Showing posts with label #TurnbullGovernmentFAIL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #TurnbullGovernmentFAIL. Show all posts

Sunday, 4 August 2019

'We told you so!' echoes around social media as Australian police found to have exceeded lawful authority in accessing citizens' metadata


Recalling the many social media voices which expressed concern when legislation was before the Australian Parliament, none of this comes as any surprise......

The Guardian, 23 July 2019:

In addition to one instance of the Australian federal police accessing a journalist’s data without a warrant reported in 2017, the ombudsman discovered two instances where the WA police applied for – and obtained – a journalist information warrant from a person not authorised to provide it. 

“This occurred due to a lack of awareness by WA police regarding to whom an application for a journalist information warrant could be made,” the report said. “In response to this issue, WA police took steps to quarantine all information obtained under the invalid warrants.” 

The Guardian, 24 July 2019:

The home affairs minister Peter Dutton has claimed “there are consequences” for unlawful metadata searches but conceded he doesn’t know if any action has been taken after revelations of widespread breaches by law enforcement agencies. 

On Wednesday the ACT’s chief police officer, Ray Johnson, brushed off the fact his officers accessed metadata at least 116 times without proper authorisation in 2015, labelling it an “administrative oversight”. 

The revelations were contained in a commonwealth ombudsman’s report which also found Western Australian police twice obtained invalid warrants targeting journalists’ data and the department of immigration received data outside the authority’s parameters in 42 cases. 

Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the report shows metadata powers “have been abused to allow illegal searches and to target journalists”. 

ZDnet, 25 July 2019:

The Commonwealth Ombudsman report [PDF] into how 20 agencies across federal and state levels government agencies across Australia handle stored communications and metadata over the period of the 2016-17 financial year has been released, with Home Affairs being the only agency that was handed recommendations. 

Home Affairs was called upon to ensure it could "accurately account for the number of telecommunications data authorisations it issues in any given period" to comply with its record keeping obligations, and have a central system to store or monitor telecommunications data once it had been handed to investigators. 

The recommendations were a result of the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) having 8 record keeping issues identified, as well as a statistical issue, and 42 instances of telecommunications data being accessed outside the parameters of authority. The Ombudsman explained that 41 of those instances were due to an automatic input from DIBP's database which has since been resolved. 

Also falling under the Home Affairs banner following its transferral into the Peter Dutton-helmed superministry is the Australian Federal Police, which disclosed that between October 13 to 26, 2015, all authorisations by ACT Police were not authorised, due to the AFP Commissioner failing to authorise any ACT officers for that period. 

The Guardian, 26 July 2019:

ACT Policing has admitted it unlawfully accessed citizens’ metadata a total of 3,365 times, not 116 as previously disclosed in an explosive commonwealth ombudsman’s report on Monday. 

The new disclosures include a total of 240 cases that resulted in information valuable to criminal investigations and two that “may have been used in a prosecution”. 


In a statement on Friday, ACT Policing revealed the 116 unlawful metadata requests detailed in the report tabled in parliament on Monday are the tip of the iceberg, with a further 3,249 requests made from 11 March to 13 October 2015 under an invalid authorisation. 


The revelation comes as Western Australia’s top cop has said there have been no consequences for police who unlawfully accessed a journalist’s metadata,

contradicting Peter Dutton’s suggestion they might be penalised. 

Police made illegal metadata searches and obtained invalid warrants targeting journalists Read more In the statement ACT Policing revealed it is still seeking legal advice about how to deal with two cases where invalidly obtained metadata was used in “a missing persons case and a criminal matter where the data in question may have been used in a prosecution”. 


“It is not appropriate to identify particular cases,” it said.






 See remainder of statement and full article here.


Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Australia's national greenhouse gas emissions are still rising according to Morrison Government data


The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition Government has always taken a desultory approach to publishing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions data.

On 24 May 2019 it finally presented the United Nations with National Inventory Report 2017 and its last published quarterly report to the Australian people was in September 2018.

That 3rd quarter 2018 update stated that:

Emissions for the year to September 2018 are estimated to be 536 Mt CO2 -e, up 0.9 per cent (4.6 Mt CO2 -e) on the previous year, primarily due to increased LNG exports (19.7 per cent).

Only three sectors in this graph show any real improvement since 1990 and even these become somewhat static after 2013.

Total emissions have steadily risen in the years following 2013 until in September 2016 they had reached 527.2 Mt of CO2-e, by September 2017 533.3 Mt of CO2-e, by March 2018 535.8 Mt of CO2-e and by September 2018 our national emissions were 536 Mt CO2-e.

