STATUTES AMENDMENT (SERIOUS AND ORGANISED CRIME) BILL

Final Stages

Ms CHAPMAN: I thank the member for Heysen for her contribution in representing what I think is a pure and principled position. I have high regard for her and that position. In doing so, I acknowledge the Minister for Health's commendation of the Leader of the Opposition in working with the government to reach a resolution of how we might deal with a scourge in our community and in particular the operation of organised crime via outlaw motorcycle gangs, as they are known, 10 of which will with the passage of this bill automatically be declared criminal organisations.

The Liberal Party may well have members who have publicly confirmed their opposition to the passage of the bill for reasons similar to those that the member for Heysen outlined. On the information we have, members in the Australian Labor Party in this parliament have struggled and wrestled with the proposed legislation because it blurs at best the separation of powers principle and impinges on that important principle.

However, can I say that, generally, the proposition of the prosecution and enforcement of laws by the judiciary has been recognised and will continue to prevail, even in this legislation. That is not to say it is the right way to go. The government and opposition have worked cooperatively to identify 10 groups in our community which we are satisfied, on the information that has been provided not just to the Attorney but has been made available for inspection and perusal by the opposition, have a membership with a history of activity and conviction of a criminal nature and with which there is an association with organised crime.

We are satisfied on that basis that the parliament determined that those 10 groups, out of the 27 originally nominated, ought to be declared a criminal organisation, and that 10 places, out of the original 15 identified as places of attendance and meeting of such organisations (otherwise known as 'bikie fortresses'), ought to be registered as places where there is to be a prohibition against the meeting of such personnel. We are comforted also, and more importantly, by the fact that the prosecution of a person who offends the new and extended laws of association and participation will be dealt with by courts.

This is not a list of persons who have been identified as having undertaken some illegal conduct. It is a list of a description of organisations that are being declared in a certain manner, and the breach, investigation and prosecution in respect of offences that flow from an association or attempt to encourage membership of those organisations will remain vested with the police, the DPP and the courts.

Can I also say that, whilst the government have originally sought to press the early passage of this bill in the parliament, that was resisted by the opposition successfully and, indeed, as a result of that, exposed a number of defects in the original bill, which I am pleased to say the government have accepted. In fact, even before we first debated this bill in this chamber, amendments were forthcoming to deal with that.

There are two other matters I wish to place on the record. One is we accept the minister's statement on behalf of the South Australian government that there will be reference to future law reform in respect of serious and organised crime to the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee. That is the current law. I am pleased that we have had an indication of commitment to do that, because in this instance this bill was not presented to the Crime and Public Integrity Policy Committee for their perusal and/or advice or to investigate and report on.

Furthermore, their current investigation into serious and organised crime was met with a rejection by the Attorney-General to even put a submission before them in consideration of serious and organised crime and its operation in this state. That has been traversed in the debates. It was very concerning to us that the first law officer of the state, the AttorneyGeneral, would even consider refusing to put a submission to this committee when the law says that this committee is to have an ongoing role in assessing and reviewing law in respect of serious and organised crime in this state. So, I welcome the Minister for Health's statement today and an indication on behalf of the government that future consideration of amendments to our serious and organised crime laws in this state will have the opportunity to be reviewed by that committee.

I would urge any members of the parliament, government sponsored or otherwise, who wish to move amendments or new laws in respect of this area of the law to be reminded of the charter and legal responsibility of this committee, which includes the continued review of serious and organised crime laws. If they have a bill or they have an idea, they should present it to this committee for consideration.

That committee, I should say, has a number of roles as set out in section 150 of the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991. Under the amended bill that is being presented to us for approval, it is going to have another role. Hereinafter, future considerations by the Attorney-General of an application to have an entity declared a criminal organisation will, by virtue of the amendments now incorporated, undertake a process where he will be prohibited from making such recommendation to the Governor until he has received a report from the committee or the expiration of 10 days, which will enable that committee to review the material.

There has been some discussion about whether it is necessary for us make an amendment to the Parliamentary Committees Act to further expand the new role of this committee, and in particular its capacity to receive criminal intelligence. In short, this is because the Attorney in the first instance and the committee upon review will need to consider the criminal intelligence that is presented by the Commissioner of Police or his delegate under the act.

It is well known to members of the house that the sensitivity of some of the material in criminal intelligence necessarily must remain confidential. That has been a request of the police commissioner, and I think all parties concerned agree with that. It appears, on the advice received to the government to date, that the current legislation is sufficiently broad, 'to be tolerably clear' that that will be acceptable. I hope that is right; if it is not, we will need to deal with that at another time.

Finally, can I say that on this legislation the Attorney-General has provided in correspondence some information in respect of the charge and prosecution rates of legislation in Queensland and New South Wales, as had been sought in this place during committee. I thank him for that. What is evident is that there has been quite a significant number of charges. What is also evident is that there has been a much lesser rate of conviction.

Some of this has not been completed in these jurisdictions, because the novelty of the sum of this legislation, both in association laws in New South Wales and in participation laws consistent with the same formula that we are proposing here as part of the Queensland regime, is only relatively new. In Queensland in particular, there are also some pending reviews.

I think it is important to note that, at the national level, our law enforcement and attorneysgeneral have been meeting to deal with this as a national matter. I refer to the participation of various groups and entities, as we have identified, that are involved in serious and organised crime, and they are operating in a number of states. They are mobile, and they have exhibited a capacity to be even more mobile. The introduction of legislation in some states, without that being uniform across the country, is likely to result in a migration of this type of activity into other jurisdictions.

In saying that, I want to be clear that it has always been the opposition's view that it is important that this matter be dealt with at a national level, otherwise we are simply transferring the problem from South Australia to Victoria, or Tasmania, or Western Australia and that, in my view, adds to a level of irresponsibility in simply saying, 'We don't want this in our backyard.' That is a selfish approach. We are concerned about the fact that it will require some further consideration in other jurisdictions as a result of what we are doing today, but as best we can we will continue to work with the government and, indeed, governments in other jurisdictions to address a national approach and resolution to this issue.

With those remarks, I indicate that we will accept the amendments and trust that there will be some dent on the activity of organised crime in this state. I leave the committee with one statistic: that the then commissioner-elect, now commissioner, advised during the course of our consultations with police that, of some 24 murders last year, only one of them was committed by a bikie, and that was of another bikie. That does not necessarily mean that that is acceptable behaviour. I make the point though that of the others, these were serious crimes committed by non-members of motorcycle organisations. I make that point because it is incumbent upon us as a parliament, the government and the enforcement agencies such as the police to make sure we deal with serious and organised crime in our state and not abandon that.

I am pleased that there will be passage of this bill, and I hope it will have a clear road for enforcement. I think that both the Attorney and I agree that it is likely to face some challenge at a court level. That may be so, but our interests are in trying to arrest that portion of organised crime which is in the purview of groups in our community that are unacceptable to us and a danger to our fellow South Australians.