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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1182

Senator MACKLIN(10.51) —The Bills we are debating cognately plus the message from the House of Representatives have all been matters of fair ranging discussion in the community. Hence, positions are relatively well known. I do not intend to take a great deal of time to rehearse them all again. However , I would like to point to certain matters in each of the measures that are likely to be the subject of a division in this chamber.

The first Bill relates to the remuneration and allowances payable to holders of certain judicial and statutory officers. It is a machinery Bill of an important kind in setting up the various matters that are necessary in the ongoing debate. However, one matter has probably come to the fore, namely, the amendment that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) proposes to move. The Australian Democrats will support that amendment. It was put to us by the Attorney-General that it would facilitate the new Solicitor-General in his personal capacity, and in regard to where he is living, particularly the movement between Melbourne and Canberra.

We sought from the Attorney-General figures in relation to the expenditure incurred in travel by the previous Solicitor-General and information as to how these would relate to the proposals for the new Solicitor-General. The figures that have been provided show quite clearly that the amendment that the Attorney- General proposes to move will actually result in a saving to revenue and will also fit in with and facilitate the work of the Solicitor-General. It seems to me that if one can achieve both those objectives it is indeed a remarkable occurrence. It is not very often that we manage to save money and gain efficiency in activities. This seems to be one such occasion.

I do not think there is any reason to oppose this proposition. I believe that in various offices arrangements increasingly ought to be made on a one to one basis. We had a debate in this chamber recently in relation to the upper echelons of the Public Service. One of the matters that the Australian Democrats pushed for and were successful in gaining in the legislation was the notion that there ought to be some type of remuneration package for holders of high offices and that that package ought to be determined on an individual basis, one to one with the holders of those positions.

The reason for this is very easy to understand when one considers that the people we require in such offices obviously would have the ability in private enterprise to attract very large remunerations and other benefits in their business enterprises. Thus, for the Commonwealth to be able to compete and get people of the very highest quality in those jobs we have to give a remuneration commensurate with the remuneration that those people could gain if they remained in private practice. In doing that, one has to take into account the persons being appointed to those offices and not see the offices merely as offices to be filled.

I hope that in subsequent movements in a number of these offices we can tailor remuneration packages to particular individuals so that the Commonwealth can be served by the very best people in the community available for the jobs that the Commonwealth wishes them to do. It is no good our burying our heads in the sand and believing we can achieve that without paying these people appropriately and in ways that fit in with their personal organisation; that is, their family life , where they wish to have their family home, where they hope their children, if they have any, will be educated and other matters of concern at a personal level . I hope that people in this chamber are cognisant of the fact that very little regard is ever paid, certainly in this chamber and in the other place, to the personal lives of people who hold office in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. Personal lives often suffer because of the rather absurd way that we manage to organise our lives. Let us at least not visit that absurdity on other people. Let us retain that if we must for ourselves, but arrange more congenial personal and family organisation for people we ask to come into various offices of the Commonwealth. Thus, on those grounds and on grounds of simple efficiency, cost and the desirability as a matter of policy to make better arrangements than we have in the past in these matters, I indicate that the Australian Democrats do not oppose the amendment proposed to be moved by the Attorney-General.

The second matter we are considering is the status and rights of the Chairman of the National Crime Authority. In this regard, we are dealing with an individual, Mr Justice Stewart, the retention of the title of Justice and the status that must necessarily go with that. The National Crime Authority has made specific provision for the Chairman to be a judge. Mr Justice Stewart, when he accepted his appointment as Chairman of the NCA, did so on the basis that he would retain his salary and all other entitlements, including pension and long leave. Mr Justice Stewart, we believe, should not be disadvantaged in the taking up of a nationally important task. Again, it is a matter which should be dealt with on an individual basis. We need no longer take the rather narrow view that we must establish regulations and that these regulations will apply to absolutely everybody. The inflexibility of many of the Public Service regulations has been a detriment rather than a support to the interests of the Commonwealth. In the areas in which regulations do not fit appropriately, we should no longer seek constantly to have them apply to all and sundry without any interest taken in the individual we seek to take on these necessarily onerous tasks.

