STATUTES AMENDMENT (SERIOUS AND ORGANISED CRIME) BILL

Tuesday 16 June, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:27): I also rise today to support the Statute Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill 2015 and to highlight some of the concerns about the legislation, which I hope that the esteemed Attorney will take on board and consider as a future reference. As the member for Bragg alluded to, the principles of the Magna Carta of 1215 are as relevant now as they were then. Issues such as equality before the law and the natural rule of law are being raised, questioned and discussed. She certainly raised many valid points in relation to the balance that needs to be reached between such laws when you look at the freedom element that they take from people and how that needs to be weighed up against the security elements of the law.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:27): I also rise today to support the Statute Amendment (Serious and Organised Crime) Bill 2015 and to highlight some of the concerns about the legislation, which I hope that the esteemed Attorney will take on board and consider as a future reference. As the member for Bragg alluded to, the principles of the Magna Carta of 1215 are as relevant now as they were then. Issues such as equality before the law and the natural rule of law are being raised, questioned and discussed. She certainly raised many valid points in relation to the balance that needs to be reached between such laws when you look at the freedom element that they take from people and how that needs to be weighed up against the security elements of the law.

She also mentioned that no evidence has been presented to us by the government that we as legislators are at any threat in debating such legislation. It is not the first time that we have been asked to support legislation at the eleventh hour—and, by the way, we have complied to some extent today—but we will not be bullied into submission no matter what chokehold this government applies to us; we will not tap out. We will make sure that there is rigorous debate, because this is an important issue. It is such an important issue, and we need to get right because it affects people's freedoms. For a long time now, the government has tried to get this right, sometimes with success, sometimes without.

Let us look at a little bit of the history. In February 2008 the Rann government drafted the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act (the SOCCA). In May 2008 that legislation was passed. In May 2009 the Finks were the first club to be declared an illegal organisation, but then there was an appeal to the Supreme Court, which you might remember, Deputy Speaker. What happened in September 2009? The Supreme Court rejected the laws and the government appealed to the High Court. In November 2010 the High Court threw out the challenge.

In June 2012 there were amendments passed. In March 2013 police prepared applications to have the Finks, Hells Angels and the Rebels declared criminal organisations, but wait, there is more. In July 2013 there were further amendments to the SOCCA to finetune elements of the law and in October 2013 there were plans to declare the Finks a criminal organisation which were thwarted when the club changed its name to the Mongols.

We come to March 2015 when the Attorney announced his and his government's intention to introduce laws that allow parliament, rather than the courts, to declare bikie gangs criminal organisations, following the lead of what is happening interstate.

Obviously, organised serious crime is a huge issue. It is a massive issue in our society and it affects every level of our society, our community, our economy, our government, and the day-to-day running of our life. Every day we, as South Australians and as Australians, can literally feel the effects of serious and organised crime in many ways, such as email investment scams that come up on our feed, online attacks, drug manufacturing laboratories in many suburban areas and many acts of violence between criminal groups in our communities and on our streets. No community, unfortunately, is safe.

Serious and organised crime is not just restricted to that. It also has a much greater impact on other things, such as the South Australian economy. A massive amount of public expenditure is needed to treat issues associated with illicit drugs, extortion and other crimes. The groups that are involved in these crimes can do all kinds of things. They can manipulate share prices. They can manipulate assets for criminal gain. They can infiltrate legitimate businesses. They can launder money. I note that the Australian Crime Commission estimates that serious and organised crime costs Australia alone about $15 billion each year; however, I am sure the actual figure is much greater.

In South Australia, the Crime Gangs Task Force arrested and reported 162 outlaw motorcycle group members and associates. The number that was quoted today was much more than that, so obviously this is a growing element. They are involved in an array of offences: affray, drug trafficking, extortion, blackmail, serious assault and firearms charges, just to name a few. The crack squad in 2013-14 raided 239 premises. They seized 11 firearms and 36 other weapons including tasers, crossbows, knuckledusters and ballistic vests, so obviously this is a massive issue. It is a very important issue.

I have to question the timing of this government in bringing this bill to the floor. We have seen examples during the year where they found it much more prevalent to introduce issues like time zones. This government believes that time zones have a much higher ranking of importance than dealing with the real issues in our world, such as serious and organised crime and making sure that we take crime off our streets. In budget week, one has to question whether they have used this as a mechanism to blur lines with other important issues which are happening to try and get some media attention on this issue rather than the state of the economy. I am glad that the government have finally brought this to the floor of the house, but this should have been done a long time ago. What have they done for the first year, with all respect?

Mr Goldsworthy: Not much.

