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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 918


Senator CHILDS(6.32) —In dealing with the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges tenth report on the detention of a senator I move the following motion recommended by the Committee:

(1) The Senate reaffirms its resolutions of 26 February 1980, as follows.

(a) It is the right of the Senate to receive notification of the detention of its members.

(b) Should a Senator for any reason be held in custody pursuant to the order or judgment of any court, other than a court martial, the court ought to notify the President of the Senate, in writing, of the fact and the cause of the Senator's being placed in custody.

(c) Should a Senator be ordered to be held in custody by any court martial or office of the Defence Force, the President of the Senate ought to be notified by His Excellency the Governor- General of the fact and the cause of the Senator's being placed in custody.

(2) That, where a Senator is arrested, and the identity of the Senator is known to the arresting police, the police ought to notify the President of the Senate of the fact and the cause of the Senator's arrest.

The first paragraph of the motion simply reaffirms the resolutions passed by the Senate in February 1980 on the recommendation of the Committee. Those resolutions require a court to notify the President of the Senate whenever a senator is detained pursuant to an order or judgment of the court. In passing the resolutions the Senate took the view that it was the right of the Senate to be notified of the detention of any of its members. The Committee recommended these resolutions following consideration of a case in which a senator was arrested and detained without any notification being given.

The Committee noted that the immunity of senators from arrest and detention, which only applies to a civil cause, did not arise, but that the Senate should be notified of any instance of arrest or detention of its members, whether in a civil or criminal matter. The second paragraph of the motion I have moved adds a new provision to the previous resolution whereby police are called upon to notify the President whenever a senator is arrested. In the original resolution the Senate, at the suggestion of the Committee, did not impose an obligation upon the police because it was thought that such an obligation might be difficult in practice and because arrested persons are usually not held in custody for very long before they appear before a court.

The case examined by the Committee in the present report indicates, however, that there may be circumstances in which a considerable delay occurs between the arrest of a person and his appearance in court. The Committee therefore considers that their ought to be an obligation on the police to notify the President of the arrest of a senator. The Committee has not commented on the features of the law of Queensland giving rise to Senator Georges being held in custody for a considerable period before his appearance in court, although they should be a matter of some concern. The Committee found that there was no definite evidence that Senator Georges had been treated differently from other persons arrested in similar circumstances. If this had been so, it would have been a serious matter, involving harassment of a senator.

As well as recommending the motion which I have moved, the Committee has suggested that the Senate give consideration to whether members of the Federal Parliament should be given some limited immunity from criminal process, in view of the possibility of State laws being administered in such a way as to deprive the Senate of one of its members for a considerable period of time. That is a matter which the Senate might consider in the context of the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and the Bill introduced by our former President. These matters were debated yesterday and there will be an opportunity in the future for them to be further debated. I commend the motion which I have moved to the Senate.