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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2552


Senator DURACK(9.42) —I move:

Page 8, clause 11, sub-clause (1), lines 30 and 31, leave out 'with the approval of the Inter-Governmental Committee', insert 'after consulting the Inter-Governmental Committee'.

This is a second best amendment, the Committee having not agreed to my amendment to enable the Authority to embark on investigations on its own initiative. The Committee now having embarked upon a somewhat different course in accordance with the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs-those amendments have now been agreed to-the fact still remains that under clause 11, the Federal Minister can refer a matter or enable special powers to be exercised only with the approval of the Inter-Governmental Committee. The result is that the Federal Attorney-General cannot utilise the Authority in relation to the investigation of a purely Federal matter unless he obtains the approval of the inter-governmental committee. The object of my amendment is to leave out those words and simply provide for consultation with the inter-governmental committee. I regard that as a proper exercise of the co- operative arrangements with the States which have been achieved on this measure.

For the inter-governmental committee to be able to veto-that is what it amounts to-the investigation of a purely Federal matter, a Federal crime, when the Federal Attorney-General desires it, I believe is an inappropriate power to be given to the inter-governmental committee. It enables that committee to make the whole exercise involving a substantial amount of investigation of Federal crimes dependent on the agreement of the inter-governmental committee. Unfortunately, now the National Crime Authority cannot exercise its special powers without the approval of that commitee. If the Federal Attorney-General cannot activate the powers of the National Crime Authority in relation to a purely Federal offence without the approval of the inter-governmental committee, we shall be setting up an extremely limited body which will have little effect.

The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs recommended that the power of veto be removed. My amendment seeks to give effect to that recommendation. We believe it would be ludicrous for a body which has been established by an Act of this Parliament-a body which will be funded by the Federal Government and responsible to that Government-not to be able to investigate a breach of a purely Federal offence when that is desired by the Federal Attorney-General. The amendment is designed to achieve that purpose. The Democrats' amendment is in much the same terms but has further features which I do not regard as necessary. However, I am pleased to see that the Democrats have indicated by their amendment support for the Standing Committee's recommendation . I hope that this vital amendment will be agreed to.