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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 155


Senator HARRADINE (10.28 a.m.) —I wish to deal with one of the excellent points made by Senator Chamarette in her remarks, namely that relating to officers authorised to enter and search premises and to seize stuff. Perhaps I should take up the point made by the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) that such officers would not have the power to seize material. As I see it, they have power to take extracts or to make copies of material. I am taking into account the proposed amendment 8T. I hope the chair will forgive me for referring to subsequent amendments, but I feel it necessary to do so in order to make sense of the amendments and to check the points made by the minister to the effect that there is no power to seize. I understand that they have the powers as listed in 8T. This leaves aside the privacy matter. I understand that Senator Newman indicated that the matter had been adequately dealt with.

  Yesterday, the minister indicated that she thought the Privacy Commissioner had apparently notified the government that he felt satisfied that the proposed amendments would cover the privacy area. On the question of seizure, they do have power, but that is another point. However, here authorised officers are provided with entry, search and other powers for which, under normal circumstances, the Australian Federal Police or trained police officers would have had to obtain a warrant. That matter is exercising the minds of all honourable senators and, no doubt, the mind of the government. It appeared to be exercising the mind of Senator Cooney when he got up to speak, and I might mention something about that later.

  Is it not a fact that under 8L the authorised officer, with these quite extraordinary powers without warrant, could be anybody who is nominated personally by the managing director? As Senator Chamarette said, where there are warrants required to be obtained, those warrants are in the hands of police officers, who are trained to respect the rights of the individual—whether that always occurs or not is beside the point. However, those officers are trained in that area and they are fully aware of the ramifications if they do not respect the rights of the individual.

  I am not satisfied, from what has thus far been said by the government in this chamber or, indeed, by the officers appearing before the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, that such provisions are in place. It is a very onerous and responsible task. I ask the Minister what is being proposed in this regard? What training will be undertaken? Will the Federal Police train these people?