CRIMINAL ASSETS CONFISCATION (PRESCRIBED DRUG OFFENDERS) AMENDMENT BILL

Wednesday 18 June, 2014

Mr TARZIA: I will explain, Deputy Speaker. We are talking about an act which is proposed by the government, and the member for Ashford should probably read the section. It alludes to the Attorney-General, with the approval of the Treasurer, investing any of the money belonging to the fund, which is from the proceeds of crime (confiscated assets) that can be used 'in such manner as is approved by the Treasurer'. It does not get much simpler than that: money from organised crime being confiscated into a general revenue for the government to spend at its discretion. What more can I say than that? It is absolutely outrageous.

Mr TARZIA: I will explain, Deputy Speaker. We are talking about an act which is proposed by the government, and the member for Ashford should probably read the section. It alludes to the Attorney-General, with the approval of the Treasurer, investing any of the money belonging to the fund, which is from the proceeds of crime (confiscated assets) that can be used 'in such manner as is approved by the Treasurer'. It does not get much simpler than that: money from organised crime being confiscated into a general revenue for the government to spend at its discretion. What more can I say than that? It is absolutely outrageous.

Put simply, this is a provision that will allow the government to divert money away from an already under-resourced legal service, and the legal services are the ones that need these upgrades and facilities. Let us not keep the money in that legal service. No, let us divert it at the discretion of the Treasurer and the Attorney. This should be of far greater concern to members of this place than the civil liberties debate promulgated by individuals and the Law Society. It is about more than just money. I refer to an article in The Advertiser from 24 January 2014. I quote:

Top barrister David Edwardson, QC, dubbed South Australia's justice system the worst in the country, and it isn't hard to see why he gave it an 'F'.

He goes on:

We have seen $3.2 million spent on revamping the Sturt St court precinct, only for it to fall into disuse over security concerns and be demoted to handling tribunal matters.

The justice system is under such constraints and such toil at the moment, and this government wants to divert money. I thought that it was a good idea, on the face of it, to put money into such a fund, but to have the discretion to divert it away from the very resource that needs the support I think is ridiculous. I vehemently oppose the diversion of funds from the justice resource fund to be consolidated for other purposes. I will not accept it. Money should not be taken from victims of crime, money should not be taken from courts and essential justice infrastructure that needs upgrading.

The Attorney would certainly be well aware, I am sure, of the current problems facing our court system as it is. I particularly want to highlight the appalling state of the court's IT systems, something I note Chief Justice Kourakis has brought to the government's attention on many occasions. It is an absolute shambles. We are behind most of the other states in this country on this issue.

Much of the technology is at least a decade old, and if you go in there, you will see it. It is simply unable to cope with the justice system's increasing reliance on electronic communication and electronic lodgement of forms. Unless this technology is upgraded, the justice system cannot continue to offer the level of service it does now.

This is an opportunity for the government to take some leadership on this role. The bill should be passed only on the basis that the proceeds of crime from serious offenders goes to areas such as victim support and other essential services, not to assist in propping up the government's dwindling revenue base. Some people have told me that they may be doing this with other organisations, perhaps SA Water for one.

I find it appalling that the government would insert a deliberate loophole in subsection (7), because that is what it is, to enable the Attorney-General to channel these funds through the backdoor to help with this government's unsustainable spending spree. It is another example of the government's disregard for the operation of the justice system. If you are serious about the justice system, make sure that this money goes back to the justice system it is supposed to serve. With respect, I encourage the Attorney-General and the government to examine a couple of those areas I have highlighted.

I am concerned about the unintended implications for third parties affected by forfeiture orders proposed under the bill. As we have heard, it is likely that the operation of the bill will also see blameless third parties not having a home or other assets because of the affects of the bill. In my opinion, the Attorney has not made it clear to the house what provisions there will be to accommodate these families.

You cannot just throw these people out on the street. I understand that there are criminals involved here, but what about the innocent people, the people on the side? Are we going to just throw them out on the street? Surely not in this day and age. I think that the Attorney should explain this properly to the house. In conclusion, I will be supporting the bill, but I would like more detail and assurances in relation to the mentioned areas.