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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2643

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(4.27) —I just wish on occasions Senator Lewis would give other people some credit for common sense in their approach to this matter. What Senator Lewis suggested will not be the case. In conducting hearings which demand careful attention to the admissibility and status of evidence and the sort of evidence to be introduced-not because that is a criterion for its coming into those hearings, but one of the sorts of questions that will have to be taken into account is the extent to which these hearings do involve questions about self-incrimination, privilege and everything else-of course, it is appropriate, and I would have thought indispensible, that anyone actually conducting a hearing have substantial legal qualifications, both immediate and practical. That has been acknowledged and accepted. That is not to say that every single member of the National Crime Authority need necessarily have those qualifications, although I indicated in my previous contribution that I personally thought that would be desirable.

Senator Crichton-Browne —There will only be three of them.

Senator GARETH EVANS —All I am saying is that in a situation where members of the Authority have the kinds of qualifications that can enable them to run inquiries and given that we will not be appointing people other than of stature, credibility and appropriate expertise, we do not need this concept of two at a time riding shotgun on each other. That seems to me to be a council for despair and something of a council of desperation.

Senator Chipp —I ask the Attorney-General for clarification. Let us assume there are two judges or two lawyers and one senior policeman. I understand that one senior policeman can sit as part of a quorum, as an authority, and hear and conduct an inquiry with coercive powers. That is possible.

Senator GARETH EVANS —As the legislation stands. But that is again another case of acknowledging the operations of common sense.

Senator Crichton-Browne —By whom?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Costigan and Meagher model is so deeply embedded in the consciousness of the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs that they cannot pull themselves out of it. We are not talking about quasi-judicial big whizz-bang public hearings with all the dangers and difficulties that are associated in terms of allowing in material that will get into the public domain. This is all premised on the assumption that this is simply an extension of the investigative mode which is carried out presently by police officers and needs to be supplemented by the kind of investigative coercive armoury we are talking about. In that environment it may be that the view of the world that Senator Lewis has articulated is still appropriate, but, equally well, it may be that it is not. This is something that has to evolve out of the capacities and the expertise of the people appointed to the Authority. This is the danger. I am trying to give a straightforward answer to questions about expertise, capacity and the sort of criteria that we are discussing and honourable senators grab odd individual words and erect an encyclopaedia out of them. Obviously it is not helpful to the cause of rational debate to give any information at all if that sort of thing happens. I regret that.

Equally the same applies to the contribution of Senator Crichton-Browne. He erected the prospect of some whizz-kid with computers finding himself on the Authority for that reason alone, then wallowing around utterly at sea and, as a result, endangering people's civil liberties in a hearing. But that is not the way it will work. I would have thought that a polymath like I have always thought Senator Crichton-Browne to be-a man with a whole variety of simultaneous credentials, capacities and different kinds of expertise-would appreciate that it is perfectly possible for many individuals to combine a variety of talents and levels of experience within themselves. To that extent it would be possible to find a lawyer who happened to be, incidentally, someone with outstanding familiarity and competence with computer technology. People like that do exist, I am well aware of that state of affairs, and, obviously Douglas Meagher is one of them. In between his bursts as an author he is an outstanding computer person . Those capacities and combinations of capacities do exist. I have just indicated that in the best of all possible worlds it would be desirable somewhere on any particular body to have a combination of capacities as well as the traditional familiar lawyerly ones. All this remains to be resolved. We cannot legislate for the quality of appointments. We just have to try to get it right. I have indicated the kind of criteria that will be applied and the kind of consultative process we will go through. I believe that the Senate should vest confidence in those of us who will make these decisions.