains of drug dealers. Actually, it is a lot harder than it may look, and there are some deficiencies in the old act which this legislation will fix up.

I was concerned to see reports last year that the DPP managed to confiscate only about $40,000 of criminal assets worth $550,000 in, I think, 11 cases, and there are some very real reasons for that. First and foremost, under the old act the threshold test was far too high and it was often difficult to prove that assets were tainted assets. This bill contains a new test which is much better. That test will ensure that justice will be done much more expeditiously and that tainted assets will, in fact, be able to be confiscated a lot easier.

The old act had some procedural problems which often made it rather difficult to get through a lot of the red tape. The mechanisms for getting into court, the time limits and some other factors were quite onerous and quite difficult. The measures contained in this bill make the procedures relating to basic court processes a lot simpler.

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