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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 152


Senator COONEY (10.08 a.m.) —I wish to say a few words about this issue. I have listened to the speeches from Senator Lees, Senator Chamarette and Senator Newman. I must confess that they put the argument very well. I am Chairman of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which looked at this bill. It detected matters that did go to the issue of civil liberties and to the issues of the sort of society that we want to live in. What has been said so far illustrates that.

  I think, though, that the Health Insurance Commission is in a difficult position. On the one hand, it is pressured to ensure that all crime is detected and suppressed. On the other hand, it is attacked because it goes too far. I think the problem arises from the pressures within society itself and the pressures which are reflected here. It is a good thing, as Senator Newman said, to raise these issues of civil liberties, not so much directed against the Health Insurance Commission but directed to the society we live in.

  What we are really saying to the people we represent who are listening to us today is this: what do they think is the right balance between these things? It is my view in regard to a lot of the legislation coming through at the moment that the balance is going too far in the direction of detection. If we wanted to bug every bedroom, if we wanted to examine every household, there is no doubt we could suppress a lot of crime, but at what cost? In a recent case the High Court said that evidence that was obtained in an unsatisfactory manner, where people's privacy was attacked too much, should not be accepted. I think this debate has been a very important one. Therefore, I wanted to take part in it.