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Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee
AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION
Outcome 1: Effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the Attorney[hyphen]General and Parliament
- Committee Name
Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee
AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION
Outcome 1: Effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the Attorney[hyphen]General and Parliament
- Sub program
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Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee
- Start of Business
- ATTORNEY-GENERAL'S PORTFOLIO
- NATIONAL NATIVE TITLE TRIBUNAL
- FAMILY COURT OF AUSTRALIA
- ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS TRIBUNAL
COMMONWEALTH DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
Outcome 1—To contribute to the safety and wellbeing of the people of Australia and to help protect the resources of the Commonwealth through the maintenance of law and order and by combating crime.
- Output 1.1—An independent service to prosecute alleged offences against the criminal law of the Commonwealth, in appropriate matters, in a manner which is fair and just and to ensure that offenders, where appropriate, are deprived of the proceeds and benefits of criminal activity
- Outcome 1—To contribute to the safety and wellbeing of the people of Australia and to help protect the resources of the Commonwealth through the maintenance of law and order and by combating crime.
- OFFICE OF FILM AND LITERATURE CLASSIFICATION
- OFFICE OF PARLIAMENTARY COUNSEL
- NATIONAL CRIME AUTHORITY
- FEDERAL COURT OF AUSTRALIA
- AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION
- HIGH COURT OF AUSTRALIA
- AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF CRIMINOLOGY
AUSTRALIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE ORGANIZATION
- Outcome 1—A secure Australia for people and property, for government business and national infrastructure, and for special events of a national and international significance.
- AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT SOLICITOR
AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE
- Output group 1.2—Economic crime investigations
- Outcome 2—Those individuals and interests identified by the Commonwealth government of the AFP as being at risk are kept safe and secure as a result of AFP protective services
- Mr Reaburn
- AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE
Content WindowLegal and Constitutional Legislation Committee - 31/05/99 - AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION - Outcome 1: Effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the Attorney[hyphen]General and Parliament
Senator McKIERNAN —The opening lines of the PBS overview state that the role of the ALRC is to provide `effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the Attorney[hyphen]General and Parliament'. How do you measure the output for advice to the parliament?
Mr Edwards —How would we measure it, Senator?
Senator McKIERNAN —How do you measure it, if you are required to do it? Where do we see that in the PBS?
Mr Edwards —I do not specifically recall it being so defined. I take your point, Senator. Would you like me to describe how we would measure it ourselves?
Senator McKIERNAN —Yes, please.
Mr Edwards —We would measure the timeliness of our advice to parliamentary committees obviously by whether we met the timetable set by the committee. We have a very good record of doing that. We measure the quality of our product in submissions to the parliament—which is largely, of course, through submissions to parliamentary committees—by the reaction that we get from the committees themselves. More often than not, we find that our submissions lead to committees inviting us to support our submissions by evidence.
By and large, the nature of the questioning that we receive before the committees indicates the quality of our submissions and their relevance to the issues before the committees. It is not too much of a boast to say that the fact that we continue to get invitations from committees and continue to be welcomed by the committees and receive deep and insightful questioning by them suggests that the quality of our input is high. Obviously we would be very sensitive to any comment that we got from members of the parliament that our submissions were disappointing or that they failed to measure up in any way. I can say that in the 3[half ] years that I have had with the commission I have not been aware of any such reaction from any member of a committee nor from a committee about the quality of any submission we have put before it.
Senator McKIERNAN —Nor am I. I am wondering about the measurement of that for public consumption in a document such as this. The document is a parliamentary document but it has a wider importance than just for the parliament. It is a measurement of the ALRC's performance back to the community as well. In terms of looking through the projections for the coming financial year, it is very difficult to identify in the documentation the proportion of your resources dedicated or allocated to that very important task of providing effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the parliament.
Mr Edwards —Your point is a very valid one and one that we certainly need to address in future documents. I do not want to unduly touch on a matter that is of some past and continuing sensitivity, and that is the question really of the extent to which it is appropriate for the commission within its statutory functions to make submissions to parliamentary committees. That is an issue that has arisen, and it is an issue I understand is to be, and I certainly would expect it to be, addressed by this committee when it undertakes it forthcoming examination into the proper role of the Law Reform Commission, arising out of some difficulties that were occasioned between the commission and the government some two years ago.