The Morrison Government has informed the United Nations that its Preliminary estimates for 2018 indicate total net emissions of 537.4 Mt CO2-e with increases in stationary energy, transport and fugitive emissions and decreases in emissions from electricity.

Within this figure is a preliminary estimate for total 2018 fugitive emissions from the gas and oil sector which was almost 30 million tonnes CO2-e. With flaring and venting accounting for est. 69 percent of this figure (See Figure 3.7 in National Inventory Report 2017). This venting and flaring primarily contains carbon dioxide and methane gases.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 29 May 2019:

Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 rose for a fourth year in a row, an increase at odds with the country's Paris climate pledge, according to a government submission to the United Nations.

The National Inventory Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change showed emissions last year were 537 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (which include all greenhouse gases), based on preliminary figures.

That tally, which includes changes to land-use and forestry, was up 0.4 per cent from 2017's 534.7 million tonnes of CO2-e.

The Morrison government is due to release its full figures for 2018 emissions by the end of this month. The UN report provides an indication of which way the trajectory will be pointed.

Rather laughably the Sydney Morning Herald journalist who wrote this article appears to have expected the Morrison Government to have given a full accounting of Australia’s 2018 greenhouse gas emissions by 31 May 2019.

Five days later came news of what has become the usual complaint along with the usual response from a Coalition federal government trying to find new ways of burying the bad news that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. 

The Guardian, 3 June 2019:

Labor and the Greens have demanded the government immediately release national greenhouse emissions data, and have warned the new emissions reduction minister could be in contempt of parliament for missing the deadline to publish the figures.

Angus Taylor’s first act in his new role was to miss a Senate-set deadline on Friday for the publication of Australia’s emissions data for the December 2018 quarter.

The Senate passed an order last year that requires the minister to publish the quarterly greenhouse gas inventory no later than five months after the end of each quarter.

For the December quarter that date was 31 May.

The government, via a statement from the environment department, said late on Friday: “We anticipate the quarterly update of Australia’s national greenhouse gas inventory: December 2018 will be released soon.”

But Labor’s climate and energy spokesman, Mark Butler, said Taylor “must immediately release the latest emissions data”.

“Angus Taylor has failed his first task as new emissions reduction minister,” Butler said. “This is a disgrace and shows total disregard to the Australian people and Senate process.

“But really it’s no surprise considering Angus Taylor has continually argued against climate action and is part of a government that has continually lied about what their emissions data actually shows, which is that emissions are rising and we’re not on track to meet our international climate commitments.”

The government has been under pressure because its climate policy has been failing to stall Australia’s emissions, which have been increasing every year for the past four years.

The Senate passed the order for rolling quarterly deadlines last year to address delays in the publication of national carbon pollution figures.

Note:

* For a full breakdown of the 2017 emission figures go to Excel sheets in Australia. 2019 Common Reporting Format (CRF) Table at https://unfccc.int/documents/195780.

* For a list of all available Quarterly Updates of Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory go to  http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/greenhouse-gas-measurement/publications#quarterly.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Something to think about - Part One



September 2015 to January 2019

8501.0 - Retail Trade, Australia, Jan 2019  

* All images from Twitter.


Monday, 25 February 2019

Happy 49th to our local member, Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan


Happy 49th Newspoll, Kevin John Hogan

That's forty-nine published Newspoll surveys in a row in which the Coaltion has failed to pull ahead of Labor on a Two-Party Preferred (TPP) basis.

The last time the federal government - of which you have been a member since September 2013 under prime ministers Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison - has been ahead of Labor was on 27 June 2016.

That lasted a full thirty-five five days because by 30 August the gloss had worn off that July federal election win and you could only reach TPP 50 points in the August 2016 Newspoll.

In late September of that year the Coalition lost even that small comfort as Labor began to out poll the Turnbull Government and then the Morrison Government.

If you are wondering why this is happening the answer is easy to find. Turn a few pages of Hansard.

Every government backbencher, yourself included, votes on the floor of Parliament not in the interests of their electorate or that of the nation but in support of the hard-right ideology which dominates the Coalition Cabinet to the exclusion of even basic commonsense.

You have nobody to blame but yourselves.

So enjoy your 49th Kevin because your 50th is likely to be close on its heels.

