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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2656


Senator DURACK(5.54) —We are dealing with an important new subject; namely, new clause 10A (4)-we will treat it as now being in the Bill- which reads:

In relation to the performance by the Authority of the functions referred to-

in earlier paragraphs-

nothing in this Act-

shall be taken to confer on a member, or on a member of the staff of the Authority (other than a member of the Australian Federal Police or a member of the Police Force of a State) power to interview a person in relation to an offence that the person is suspected of having committed; or

shall be taken to confer on a member of the staff of the Authority who is a member of the Australian Federal Police or of the Police Force of a State a power to interview a person that the member of the staff of the Authority does not have in his capacity as a member of the Australian Federal Police or of the Police Force of that State, as the case may be.

That is a very surprising provision to have in the legislation. No explanation has been given as to why it is there at all. I have heard some suggestions that it is here because of the very strong requirements of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, but I may be wrong. Perhaps the Attorney-General will be able to tell us what its genesis is and the point of it. It was not in the original Bill. It has not been recommended by the Senate Committee. It was not mooted by the Government in any debates on this Bill last year, nor was it referred to in the Attorney-General's ministerial statement in relation to the Committee report . As I said, no one seems to have any proper advice as to where it has come from .


Senator Gareth Evans —If you sit down I shall tell you.


Senator DURACK —I am sure the Attorney-General will let us know in a minute when I have finished. I simply raise that as a matter of considerable concern. This provision has been the subject of very severe criticism, and deservedly so. Its effect will be that for the Authority to speak to a suspect it must hold a hearing at which the suspect is called as a witness, formally sworn and placed in a courtroom setting. This seems to be a quite absurd impediment upon the way in which the Authority would want to proceed. It is very likely that the primary investigations would be frustrated. There could be very many reasons why staff of the Authority would want to make inquiries and ask questions in relation to their investigations. There would be no reason at all to set up a formal hearing to do so.

It would seem to be quite natural that staff of the Authority would want to interview witnesses ahead of any hearings and thereby determine whether it was necessary to have formal hearings. The staff of the Authority may be comprised of Federal or State police officers and also other experts who may want to query people, perhaps about financial matters, which they are much more competent to deal with than members of a police force. It seems to be generally quite an undesirable restriction on the proper operation of the staff of the Authority. The Opposition has an objection to the restriction as a whole. I notice that the Australian Democrats have suggested a different amendment which would ameliorate the problem to some extent, but the Opposition believes this new clause should be deleted from the Bill. I move to proposed new clause 10A:

Proposed new sub-clause 10A (4), leave out the sub-clause.