Senator McKIERNAN —I am not getting into the realms of that particular inquiry in asking you the question.
Mr Edwards —And I certainly prefer not to.
Senator McKIERNAN —So do I. We will save that for another day.
Mr Edwards —I think it is best left to that committee, and that is certainly what we are waiting for, with respect.
Senator McKIERNAN —This committee with a different hat on.
Mr Edwards —Yes, indeed.
Senator McKIERNAN —But it is nonetheless in the broader question of the provision of advice to the parliament. Would you agree with me when I make the statement that within this document there is no identifiable dollar amount that is dedicated to the provision of advice by the ALRC to the parliament?
Mr Edwards —That is correct. I would expect that, when the other matter we have referred to resolves itself, we will have more confidence to do so, knowing that there is a common understanding between ourselves and the government and the parliament as to the role. But your point is taken; it should, and must, be addressed in future such documentation. That is most appropriate.
Senator McKIERNAN —What current inquiries does the commission have afoot? What are the terms of references for your inquiries that are going on now?
Mr Edwards —I would like to answer that in the broadest terms. There are two inquiries in respect of which reports have not yet been tabled in the parliament. The one which we have brought to completion—and which I would assume will be the subject of an early tabling—is our report into the review of the Proceeds of Crime Act. That has been completed only a very short time ago.
The other ongoing inquiry that we have relates to the review of the adversarial system of civil litigation, which we prefer to see in terms of a review of civil justice. The term `adversarial' has tended to cause some misunderstanding. That is a very large reference which has been going on for some time, as a result of terms of reference provided by former Attorney[hyphen]General Lavarch. There is a significant discussion paper, which will have a number of draft proposals and which will be published in a matter of weeks. Drawing upon the responses that we get to that document, we will be preparing a final report, which under our current terms of reference is due to be with the Attorney in November.
Senator McKIERNAN —Okay. Is there any excess capacity in the commission at the moment? Or could it be said, on the other hand, that you are overworked? What is the level of activity?
Mr Edwards —At the moment, we are drawing together the post[hyphen]reference work for the Proceeds of Crime Act reference, which means assessing a number of documents for archiving and preparing background briefings—because it is a reference on the Proceeds of Crime Act which we are already aware will attract a great deal of interest. It is a highly complex matter.
The remnants of the reference team, and I myself as lead commissioner, are pretty busy on doing that right now. When that has been tabled—and assuming that the newly appointed president takes up the role that Alan Rose, as the just departed president, had as one of the two lead commissioners on the adversarial reference—we would expect there to be, within a matter of some weeks, a freeing of resources, particularly of me myself to become lead commissioner for at least one further reference.
I cannot overstate the magnitude of the continuing reference on adversarial matters: that is the equivalent for us of two references. We think we have the capacity in the commission—with the right kind of references and the right sort of synergies between references—to carry up to three references, depending on their size.
I am sorry that I am taking up a little time over this; but, if you look to the adversarial reference as being generally accepted as the equivalent of two references and you look at the proceeds of crime one as certainly one quite significant reference of its own, we are just
coming to the end of one and we will be ready to report shortly. I know that it will be a priority with the new president, Commissioner Cronin and me to seek to discuss with the department and the Attorney, within the coming month or so, what would be an appropriate reference for us to have to replace the one on proceeds of crime.
Senator McKIERNAN —With those two references, are you within your original time lines from when the inquiries started?
Mr Edwards —No. For the adversarial reference, we have had an extension. The reporting date, as I recall, was about April of this year. We sought an extension, which the Attorney granted us, to November of this year. There may have been one earlier extension. I am sorry that I have not got that at my fingertips at the moment.
The proceeds of crime reference was given to us on 7 December 1997, I believe, with not quite as much warning. We had been talking about the possibility, but it hit us a little suddenly—not that we minded that. We were given until 31 December last year to report on that. We were unable to, because we had to get specialist assistance to get a team up, and Christmas was intervening. It was early March last year before we had a team on board.
