Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

BILLS - Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (State Bodies and Other Measures) Bill 2016 - Second Reading

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (16:30): Labor will be supporting the Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (State Bodies and Other Measures) Bill 2016, which amends a range of Commonwealth laws to assist laws state and federal agencies to combat corruption and organised crime. Labor has zero tolerance for corruption, which diminishes government revenue, distorts decision making and destroys good government. It is also a key enabler of other crimes. Labor's position against corruption is reflected in our strong track record in government. In office, Labor established a code of conduct for ministers and their staff. We significantly expanded the role of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. We strongly supported the Australian Crime Commission. We also strongly support state and territory anticorruption efforts.

Over the past 30 years state anticorruption bodies have had a profound effect on our awareness of and response to corruption. Recent revelations in the New South Wales ICAC were so explosive, so shocking that they forced the resignations of former New South Wales Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell and two New South Wales Liberal cabinet ministers. These bodies play an important role in combating corruption. We believe it is important that we continue to equip state anticorruption and integrity bodies with the powers they need in order to perform their important functions. We cannot and do not tolerate corruption at any level of government.

Schedules 1 and 2 of this bill provide routine updates to a number of pieces of Commonwealth legislation to reflect changes in state anticorruption regimes. These updates will confer powers on the Victorian IBAC, established in 2012, and the New South Wales Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, which will replace the current Police Integrity Commission in 2017. Schedule 1 replaces references to the former Police Integrity Commission with its replacement body, the New South Wales Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, or LECC, in a number of Commonwealth acts. As part of this update the bill removes the Police Integrity Commission from lists of criminal law enforcement agencies under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, or data retention legislation, and replaces it with the new LECC. The data retention legislation confers significant powers on criminal law enforcement agencies, including the ability to access individuals' SMS messages and emails, to require telecommunications carriers to preserve communications relating to an individual, and to authorise the prospect of disclosure of telecommunications data for 45 days.

Without this legislation the LECC would not have access to this telecommunications data. This would be a major blow to the LECC's ability to investigate integrity issues in New South Wales law enforcement. However, these powers can also have an enormous impact on an individual's privacy. For this reason, our approach in this area must strike an appropriate balance between individual privacy and ensuring that we have the investigative tools necessary to combat corruption. Because of this need for balance, these amendments were referred to the PJCIS for routine review pursuant to section 110A(11) of the Telecommunication (Interception and Access) Act. The PJCIS review found that the powers of the new LECC will be comparable to those of other integrity bodies within Australia that are listed as criminal law enforcement agencies, such as the New South Wales ICAC, the Victorian IBAC and the Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission. After careful consideration it recommended that the bill be passed.

In light of this recommendation, Labor supports this bill. In addition to providing necessary powers to state anticorruption bodies, this bill closes a loophole in our current proceeds of crime regime that criminals could otherwise exploit to hide money made from crime beyond complex financial structures. This loophole was exposed by the Western Australian Supreme Court recently, when they found that a property will be lawfully acquired if the deposit on the property was paid with legitimate money, irrespective of whether money from crime is used to pay off the mortgage. This loophole runs contrary to the purpose of the Proceeds of Crime Act. Essentially, it allows criminals to funnel the money from crime into mortgages so as to avoid confiscation or other penalties under our proceeds of crime regime.

The bill before us will amend the Proceeds of Crime Act to change the definition of 'lawfully acquired'. This new definition will ensure that property will only be lawfully acquired if the money used to acquire or retain the property was also lawfully acquired. This means that criminals will no longer be able to hide money from their crime in their mortgage or rental payments, funnel their dirty money into loan repayments or set up levels of layered liabilities to avoid penalties under the proceeds of crime regime. It is disappointing but unsurprising that criminals have used complex financial structures to escape penalties under our proceeds of crime regime. It is our job in the parliament to ensure that these laws are sufficiently robust to tackle organised crime in the 21st century. Labor welcomes the measures in this bill to close this loophole and its amendments to various Commonwealth Acts to ensure that state anticorruption bodies can continue their important work. We will support this bill and I thank the Senate.