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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1129

Senator DURACK(12.20) —The Opposition has given consideration to the amendments contained in these two pieces of legislation and supports them. The extradition law is contained in two separate pieces of legislation, one relating to foreign states and one relating to Commonwealth countries. The amendments to the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act give effect to a good deal of work that has been done in recent years by Commonwealth Law Ministers which began in 1966 and was completed in 1983. Those Ministers reviewed the scheme which operates within the Commonwealth. Traditionally, Commonwealth countries have had forms of legislation different from that applying in countries which are not members of the Commonwealth and which are, as I said, the subject of a separate piece of legislation.

The second piece of legislation, which deals with extradition arrangements with foreign countries, makes a number of useful amendments to deal with problems that have arisen in trying to negotiate treaties for extradition with foreign countries. I indicate that the extradition Act is simply umbrella legislation under which separate treaties must be made with individual foreign countries in order to obtain the benefits of extradition with those countries. The Act does not automatically provide for extradition, so we have had a laborious process of negotiation with other countries in an endeavour to obtain mutual arrangements with them. Of course, as we are aware, there are many countries with which we do not have such extradition agreements. However, this legislation should assist in entering into agreements with foreign countries, particularly European countries which have a civil law system as it is known, rather than our common law system.

The Opposition did object to one amendment which originally appeared in this legislation and which gave the Attorney-General the sole power to determine whether offences were of a political character. One of the exceptions to extradition entitlement is in cases in which the offence that is the subject of a claim for extradition is of a political character. Traditionally, although the Attorney-General has been able to make the decision in the first place as to whether he would take proceedings to give effect to the request for extradition, the magistrate who hears the application and makes the decision as to whether the person should be extradited also had the power to determine whether it was an offence of a political character. Originally that provision was to be removed by the legislation when it was introduced in the other place. The Opposition objected to that proposal and moved an amendment to restore the power of the magistrate to determine whether in the end a person should be extradited if he claimed the offence for which the extradition was sought was of a political character. We are pleased to note that the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the other place accepted that amendment. I think that that is an important protection of civil liberties. As I said, the Opposition supports these measures and I do not think I can usefully add anything more to this debate.