Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Scrap Metal Industry Bill 2016

Scrap Metal

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 10:36 :26 ): The member for Maitland is apparently so obstructionist in her outlook that she could not help but speak unfavourably about legislation that she and her party will ultimately vote in support of in this House.

Mr JOHN ROBERTSON: Point of order: Members are entitled to make their contribution as they see fit, and the member for Maitland did so.

TEMPORARY SPEAKER ( Mr Adam Crouch ): Order! To what standing order is the member for Blacktown referring?

Mr JOHN ROBERTSON: I ask that the disparaging remarks made by the member for Ku-ring-gai be withdrawn.

TEMPORARY SPEAKER ( Mr Adam Crouch ): The member for Blacktown will resume his seat. The member for Ku-ring-gai has the call.

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS: The regulatory touch of this legislation is both soft and proportionate to the evil that it seeks to address. A fundamental obligation of government in a civilised society is to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens; it is part of what is referred to in moral and political philosophy as the "social contract". This was a concept first made famous by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his treatise called The Social Contract,originally published in 1750, which the member for Blacktown probably not only has read but also takes to bed with him each night.

If government has an obligation to protect the property of its students and citizens, it also has an equal obligation to deter as far as it can crime against the property of its citizens. This bill protects people's property in so far as they possess metal items and deters crimes against that property. It does so by drawing upon the United Kingdom legislation enacted in 2013 called the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which has proven very successful in that jurisdiction. As the Deputy Premier has informed the House, there are between 600 to 700 scrap metal businesses in New South Wales. They deal in all manner of metal objects—cars, hot water systems, copper piping and wire—and by their nature they receive, crush and recycle metal.

Up until now this industry has largely dealt in cash and has been entirely unregulated. These characteristics have made it fertile ground for the industry to be a means of receiving stolen cars, stolen hot water systems from newly constructed housing estates or stolen copper piping or wire from heritage buildings, churches and other structures. Easily replacing scrap metal with cash makes the crime largely untraceable. These crimes leave the vulnerable in our community in despair or, if they are fortunate enough to be insured, leads to higher insurance premiums for the community at large. If the stolen goods cannot be easily turned into cash then a strong disincentive for a criminal activity will exist. The bill before the House will disrupt this sometimes highly organised criminal activity.

Division 1 of part 2 of the bill establishes a regulatory regime for scrap metal businesses. Clause 5 makes it an offence to carry on a business of dealing in scrap metal without being registered. Clause 6 sets out the methods of becoming registered and the information required to become registered. By requiring information such as an Australian Business Number [ABN] and the name of the manager of the business, the police as regulator will have relevant information about registered businesses operating in the industry. Other information for registration can also be prescribed by regulation. Clause 7 specifies that a fee for registration can be prescribed by regulation. The Deputy Premier has already informed the House that it will be nominal only and likely to be less than $300 for a three year registration. Clause 11 creates an offence for providing false or misleading information to the Commissioner of Police for the purposes of registration.

Division 2 of part 2 of the bill creates a number of obligations upon scrap metal businesses. Clause 12 prohibits scrap metal dealers from paying for scrap metal that they buy from members of the community by using cash, by a cheque payable for cash or by a payment in kind through goods or services. The prohibition is backed by a fine if it is breached. Criminal activity flourishes from these kinds of payments because they leave a soft criminal footprint, making crime investigation difficult. Modern means of electronic payment now facilitate easy and accessible means of transacting business without cash or its equivalent and it also permits an electronic record of those transactions. This, in turn, allows the police to trace the financial proceeds of criminal activity which may be a precursor to these financial transactions. Requiring electronic payment has a great capacity to disrupt criminal activity. In the area of scrap metal, that criminal activity is often of an organised and systemic kind.

Clause 13 of the bill also creates an important duty upon scrap metal dealers to report to police without unreasonable delay if they suspect for any reason that any scrap metal in the dealer's possession or sold to the dealer may have been stolen. A breach of that duty by scrap metal dealers will also be subject to a monetary fine. Clause 14 of the bill prevents a scrap metal dealer from buying for scrap metal a motor vehicle if the unique identifier of the vehicle has been removed, obliterated, defaced or altered. A scrap metal dealer must not dispose of the vehicle unless authorised in writing by the police. Breach of these provisions will result in a penalty upon the scrap metal dealer.

Clause 15 gives powers to police who suspect a scrap metal dealer may be in possession of stolen metal goods to prohibit, by notice in writing, the dealer from dealing with the scrap metal for 14 days. Any breach of that prohibition will be punished by a fine. Clause 16 of the bill requires scrap metal dealers to provide and retain relevant transaction records such as the date of the transaction; if the scrap metal is sold to an individual, the name, address and other details of the individual; if it is sold to a corporation, the ABN and other details of the corporation; a description of the scrap metal and its quantity or weight; and other relevant information. Division 1 of part 3 has important enforcement provisions. Clause 17 allows for interim closure of premises for a period of 72 hours upon a reasonable suspicion that a serious criminal offence is being committed at the premises or if there is satisfaction that a scrap metal business is not registered but is carrying on business governed by the Act.

Contrary to the remarks of the member for Maitland, clause 18 does not allow the long-term closure of premises to be made upon only a reasonable suspicion of a serious criminal offence. In fact, clause 18 provides for due process of the law whereby long-term closure orders can only be made by the Local Court based upon evidence that either the scrap metal business is not registered or there have been or there are likely to be serious criminal offences committed at or in connection with the premises. Clause 19 of the bill prohibits the carrying on of a scrap metal business on premises subject to a closure order. Division 2 of part 3 of the bill provides the NSW Police Force with powers of entry and inspection. Under clause 21 a police officer may, at any reasonable time, enter premises at which a business of dealing with scrap metal is being carried on, or if the police officer reasonably believes such a business is being carried on. Clause 22 of the bill allows for a police officer to obtain a warrant from an authorised officer under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act to enter premises.

Clause 23 provides for the various powers that may be exercised by police officers upon the entry of premises. There is an important qualification to the power to enter premises in clause 21, which is that a police officer may not enter premises that are used only for residential purposes without the permission of the occupier or the authority of a search warrant. In conclusion, I agree with the member for Northern Tablelands that this is long-overdue legislation. The core business of government is to protect the property of its citizens. Compliance with the law and the protection of property rights is part of the DNA of the Coalition and this legislation should be supported by the House.