I want to focus on one set of amendments, which a number of people have mentioned, that I think are perhaps the major improvement in this legislation—that is to ensure through the amendments that proceeds of crime which have been seized cannot be used in legal defence. The member for La Trobe touched on this last night. He said that seized proceeds can no longer be used to fund a defendant's legal case. Clearly, when someone with unexplained wealth that has been derived from criminal activity faces the prospect of losing all of it, the capacity to be able to use that for their legal defence means, in many cases, there is absolutely no end to their legal resources. Naturally, they can use it not only to tie up the system, but it is also a situation where the normal incentives do not operate. As the minister outlined in his speech, people of course should have legal representation—that is not at issue: that is why we have the legal aid system—but that is certainly something that was identified, and something that will be a major improvement in the bill.
I want to give a lot of credit to the member for La Trobe. All of us know of his expertise as a former senior member of the Victorian police in this particular area and it is something that he has spoken about in this parliament for many, many years. Back in 2009 he was part of a bipartisan delegation that went to Canada, the United States, Italy, Austria, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands looking at exactly this issue. As he said, the committee learnt a lot of things from the authorities, but they got one consistent message wherever they went, and that was that, if you go after the money, you can bring down organised crime. As he said last night, crime is about creating wealth and creating power, and the world of criminals' power will not come without great wealth, but if you take away the money you take away the power. That is the heart and soul of this legislation. It is something that he has been passionate about in our party room and in the parliament, which has benefited greatly from his expertise.
As speakers have pointed out, the proceeds of crime, once obtained, go back into the community to fight crime. The member for Calare aptly summed that up, as I said in the beginning. The most practical benefits for our local communities are in investments like closed-circuit TV security cameras—a proven weapon against local crime and a proven deterrent against anti-social behaviour. The very first federal grants in this area were made I think in 2005 or 2006. It was the former Howard government that decided it should step in and provide grants for local community groups to install closed-circuit television security cameras in our shopping malls and on our streets. It took the federal government to take the initiative back then, even although we do not run state police forces. I distinctly remember community groups in my electorate applying for these cameras after the federal government invented the program to enable these installations to occur. The very first cameras in our area were installed in Lilydale, at the train station. There were sceptics, but in a very short time where there had been a very high rate of crime and antisocial behaviour—lots of thefts from cars in the car park during the day—crime was reduced by 70 per cent almost overnight.
In the main street of Croydon, now in the electorate of the member for Deakin, they had huge problems, and it was through a federal grant, matched by a big contribution from the local community group, that a batch of security cameras were installed in the main street, with a live feed straight to the police station. That had a huge impact overnight. I know my friend and colleague who is speaking after me, the member for Deakin, has worked very hard and has made a number of commitments in these areas as well. In the electorate of Casey, because of this proceeds of crime legislation and our commitment, we are going to have further upgrades in the area. Consistent with the commitment I made at the last election, we will extend and enhance that network in Lilydale so that it can cover a wider area and we will install new networks in Healesville and Yarra Junction. I pay tribute to the Lilydale Centre Safe Committee and its chairman, Mr Alister Osborne, who is coordinating the rollout which will occur in the not too distant future.
This is important legislation. It is legislation that shows the parliament working at its best and it is legislation that we are very confident will dramatically improve the operation of the act, and with the oversight committee doing its job in the months and years ahead if there is any need for further improvements the government and the parliament will stand ready to deal with them.