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Thursday, 17 November 1983
Page: 2872

Mr STEEDMAN —My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Under what powers and for what purpose did members of the Australian Federal Police approach the management of a Canberra private charter company last week demanding to know the names of six women who chartered an aircraft to fly to Alice Springs to participate in the women's protest against the United States spy base at Pine Gap?

Mr BEAZLEY —I am unaware of the circumstances to which the honourable gentleman referred. I shall make some inquiries of the Federal Police and give him an answer. I point out that if anybody has any complaint about the Federal Police at any time there is provision within the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act which sets out clearly the procedure for lodging of complaints by the public . If there is a grievance, the people who referred that grievance to the honourable gentleman have recourse in that area.

I will make two points about the Federal Police in relation to the situation that has developed at Pine Gap. From the outset, when the police became aware of the situation that was likely to arise, that a demonstration was going to be held, two areas of concern have governed the policy and the activities that members of the police have pursued. The first has been, quite properly, the requirement to ensure that a highly sensitive security area and the integrity of it are preserved and that no unauthorised personnel are for any length of time within the secure area. The first obligation has been on members of the Federal Police and they have operated in such a manner as to uphold that obligation.

The second point of concern for the Federal Police has been its understanding that in this country there is a right of public protest and that there is a right to demonstrate peacefully within the parameters of the law one's views on any particular matter, whether it is for or against government policy. Members of the Federal Police, in pursuing that understanding, consulted, before the event, people associated with those involved in the demonstration. They acted with restraint when the demonstration occurred. The charges which have been levied on the persons arrested are under the Crimes Act and they relate to trespass, which is not the most serious offence with which one can be charged but are appropriate to the recognition of that objective which is consonant with the democratic institutions of which this House is the peak. As I have said, no substantial evidence has been presented to me that members of the Federal Police have acted in any way that would bring about a breach of those two understandings of their responsibility.

If people have any information on that matter, I am quite happy to receive it and I will pursue those matters. As I said, nothing has been presented to me in that regard. If people wish to pursue other avenues I draw their attention again , as I did at the outset of this answer, to those provisions within the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act which set out a very clear procedure for the lodging of complaints by the public.