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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1851

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer him to the Hawke Government's promise before the last election 'to give priority to the enactment of a judicially enforceable Bill of rights' which would set a general standard against which legislative enactment and executive behaviour both at Commonwealth and State levels could be decided. I remind the Attorney of his statement to Labor lawyers a few days ago that a draft Bill had 'reached an advanced stage earlier this year and close consultation has been taking place since then with the States and with interested persons and bodies in regard to that Bill'. In view of this, why does the Attorney refuse to make this Bill available for public scrutiny so that its proposals can be judged by the people voting at the election on 1 December? What aspects of the Bill does the Government want to hide from the Australian people? Will a promise to introduce a Bill of rights again form part of the Government's policy for this election; if so, will any details of the Bill be given or will the people be asked to sign yet another blank cheque?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am delighted with the continuing interest that is being shown by Senator Durack in this topic. I look forward in the new Parliament to the kind of constructive co-operation in the drafting of the measure that he has been so anxious to offer me over the last few weeks. As I have explained on numerous occasions, the reality of the matter is that it is a very complex piece of legislation involving many difficult policy questions as well as many difficult machinery questions and many difficult questions of law, all of which need extensive consultation with a variety of interests and a variety of experts in order to ensure that the best possible foot is put forward-I am sure Senator Durack would want us to put it forward-in the context of this very important legislation.

Against that background, deliberations have been proceeding for a long time. As I said yesterday, there is no draft in existence in any final form, nor do I have back all the comments that I wanted to receive from various sources before I wanted to make the Bill public. It is certainly part of the Australian Labor Party's continuing policy commitment to have a Bill of rights. I fully expect it to be part of our policy commitment for the new Parliament and to have the measure introduced into the Parliament for an ample period of public comment and reaction to it some time next year.

Senator DURACK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As the Attorney- General simply refuses to answer the gravamen of the question, I ask him again: In the election campaign, will even a broad outline of the Bill, if not the Bill itself, be made known to people?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have given a series of broad outlines of what the content of the Bill might be in a series of public speeches in the course of the year. Clearly, it would be based, to the extent that it is constitutionally possible and desirable to do so, on the terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. I would have thought that would have given a lawyer of Senator Durack's creative imagination and ability plenty to chew on over the months between now and its introduction into the Parliament.