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Thursday, 24 February 1977

Mr ELLICOTT (WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Attorney-General) - It would be when the Prime Minister comes from our side of politics but I am not sure whether it would be when the Prime Minister comes from the Opposition Party. The subject of religious sects has been raised in the House before and I have answered questions in relation to it. I have expressed concern to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The Commonwealth's area of jurisdiction covering this matter is not wide. It is basically a matter within State jurisdiction and that is why I raised it with the State Attorneys-General. Presumably if the New South Wales Parliament decides to set up an investigating committee the committee ought to have power to investigate both sides of the matter because very serious issues are raised such as the question of religious freedom to which I have referred previously. On the other hand there is the question of the effect these organisations have on young people and on their families. So one would hope that if a committee is set up in a State parliament, as it was in the State of New York in the United States of America, to investigate this sort of matter it will have broad powers. Quite clearly this is a matter that ought to be looked at at the State level. Nevertheless my Department has been looking at the matter and will continue to keep it under review.

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