Justice Legislation Amendment (Confiscation and Other Matters) Bill 2014

I rise to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Confiscation and Other Matters) Bill 2014, and I note that Labor does not oppose the bill. The bill makes many changes, and I will quickly run through some of them. It amends the Confiscation Act 1997 to establish an unexplained wealth confiscation scheme, which is an issue I will come back to. It amends the Sentencing Act 1991 to clarify the Magistrates Court’s jurisdiction relating to community correction orders, and it amends the Summary Offences Act 1966 to create an offence of assaulting a registered health practitioner, about which the previous speaker on this side of the house spoke eloquently and in detail.

The bill amends the Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 to increase protection for victims of stalking and other offences, and it amends the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958 to allow for disclosure of certain information to the Sentencing Advisory Council and the Judicial College of Victoria. It amends the Juries Act 2000 in relation to the allocation of jurors.

It amends the Road Safety Camera Commissioner Act 2011 to allow the commissioner to respond to requests for information, and it amends the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Act 1985 to prohibit persons convicted of certain serious offences from holding licences. Finally, it makes consequential amendments to other acts following the abolition of the offence of defensive homicide. Clearly the range of topics is broad, and I am glad there will be further probing and questioning around many of these aspects. In my brief contribution I will focus my comments on aspects of unexplained wealth laws, which currently exist in all Australian jurisdictions other than Victoria and the ACT. They require persons who are reasonably suspected of criminal activity or of owning unlawfully acquired property to explain how they came about their wealth. Not only in my time as an MP but also during my life and in growing up in the western suburbs of Melbourne, I have come across many characters about whom there have been questions of how they acquired their property and assets. Many a time has a question been raised of where their wealth came from and in particular whether the source of that wealth was drug dealing.

Plenty of constituents in my electorate are concerned about the growing epidemic of drug use. Their concerns are not only about ice, which has had a lot of attention in the public arena lately, but also about the ongoing use and dealing of heroin.

In the outer west of Melbourne we have had issues with drug paraphernalia being left in parks and children coming across it, and there have also been circumstances of children and parents witnessing drug deals in their local parks.

A group of residents came to see me not long ago about a drug dealer living in their street, and I must add that this dealer had a range of expensive cars parked around their house and in the driveway. The residents were disturbed not only about the comings and goings at night and the strange characters hanging around their street but also about the fact that many of the drug drop-offs were occurring in their front yards. The drug dealer would ring the buyers to let them know the drugs had been left in the front garden of no. 6, for example, and the residents of no. 6 would then see a car pull up at the front of their house and see people jump out and grab a package out of a bush.

It was a scary circumstance that has now been brought to a head, with the drug dealer having finally been charged and awaiting conviction. The residents took action by installing CCTV cameras to capture these moments. They had no doubt who the drug dealer was. It was not just the movement of people going in and out of the dealer’s residence; it was also the fact that a number of brand-new cars were owned by this person, who never seemed to go to a job. That is a demonstration of how this sort of law is important in bringing drug dealers, who are spread across Victoria and are living in our suburbs, to justice.

The bill proposes to bring Victoria into line with other jurisdictions, and it gives the police the power, once the court is satisfied of reasonable suspicion, to move in and seize those assets. As I said earlier in my contribution, Labor does not oppose the bill. In fact this part of the bill is a good step forward.