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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2658


Senator LEWIS(6.06) —I was as concerned about this matter as was Senator Durack when I read the Government's proposal. It seems to me that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has not yet answered the question that Senator Durack has just raised. For example, one of the things that were worrying me was what would happen if some person were to come in off the street and say: 'Look, I have been involved on the edge of something that I think is a bit crooked and I think I ought to talk to someone about it'. Does the National Crime Authority have to say: 'Hang on, we will ring the police and we will get them to come and see you because we are not allowed to talk to you about this matter unless, somehow or other, we issue a summons against you'. I do not understand what the purpose happens to be. On the other hand, I recall a question coming before the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on whether the Authority would establish its own quasi-independent police force. When I say 'quasi-independent', I mean independent of existing police forces. I can assure the Senate that there was unanimous opposition to any such proposal. The Committee was anticipating that the Authority would operate through the existing police forces, whether it be the Australian Federal Police or the State police forces, where there was a need for police-type activity, such as going out and interviewing people or checking evidence. That is the way we expected it to operate. With the task force proposals, I think that is the situation as it now stands. But I am still concerned to ensure that members of the Authority may interview witnesses and take statements from those witnesses without committing an offence. If any person happens to wander in off the street and wants to start confessing his soul to the National Crime Authority, the Authority without committing any offence ought to be able at least to talk to the fellow or the woman to find out what he or she wants to tell it.