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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1648

Senator HEARN —I ask the Attorney-General whether he has seen the section of Mr Peacock's 'broken promise' Press release yesterday headed 'Attorney-General's Portfolio' under which he lists nine separate items and says: 'None of these promises have been implemented'. Can the Attorney-General confirm the truth or untruth of that statement?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The short answer is that here, as so often, the Leader of the Opposition is not telling the truth. The longer answer, which I cannot forbear from sharing with the Senate, is as follows: Nine matters are listed. I shall read the first, second and ninth of them and set a little test for honourable senators opposite and see whether they can detect any similarity in them. The first and second read as follows:

To progressively establish an integrated Commonwealth/State no-fault accident compensation scheme.

Progressive establishment, in co-operation with the States, of the national no- fault accident compensation scheme.

The ninth alleged broken promise is:

Progressively establish an integrated Commonwealth/State no-fault scheme.

That, for a start, represents another triumph of the staff work of the Leader of the Opposition, which has become justly famous around the nation. In answer to that question I simply say that a great deal of work has been done and discussion held, at both an official and a political level, with the States on the implementation of that project, which is for the co-operative establishment of a no-fault accident compensation scheme. Consultation has been held in particular with New South Wales. In July the Prime Minister wrote to all States opening up the question on a formal basis. Certainly nothing has been established but the steps have been taken.

As to the third alleged broken promise on the list, which was to 'ensure the final abolition of appeals from State courts to the Privy Council', at the 1982 Premiers Conference agreement was reached to abolish all residual links, including the abolition of Privy Council appeals. The delay in implementing this agreement has not been caused by the Commonwealth but rather by a desire of the States to be satisfied as to the mechanisms proposed, in particular the desire of two States to keep imperial honours. Discussion on these matters is continuing and hopefully is getting very close to final fruition.

The next matter on the list is 'Review the terms of Australia's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'. There has been a review of that. It has been completed. It has been announced to the States, although not yet publicly, and as soon as certain formalities are concluded I hope to make it the subject of a public announcement.

As to the alleged broken promise of the enactment of a Federal criminal investigation Bill, certainly it has not yet been enacted, but I can assure the Senate that its introduction remains a matter of high priority. In the John Barry Memorial Lecture I will be delivering next week in Melbourne I will be identifying the issues to be tackled in this particular respect and forecasting a specific course of action.

Senator Missen —Why don't you put it down here?

Senator GARETH EVANS —If Senator Missen can curb his enthusiasm he will be enlightened no doubt quite considerably next week. The establishment of the Federal sentencing council certainly has been set in train by a series of communications going back to as early as May 1983 to the States. Regrettably here, as so often, there has not been the enthusiastic response one might have hoped for from the States and as a result that project has been deferred until completion of the interim reference on sentencing by the Australian Law Reform Commission on that subject is received. Certainly steps have been taken.

The next alleged broken promise was to 'Expand the jurisdiction of the AAT, the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act and the Ombudsman in accordance with recommendations of the Administrative Review Council'. Here the absence of any kind of sensible staff work on the part of the Opposition and any capacity for truth on the part of the leadership does make itself apparent because we have taken in fact implementation action in respect of seven Administrative Review Council reports during our term of office, several of which have been outstanding since 1979. We have announced the intention of implementing another one in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. There have been over 30 enactments which have conferred additional jurisdiction on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. We have also expanded the jurisdiction of the AAT under existing enactments and I have requested the ARC to review, as we promised, the operation of the AD(JR) Act, with a report expected early next year.

Finally, as to the alleged failure to 'Establish the Matrimonial Property Inquiry', I remind the Opposition that a reference was given to the Law Reform Commission in June 1983 for the purpose of undertaking a major national inquiry into matrimonial property law. Professor David Hambly from the Australian National University was appointed commissioner in charge of the inquiry and the project was announced with a good deal of fanfare on 15 June last year. It is a pity when these sorts of extravagant claims are made by the Opposition about failure to undertake promises that no greater concern is given to the truth of the allegations than was apparent in the context of my portfolio. If the rest of this document, which was put out yesterday, bears any resemblance to the farrago of half truths, errors and sheer incompetence demonstrated by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to my area it is a very shabby document indeed.