Our assessment of the reference was that it was very significant and probably larger than we had expected it would be. We have had dialogue with the department and the Attorney during the year. We had raised with the Attorney the possibility of getting a reference extension beyond December until around about August of this year, which would have enabled us to issue a discussion paper and have a further period of reference.
That was all very fully considered by the Attorney, who believed for a number of considerations that he would like to have the report by the end of this March. That was terribly tight for us, but we did our best. We concluded our deliberations by March and we wrote to the Attorney on 31 March saying, `We have done our work. We have got some tidying up with writing, and we will have a report in your hands in May,' and we have done so.
Senator McKIERNAN —What was the last major report completed by the commission?
Mr Edwards —The last report that we completed was a review of the Archives Act, and that was tabled in the parliament in May of last year. Prior to that was a joint report, a very large report, undertaken under joint terms of reference with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, in relation to children and the law. That was tabled in November 1997. The one before that was, I think, a paper on cross[hyphen]border civil remedies—which I believe was completed earlier in 1997.
Senator McKIERNAN —From a public consumption point of view, what has been produced and released by the commission since the elections of last year, since October: issues papers, reports?
Mr Edwards —You have caught me a little short on that. I think we have issued a paper, in January this year. Jeremy, have you got this year's annual report?
Mr Campbell —This year's? No.
Mr Edwards —My recollection is that we issued a further paper earlier this year in a series of discussion or information papers on the adversarial reference. I would be happy to furnish to the committee a list of all papers published since the last election and I will undertake to do so.
Senator McKIERNAN —Thank you.
Senator COONEY —With regard to the point that Senator McKiernan raised about providing effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the Attorney[hyphen]General and the parliament and the criteria you use to do that, when you are preparing a report I suppose you look at what evidence is available. How do you get that? What do you do? Does that come from the Attorney, or do you search far and wide to get the material that you are going to act on?
Mr Edwards —For our reports?
Senator COONEY —For your reports.
Mr Edwards —Our methodology is usually to have at least one but often two trawls of expert and public opinion. More often than not, we issue a discussion paper or an issues paper. When we have had an initial round of discussions with what we call our key stakeholders—I know that is a term people do not like to use—we circulate that as widely as we possibly can to anyone who might have an interest and we invite them on that basis to make submissions to us. We then pull that together into an information bank.
We independently survey all sources of academic and other writing that we can find on it, both in Australia and overseas. We make a particular point of seeing whether any parliamentary committees have examined the subject, what the nature of the evidence was and whether we should seek to have access to that evidence and particularly to the committee findings.
We obviously make a considerable point of examining what is the government's policy so that we can see the broad political imperatives framework in which we are working. We bring that together and preferably—although we are not always able to—we like to get out and about a draft recommendations paper, or a proposals paper, so that we can test with those same stakeholders, including academics and the business community, et cetera, whether we have really engaged in the subject matter in the way they would like and had expected and whether we have understood their submissions correctly. This gives us an indication as to whether people feel we have comprehensively researched the matter in a way that fits with their own specialist knowledge and we also get a sense of whether the direction we are going in is one that is sustainable in terms of law, public policy, human rights, civil liberties and general community acceptance.
Senator COONEY —In effect, having got the facts together, if I can use that expression, you then apply a set of values to them. I do not know what you are going to recommend in the proceeds of crime reference when you do that, but you must apply certain values to your conclusions if you do make recommendations.
Mr Edwards —Yes, certainly.
Senator COONEY —Where do you get those from? Is that from the Attorney[hyphen]General?
—I will just mention the two references which I have completed in the last 12 months: archives and proceeds. While obviously I cannot say much about proceeds because it is not before the parliament, we have gone to a particular point in both those reports to set up, as a springboard for our deliberations, an analysis of what, in terms of jurisprudence or proper legal analysis, are the principles that should underpin. In both those reports, we proceed from an analysis of principle and relate the whole report to supporting principle. Those principles we relate, in the case of review of legislation, to the policy underpinnings and the principles underlying the policies that have been presented by the government. We also, of
course, have regard to the terms of reference to give us an important lead as to the sense of importance and priority that the government attaches to particular matters.
