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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2497


Senator COONEY (5.30 p.m.) —Clearly, the crimes at which the Crimes (Child Sex Tourism) Amendment Bill is aimed are dreadful crimes—the sort of things that nobody could possibly condone. Therefore, it is a bad thing if people who have committed crimes such as this escape punishment. For that very reason, it is absolutely essential that people who have not committed the crime, but who are alleged to have done so, should not be convicted. The old statement that it is better for 10 guilty people to be acquitted than for one innocent person to be convicted is absolutely correct.

  There were considerable problems with this legislation when it originally came before the parliament. I pay tribute to the work that was done by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, particularly by the two Daryls—the chair of that committee, Daryl Melham and the deputy chair, Daryl Williams—both of whom are eminent jurists. This would have been a much more draconian and unfair act that may have led to innocent people being convicted, had those changes not been made. Only recently we have seen evidence that people have been convicted of murder and locked up for years, and it has then been discovered that they were not guilty. My colleague Senator McKiernan told me about a famous film entitled In the Name of the Father, which I have not yet seen, about people of Irish background being locked up for years on the wrong sort of evidence.

  As with all government legislation, I commend this bill. I acknowledge the work done by the committees of both houses of parliament. Parliament is asserting itself more, which I think is a good thing, because people in the executive—other than people like Senator Bolkus, who is invariably right—sometimes can do with a little bit of help in adjusting legislation. I think this is an example of where that has been done.