The appointment of the Chairman in this instance is for four years. He is not reappointable. At the conclusion of his term, Mr Justice Stewart will be just short of 60 years of age. The Bill will allow Mr Justice Stewart to retire on pension or to take up a position as a deputy president of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with provisions to avoid the payment of double salary and pension entitlements. We believe it would be an injustice if the Chairman of the NCA were disadvantaged in any way in accepting this appointment. In particular I draw the Senate's attention to the fact, and I emphasise again that each item has to be taken on its merits, that Mr Justice Stewart resigned as a New South Wales Supreme Court judge because there was some feeling that the positions were incompatible. I think it is understandable that if Mr Justice Stewart has taken what he perceived to be the right course it would be totally unjustifiable for this place to penalise him for doing so.

I believe that because Mr Justice Stewart has done the right thing we should do likewise and not in any way seek to disregard the personal understandings of Mr Justice Stewart and all of the other people involved in the negotiations in relation to the appointment about the way in which this matter would be handled. Indeed, I think if we seek to go backwards we would in fact be engaging in our own little bit of retrospective retribution of someone to whom I would have thought the Opposition would have wanted to give as much support as possible. Hence, I indicate that the Australian Democrats will support the National Crime Authority (Status of and Rights of Chairman) Bill. We believe that the appointment of Mr Justice Stewart as Chairman is the correct course to take on this occasion. I hope that if changes need to be made to meet specified problems when a new head of the Authority is appointed in four years time the way we are dealing with this matter will not be seen as the only way of appointing a person to head up the Authority. I think we need flexibility in these matters, flexibility which takes account of people. We should not be subject to mindless regulations into which people have to fit.

The last matter we are debating is the message from the House of Representatives concerning the establishment of a Joint Statutory Committee on the National Crime Authority. Senator Missen reiterated a number of points when he spoke during the debate. I do not wish to go back over all of what he said. However, it seems to me that a great deal of recent debate on this subject has been massively uninformed. I think it would be useful if the people who were writing on this matter read what was said in this chamber on the legislation to set up the National Crime Authority. I am not only talking about Opposition claims, I am also talking NVALID COMMANDabout some comments that the Attorney- General (Senator Gareth Evans) made in this place yesterday during Question Time . The Attorney talked about the extra strength that the National Crime Authority undoubtedly has and which the Costigan Royal Comission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union does not. Unfortunately, he did not also indicate that a number of those factors were the result of amendments moved to the original Bill and passed against the wish of the Attorney.

Senator Gareth Evans —That is the most ungracious thing you have said. Be fair, that was an outrageous infringement of civil liberties.

Senator MACKLIN —I particularly remember the first amendment which I had to move because Senator Chipp was ill at the time. That amendment related to the retention of individuals who were likely to flee the country. However, the Attorney-General said yesterday that this was one of the additional strengths that the Costigan Royal Commission did not have. Indeed, it is. However, I think that the central debate that has taken place has suggested the Inter- Governmental Committee in some way will be a weakness. Although I did not play a great part in the debate on the legislation to set up the National Crime Authority, I contributed only because of the illness of the Leader of the Australian Democrats, as a senator who had to vote on this matter I thought it was my duty to discuss this matter with the people of my own State. Therefore, I met the Queensland Police Commissioner and representatives of the police union in Queensland. We discussed this matter at quite some length. I must say that I was perfectly satisfied in my own mind that if we wanted to have a useful involvement of my own State's law enforcement agencies we had to have an Inter- Governmental Committee. I believe that this view would apply to every State.