Senator COONEY —If they have given a lot of weight—
Mr Edwards —Yes, if they have given a lot of weight to something. For example, although it is trespassing a little on our report that we have just done—and if I am out of order I hope I will be stopped—one of the things that we had to face up to in reviewing proceeds of crime is whether you go into the debate as to whether proceeds of crime is a proper thing for governments to do. We have said at the outset of our report that we are not asked to revisit whether there should be; we are asked to assess what should be done to improve the regime. Those sorts of things are very important guidance from the government.
Senator COONEY —In your report, you are really almost preparing a brief, according to instructions given by government. For example, you may be doing one on the proceeds of crime and you have an outcry in the community about law and order—as you recently have had—in an election campaign.
Mr Edwards —Yes.
Senator COONEY —There might be political, moral or legal precedent overtones to that campaign. What I am asking is: would you take that into account, if there is a political campaign about law and order, when you are applying the values you are going to apply to the list of facts that you have on the matter?
Senator Vanstone —Just before Mr Edwards answers that question, there might be an ambiguity in something you said, Senator Cooney. I do not want to attribute bad faith to you, but I want to say this, just in case someone reads your question up to this point and decides that what you wanted to show was that, by giving a reference—as previous governments have—to the Law Reform Commission, outlining the terms of reference, the commission was therefore in some way doing the government's bidding. It is given a reference—all that is is that it is asked a question. There are parameters to the question—that is all. After that, it is up to the commission how it handles its work. And Mr Edwards might like to answer your question.
Senator COONEY —That is what I am asking.
Senator Vanstone —I would just like to make that clear.
Senator COONEY —Except that I do want to go to the point to include the Law Reform Commission in the question—and I do not think there is any doubt that it has been a good Law Reform Commission. In some ways, the Law Reform Commission in Victoria is differently staffed. A member of parliament actually chairs it, so you might well imagine that there is an input in that. What I am trying to do is to draw from Mr Edwards the basis upon which they go into a reference and the basis upon which they would make their recommendations. I think we need to know that to judge what sort of result we are getting from the work done by the Law Reform Commission. In Victoria, where you have got members of parliament doing it, to a certain extent it is a lot easier because they are going to bring in their own philosophy and their own values. I doubt whether Mr Edwards can do that, and I presume he cannot. Then the question comes: where are those values that you are applying to reach your conclusions coming from?
Senator Vanstone —So long as it is understood that this government, like previous governments, gives the Law Reform Commission a reference. It is up to the commission how it responds to that.
Senator COONEY —I will keep going.
Senator Vanstone —Senator Cooney, I just want to make it clear that that is the answer that the Attorney would give you. It is the answer that I am giving you and there is no debate on that. That is the government's position.
Senator COONEY —But now I want to ask: from what you say there, there is no set of values given by government to the Law Reform Commission whereby they are to test the reference they are given.
Senator Vanstone —The terms of reference will speak for themselves.
Senator COONEY —Yes, but the terms of reference are usually fairly tight.
Senator Vanstone —No, in which case you might like to ask Mr Edwards your question. I just wanted to make that clear, that is all.
Senator COONEY —Where do you draw the value, say, on a thing like the proceeds of crime? Until recently, in the last few years, the criminal, I suppose, kept—unless he was sued civilly—the proceeds of his or her crime. Now it is different, and more and more there is a tendency to take the proceeds of crime away. The idea of what the proceeds of crime are seem to have grown. For example, if you get money from a story that you might write, having committed a crime, then that is taken up with the proceeds of crime. There have to be some standards by which you judge where the next step ought to be taken. What I am trying to get from you, subject of course to whatever the minister says, is where you draw those values from, and whether the issue of such a thing as a law and order campaign has an affect upon you?
Mr Edwards —The law and order campaign as such is background that enlivens us to its importance, but no more so than our terms of reference and the statement made by the Attorney[hyphen]General at the time he gave us the terms of reference. It shows that the proceeds of crime is seen as an important weapon in the arsenal of fighting organised criminal activity, particularly, I think, drug related activity, and that the government is concerned, after some 10 years of that act being in place, for us to examine whether it is the most appropriately framed legislation to achieve the objectives. We have taken those objectives, which are set out in section 3 of that act, and we have analysed and seen those objectives: how can we better effect the objectives that the parliament has enshrined in that legislation?
