– Most of us are probably unaware of the term “tainted property”, but it is a beautiful phrase from an unlikely source.
It emerged from the beige back rooms of the law in which there are men and women who dedicate their lives to drawing up legislation.
This is the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. You might think little of interest emerges from these usually bloomless fields of public administration.
But it’s output defines how Victorians live and work with each other on every level as it assembles the wording of Acts of Parliament so that they are legally enforceable and accurately reflect the intentions of our elected representatives.
Take the Victorian Confiscation Act 1997. It’s a work of art.
An idea if the Kennett government that year, this law freezes and seizes the property of crooks and sells it off to benefit the rest of us. In it’s first year, property valued at $2.3 million was grabbed in this way by the state. It does considerably better today.
The Act has been polished up here and there over the years and in one of those changes the notion of “tainted property” was introduced.
What this makes clear to criminals is that hiding behind the assets of others no longer works.
For instance, if you grow hundreds of cannabis plants in a house you rent, but own a property elsewhere that has not been involved in criminal activity, bad luck: the “clean” property is deemed to be tainted property and it’s ours.
In the past few months a series of spectacular busts have proved our state and federal police forces are largely smarter than drug runners. They also proved that your average drug gang member can’t resist extravagant displays of wealth. Living low-key doesn’t occur to these arrogant and indolent lowlifes. Last month, after a year-long investigation involving Victoria Police, officers found heroin and crystal methamphetamine, otherwise known as ice, valued at $28 million.
Australian Federal Police Commander David Sharpe made me smile when he described how one of the gangsters was in tears. He wasn’t upset to be handcuffed, but they towed away the Lamborghini.
Commander Sharpe’s haul that day also included property, cash, $600,000 in casino chips – presumably in the laundry – jewellery valued at $10,000, along with 99 designer handbags and wallets: all up $9 million.
On January 29th, as part of Operation Taxa, police raided houses across the state and along with marijuana, ice and steroids, picked up a brand new Maserati, a flashy Harley-Davidson motorbike and a Melton factory.
Across the country the story is the same: drugs and $330,000 cash in Adelaide on January 9th; ecstasy, cocaine, ice along with properties and cash valued at $1.5 million in Brisbane on February 20th.
But what do we do with the money raised from the sale of such assets? The Act states that the money is for restitution or compensation for victims of crime, and in the early days at least some money was directed to the Drug Rehabilitation Fund.
We should tweak this legislation once more. Most of the crimes involve the manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs on an industrial scale.
So let’s set about comprehensively funding the addiction rehabilitation centres that cater for the victims of this business using the money raised from taking the crooks’ cash, selling their houses, boats and luxury cars.
Two years ago George Thompson, the clinical director of the Recovery Foundation – a not-for-profit rehabilitation centre – sought $500,000 from the then Baillieu Government to reopen the Warburton Hospital, the well-appointed but abandoned property beyond Lilydale, so that he could treat drug-and-alcohol-dependent Victorians.
That Lamborghini and the Maserati alone would do the trick, but Warburton remains unaccountably closed and hundreds of struggling people go untreated.
Harmful drugs are big business. On February 27th police announced they had seized a record 585kg of methamphetamines – more half a tonne – despatched to Australia from China.
It was valued at $438 million.
Among the patients Thompson is working with at the Recovery Foundation in Ormond are at least four ice addicts, and they’re not the nightclub party people you’d expect.
“The demographic for ice is exactly the same as the demographic we used to see for alcohol and heroin,” he explained.
“People used to think back then that it was only street addicts and down and out bums, but it wasn’t then and it’s not now. But ice addicts get into trouble faster.
“They’re hitting some devastating rock bottoms after 12 months. It just rips you apart. It’s all over Melbourne. It everywhere.”
Not everyone can afford rehabilitation, but Thompson believes it is essential. He says that those facilities dealing simply in detoxing patients leave them without the tools to stay on the road to recovery.
“It’s a revolving door. Too many people think that treating addiction is just too hard for everybody,” said Thompson.
“In the US and UK recovery is very mainstream, but we seem to be stuck in time warp in Australia.”
We’ve been smart enough to legislate to strip drug barons of their assets. Now let’s set about spending that money on real care for addicted Australians, not just detox Band-Aids. Salvation for the next ice-addicted victim may be just a Harley-Davidson away – Alan Howe

About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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