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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 869


Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) (Attorney-General) - There is a curious dichotomy in Senator James McClelland's speech. During the debate on the second reading speech we have heard comments from honourable senators of the Opposition about the enormity of the Government's mismanagement and that there has been a dreadful error. If there is any basis to that sort of allegation then obviously enormous consequences must flow from what has happened. I had assumed that that was accepted. I still think that it must be accepted. As I indicated we have some examples such as what has happened in relation to the Court of Petty Sessions. It only requires some reflection to appreciate what must be the consequences which flow from this if there are ordinances and regulations which are not operative. The Workmen's Compensation Ordinance has been mentioned. I understand that that is one of the more recent ordinances and that it is highly likely to be covered by the decision of the Supreme Court. That means that obligations imposed by that legislation are not enforceable. It means that any rights which people have for inspection must be open to doubt. These are just some examples.

I do not know that we have desperate criminals - to use the colourful expession which was used by Senator James McClelland - who have been sentenced under the laws of the Australian Capital Territory and who are at present incarcerated in New South Wales gaols. If it were a matter of importance that could be ascertained. At the present time I do not know. But that has not been the area of Government concern. What we have been concerned to do is to put right and put beyond any legal doubt what people believed was the law. That is the purpose of this exercise. I am at a loss to understand the relevance to any point of the questions which Senator James McClelland is asking. I think that it goes without saying that an enormous problem which we are trying to improve has been created as a result of this decision. We want to resolve a doubt which has been thrown upon the situation. Of course, it is conceivable that the Supreme Court's judgment, if it were to be challenged in the High Court, might be upset, but that would take time; and the important thing is for the Government to act responsibly and promptly, because 1 think that the promptness of the reaction is a measure of the responsibility and the way in which one views the situation.







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