*Image from Greeting Card Universe

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Newspoll survey of 1,582 respondents on 21-24 February 2019 was released on Monday 25 February:

Primary Vote – Labor 39 percent (unchanged) to Liberal-Nationals 37 per cent (unchanged), The Greens 9 per cent, One Nation 5 per cent.

Two Party Preferred (TPP) - Labor 53 per cent (unchanged) to Liberal-Nationals Coalition 47 per cent (unchanged)


Voter Net Satisfaction With Leaders’ Performance – Prime Minister Scott Morrison -6 points and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten -18 points.

If a federal election had been held on 24 February 2019 based of the preference flow in July 2016 then Labor would have won government with a majority 82 seats to the Coalition's 63 seats in the House of Representatives.

Monday, 24 December 2018

How the Turnbull & Morrison Coalition Governments suspended legal principle and stooped to extortion in order to pursue vulnerable welfare recipients


In July 2016 the Department of Human Services (DHS) - Centrelink launched a new online compliance intervention (OCI) system for raising and recovering debts.

Its aim was to raise up to $1 billion dollars allegedly owed by welfare recipients.

This compliance intervention became known colloquially as robo-debt.

Current Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison was federal treasurer for the first two years of the ongoing robo-debt scheme.

During this time the suicide of welfare recipients being pursued for so-called debt recovery began to be reported.

Since 2016 only a small number of welfare recipients have brought their robo-debts before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for adjudication. It has reportedly set aside 34 per cent of these robo-debts (or one in every three) and varied another 2,4 per cent.

Most welfare recipients don't have the resources to fight these alleged debts.

The Guardian, 18 December 2018:

Centrelink’s “robo-debt” system is a form of illegal extortion allowed by failings across a “plethora” of democratic and legal institutions, according to a former member of the administrative appeals tribunal.

Prof Terry Carney, a long-serving member of the AAT, has penned an extraordinary attack on the institutional failings that allowed the robo-debt program.

It’s the second time Carney, who helped oversee the writing of Australia’s social security laws, has used academic journals to condemn the system as illegal this year.

Carney’s last paper said robo-debt involved the enforcement of “illegal” debts that in some cases were inflated or nonexistent, an allegation that was forcefully rejected by the Department of Human Services. Hank Jongen, the department’s spokesman, said at the time that the department “strongly refutes any claims that it has conducted its compliance activities in a manner which is inconsistent with the legislation”.

This time, Carney used a piece in the Alternative Law Journal to map out the numerous shortcomings that allowed the system to come into being and operate for 18 months without challenge.

 “The pivot for this article is not so much that Centrelink lacks legal authority for raising virtually all debts based on a robo-debt ‘reverse onus’ methodology rather than use its own information gathering powers – for this remains essentially uncontested,” he wrote. “Rather it is extraordinary that this went unpublicised and uncorrected for over two years.”

Centrelink has long used a system of automated data-matching to detect discrepancies in income reported by welfare recipients, to detect and claw back overpayments. But it introduced significant changes from July 2016, reducing human oversight and expanding the system considerably in a bid to recover more debts and improve the budget. The new system effectively shifted the onus onto the welfare recipient to prove they owed no debt to the government.

The system spat out letters to individual welfare recipients as soon a discrepancy was detected in their reported income to Centrelink and records held by other agencies, like the tax office.

A flawed process was used to calculate their debt if they did not respond or could not produce evidence of their previous pay, which involved averaging out their yearly income across all 26 of Centrelink’s fortnightly reporting periods. The process often led to the false assumption that a welfare recipient had worked across an entire year and was ineligible for social security, thereby creating a debt.

Carney argues the rushed design of what he described as a “machine-learning budget ‘savings measure’” trumped good design standards. He says inquiries by the auditor general and the commonwealth ombudsman into the system had failed to consider whether it was raising debts on a lawful basis.

Carney also argues that Centrelink, by pursuing debts raised through the controversial “income averaging” technique, has failed to adhere to ethical administration. He says Centrelink has continued to use this method, despite knowing AAT rulings that it is invalid…….

The privacy safeguards in the first tier of the AAT mean that most legal challenges against welfare debts are not publicised, he writes. That means that “rulings overturning Centrelink reasoning remain hidden from the public”…..

TERRY CARNEY AO, Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney, Centre for Health Governance, Law and Ethics, 2018:

* University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vulnerability: False Hope For Vulnerable Social Security Clients?

Thursday, 6 December 2018

The truth about Australia's approach to climate change


The graph below says it all - in 2008 through to September 2013 there was an Australian Labor Government in Canberra producing programs to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and from September 2013 until today there has been a Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government in Canberra intent on dismantling as much established cilmate change policy as is possible.


