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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1554

Senator COONEY(5.20) —Much attention has been given recently to the prevention of crime and the punishment for crime. Every right thinking person ought to be appalled by serious crime and ought to seek to confine it, if not to eradicate it. However, in having the proper aspirations to halt crime we should always keep in mind that some of the means used to eradicate crime contain either an actual or a potential threat to liberty, to human dignity and to human rights. Liberty, human dignity and human rights ought to be of paramount consideration to all in this chamber and, indeed, to the community as a whole. If the means used to suppress crime intrudes too much on the rights, freedom and dignity of people, the good sought by that is outweighed by the harm done to those great attributes of mankind, or humankind, I suppose it is referred to in this day and age.

Senator Archer —Personkind.

Senator COONEY —Personkind.

Senator Tate —Humanity.

Senator COONEY —Humanity. I thank honourable senators. Police forces are the traditional means by which society confines crime. That has been too much forgotten in recent days. Over the years the law has built up a balance between the policing activities carried out by the police and the rights that human beings have. It seems to me that the police ought to remain the proper group to carry out that activity of confining and perhaps eradicating crime. It is in that context that I have some reservations about bodies such as the National Crime Authority, which, in spite of all the great good it does, unfortunately does have some of the attributes of the old Star Chamber in Tudor times. There are dangers in that. That is why I have trouble in excusing police from using phone taps to discover crime or to discover the private doings of citizens.

Those sworn to uphold the law should not have the comfort and the freedom simply to break the law in an attempt to find out what goes on in society and possibly to find out some attributes of society which lead to criminal convictions. Properly trained, properly paid and properly led police are the way we should go forward. We should not go forward on the basis of extraordinary means of defeating what seems to be the great problem of the moment. Consideration of the great problem of the moment, as always, should be around the questions of where we go, what liberties we have and what dignity we have as human beings. Unfortunately, in the community at the moment there has been created an atmosphere which very much militates against that. Until we get back our sense of fairness, our sense of fair play and our sense of condemning people only on hard evidence obtained by proper policing, we continue to be in danger of giving away the rights that we should hold so dearly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.