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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7988


Senator MURRAY (9:00 PM) —The Minister for Revenue has made a number of propositions. Hidden behind them—and I think this reflects something of the minister's own thinking as shown in speeches made before she became a minister—is the concept of executive supremacy. Whilst it is always important to take into account the views of the executive governments of the states—particularly if they are in agreement with the federal government executive—and their views should carry weight and be given proper respect, the Senate is nevertheless entirely distinct from executive governments. It is a far more representative body than the House of Representatives. Nearly 20 per cent of first preference votes are not represented in the House of Representatives, in contrast to the Senate, where it is about five per cent. Furthermore, the senators in this place do not represent their executive governments; they represent their peoples. Therefore, we should only oppose a view of a meeting of any set of executive governments with proper consideration; but it is certainly not outside our powers and responsibilities to do so.

The minister gave particular credence to the views of Mr Carr. Mr Carr has some exceptional qualities and is a very capable political leader of the state of New South Wales, but I remind the minister that Mr Carr is not a person whose views on law should necessarily be taken by this chamber as well grounded. I remind the minister that Mr Carr's government has just passed laws in the New South Wales parliament saying that certain police behaviour `may not be challenged, reviewed, quashed or called into question on any grounds whatsoever before any court, tribunal, body or person in any legal proceedings, or restrained, removed, or otherwise affected by proceedings in the nature of prohibition or mandamus'. This is a police force which has been the subject of royal commissions. This is a police force populated by human beings who have the same percentage quota of miscreants as any other body. This is not the act of someone who upholds the rule of law, and I will certainly deal very carefully and circumspectly with the views of any government that adopts vile statements of that kind which no lawyer, person or parliamentarian should ever have the gall to support. So do not read to me letters from a premier on matters of law when this is the kind of law he has introduced into this country. It is a disgrace.

Turning to the minister's more relevant remarks on the amendments made by the Labor Party, I stay with the views that I expressed earlier. If the minister believes that those amendments need modification, the House of Representatives exists for exactly that purpose and the Senate may consider its views, but Senator Ludwig has answered the criticisms. Frankly, Minister—and I do not mean this rudely—for a person of your experience and capabilities, which are very high in legal terms, to frame criticisms around the use of a word like `recklessly' ignores extensive jurisprudence and extensive experience in the courts of which you are well aware. There are countless words in law which require evaluation, adjustment, understanding and interpretation by judges. That is exactly why we have them. The word `recklessly' has been used in bills brought to this chamber by your own government, quite rightly, and supported by the Senate.

We should not assess anything other than the merits of the amendments before us, and they should be assessed not against a view that executive fiat should prevail but against a view as to whether they are appropriate to the bill concerned. No-one in this place, especially me, is full of profound wisdom and knowledge about everything, and amendments can of course be put which are not adequate, correct or well framed. But I think that the intention behind the Labor amendment is a good one and the possibility that state governments might prefer a harsher regime does not invalidate its being put.