Mr TARZIA: Not much, as the member for Kavel correctly asserts; not much, unfortunately. Anyway, here we are. Since 2008, the government has progressed bikie gang criminal organisation laws, and I have spoken a little about its initial attempts. We received some minor amendments at the eleventh hour—I actually received mine at 12.17 today. These types of laws need finetuning from time to time, and that is a classic example of why we cannot rush these things, because I only got the amendments at 12.17 today. Luckily, I support the amendments and what the Attorney is doing in those two regards.

The member for Bragg made mention of some matters in relation to the current law. Obviously, we want to avoid any humiliation in these laws being tested by higher courts and having them thrown out because that would ultimately be embarrassing. Not only would it be embarrassing but it would mean that we are not achieving what we set out to do.

Currently, in regard to consorting, a person must not without reasonable excuse habitually consort with a prescribed person or persons, and the police can issue consorting prohibition notices against the person who is subject to a control order or who has been convicted or suspected in respect of certain offences, and obviously there are associated gaol terms. In regard to declared organisations and control orders, after High Court judgements and amendments in the parliament the law already provides for a court to declare an outlaw motorcycle gang to be a criminal organisation. I note there are several penalties for that already. In regard to licensed premises, there are also current laws which restrict persons entering or remaining in licensed premises.

The government claims that the bill represents another step forward in the fight against organised crime and that there can be no doubt that the legislation found valid by the High Court has the bikies in Queensland and New South Wales running scared. The government is determined to give the police the weapons they need to get the same result here. I honestly hope for the people of South Australia that the government's track record on this issue is a thing of the past. If you look at the government's track record on this issue, the legislation would not bust a grape in a food fight, quite honestly, but I am hoping that this legislation will do the job.

The bill amends the law as follows: in regard to the Summary Offences Act 1953, it substitutes a new section on consorting. I note that this appears to be in line with the New South Wales version, which is a tried and tested version. It also creates a new offence for a person who habitually consorts with convicted offenders after receiving an official warning by police not to do so, with a penalty of two years in prison. It also removes the need to have a SOCCA control order in place, and it goes on to list the types of consorting to be disregarded in 'reasonable circumstances'.

The member for Bragg also alluded to the elements of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act, which are perhaps the most controversial of the lot. I am not going to repeat her arguments, only to say that when there is no judicial review of that and the public is passed into the hands of the few, this presents issues and I think it is important that a judicial review be at least looked at as well. It creates a number of offences which are all indictable, for example, to be a participant or knowingly be present in a public place with two or more others in a criminal organisation. It talks about entering and attempting to enter a prescribed place or attend a prescribed event of a criminal organisation. It talks about recruiting and, also, attempting to recruit another person to become a participant, and many of these laws actually have penalties of up to three years imprisonment.

I support the intent of what the bill is trying to do, however. The deputy leader, the member for Bragg, has also raised a number of queries and concerns that exist in relation to the doctrine of the separation of powers. Again, I will not repeat all those in the limited time I have, but I really do ask the Attorney to consider this and to consider amendments that may be made when we flesh this out in committee.

We have also seen scapegoats, if you like, caught in the crossfire of this legislation. We have seen an innocent racing club at Mallala, and I am sure the member for Hammond will talk a little about that. You have an innocent group of people who have been caught in the crossfire here, already caught up in the initial list of 27 clubs to be declared a criminal organisation. That is why we need to take our time with these sorts of things and get them right, because it is shameful that people's freedoms and liberties are trodden on where there is not just cause to do so. This is very serious stuff.

It is a slippery slope if you want to pursue this sort of thing and take freedom away from people unless there are severe grounds to do so. I notice that the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee of the parliament has been bypassed completely in this process, and enough has been said on that as well.

In regard to the Liquor Licensing Act, obviously, it widens the act and it allows the Attorney-General to declare clothes, jewellery and accessories worn by any person to be a prohibited item. It further goes on to create an offence to enter and remain in a licensed premise while wearing a prohibited item. It creates an offence for a licensee or responsible person to knowingly allow a person with one of those items to enter and remain in a licensed premise. It also claims to provide extra safety for patrons and for workers.

Questions need to be asked whether this sort of legislation is right. I am hoping—and thank God for the upper house—that the upper house will apply the rigorous debate that is needed in these sorts of laws. Whilst we on this side of the chamber broadly accept the intent, we will not be holding up this bill on this side of the house. There are significant concerns that some members may have in relation to legislation which takes away people's civil liberties and freedoms. In any of these sorts of bills we need to weigh up the security of our citizens against the freedom of them as well. With those remarks, I commend the bill to the house.