Trend emissions levels are inclusive of all sectors of the economy, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

Reading Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: June 2018 [PDF 39 pages] released on 30 November 2018 it is highly unlikely that the Morrison Govenment will be able to meet Australia's commitments under the Paris Agreement.

For interim PM and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison to assert otherwise is a political lie.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Next time a Liberal or Nationals minister ot backbencher starts to boast about how they are reducing national greenhouse gas emissions, look at this graph


It doesn't take a genuis level IQ to identify the point at which the Abbott and then Turnbull federal governments (with Scott Morrison as a cabinet minister in both) began to dismantle climate change policies.



1. National emissions levels are inclusive of all sectors of the economy, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)…..

The year to March 2018 annual change saw national greenhouse gas emissions rise by 1.3 per cent.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Labor calls for Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield's resignation and points the finger at the Institute for Public Affairs









Scott Morrison needs to act and move Senator Mitch Fifield out of the role of Minister for Communications, with Fifield’s fingerprints all over the political interference scandal at the ABC. Senator Mitch Fifield’s role as minister responsible for the ABC is untenable.

According to reports, Minister Fifield was present at the meeting with Malcolm Turnbull and Justin Milne which prompted the former ABC Chairman to ring former Managing Director Michelle Guthrie and demand the sacking of an ABC journalist.

Minister Fifield has not denied he was present at the meeting, which reportedly left the ABC Chair with the impression a journalist needed to be sacked in order for the ABC to receive government funding.


While Minister Fifield has released a statement denying involvement in staffing matters, it is apparent that Justin Milne was influenced by his meeting with Turnbull and Fifield.

It is the role of the Minister for Communications to act as custodian of the ABC, not as a conduit for Liberal Government interference.

Minister Fifield’s attendance at the meeting that left the ABC Chairman with the impression that an ABC journalist needed to be sacked cannot possibly be consistent with his role as Minister for Communications.

Yesterday Justin Milne resigned his role as ABC Chairman over this political interference scandal, and it is incumbent upon Senator Fifield to now do the same.

Mitch Fifield has a long record of attacking and undermining the ABC:

He is a card-carrying member of the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) which advocates that the ABC be ‘broken up’ and privatised

He has made a private donation to the IPA, as revealed by answers to Questions on Notice

He addressed the Australian Adam Smith Club in October 2008 stating: “Conservatives have often floated the prospect of privatising the ABC and Australia Post. There is merit in such proposals.”

He was rebuked by former ABC Chairman Jim Spigelman in November 2016 for attempting to influence ABC internal staffing policies

He used the ABC as a bargaining chip in a deal with One Nation in August 2017
He is a serial complainant to the ABC on everything from the date of the Hottest 100 to the content of comedy sketches

He is behind the budget cuts, three bills and two inquiries that form part of the Liberal Government’s latest rounds of attacks on the ABC. 

The ABC doesn’t belong to the Liberals and Mitch Fifield – it belongs to the Australian public.

Fifield must resign or be removed from the role of Minister for Communications before he does any more damage to Australia’s national treasure, the ABC.
[my yellow highlighting]

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Adani Group has Morrison, Price, Littleproud & Taylor wrapped around its little finger


Since September 2013 the Australian Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government has been a rolling national disaster.

This latest episode appears to have its roots in the hard right's commitment to dismantle environmental protections.

Especially replacing Labor's "water trigger" amendment to the ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION ACT 1999 with a band-aid which fooled no-one.

ABC News, 25 September 2018:

A farmer has been denied access to a river system Adani plans on drawing 12.5 billion litres of water from in what activists are calling a "double standard", documents obtained under freedom of information laws show.

The mining giant plans to take 12.5 billion litres of water from the Suttor River every year, nearly as much as all local farmers combined.

Despite this amount, the documents show at least one irrigator had their application for a water licence rejected in 2011, leading activists to claim farmers were assessed more harshly than Adani.

The documents also show the modelling used by the company to predict the impacts of the water usage ignored the past 14 years of rainfall data and, despite planning to take water until 2077, it did not take into account the impacts of climate change.


"Altogether, this underscores how poor the decision was last week to allow 12.5 billion litres to be taken without assessment," Carmel Flint from anti-mining group Lock The Gate Alliance said. The group obtained the documents under Queensland's Right To Information laws.....

Friday, 31 August 2018

Will the Australian Government continue its policy of harrassment and intimidation in relation to Australia's national public broadcaster?


