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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2292

Senator SPINDLER (8.57 p.m.) —I move:

31.Schedule, page 33, after amendments to the Commonwealth Places (Application of Laws) Act 1970, insert the following heading and amendment:

"Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981

After section 31:

Insert the following section:

Compensation for misuse of search warrants and powers of arrest

`31A.(1) Where, after an investigation of a complaint under this Part has been completed, the Ombudsman is of the opinion that the complainant has suffered any loss or damage as a result of any failure to comply with a requirement of Part 1AA of the Crimes Act 1914, the Ombudsman must:

  (a)determine whether, and if so, how much, monetary compensation is reasonably necessary to remedy the loss or damage; and

      (b)report that to the responsible Minister.

(2) As soon as practicable after receipt of a report, the Minister must pay the complainant the sum determined by the Ombudsman as if it were a debt owed by the Commonwealth.".

The bill currently provides for compensation to be payable to the owner of electronic equipment which is damaged in the process of being examined under search warrant. The Australian Democrats believe that such compensation should extend to any loss or damage suffered as a result of the police officers' failure to comply with any of the provisions. The assessment of the need for payment of such compensation is most appropriately placed in the hands of the independent ombudsman who is familiar with handling police complaints. The compensation should be payable as if it were a debt of the Commonwealth. We are aware of arguments that the Commonwealth should not be responsible for payment of compensation which arises from breaches conducted by members of state police forces. However, if state police forces are responsible for undertaking investigations pursuant to Commonwealth laws, they must be treated at such times as if they were federal police officers.