In measuring our reaction to that, it would be easy on one view to get carried away with the emotions of law and order, of the terrible fallout from drugs and things, and to have some sort of a populist response to it. That is not the role and function of a law reform commission, and it is certainly not the role and function as members of this law reform commission see it.
Because some issues and options that we have considered are quite far reaching, we have gone to particular pains to describe in the report what we see are the fundamental principles underlying the objectives that we find in the legislation. Those principles are not enunciated. We have sought to do them from the ground up, and we have kept faith—and when you see the report, Senator, I hope you will agree with me—throughout the report, particularly because some of our recommendations may be regarded as far reaching. We have made a particular point of referring back those more contentious parts of our report to our analysis of what should be the correct principles that drive reform in this area.
I should add—although it is not necessary for me to do so in view of the assurance given by Senator Vanstone—that we have not at any point in time had any overture, hint or
suggestion whatsoever from either the department or our two portfolio ministers that they would like to see us give weight to any particular matter—not one moment of it.
Secondly, I think I can say—again, apropos of what Senator Vanstone said—that the terms of reference have been important. I cannot think of one of the particular items mentioned in the terms of reference and identified because they were seen by the Attorney as particular problems that has not led us, through submissions and our own deliberations, to conclude that, yes indeed, the Attorney[hyphen]General was correct in perceiving that those were important issues to be addressed.
With regard to the conclusions we have reached on those and other matters we have considered, we are yet to know whether the government will approve or disapprove of the direction we have taken. That remains to be seen. But we did also, with those terms of reference in hand and with our own initial announcement of the legislation, put out into the public arena a background paper in which we said, `These are the issues that have been identified by the government as important. Added to these are issues that we, from our initial analysis, see to be important. Would you, the stakeholders and the public, please tell us: are these the right issues to be addressed?' We received considerable reinforcement and guidance from our stakeholders in that regard. I think our report will show itself to be the product of a truly independent commission.
Senator COONEY —The references you do are always on reference by the Attorney?
Mr Edwards —Yes, references must be given by the Attorney, Senator.
Senator COONEY —There is no doubt that an issue like the adversarial system offers, depending on how you come out, almost revolutionary possibilities. What sort of resources do you have to deal with that issue?
Mr Edwards —The larger part of the resources of the commission have been applied to that. For example, we have three full[hyphen]time commissioners—the president; me, as deputy president; and Commissioner Cronin. The president and Commissioner Cronin have together been lead commissioners in giving an indication of the priority and importance of the issues. I am a little less confident in responding to all the issues on that, not being the lead commissioner, but any points you want clarification on I would hasten to provide to the committee.
Senator COONEY —Because that would involve us both—a comparison with what things were like overseas.
Mr Edwards —Yes. One of the problems, when you mention overseas, is that the nature of some of the labelling of the reference in the early days led a lot of people to gain the impression in an alarming way—and I refer to the Law Council and to some judges—that the choice before the commission was to say whether there should be an adversarial system, whether there should be an inquisitorial system like that under the French civil code, or whether we should maintain our own system, which probably goes back to not long after when Henry II sent the first justices out of Westminster to determine what the common law was. They are quite different. That is not what we were about, and we have strenuously tried to address that misimpression.
What we are about is looking at the experience overseas to see whether there is something that they offer to us. To take a small example: when you look at aspects of the German system you find that that system, based on the Roman Dutch law, et cetera, has been turning increasingly in some areas to adopting an approach that is more our adversarial type of
approach rather than the inquisitorial. It is a question of drawing the best together into an outcome.
Senator COONEY —I was just thinking that, from the point of view of resources, you really need to see various systems in operation, there and then, and I was wondering whether anybody in the commission has had the opportunity to do that.