This was the situation before Malcolm Turnbull was politically beheaded by the hard right of the Liberal Party and Scott Morrison installed as the new Australian Prime Minister.....

Lenore Taylor is Guardian Australia's editor. She has won two Walkley awards and has twice won the Paul Lyneham award for excellence in press gallery journalism.

She has been a journalist for over thirty years and covered federal politics for over twenty-two years. 

Despite being invited onto the ABC "Insiders" program as a political journalist and editor, she found that pressure appeared to have been placed on that program to remove its video of her one of comments from its Twitter feed.



The Great Barrier Reef Foundation denies there was any prior due diligence conducted concerning the $487,633,300.00 grant.


“We had to certainly demonstrate value for money and our track record,” she said.

Once this particular cat was out of the bag ABC "Insiders" decided on 360 degree change of direction or suddenly remembered what being an independent public broadcaster actually means - readers can make up their own minds as to motive.

Remembering that as federal treasurer Scott Morrison led the charge to savagely cut ABC funding, the question that needs answering now is "Will he continue to bash the ABC by allowing minsters to apply inappropriate pressure on management and staff to alter editorial decisions?"

The real reason Turnbull gave the Great Barrier Reef Foundation $487.6 million with few strings attached and a short deadline on the spend

The Saturday Paper, 18-24 August 2018:

Picture the scene: three men in a room, two of them offering the third the deal of a lifetime.

The pair say they will give the man’s little outfit – which has assets of only about $3 million, turnover of less than $8 million and just a handful of staff – a $444 million contract, under terms yet to be negotiated. The offer comes out of a clear blue sky, totally unsolicited by the lucky recipient. For this little organisation, it is like winning the lottery, except they didn’t even buy a ticket.

Such a deal would be exceptional, even in the corporate world. It would have been exceptional even if the pair making the offer had been, say, investment bankers, and the third man the head of a tech start-up.

But they weren’t. Two of them were the prime minister of Australia and his environment minister, and the third was the chairman of a charitable organisation called the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. All three do have backgrounds as bankers, however: Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg and the foundation’s John Schubert worked with Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Commonwealth Bank respectively.

The question is why it was done this way. Why solicit this little organisation, of which most people would never have heard, to be the recipient of the biggest such grant ever made in Australia? Why was the money given without tender and without any prior grant proposal? Why, instead of providing the money a bit at a time, subject to satisfactory performance as assessed on an annual or biannual basis, was six years’ worth of funding provided in one lump on June 28, less than three months after that first meeting?

Geoff Cousins thinks he knows the answer.

Cousins is a former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Perhaps more importantly, he is a corporate boardroom heavyweight. For 10 years, he was an adviser to John Howard.

“It’s a most cynical piece of accounting trickery,” he says of the Barrier Reef grant. 

“A piece of chicanery. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

To explain why, he traces back several years, to the government’s desperate attempts to persuade UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, that it was a good steward of the Great Barrier Reef, and that the reef World Heritage area should not be declared to be “in danger”.

To that end, the government had promised, under its Reef 2050 Plan, to invest more than $700 million in measures to protect one of the world’s great natural wonders.
“For the Department of the Environment and Energy to grant over $440 million to a small charity that didn’t even prepare an application form or ask for the grant is inconceivable!”

“They made a commitment, the Australian government, to the World Heritage listing committee, to spend $716 million on the Barrier Reef, prior to 2020,” Cousins says. 

“But they have spent just a fraction of that, and there is no way that in the remaining 18 months or less that they can reach that target, which raises the potential of the reef being put on the endangered list.”

In Cousins’s view, someone must have realised the trouble the government faced in meeting its spending targets on time. His guess is Frydenberg.

“Even if you started now, you couldn’t actually spend that money. There’s not a list, not a pipeline of projects approved and ready to go,” Cousins says.

“So Malcolm, then putting on … his business head, his accounting head, says ‘Well, all we’ve really got to do is make sure the money moves from the government’s accounts to the bank account of some other private or not-for-profit institution, then the money is spent.’ But the money hasn’t really been spent at all. Even the CEO of the foundation says it won’t all be spent for six years.”

If you tried that kind of dodge in the corporate world, Cousins says, “your accounting firm would say … they would have to qualify your accounts”.

Cousins makes a very strong circumstantial case. It is true the federal government has grossly underspent on its UNESCO commitment, and that the money given to the reef foundation will go much of the way to making good on that funding promise.

