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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2277


Senator ELLISON (6.37 p.m.) —I share the sentiments of Senator Vanstone. The principles involved here are laudable, but it is a matter of finding that balance which Senator Spindler mentioned earlier—the balance between efficacy and the desirability of individual freedom and civil liberty. The motive behind these amendments, if Senator Spindler can forgive me for being so presumptuous as to designate a motive behind his amendments, is that there should be some ability to report back and some trace of how these decisions were arrived at so that, if there is a subsequent investigation, there is evidence by which an investigator can determine whether the proper processes were carried out.

  More and more throughout Australia we find police forces coming under scrutiny. When there is nothing to scrutinise, when there is no evidence, it is very difficult for anyone to see whether due process has been carried out. That is one aspect of these amendments. Another aspect is that it might cause police officers to reflect in a more sombre and sober fashion, if we can put it that way, as to the exercise of their powers. There are laudable motives behind these amendments.

  The only concern I have is when it comes to weighing efficacy against principles. As Senator Vanstone mentioned, it might cause problems for some officers in the execution of their duty. If it is to be said that no firearm is to be used or that there is to be entry without an announcement or something of that sort, then they would stop and think, `Well, that wasn't put on the warrant; I will have to think twice about doing it now'. I think it is a valid point.

  It is very difficult for police officers to form a prognostication as to a circumstance in search and seizure because generally this occurs in emotive conditions. Most officers would say, `Look, in most cases it is possible that there could have to be entry without announcement'. The matter of firearms is perhaps a little different. It could leave the officers open to too much criticism were they to look at the matter and say, `I don't think firearms are applicable; I don't think entry without announcement is a possibility here. I don't think it is feasible; I don't think it will arise'—and then of course events turn out completely differently. They find themselves making an entry without announcement and perhaps firearms could even be resorted to. In that case the tables could be turned on the police officers should there be a complaint. I am perhaps taking this aspect to its extreme, but nonetheless it could occur.

  From my experience with police officers they complain that a good deal of their work is tied up with paperwork and not with actual law enforcement and law and order. I partially accept that view. They do need to complete paperwork because there has to be due record of their actions and processes. Nonetheless, we do not want a police force which is hidebound with desk work and undue paperwork which keeps it from being on the streets maintaining law and order. I marginally fall on the side of opposing these amendments for the reasons that I have mentioned. (Quorum formed).