CRIMINAL ASSETS CONFISCATION (PRESCRIBED DRUG OFFENDERS) AMENDMENT BILL

Thursday 26 February, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:10): I also rise today to speak on the Criminal Assets Confiscation (Prescribed Drug Offenders) Amendment Bill, which was introduced by the Attorney earlier in February this year. As has been put to the house the bill is, in all respects, somewhat identical to the Criminal Assets Confiscation (Prescribed Drug Offenders) Amendment Bill 2014, which collapsed due to prorogation; it was certainly a victim of that. First, I would like to talk a little bit about the intent of such a bill and what I believe are the issues that it seeks to address. I will also talk a little about the drug issue in general, and then about how the bill has been received and potential amendments to the bill.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:10): I also rise today to speak on the Criminal Assets Confiscation (Prescribed Drug Offenders) Amendment Bill, which was introduced by the Attorney earlier in February this year. As has been put to the house the bill is, in all respects, somewhat identical to the Criminal Assets Confiscation (Prescribed Drug Offenders) Amendment Bill 2014, which collapsed due to prorogation; it was certainly a victim of that. First, I would like to talk a little bit about the intent of such a bill and what I believe are the issues that it seeks to address. I will also talk a little about the drug issue in general, and then about how the bill has been received and potential amendments to the bill.

In terms of why criminals commit crime, it is obviously for a wide range of reasons; however, it goes without saying that one of them is that they see the opportunity to profiteer from the crime involved. At its essence, I think that is why the Attorney and the government are looking to introduce such a bill. Remember Labor's 2010 serious crime election policy? It stated that it would look to target persistent, high-level drug offenders to provide for the total confiscation of the property of a declared drug trafficker as well as criminal drug dealers.

We know that at that time there were serious concerns with such legislation, firstly with regard to constitutionality. Did the legislation offend the Kable principle? That was later resolved, which was very pleasing to see. Secondly, there was an issue concerning fairness, particularly where you try to confiscate assets of certain drug offenders, virtually to the brink of bankruptcy, even if a person can prove that the assets were legally acquired. Is that a fair thing? Obviously there are also issues concerning the diversion of proceeds away from victims of crime.

In spite of threats to do so, Labor failed to make this sort of bill an issue in the 2014 election, but here we have it again. Third time lucky, I believe. I will certainly hand it to the Attorney, he has been persistent in this bill; third time at least, without any amendment, I believe. Certainly he keeps coming back; obviously he is keen and eager to get this one over the line before he is appointed to the bench.

As I have mentioned, constitutionality was an issue, and it is not the first time that a government has raised this issue. It goes without saying that the bikies legislation during the last parliament was seen to have many holes; certainly this government was a laughing stock when the bikies showed us time and time again that if you do not make laws that are constitutional they will go to the High Court and these laws will be sent back. So I am glad that the Kable principle and the concept I spoke about earlier have been clarified at least.

In terms of potential comments and concerns raised by outsiders, I did mention briefly last year, and I will touch on this again, that the Law Society has had a fair bit to say in regard to this bill. They have said to the Attorney that it is their view that this bill deprives a person of their normally acquired assets and property where there is no connection between the commission of the offence and the property.

These are certainly valid concerns and, as I pointed out, what happens to the person who has hydroponics in the roof of his mother's house or his grandmother's house where he is living, she does not know about it, there is a fire and equipment is discovered? Who is to blame? How does the bill address these sorts of concerns? I think the concerns are still there and they need to be explained and fleshed out. The Law Society notably calls the bill:

...an archaic and retrograde step that fundamentally changes our community's laws in relation to personal property.

So, there we have it—experts from the Law Society are still calling into question issues with this bill.

Another concern I have with the bill is in relation to the treatment and isolation of these certain offenders. If you are going to treat these kinds of offenders this way, what about all the other kinds of offenders, where perhaps there could be large sums of money acquired through crime? I think there should be consideration for these sorts of things.

There have been amendments discussed in the past, and I will probably leave that for later on, but personally I would like to see some kind of judicial review against DPP direction where it is in the interests of justice to do so. I think it is always important that we do that where required. I would also like to see some kind of guidelines, almost like the prosecutorial guidelines that are published.

I still have real concerns about the proceeds of confiscation. I reiterate to the house that the proceeds of confiscation should not go the government, they should not go into general revenue, and they should not be propping up an ailing state budget, just as we have seen other bodies propping up an ailing state budget. I would have thought that they should largely be paid into the Victims of Crime Fund to seek redress, to go back to actually preventing crime and also the victims of crime.

I would also like to see part of the proceeds going into drug rehabilitation. You and I know, Deputy Speaker, that our gaols at the moment do not do a good enough job of rehabilitating the prisoners they hold, and this is a massive issue. If we as a society could work more on rehabilitation, we would certainly save the taxpayer a lot of money, and in the long run I would have thought that if more criminals were rehabilitated through our system it would certainly be good and beneficial.

I would also like to see some kind of review in terms of the operation of the bill. I think a review of this sort of bill, especially when it has been criticised by legal eagles out there as being archaic—

Mr Picton interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: Not as good as you, member for Kaurna. You would be a legal eagle, sir, not me. I think with any kind of law that is criticised by the legal profession, it is only natural and just that we review it after a certain point in time. Is it two years? Is it three years? I would say that we should strike a balance, a balance between at least letting it go and seeing how it goes in the field, and then still having time to correct any errors if they are there. Finally, I would also like to see some kind of annual report or report back to parliament so that we can scrutinise the level of performance so far as that goes.

With those kinds of amendments, which one of my colleagues may even purport to put to the house, I would not hesitate to support the bill, and I am sure that it will certainly be more fleshed out in the other place. All in all, I support the intent of the government and what they are trying to do here.

We all know that, unless we create adequate deterrents, some people will be drawn into a life of criminal activity. We know, unfortunately, that sometimes crime pays and, because crime pays, I think we certainly have to look at ways to cause that deterrent to prevent criminals offending, especially in these sorts of activities such as drugs. We are seeing cases overseas at the moment that are being called into question. Drugs are very bad, and they certainly—

Ms Redmond interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: Illicit drugs, thank you—and they certainly have a massive impact on our society. I support the general intent of the bill. I would support amendments like I have mentioned and, with those comments, I commend the bill to the house.