Mr Edwards —We have not travelled to Europe to examine those systems. We had a very important conference which we convened in conjunction with the institute that runs out of Griffith University. It was a big conference in Queensland about two years ago. To that conference we drew some very, very important figures, people who were very well attuned to the inquisitorial system, including Judge Lemonde. I can recall we had him there; I cannot recall the name of the German expert. We drew in a number of these people and they did several things: firstly, they wrote papers; secondly, they appeared and addressed these conferences, made terrific impressions and gave us insights; and, thirdly, many of them came on to Sydney and had one[hyphen]to[hyphen]one discussions with our team. We felt that we had been able to do a good deal of research, and without having to spend a lot of money, because the commission has suffered financial stringencies like every other public agency. We found that we were able to gain a lot by that, Senator.
CHAIR —It does sound like an expeditious and inexpensive way to do it, Senator Cooney.
Senator COONEY —Yes, excepting, Senator Payne, that it can get so expeditious and so saving of money that it is not worth doing your law reform in the first place. That is the real issue. Any of us can sit here and think up ideas of how to change the law, but you really need to test it against experience, I think, and also test the objectives you are trying to achieve, and the values that you reckon ought to be adhered to, against some experience.
Mr Edwards —Yes. We did, early in the reference, establish an advisory group in Australia which consists of a number of eminent lawyers and others, including Sir Anthony Mason, Sir Laurence Street, Chief Justice Phillips, Chief Justice Doyle, members of the Federal Court and others—business people like Mark Burrows and Tony Hartnell, et cetera—so that we could get some further insights. That has been an enormously valuable resource which has meant that we have had to spend less money on travel and research, et cetera when we have been able to get that experience from, so to speak, the horse's mouth. That has been enormously valuable.
Senator COONEY —Always dependent on how good the horse is, mind you.
Mr Edwards —Indeed.
Senator COONEY —Whether it is a Might and Power or—
Senator Vanstone —Is that it now for this part of the program?
Senator COONEY —It is. But, now that you have asked that, can you answer that question for me, Minister? That is exactly what I want to know: what is the difference—
Senator Vanstone —Well, I would like to know exactly what you do want to know.
Senator COONEY —What is the difference between the form we have got now, the accrual, where we are supposed to test out what has happened in terms of outcomes, and the old system?
—Senator Cooney, I think there is a gremlin somewhere in Finance who is determined that, while you and I are in parliament, they will change the program estimates every five or six years. As you recall, last year they were not as they were when we first came
in. But we have Mr Geoff Hine here from the department who can give you a brief outline of that. I understand briefings were available last week—
Senator COONEY —They were but—
Senator Vanstone —I do not know if you were able to go to those. Do you have a specific query? I do not want this to turn into a generalised discussion on the benefits of the old program budgeting or of this way.
Senator COONEY —No, I know, but you have got the overview and you have got the appropriation and you have got, at the back, the glossary—administered items, outcomes, output groups, output price, quality, quantity, third[hyphen]party outputs. But I have the portfolio statement for Immigration, because that is the one we have to go on to next, and that in fact gives a wider range of definitions.
Senator Vanstone —I do not think Mr Hine can answer questions on anything other than this portfolio.
Senator COONEY —Yes, but can I just put this to you: where are we if we do not talk about where the Law Reform Commission is going, what it is producing and how it does it? How are we going to test the outcomes, unless we do it simply in economic terms? Is that what is wanted? If that is so, why do we talk, as Senator McKiernan has said, about effective, independent and timely advice of the highest quality to the Attorney[hyphen]General and parliament? Have we not got to test all that—test how they do it?
Senator Vanstone —The proof is in the pudding, isn't it?
Senator COONEY —What is meant by accrual accounting?
Senator Vanstone —There is no formula. Every time a housewife makes a pudding, she does not run it up against a range of criteria if her kids all gobble it up and say, `It was great, Mum.' She works on the basis that something is going right.
Senator COONEY —This is the first time we have had this accrual budget.
Senator Vanstone —I appreciate that, Senator Cooney.
Senator COONEY —It is the first time we have had a lot of other changes. The Australian Government Solicitor is about to no longer be part of the portfolio. It might be worth discussing what we think should be asked.
