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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2674


Senator DURACK(8.34) —Mr Chairman, I am still of the view that the original amendment to the Bill which introduces this idea that nobody other than a member of the Australian Federal Police or the police force of a State can interview a person who is suspected of having committed an offence really is a very odd attitude. The idea that only policemen interview those who are suspected of having committed an offence is complete nonsense. There is no prohibition on anybody interviewing anybody about the possible commission of an offence. Within the Government's service itself a great many investigations are undertaken by departmental officers in relation to the commission of offences or the suspicions of offences having been committed. I just cannot understand at all the justification for this concept. I have already pointed out that it has come in without any explanation apart from the notice we received tonight from the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). It was not included in the Bill, it was not considered by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. We now have a situation where, if we put in this proposal, we will have to have all sorts of exceptions to it. No wonder we have legislation of the length and complexity we do, with the result that ultimately it is unintelligible. If the Attorney-General wants to end up with legislation that is unintelligible, it is on his head; it is not the Opposition's responsibility. I agree that if this proposal goes in, the amendment of the Australian Democrats and the Government's further amendment are both desirable but I just think that the whole thing would be better without any such amendments at all.

People will have to decide whether or not they can interview people and whether or not they suspect a person has committed an offence. I do not know how anybody will be able to make that judgment. We have the obvious case where an accountant employed by the National Crime Authority may want to ask some questions to elucidate complicated financial transactions appearing perhaps in bank statements that have been obtained. He may well have suspicions about the person he is interviewing but has not been able to form a judgment as to whether or not he ought to be charged. For heavens sake, the Judges Rules formulated in 1910 or thereabouts had far more common sense and practicability about them than that, and have proved to be basically workable in regard to an investigative officer having to make up his mind about whether or not he is going to charge somebody. At least they were intelligible and have been proved to be. This sort of language will not be intelligible in practical situations. I am getting a bit tired of trying to make something of this legislation. If the Attorney-General wants to have complicated, complex, lengthy, unintelligible and impractical legislation, it can be on his head.