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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2473

Senator LEWIS(10.24) —The Senate is debating the Bill which will establish the National Crime Authority. That brings into play the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on the National Crime Authority Bill 1983. The Senate will be aware that in 1982 the Fraser Government introduced legislation to establish a national crimes commission. I remind the Senate that that legislation passed both Houses of Parliament. By the time of the election it was ready to be proclaimed. I understand that the proposed chairman of the authority had been selected by the government of the day and the authority was all ready to be put into action. Then the election occurred, and we now have the National Crime Authority Bill to replace the national crimes commission legislation because this Government never proclaimed the national crimes commission legislation.

It is very interesting to recall the debate which took place in 1982 on the national crimes commission legislation. At that stage the Senate had to put up with the present Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, and the present Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Walsh, alleging that the Fraser Government was weak and that the national crimes commission was an entity which had no strength, no teeth, and would not be able to chase the crooks of this nation. They made all sorts of outrageous allegations. We heard words such as ' lies' and 'crooks' called out across the chamber. Ministers were accused of being crooks. The then Attorney-General, Senator Durack, was under enormous pressure from Senator Evans about the national crimes commission not having any teeth, not being worthwhile and not being a body that would be able to do anything to attack the people concerned. That national crimes commission was pushed aside by this Government. What did we get in its place? We got a weak, inoffensive puppy-not even a kitten which might have some claws, but a weak, inoffensive straw body with no teeth. Senator Evans introduced a pathetic animal . Where is the result of all his speeches about what he intended to do and the crooks whom he would attack? All that he keeps talking about in this chamber is trying to get the States to go along with the National Crime Authority. His major criticism of the Fraser legislation now is purely and simply that the States would not co-operate with a national crimes commission.

Senator Gareth Evans —And its utter indifference to civil liberties.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Evans does not know what civil liberties are all about. Let us look at the legislation which he has proposed. He does not understand what civil liberties mean. He is quite prepared to make academic speeches about civil liberties, but where are his civil liberties when he comes into this place and introduces legislation? Where are civil liberties when he deals with fellows such as Combe and Ivanov? Senator Evans does not know the practical meaning of civil liberties. He does not understand what they are all about.

Senator Peter Rae —And you were the fellow the Attorney verballed.

Senator LEWIS —That is right. He went and interviewed a judge. The chief Crown law officer of the nation acted in the role of a prosecutor by interviewing a judge about material that was placed before him. Senator Evans does not know the first thing about civil liberties except in making academic speeches in this place about the subject at which he is very good. Quite a lot of ably used words pour forth from him like a waterfall. When the words come to the paper and the practical application of civil liberties one finds that he does not know the first thing about them.

The Senate had placed before it legislation to establish a National Crime Authority which would have enabled the crooks of this country to get away with some of the most terrible things that they are getting away with in this country . Legislation was brought before this chamber by the Government which was the weakest legislation one would ever see. It would have enabled the crooks of this nation to hide what they were getting up to. They would have been able to hide behind some sort of national crime authority, limited by all the veto powers that were introduced to prevent it from making the investigations that it ought to be making and which the national Parliament has heard, in speech after speech from people on both sides of the chamber, it ought to be doing. The legislation introduced into the chamber was a non-entity. As I said, it was a little puppy dog that one would want to scratch behind the ear but certainly one would not get hurt by.

Senator Peter Rae —Friends of the Mafia.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Rae makes allegations along those lines. I do not want to suggest that they are friends of anyone. Why does this Government not do something about attacking crime in this country? I suggest to the Senate that something has really gone wrong with Senator Evans and his Government since they came into office. Somehow they have been got at by people whose desire is to stop this legislation having any teeth.

Debate interrupted.