Bills Digest 40 1996-97 Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill 1996


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WARNING:
This Digest is prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments.

This Digest was available from 10 October 1996.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill 1996

Date Introduced: 11 September 1996
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Attorney-General
Commencement: Royal Assent

Purpose

To enable the Commonwealth to distribute proceeds of crime to a foreign country which assisted in its recovery; to receive proceeds of crime from a foreign country, even if there is no treaty or arrangement covering mutual assistance in criminal matters. In addition, the Bill proposes to redirect funds from the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund away from law enforcement and drug rehabilitation and education, and into Consolidated Revenue, as part of the Attorney-General's portfolio contribution to savings in Government expenditure.

Background

In 1987, the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 came into operation. Under the Act, the authorities have the power to confiscate assets or money used in, or acquired as a result of, offences against Commonwealth or Territory laws. Assets may be frozen to prevent them being dissipated or removed from the jurisdiction. Authorities also have extra powers of search and seizure to trace and identify the proceeds, benefits or property of crime.

In December 1991, the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund (CATF) was established. Since then, all assets recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act and under the narcotics related provisions of the Customs Act 1901 have been paid into the fund rather than consolidated revenue.

Presently, the Attorney-General must determine, at least once a financial year, how much of the funds are available for distribution. Then, half of the balance is to be paid to law enforcement projects selected by the Attorney-General. The other half is to be paid to drug rehabilitation and drug education projects chosen by the Minister for Health.

According to figures provided by the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board (CLEB), a total of $29.8 million has been paid into the trust fund since it was established. Most of the money - $26.4 million - has come from the Proceeds of Crime Act. Other sources of funds were: section 243 of the Customs Act -$34,000; other sections of the Customs Act - $3.3 million; and section 9 of the Crimes Act 1914 - $22,000.

At 31 July 1996, the fund had a total of $7.25 million credited to it, of which $5.9 million was available for distribution.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill states that the government expects to save $7.25 million in 1996/97, and $1.86 million each year after that until the year 2000 by transferring the nett balance of the fund to consolidated revenue.

Law-enforcement projects

In 1995, according to CLEB, the fund paid out $5.4 million to 10 law enforcement projects. The grants ranged from $20,000 to $1.8 million.

Projects included:

  • enhancing the Insurance and Superannuation Commission's fraud detection system;
  • the Department of Immigration's Movement Alert system; and
  • the National Crime Authorities telecommunication intercept capabilities.

Other recipients included the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Securities Commission and the Australian Institute of Criminology.

In 1994, $5.2 million went to 20 law enforcement projects, in sums ranging from $54,500 to $675,000. Recipients included the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Taxation Office.

In 1993, $672,000 went to a total of four projects. In 1992, $235,000 went to three projects.

Drug education and rehabilitation projects

According to the Department of Health and Family Services, since 1992-93, a nett total of $7.638 million has been made available from the Health Portfolio's share of the CATF to support additional projects under the National Drug Strategy.(1) Activities funded over that period include:

  • the second phase of the 'Speed Catches Up With You' (amphetamines) public education and awareness campaign;
  • an international conference on 'The principles of developing and implementing a balanced national drug strategy to address the problems of drug abuse' held in Sydney in June 1994;
  • the production of a general resource document on the health effects of cannabis; and a time series analysis of the patterns and use and community attitudes towards cannabis;
  • a technical study of the toxic effects of MDMA (Ecstacy); and
  • the National Initiatives in Drug Education (NIDE) program. This consisted of two phases; the on-going comprehensive training of teachers to develop skills and knowledge in relation to drug education, and, subsequently, the extension of this education to parents, industry, and community groups.

Main Provisions

Sharing proceeds with a foreign country

Item 2 amends the definition of 'equitable sharing program' in section 4(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act. The amendment would enable the Commonwealth to share the proceeds of an activity, unlawful under Commonwealth law, with a foreign country, if, in the opinion of the Attorney-General, 'the foreign country has made a significant contribution to the recovery of those proceeds or to the investigation or prosecution of unlawful activity'. The money would come out of the Confiscated Assets Trust Fund.

Item 3 adds a new subsection 34B(1)(g). This new subsection refers to foreign countries with whom Australia does not already have treaties or arrangements dealing with mutual assistance in criminal matters. It states that money paid to the Commonwealth by a foreign country in recognition of assistance provided with regard to an unlawful activity, will to go to the trust fund.

Item 4 amends section 34C(1)(a)(i) so that the purpose of the trust fund includes making payments, as the Attorney-General considers appropriate, to foreign countries under the equitable sharing program.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 already provides for the Commonwealth to share the proceeds of crime with an Australian State or Territory if it has been recovered with their assistance.

The Second Reading speech explains the rationale for the changes in this way:

Increasingly, Australia needs assistance from other countries in relation to the investigation of sophisticated organised crime.

The proposed sharing arrangement would provide an incentive to other countries to initiate or support investigations of Australian criminal activity.

Australia stands to benefit substantially from the arrangement, because the proposed sharing arrangement is likely to foster a nett inflow of confiscated proceeds into Australia.

In order to be able to encourage and promote sharing with Australia of proceeds recovered by foreign countries, Australia must be able to reciprocate.

Consolidated revenue

Item 5 inserts a new section 34D. The current section obliges the Attorney-General, at least once a year, to work out how much money in the CATF is available for distribution. Previously, those monies went to law enforcement projects considered appropriate by the Attorney-General, and drug rehabilitation and education projects chosen by the Minister for Health.

Under the new section, any money in CATF available for distribution will go to Consolidated Revenue.

Endnotes

  1. The Department of Health and Family Services advises that the total allocation from the CATF was $11.68 million. However, for 2 years the base funding for the National Drug Strategy included a $2 million advance against allocations from the Trust Fund; these monies were subsequently repaid into Consolidated Revenue.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Elen Perdikogiannis Ph. 06 277 2699
9 October 1996
Bills Digest Service
Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

PRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9031
© Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1996.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 4 October 1996

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