Senator Vanstone —I would be very happy if the committee, outside of estimates, wants to set up another day to go through the differences between this type of presentation and others, and I am sure we can get people from Finance to come and give you a long and detailed dissertation, going into every minute point you might want to know. We would be happy to take you through it
Senator COONEY —I am not talking about the differences between the two; I am saying that, if you have gone to accrual accounting, the whole style of questioning must change, surely.
Senator Vanstone —Probably, yes.
Senator COONEY —Because we are after different issues.
Senator Vanstone —Not necessarily. We are just looking at accrual accounting as a better way of being accountable to parliament and a better way to understand what everybody does.
Senator COONEY —I do not want to go—
Senator Vanstone —That remains to be seen. There is a large body of opinion that it is a better way to go.
Senator COONEY —I think it does lead to a different style of questioning.
CHAIR —Okay. Are there questions on the LRC?
Senator McKIERNAN —My question is in a slightly different stream. It had slipped my mind that Mr Rose was no longer with the commission. He had reached the end of his term, had he?
Mr Edwards —That is correct.
Senator McKIERNAN —How long had Mr Rose had an association with the department?
Mr Blunn —For nine or 10 years—or longer.
Mr Edwards —Probably less than 10 years.
Mr Blunn —About 10 years; perhaps a little less than that.
Mr Reaburn —I think it was much longer than that. In the second half of 1987, he had just completed—a five[hyphen]year term, David?
Mr Edwards —Five years.
Mr Reaburn —A five[hyphen]year term as President of the Law Reform Commission, so basically he had been connected with the department and the portfolio for 12 years.
Senator BOLKUS —Was he at PM&C before that?
Mr Reaburn —That is correct.
Mr Blunn —He was actually departmental head of Community Services for a while before he came to Attorney[hyphen]General's.
Senator McKIERNAN —All up, we would be looking at close to 20 years, would we?
Mr Blunn —As what?
Senator McKIERNAN —His association with the Public Service.
Mr Blunn —Much longer.
Mr Edwards —Thirty[hyphen]two years with the Public Service before he joined the—
Senator McKIERNAN —I think it is a bit bad form that a person of that calibre, that ability and that service to the nation, to the parliament and to the people of Australia could retire last week and there not be one murmur of appreciation from the minister, from the Attorney[hyphen]General or even from the Minister for Justice and Customs on his retirement. I would, from this side of the table, and perhaps even on behalf of the whole of the committee, acknowledge our appreciation of the assistance Mr Rose has given to this committee in its many shapes and forms over the years, in government and in opposition. It certainly was appreciated—not that we agreed with everything Mr Rose had to say at every particular point in time, but that is the nature of the beast, the nature of the game we are involved in. We wish him well in his retirement—if, indeed, it is his retirement.
Mr Moss —Can I just add that I understand the Attorney[hyphen]General did write personally to Mr Rose on the occasion of his retirement.
CHAIR —And I think, indeed, also made a statement.
Mr Moss —He did so on the 21st.
Senator McKIERNAN —I have seen the statement in relation to the appointment, and it was pointed that there was actually no reference to the predecessor in that position. It is a usual occurrence with government that when there is a new appointment made, there is usually a reference made to the predecessor.
Senator Vanstone —I will take the opportunity, Senator McKiernan, to say that I enjoyed every occasion on which I have worked with Mr Rose, which was one occasion when I was invited to speak at the Law Reform Commission and prior to that when he was deputy secretary of Attorney[hyphen]General's.
CHAIR —Thank you, Minister.
Senator BOLKUS —I would like to add my sentiments and also acknowledge that Senator McKiernan putting this on the public record is a worthwhile exercise.
CHAIR —Thank you, Senator Bolkus.
Senator COONEY —I would certainly join in that he was a fine lawyer and a fine administrator.
Senator BOLKUS —He still is.
CHAIR —He still is, indeed! We will continue to speak in the present tense, I think.
Senator Vanstone —Unless there is something I do not know!
CHAIR —Mr Blunn advises he is on leave, and that could only be a meritorious taking of leave. If that concludes questions on the Australian Law Reform Commission, I would like to thank Mr Edwards and Mr Campbell for their appearance this afternoon.