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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2593


Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(10.36) —The Government opposes the substance of both the Chipp and the Hill amendments. There is no great distinction between them and if an arrangement has been made between the two parties for Senator Hill's motion to take precedence, we will bear that with such fortitude as we can command.

The actual exercise seems to us to be unfortunate to the extent that it downgrades to the level of a mere consideration to be taken into account the question of whether ordinary police methods are effective in the intergovernmental committee's consideration of whether to grant a reference. It was always the objective here, as we discussed yesterday, for the response to organised crime to be a graduated one, using so far as possible ordinary police methods, and only moving to the special powers and the coercive powers involved in authority references when it was clear that the police methods were not likely to be appropriate. The justification is, of course, that the coercive methods involved here are quite draconian in character and not the kind of thing that should be employed without very close regard to their justification in any particular case.

The way the original Bill was formulated, it was expressed more firmly that the committee shall not approve the reference unless it is satisfied that ordinary police methods of investigation are not likely to be effective. Now the requirement is simply, in effect, that the committed take into account whether police methods are not likely to be effective. I do not believe that in its original formulation this would have constituted any technically significant barrier to the operations of the committee, nor do I believe that this would have been in any way a justiciable provision such that it could be taken advantage of by someone on the receiving end of an investigation, arguing that the intergovernmental committee had not done its statutory job of looking at the adequacy of police methods.

The way the clause is framed it carries its own sanctions. It is directory rather than mandatory in its character and the Government has proceeded on the assumption that no technical objection would be available. Having said all that, I feel that it really boils down to a question of semantics as to how vigorously one expresses a concept with which I take it basically we all agree. To that extent, the Government will not pursue its opposition to the point of division, although it does register its concern about the unnecessarily loose way in which the content of the original clause has been diluted by the amendment.