It is true also that UNESCO has become increasingly critical of the government’s performance protecting the reef. Last year’s meeting of the World Heritage Committee noted in particular that progress on achieving water-quality targets was too slow to meet the agreed time frame. As it happens, the largest single item on the reef foundation’s to-do list is improving water quality, with $201 million allocated to it.

Read the full aticle here.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

“Sneaky laws which declare you as guilty in the eyes of the law the minute the police say you are guilty” - Turnbull Government legislative overreach continues in 2018?



Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 16 August 2018:

A Senate committee has just given the Turnbull government the green light to nationalise a scheme that allows government to seize citizens’ assets unless their legitimate origins can be explained, even if the owner of the wealth hasn’t been charged with let alone convicted of an offence.

On 6 August, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee recommended that the federal government pass the Unexplained Wealth Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 without any changes.

Unexplained wealth laws currently exist in every Australian jurisdiction, but the new scheme provides a broader model allowing for federal and state authorities to work in collaboration across jurisdictional borders to target serious and organised crime.
“The scale and complexity of this criminal threat has necessitated an enhanced focus on cooperative, cross-jurisdictional responses by Australian governments,” home affairs minister Peter Dutton said in the second reading speech of the bill.

However, critics of the scheme warn that existing unexplained wealth laws undermine the rule of law and broadening their scope will lead to a further erosion of civil liberties. And while these laws are meant to target untouchable crime bosses, they’re actually being used against petty criminals.

Presumption of guilt

“These beefed-up laws bring down all the secret surveillance and the swapping of scuttlebutt masquerading as intelligence on everyone in Australia,” Civil Liberties Australia CEO Bill Rowlings told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

“The unexplained wealth laws completely overturn the presumption of innocence, which is part of our rule of law in Australia,” he continued. “They are sneaky laws which declare you as guilty in the eyes of the law the minute the police say you are guilty.”

Unexplained wealth laws are a recent development in Australia. But, unlike other proceeds of crime laws that allow for the confiscation of assets derived from prosecuted criminal acts, unexplained wealth places the onus upon the individual to prove their wealth was legally acquired.

“People don’t understand, under these laws the government can confiscate your assets even if you haven’t been found guilty of anything,” Mr Rowlings stressed.

Broadening the reach

The current Commonwealth unexplained wealth laws were introduced in 2010 via amendments made to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth) (the Act).

These laws apply where there are “reasonable grounds to suspect” an individual’s assets have been derived from a committed federal offence, “a foreign indictable offence or a state offence that has a federal aspect.”

There are three sorts of orders that can be sought in relation to unexplained wealth. Section 20A of the Act provides that a court can issue an unexplained wealth restraining order, which is an interim order that restricts an individual’s ability to dispose of property.

Section 179B of the Act allows for the issuance of a preliminary order, which requires a person to appear in court to prove their wealth is legitimate. And under section 179E, an order can be issued requiring that the payment of an amount of wealth deemed unlawful be made to the government.

The new legislation amends sections 20A and 179E, so that these orders can be issued in respect to relevant offences of participating states, as well as in relation to territory offences. Relevant state offences will be outlined in state legislation that enables participation in the national scheme.

Sharing it around

The legislation broadens the access authorities have to an individual’s banking information in relation to an unexplained wealth investigation.

Section 213 of the Act allows certain authorised Commonwealth officers to issue access notices to financial institutions. This provision will now be extended to states and territory law enforcement agencies.

Proposed section 297C of the Act outlines how federal, state and territory governments will divvy up the seized wealth. A subcommittee will be established to distribute the money. And while any state that opts out of the scheme will be eligible for a share, it will be a less favourable amount.

The legislation also makes amendments to the sharing of information provisions contained in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.…..

Backdoor revenue raising

The NSW government has already introduced legislation into parliament, which enables that state to participate in the national scheme. The legislation sets out that the relevant offences the laws apply to are set out in section 6(2) of the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990.

NSW police minister Troy Grant told parliament that the legislation allows the state to refer matters to the Commonwealth, which then authorises the Australian federal police to use certain NSW offences as a basis for the confiscation of unexplained wealth.

But, Mr Rowlings states that the nationalising of the scheme will actually streamline a process that sees the unwarranted confiscation of wealth to prop up government coffers.

“The cash seized is paying for extra government lawyers to help seize more cash,” Mr Rowlings made clear, “so it’s a devious upward spiral where more and more unconvicted people will have their assets taken, and then have to prove their innocence or the government gets their assets.”

Read the full article here.