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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1478

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(10.05) —I thank the Minister for his explanation, particularly with respect to the general approach that is being adopted because the Act is governing the dispersal of benefits. I would, however, like to clarify my concern about proposed new section 26K. I assure the Minister that I am not concerned about elegance of expression. I am concerned about the use of expressions which really do not permit any clear judgment to be made as to whether or not one has a problem. In other words, the Authority takes the view that something had been done which constitutes an attempt to abuse the Act. It is not a straightforward decision about whether or not there has been a breach of the Act, but something which is presumably less than a breach of the Act and something which, in the opinion of the Authority, constitutes something which is called an abuse.

I am not consoled by the draftsman's suggestion that it is a term of art, or by the fact that it has been put into legislation by the previous Government. The virtue of having been here through a number of governments is that we find that we repeat each other's mistakes. It reminds me that it is unfortunate that this Bill is being dealt with before the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has had a chance to consider the civil liberties aspects, which is the standard procedure. I mention that because this is the sort of point on which it would be useful to have the objective and bipartisan advice of that Committee. My personal view is that it is incapable of any form of really objective judgment as to whether or not somebody has abused an Act. I think that one is making value judgments, and at this stage I simply give notice to the Government that I see difficulties in it. I will be interested to see whether the Scrutiny of Bills Committee reflects that difficulty at all in its report. I suggest to the Government that it ask its departments to consider the desirability of having rather more precise requirements which go to actual breaches of the law rather than judgments that the spirit and intent of the law have in some way not been honoured. I guess that that is what the expression 'abuse' means. I do not, however, propose to move any amendment with respect to that.

I suggest that, since the Minister has given notice of an amendment which precedes the amendment I wish to shift, I should allow him to move his first amendment at this stage. I will resume my seat to enable him to do that. Having now had a chance to read the Government amendment, I indicate that I would appreciate some explanation of it. It is not immediately apparent to me why that revocation power is necessary or desirable in the Act.