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.
Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill 1996
Date Introduced: 11 September 1996
House: House of Representatives
Commencement: Royal Assent
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
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
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 -
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.
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
- enhancing the Insurance and Superannuation Commission's fraud
- the Department of Immigration's Movement Alert system; and
- the National Crime Authorities telecommunication intercept
Other recipients included the Australian Federal Police, the
Australian Securities Commission and the Australian Institute of
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);
- 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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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
PRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents
with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of
© Commonwealth of Australia 1996
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Last updated: 4 October 1996
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