by Alan Thornhill
The Federal and Queensland governments are at odds over a Federal plan to seize the “unexplained assets” of criminal gangs.
The plan, to be discussed at a meeting of the Prime Minister and State Premiers tomorrow, is aimed at bikie gangs – and other criminals – who grow rich by selling drugs and other criminal activities.
It proposes a committee of police commissioners, which would decide how the seized money would be distributed.
However, the Queensland government is proposing to go its own way on the issue.
The State’s Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said it would bring its own “unexplained wealth” bill before the Queensland parliament next week, because the Federal government could not be trusted.
“How can Queenslanders have confidence in the Federal government’s ability to deal with this issue,” Mr Bleijie said in a statement.
“They can’t stop illegal boats, how can we expect them to stop outlaw bikies already here?” he asked.
Mr Bleijie described the Federal proposal as a Commonwealth cash grab.
His Federal counterpart, Mark Dreyfus, was furious.
“The ridiculous claim that national unexplained wealth laws are a Commonwealth “cash grab” is a deliberate misrepresentation of the national plan to be discussed at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) tomorrow,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“National unexplained wealth laws are part of the crime package that Prime Minister Gillard will take to COAG, along with national anti-gang laws and reforms to the illegal firearms market,” he added.
“We know that criminals don’t respect state borders and a national approach means there are no safe havens.
” Rather than lining the pockets of criminals, the assets and money seized under these laws would be put towards crime prevention.
“The Commonwealth Government has made it abundantly clear the national laws would preserve state laws and each state would be able to retain proceeds of crime seized under their own laws.”
The Queensland Government has been full briefed on this proposal, which ensures that no state would be worse off as a result of national unexplained wealth laws. The national framework is designed to financially benefit states and territories.
“For example, criminal assets seized by Queensland law enforcement agencies acting alone would go entirely to Queensland,” Mr Dreyfus said.
by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard has taken a cue from the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In his inaugural speech, Roosevelt said: “”The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
The Prime Minister is well aware that deep insecurities still linger, in Australian hearts, five years after the Global Economic Crisis struck, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Australians are worrying, not only about their jobs, but also about crime and border protection as well.
And with good reason.
Just a few days ago, police in Sydney smashed a major organised crime syndicate after seizing chemicals capable of producing $15 million worth of methamphetamines.
So the Prime Minister’s twin announcements of a National Anti-Gang Task Force and a National Centre, to target crime at Australia’s borders, could hardly have been better timed.
The Coalition sought to convince the public that these were just pale copies of policies it had put, itself, before the 2010 elections, and should be dismissed as spin.
But Ms Gillard dismissed those claims, saying both initiatives were firmly based on US models, which had worked well.
President Roosevelt was speaking both of the Great Depression and the prospect of turning the U.S. economy around, when he spoke about public fears, in that way.
Sadly, there were no resounding declarations, like that, in Ms Gillard’s announcements.
But she did say that the gang crime and tougher border controls, aimed at organized crime, are national issues, not localized fears, in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Yet both Ms Gillard, and her challenger, Tony Abbott, will be out meeting people in those suburbs, over the coming week.
When Ms Gillard announced, at the National Press Club recently, that Australians would go to the polls on September 14, to choose either herself, or Mr Abbott, as the nation’s next Prime Minister, she declared that she would be “governing,” not campaigning, in the weeks then ahead.
Inevitably, though, many will see her exercise in the Western suburbs this week, as powerful, old-style campaigning.
That’s understandable, particularly as Labor will need to poll well, in this area, if it is to be returned to power, however unlikely that might seem, at present.
A loyal lieutenant, Bill Shorten, declared that Ms Gillard will, indeed, be governing, not campaigning, as she tours the Western suburbs this week.
“What we’ll see in Western Sydney is what we see all over Australia – the Labor government focused on jobs,” Mr Shorten said, in a television interview.
“It’s focused on better education for our kids, it’s focused on a National Disability Insurance Scheme….” he added.
Mr Abbott took a simpler approach, as he declared what he will be doing in Sydney this week.
“The Coalition’s plan for western Sydney is quite simple,” he said.
It would sort out problems with bus and train services, in the Western Suburbs.
