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Human Rights Commission



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60

discuss these questions with the Chief Magistrate.

However, as I said at the beginning of my answer, I

think the problems are ones that can be overcome and I

think it is exaggerating matters to say that as a

result of the situation there is a decline in the

quality of justice.

Page 1308

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

SENATOR COLEMAN - I direct a question to the

Attorney-General. I refer to an article in the West

Australian of 16 September relating to the possible

formation of a national human rights commission.

Recognising that the Minister has said, according to

that newspaper report, that he has held talks with all

States, will he now advise me with whom those talks

were held in Western Australia, how many meetings have

been held and whether the establishment of a federal

human rights commission will require complementary

State legislation? If so, have the terms of that

complementary legislation been discussed with either

the responsible Minister in Western Australia or

members of his Department? Can the Attorney-General

give some indication when legislation to establish a

human rights commission will be introduced?

SENATOR DURACK - The statement to which Senator Coleman

has referred was, I think a report of a speech that I

made at about that time in relation to the question of

the establishment of a human rights commission for

Australia. The position is that earlier this year a

Deputy Secretary in my Department, Mr Bailey, was given

61

the task of conducting discussions with officers in the

States about the possibility of their participation in

the human rights commission which would be a

co-operative arrangment between the Commonwealth and

the States. The Senate will recall that my predecessor

introduced a Bill to set up a human rights commission

which would have been confined to the Commonwealth

area. When, earlier this year, I received some

indication that it might be possible to involve the

States in this exercise with the concurrence of the

Government I delayed proceeding with that legislation

in an effort to. explore fully this possibility of

involving the States. The question was discussed at the

last meeting of the Standing Committee of

Attorneys-General. in Darwin. It seemed from that

discussion that there was value in the discussions that

were being held by Mr Bailey and that something

positive might well come out of them. I have since been

advised by Mr Bailey that his discussions have

proceeded since that meeting, which was in July, and

that further developments have taken place. I have

recieved reports and had discussions with him as to

what form this arrangment with the States may take. It

is hoped that there will be a further meeting of the

Standing Committee of Attorneys-General next- month, at

which a special time will be set aside for a discussion

on the progress in this matter. We are tentatively

looking at a date about the middle of November, but I

cannot be definite yet. All I can say is that these

discussions have proceeded in a promising way.

I cannot say with whom Mr Bailey has been

conducting his discussions in Western Australia; but,

of course, the Attorney-General for Western Australia,

Mr Medcalf, was at the meeting of the Standing

Committee of Attorneys-General in Darwin and presumably

will be at the next meeting which we hope to set up

62

next month. The probabilities are that there will be

complementary legislation if this scheme eventuates;

but at this stage it is really too early to give any

further details to the Senate.

* * * * *

Page 1316

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY COURTS

■ SENATOR RYAN - My question is directed to the

Attorney-General and follows the question asked by

Senator Knight regarding the charge by the Chief

Magistrate, Mr K i l d u f f , that there has been a decline

in the quality of justice .in the A u stralian Capital

Territory.. I ask the Attorney-General a further

question because I find his reply to Senator Knight's

question quite unsatisfactory, given the serious nature

of the charge made by Mr Kilduff. I now ask the

Attorney-General whether he will inform himself and the

Senate about the length of delays in court hearings,

the amount of time wasted by public employees such as

police officers because of these delays and the

increased legal costs caused to citizens because of

these delays.

SENATOR DURACK - I do not doubt that saying there has

been a decline in the quality of justice is a serious

Charge and because that claim was made by the Chief

Magistrate I made it my business to inform myself about

the matter. Of course, I have discussions from time to

time about these questions with officers of the

Department, but having gone into the matter it sedms to

me that it was an exaggeration to say that there was a

decline in the quality of justice because of the nature