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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2673

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(8.30) —It will be recalled that when we left this matter before the suspension of the sitting for dinner it was on the basis that I would have a look at the possible drafting improvements that could be made to the proposal advanced by the Australian Democrats. During the suspension we have had an opportunity to look again at the clause and I believe it is now prepared in such a way that it meets the essence of the objection raised before dinner. I seek leave, subject to the Democrats being prepared to withdraw their amendment which I think is now on the table, to move my amendments.

The CHAIRMAN —You will have to wait until this present matter is resolved. You can foreshadow it now but Senator Durack's motion to leave out sub-clause 10A (4 ) is now before the Chair.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I indicate, as previously, that I oppose Senator Durack's motion.

Senator Macklin —I had not moved ours.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am sorry, Senator Macklin has simply foreshadowed his amendment and has not moved it. I simply indicate to the Committee that after Senator Durack's proposition is disposed of, and hopefully negated thus still leaving us something to play with, I will move as a further amendment some additional words. It might be useful in assisting the Committee to determine how to vote on Senator Durack's amendment if I were to foreshadow the terms of that amendment. I propose to add at the end of the existing sub-paragraph 4 (a) the words that have been circulated which would have the effect of producing a section which essentially reads that nothing in this Act shall be taken to confer on a member of the Authority who is not a police officer power to interview a suspect-these are the words I would insert-

except in a case where the person has been served, as prescribed, with a summons to appear as a witness at a hearing before the Authority and has not yet so appeared.

That picks up the substance of the Democrats amendment which was previously to be moved as a separate sub-paragraph and in effect makes the point that although normally suspects are only to be interviewed by police officers, thus preserving the notion that the Authority is not a ninth police force but is acting through police officers and associated forces or officers seconded to it, it picks up the point that there may be circumstances in which a person who is a suspect is scheduled to appear as a witness before the Authority and this may enable the staff member, for example a lawyer attached to the Authority, to interview him and take a proof of evidence. That point is accommodated in that way. The amendment goes on further to add an additional sub-clause, which says:

Nothing in paragraph (4) (a)-

to which I have just referred-

shall be taken to affect a power of a member, or of a member of the staff of the Authority, to interview a person otherwise than in relation to an offence that the person is suspected of having committed.

In other words, so far as interviews of witnesses generally or the bank managers who were mentioned before in relation to documents are concerned, there will be no constraint of the kind implied by the original clause. This allows a situation where the Authority through its ordinary non-police members can go around picking up documents and making the kinds of investigations that it may be appropriate, for example, for an accountant rather than a policeman to make by way of interview. I think that is clear. It is certainly intended to pick up the gist of the situation as I endeavoured to summarise it before dinner and I hope that proposed course will now be acceptable to the Opposition, as I understand it is to the Democrats.