It would also sort out cost of living issues, by abolishing the carbon tax.
He said the Coalition would also take pressure off the police operating in the areas with initiatives set out in its Safer Streets, Safer Communities program.
“That will get CCTV into crime hotspots, Mr Abbott said.
Australians could see the Coalition’s positive plans, Mr Abbott said.
“They want to see hope for the future and that’s what the Coalition is offering them,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
Yours truly has been hit by cyber attacks, over the past week, apparently from two trusted sources.
A sister, no less, and an old friend.
They weren’t the real villains, of course.
One of those was on the other side of the world, in Poland.
Another was much closer, in South East Asia.
However these attacks have left Private Briefing looking very closely at a warning the Federal government issued today.
The new Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, warns that cyber attacks on Australian business are now more targeted and coordinated.
He said a new survey has shown that one Australian business in five suffered an electronic attack in the past year.
The survey also shows businesses and industries that provide essential services such as energy, defence, communications, banking and finance, and water, are now investing more heavily in tighter security.
“The 2012 Cyber Crime and Security Survey Report,…will establish baseline information on cyber attacks,” Mr Dreyfus said in Melbourne, as he launched the report.
“The digital economy has opened up myriad opportunities for Australian businesses to deliver goods, provide services and communicate with people more effectively,” he said.
“But with every online opportunity comes the risk of criminal exploitation,” he added.
“Cyber attacks have shifted from being indiscriminate and random to being more coordinated and targeted for financial gain,” he warned.
“ Most attacks occur from outside the business, although it appears internal risks are also significant.”
Mr Dreyfus said: “The most serious attacks involved the use of malicious software including “ransomware” and “scareware”, trojan or rootkit malware, theft or breach of confidential information and denial-of-service attacks.
“ In one case, an organization reported the theft of 15 years’ worth of critical business data.”
Mr Dreyfus also said: “A third of attacks involved the theft of notebooks, tablets or mobile devices.
He said the survey, commissioned by Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Australia and conducted by the Centre for Internet Safety at the University of Canberra, would become an annual event.
“CERT Australia, established by the Gillard Government, is working with closely with Australian businesses to create higher security standards, warning systems and a secure information sharing system to defend key organisations from cybercrime attack Mr Dreyfus said.
It is available at – www.cert.gov.au
by Alan Thornhill
Dishonest company directors will no longer be able to escape penalties for their misdeeds by diving into thickets of State law.
The Federal government says that is part of a movement towards what it calls “a seamless national economy.”
Its comments follow the passage of the Personal Liability for Corporate Fault Reform Bill through Federal Parliament.
This commits all jurisdictions to establishing a nationally consistent and principles-based approach to the imposition of personal criminal liability on directors for corporate fault
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll, described this as an important deregulation initiative.
He said it is aimed at encouraging wealth and job creation in Australia by, where appropriate, removing unnecessary compliance.
“The reform commits all jurisdictions to establishing a nationally consistent and principles-based approach to the imposition of personal criminal liability on directors for corporate fault,” Mr Ripoll said.
by Alan Thornhill
Federal police have seized more than 15,000 fake credit cards with a face value of $37.5 million.
The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare, described the joint action, which led to the seizures, as “…one of the most successful identity crime operations in Australian law enforcement history.”
Several authorities were involved in the investigations, which led to the seizures.
“Eight people have been arrested,”Mr Clare said.
“Two facilities manufacturing false documents have been shut down.
“And more than more than 15,000 false credit cards with a potential fraud value of $37.5 million have been seized,” he added.
News of the operation has emerged slowly.
Mr Clare said: “12,000 of the 15,000 false credit cards captured were taken in November 2011.”
He said that had been “the largest single seizure of this kind in Australian history.”
News of that seizure was apparently withheld for operational reasons.
Those arrested include a 40-year-old Ryde man and a 48-year-old Ryde woman.
They have not yet been named.
Mr Clare said: “today is the culmination of the operation by the Identity Security Strike Team (ISST) operation which began in April 2011.”
He said the ISST is hosted by the AFP.
It includes the NSW Police, NSW Roads and Maritime Service and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
by Alan Thornhill
A lack of trust is delaying global recovery, according to a senior executive of the Reserve Bank.
