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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2637

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(3.52) —I state briefly the Australian Democrats attitude. Although I concede that it was a recommendation-No. 36-of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs that the National Crime Authority should be constituted by at least two members, I remember agreeing to that on the run, in a hurry. I do not remember taking a great deal of evidence about it. At this stage I concede that I have been persuaded by the arguments of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). I am attracted to the idea of Senator Durack that at some stage membership of the Authority be extended but I would have thought it would be more appropriate to address our minds to that when it is seen that the present membership of the Authority cannot cope with the volume of work. I would like the Attorney to give me an assurance now that as soon as that occurs he will give immediate consideration to bringing in an amending Bill to increase the number of members of the Authority.

I hope I am not misquoting Senator Durack but I have always been interested in his argument, when it is mooted to extend the number of judges of the High Court of Australia from seven to cope with the work, that that might well result in two courts within a court and that there is some danger in that. There is some validity to that sort of argument. If we have two National Crime Authorities sitting or the Authority is split in two, we run the risk of having two values running at the same time-the tough Authority and the less tough Authority, or whatever. However, that is a problem to be faced in the future. At this stage the Democrats do not agree to the extension of the numbers of the Authority but agree with the amendment moved by the Attorney. I remember the evidence of Mr Costigan that an authority sitting as one person was ample. I think I remember his suggesting the difficulties that would be created for him in taking evidence or having a hearing if he had to get someone else. For those reasons we support the amendment of the Attorney and do not agree with the Opposition.