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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1292


Senator SCOTT (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(10.21) —I rise briefly to support the proposition that has been considerably explained by Senator Durack tonight. I believe the amendment proposed by the Opposition to the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984 is constructive. I was interested, listening to Senator Macklin's remarks, to hear him say that to follow such a line would really show a lack of confidence in Mr Justice Stewart's authority. I do not believe that is so. The whole purpose of the amendment to the legislation, legislation which incidentally the Opposition supports, is to facilitate the capacity of the National Crime Authority to pursue its various objectives. So the proposition really cannot be defined as Senator Macklin wants to define it, as an indication of a lack of confidence. That is not the position at all.

I think the position relates to the measure of uncertainty that has arisen in the community over a very long period. We are talking about an awareness of these matters that dates back to March of this year. In March on two or three occasions and again on a number of occasions in August of this year there was widespread comment by some of the most responsible newspapers, certainly by some of the largest newspapers in this country, referring to the need to establish a royal commission, a body with significant powers of investigation sufficient to delve into the matters that are contained within this amendment, which calls for an investigation into:

(a) the origin of the tapes and documents . . .

(b) the authenticity . . .

(c) whether such information reveals any offences against laws of the Commonwealth;

(d) whether, arising from such information, any criminal charges should be laid ;

(e) whether any action has already been taken by any law enforcement agency arising out of the said information . . .

The amendment seeks that sort of determination through such a commission or appropriate body, a body that was, as I said, recommended months ago by a significant area of the Australian Press, not to show in any way a lack of confidence in or to embarrass the Authority under Mr Justice Stewart, but rather to extend his capacity successfully to prosecute the important job he has in hand. It is a most important operation and no stone should be left unturned in the efforts being taken by the Government and being pursued with great energy by the Opposition in restoring in Australia a real measure of confidence in the matters that relate to the livelihood and lifestyle of this community.

As a result of a whole range of problems in the drug trade and in other areas, there has developed in the community an element of doubt and insecurity. It is that type of insecurity, that questioning of the basic authorities within whose realm we as a community move, that has to be put to rest. I believe the proposition put here tonight in some detail by Senator Durack is a line that should be accepted by the Government. I am sure that by this time the Government is convinced that it has a very great duty to the Australian people to get to the bottom of the problems that confront them and to get to the bottom of the causes of public uncertainty that is so rife in Australia today.

I hope that in taking the responsible view that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) now takes he will recognise the value of the propositions that have been put to him tonight in this amendments and that he will pursue the matter, certainly not as an indication of a lack of confidence in the body that he has set up and which we support but as an indication of the way in which the performance and the excellence of that body may be greatly added to. I support the amendment and I hope that the Government will take a realistic view in its attitude to it.