Guy Debelle, the bank’s Assistant Governor (Financial Markets), made the point in a speech he delivered in Melbourne last night.
He said the lack of trust of some of the governments of Europe has intensified recently.
So the European Central Bank had, in effect, indicated its willingness to act as a lender of last resort to these governments.
“ One of the main reasons the ECB has decided to do this is because of the lack of trust in the longevity of the euro,” Mr Debelle said.
“Investors are concerned about the possibility of redenomination risk.”
That is the possibility they will be left holding an asset whose value is markedly decreased, when a country leaves the euro area and re-introduces its own currency.
“As a result of this mistrust, we are witnessing a balkanisation of the financial system in Europe,” Mr Debelle said.
“Investors in one European country don’t trust banks or governments in other countries.
“They pull back from financing across borders, preferring instead to invest their money close to home.
“This almost certainly is not an optimal allocation of funds to their most productive use.”
Mr Debelle warned that the troubles did not stop there.
“On top of this dangerous state of affairs in Europe, and amplifying the diminution of trust in the financial sector, recent controversies in the banking sector have hardly provided any justification for the public regaining trust in the banking system,” he said.
“To the extent that trust was slowly being restored in some parts of the banking system over the past few years, it was shattered by the recent revelations surrounding the LIBOR scandal, allegations of money laundering and the like,” he said.
by Alan Thornhill
Australians fear identity theft.
And they fear that it is increasing.
A survey, conducted for the Federal government, shows that 90 per cent of Australians worry about this kind of theft.
And 61 per cent believe it will increase over the coming year.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
The Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says there are some simple – and effective – steps available.
“Making sure you don’t respond to suspicious e-mails or store personal details on your mobile phone are two …” she said.
Governments also have an essential role.
“Identity security is a shared responsibility,” Ms Roxon said.
“ Only when governments at all levels work together with industry and the community can we effectively tackle the insidious effects of identity misuse.”
She said government agencies are already using a Document Verification Service to confirm details on key identity documents such as passports, driver licenses and birth certificates.
This service is run by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Ms Roxon said it helps put criminals, who sell fake documents, out of business.
It’s work is expanding.
From next year, the service will be available to the financial and telecommunications sectors, Ms Roxon said.
“Identity crime is one of the top three enablers of serious and organised crime in Australia,” she added.
It can have serious financial implications for business, governments and individuals.
Need to know more?
Go to this address.
by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard announced tonight that a former defence force chief, Angus Houston, will head an expert committee to advise the government on what might be done to stop asylum seekers setting out for Australia in leaky boats.
The Prime Minister was speaking shortly after the Senate had rejected a government plan to do that.
That would have involved sending asylum seekers to Malaysia and reopening a processing centre on Nauru.
Federal parliament was then due to rise for its six week winter break.
It was clear, by then, that it would do so without agreement on any plan to stop the boats..
The government, opposition and Greens had all stuck doggedly, instead, to their own rival plans.
That was despite hours of passionate debate, in both houses of Parliament, in which members on all sides declared their grief at the deaths of more than 90 refugees, who drowned this week, when two boats capsized, days apart, in waters off Christmas Island.
As debate in the upper house approached its conclusion, the Government Leader in the Senate, Chris Evans pleaded with other Senators to support the government plan, which would see asylum seekers sent to Malaysia or Nauru.
He said the challenge before the Senate was to “do something” that might discourage asylum seekers from boarding those boats, or doing nothing.
“You have the opportunity to do something,” Senator Evans declared.
The Senate was then debating a bill, that an independent member, Rob Oakeshott had moved in the House of Representatives, where it had attracted government support, before it was passed by the lower house.
Throughout the long parliamentary debate , the Coalition has opposed the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said that would be done under “a dud deal” which “stripped away protection” from asylum seekers.
In the Senate, today, Greens Senator, Christine Milne, proposed that Australian’s humanitarian migrant intake be increased from 13,750 to 20,000 a year.
However her move was defeated, on a 53-8 vote.
The Oakeshott bill, itself, was also defeated, a short time later, on a 39-29 vote.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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