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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 911


Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) does not do credit to the considerable arguments that have been raised in this chamber. When he talks about this being just like what has gone on for 1 8 months he is not doing himself or the Senate justice. In the examination of legislation we put forward proposals which we think ought to be examined on their merits. The AttorneyGeneral when in Opposition yielded to no one in his insistence that he was entitled to put up for debate and for consideration by the Senate matters which he and his Party believed were in the public interest. Just because there has been a change of government does not entitle him to regard the present Opposition as unable to do what he did when he was in Opposition. There are considerable arguments which I and many honourable senators on this side of the chamber have advanced in support of what we have proposed. It is not good enough to say that the matter is covered by what the Attorney-General has offered.

This is a Bill which has a number of vague areas of which there can be a wide interpretation or a narrow interpretation. If Parliament afterwards finds cause to complain about the very wide interpretation that has been given to powers, Parliament has only itself to blame because it never corrected the error when the legislation was going through. This is the sort of thing that could happen in the future unless we scrutinise the legislation at this point. I look, for example, at clause 18 and fina that the public hearings which the Commission is to undertake are not necessarily limited to proceedings under Part VII which relates to authorisations and clearances. Clause 18(1) states: . .the Chairman shall convene such meetings of the Commission as he thinks necessary for the efficient performance of the functions of the Commission.

I would think that, if Senator Everett's viewpoint is elaborated, the Chairman if he felt it proper could have a public hearing to give consideration to some or all of the matters which are enumerated in clause 28 of the Bill. If he desired, for example, to have research into matters in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws- and that is an enormously wide power- it would be conceivable that the Chairman could feel that there ought to be a public hearing at which persons could present their views which could be tested by other persons who felt they had a right to question whether the proposals or arguments being put forward were soundly based. Therefore to say it is sufficient to exclude from the power which the AttorneyGeneral wants to have over the workings of the Commission the proceedings in relation to Part VII is to leave a very wide area in which directions could be given which would be inconsistent with the whole scheme and frame of this legislation. I notice that no consideration has been given to certain clauses such as clause 77 which will give the Commission power to institute proceedings for an injunction and the power to institute proceedings for a penalty. No consideration has been given to the provision contained in clause 100 relating to resale price maintenance applications; and as I recall the debate, no mention has been made of the powers which the Commission will have under clauses 149, 155 and 156 of the legislation. All those powers are tremendously wide, dealing as they do with the power of the Commission to acquire documents and to require people to give evidence before the

Commission. The latter can be for the purpose of a prospective prosecution and not an application under Part VII. If the Attorney-General has the power to give directions in those areas then, as I said earlier, Parliament can blame only itself if at a later stage it objects to the way the power has been exercised- because Parliament now has the opportunity to decide whether this power should be given.

On all sides- Liberal, Country Party, Labor, all Parties represented- we hear incessantly, and I think it is wise and proper that we should hear it, that the individual in our society is becoming increasingly remote, increasingly manipulable and increasingly divorced from areas in which he wants to exercise a meaningful existence. Powers which can be exercised by the Executive, powers exercised by the great corporations, whether they be of capital or of labour, diminish the standing of the individual, and we ought to be concerned to preserve as far as possible his integrity and independence. This is one way we can do it, by ensuring that the ways in which individual actions are circumscribed are laid down by rules of general application and are not amenable to executive discretions whether they be the discretions of bureaucrats or the discretions of Ministers. At another time and in another place I am sure these arguments would find acceptance with the Attorney-General. He has problems because he is administering the legislation. But I suggest that the interests of the individual are best served by the Opposition's amendments.







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