Page 1682 - Week 06 - Thursday, 23 July 2020

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I know that the ACT is being closely watched, not only around Australia but internationally, for these reforms. The conversations that have been captured through consultations on the bill and those that are ongoing in the community are what will drive us further. It will be a constant and a continuous process because real, meaningful societal change and improvement has no decisive end. I am committed, and this government is committed, to continuing this journey, to working closely with the community further, to move forward together. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Confiscation of Criminal Assets (Unexplained Wealth) Amendment Bill 2020

Debate resumed from 20 February 2020, on motion by Mr Ramsay:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (5.31): The Canberra Liberals support this bill. Unexplained wealth schemes exist around the country and the world as a unique way to target those directing and masterminding criminal activity, particularly at arm’s length, and to disrupt high-level members of organised crime groups, who may profit from crime yet prove difficult to link to specific offences.

The bill creates the ability for courts to grant two types of orders: an unexplained wealth restraining order and an unexplained wealth order. A restraining order is an interim measure to prevent the disposal of assets or property while a court considers the unexplained wealth. The second order is the final ruling, which means a person must deliver to the territory the whole or part of the wealth which they cannot prove was legally obtained.

It is true that unexplained wealth laws have attracted some criticism, notably from the ACT Bar Association, and those criticisms should be given due consideration; however, this bill is intended to operate when a person’s total wealth clearly exceeds wealth that was lawfully acquired. Plus, the court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the whole or part of the wealth was derived from serious criminal activity.

The court also has a discretion to make an order for hardship relief—for example, for family implications or reasonable legal expenses—at the restraining order stage. Given these checks and safeguards, we believe that this bill strikes a proper balance. The Canberra Liberals have been long-term supporters of strong legislation for organised crime. We are always, and always will be, the toughest opponents of organised crime in our community and we support this bill.

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