I would like to refer to some points that Senator Missen raised and actually put them in the context of the real world. Senator Missen talked about the Inter -Governmental Committee meeting in secret. Indeed, it will. But I ask honourable senators to consider who are going to sit on the Inter-Governmental Committee. The members of the committee will be the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the State Attorneys-General. In the real world these people will belong to opposing political parties. Indeed, members of the Inter-Governmental Committee belong to the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia. With all the best will in the world, with all of the supporting people and staff who will be involved and with the massive amount of paperwork that will be needed, if that organisation does not leak like a sieve, I would be very much mistaken. If it is possible to get Cabinet leaks, notwithstanding the fact that Cabinet is made up of members of the same political party, it is fairly certain that an organisation such as the Inter-Governmental Committee will leak like a sieve.

I wish people would be clear about what we are talking. We are talking about the jurisdiction of a State. We are not talking about Commonwealth jurisdiction; we are talking about jurisdiction which is solely within a State, jurisdiction which does not even go across State borders because if it did another State would be involved. We are talking about something that is totally within the jurisdiction of a State. What will happen if a particular political party that runs the government of a State attempts to stop a reference on a certain matter? Everyone will know what happened when they read in the National Times on the following Sunday the transcript of the previous meeting. Everyone will then be asking why there is a cover-up. Let us be very clear that that will be political situation.

Let us talk about the real world in which we are involved. I believe that the Inter-Governmental Committee will be a body of great strength. I am personally convinced from talking to law enforcement agencies in my own State that such bodies will co-operate to the full in the fight against organised crime only because of the existence of this committee. We will not be able to combat crime in Australia if we do not have the involvement of State police forces. If anybody thinks that we can, they know nothing about how to go about fighting crime in Australia. The law enforcement agencies are staffed by people on the ground, who have the contacts, who know their own States and who know the local area inside out. This sort of information cannot be provided by someone from outside.

We have heard much in recent times about the weaknesses of the National Crime Authority from members of the Opposition parties. I just ask again that people go back and read the debate. I ask them to look at the divisions that took place . I ask them to look at the amendments that were moved. I acknowledge that Senator Missen has the right to stand up and express his view. Quite frankly, he is the only senator on the Opposition side who should be saying anything because he did not have the support of the Opposition at the time the legislation was being discussed. He can say those things, he is being totally consistent when he says them, but no other members of the Opposition parties are being consistent when they talk about that. If they are being consistent, given the whole debate, why did they not move substantive amendments in each of the areas which they believe could be strengthened? That question must be asked of the Opposition parties.

People who remember the debate will recall that we amended the Bill substantially. The legislation was amended twice. It was amended by a series of amendments that the Government accepted and which were recommended by the Committee which this chamber set up, and it was amended during the Committee stage by the Opposition parties and the Democrats. If further things needed to be changed and further strengthenings needed to be undertaken, that should have been done at the appropriate time in this chamber when we had the power to do so . The last point I make on this matter is that when Mr Justice Stewart feels that there is a deficiency in the Act he has stated, and stated publicly, that he will come back to the Parliament and seek those additional powers. I ask honourable senators: Which government, no matter which party is in power, will deny Mr Justice Stewart those additional powers? I think that question ought to be asked in the real world, and I think the answer is self-evident.

The establishment of this Committee of the Parliament, I believe, is a very useful proposal. It was debated quite extensively during the previous debate and I do not intend to debate its usefulness again now. I hope that it will contribute well in the parliamentary oversighting of the matter on which I think everybody is now at least in agreement-that is, the necessity of this operation. I hope that in the ensuing debate everybody will remember that we now have a National Crime Authority. The important thing for everybody to do-this goes for members of all political parties-is to support as much as we can the actions of that Authority and not by our actions, particularly in the coming election campaign, pull it down and destroy its effectiveness. We want it to succeed; it must succeed. I believe that the constant attacks on and denigration of that Authority will destroy its effectiveness. Part of its effectiveness, as I have already argued in terms of the status of its Chairman, depends on its standing in the community. Everybody knows that law enforcement depends very heavily on the acceptance of the law enforcement agencies by the community. Let us not, in anything we say during the ensuing campaign, in any way take away from the ability of the National Crime Authority to pursue the tasks it has been given by this Parliament.