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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2533

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(8.00) —The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs made recommendations concerning clause 4, as Senator Durack mentioned. Paragraph 2.7 of the report of the Committee states:

Recommendations: Paragraph (c) of the definition of 'relevant offence' should be deleted.

Paragraph 2.9 states:

(a) The definition of 'relevant offence' should be redrafted so as to require the National Crime Authority to direct its activities to offences which appear to be connected with one another, involve several offenders, substantial planning and organisation and the use of sophisticated methods and techniques.

(b) The Authority should be required to then give particular consideration to types of offences, similar to those set out in paragraph (a) of the definition of 'relevant offence'. These should be set out in an illustrative, not exhaustive, manner.

The Government has responded in some way towards those recommendations. That response did not satisfy the Liberal Party nor does it satisfy the Australian Democrats. The Democrats find themselves in agreement with most of what Senator Durack said. The clause of the Bill was limited in ambit, did not include offences committed in connection with each other and excluded connected offences . The Government's proposed amendment No. (2) widens that definition and includes connected offences but excludes offences that carry a punishment of less than three years and industrial disputes. We suggest that the Government's reaction implements neither the wording nor the spirit of the Committee's recommendations. To that extent we believe that the Opposition's amendments make a contribution.

However, we do think that they embrace too wide a field as was illustrated by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) particularly in proposed paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). The Attorney illustrated that they could literally apply to rather an absurd range of offences. For that reason we would prefer, with appropriate humility, that the amendments that have been circulated in the name of the Australian Democrats be adopted.

Senator Hill —Some of them are a bit hard to follow.

Senator CHIPP —Everything is a bit hard to follow in this Bill. However, I would not have thought that this clause is hard to follow. What we do which is different to the Liberal amendment in terms of clause 4, 'relevant offences', is to add certain offences that are not mentioned in Senator Durack's amendment. For example it adds:

. . . harbouring of criminals, forging of passports, armament dealings or illegal exportation or importation of fauna into or out of Australia or that involves matters of the same general nature as one or more of the foregoing, or that is of any other prescribed kind,

Senator Hill —Does that include arson?

Senator CHIPP —That is part of property, surely. I would have thought that arson would certainly be included. I feel a little unusual in this debate being the only non-lawyer participating. I have received advice from the Attorney that arson is certainly included under 'violence to property'. If Senator Hill feels differently, let him move an amendment. As I understand it, these amendments were suggested by Mr Doug Meagher or whoever the anonymous author of the Age articles was. I think he had a point in including those. It is interesting to compare the Democrats' amendment with the Liberal amendment because, in one way, the Liberal amendment goes further than ours and, in another way, the reverse happens. The Liberal amendment states:

. . . and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,

which of course makes its amendment more widely embracing than ours. However we believe ours to be more suitable because the last sentence states:

. . . or that is of any other prescribed kind,

So if the government of the day wants to add to the illustrative list that we have used, it would have to do it by regulation. That is why we will move the amendment. We will oppose the Liberal amendment because, as I said, we believe ours to be slightly better.

We thought it was outrageous that the Government might try to get away with murder and exclude industrial disputes altogether. We do not believe that is true. However, we believe that the Government has a point in excluding genuine disputes between an employer and an employee. As Senator Durack pointed out, industrial disputes can be mixed up with criminality of a national kind of multi -million dollar proportions. Our proposed amendment has the effect of including an offence committed in the course of a genuine dispute between employees and employers, if it is committed in the course of an activity involving the commission of another relevant offence: For example, violence on a picket line of a company owned by organised crime with the company thus involved in another criminal offence; illegal immigrants being forced to work at less than award rates by organised crime employers; or a casino being erected by an enemy, opponent or competitor of an organised crime figure and the Builders Labourers Federation being paid money to stop halfway through the concrete pour, costing the organised crime figure's competitor millions of dollars. Clearly, those sorts of things ought to come within the purview of the National Crime Authority . I point out in passing that there was no Committee recommendation on industrial disputes exemptions.

I will be moving the Democrats proposed amendments Nos (2) and (3) to the Government's proposed amendment No. (2) at the appropriate time. They deal with the three-year exclusion. Admittedly, our amendment would have the effect of retaining the three-year exclusion but permitting the commencement of investigations of such minor offences where the Authority merely suspects that the minor offence may be connected with a major offence. I say, with respect, that that gives even a wider and more liberal interpretation and is even a better way of doing away with the three-year exclusion.

Senator Hill —If you are talking about SP bookmaking which is used to fund a narcotics racket, would you say that is a sufficient connection?

Senator CHIPP —I will read the suggested amendment through you, Mr Chairman, to Senator Hill. It states:

Where the Authority suspects that an offence--

let us assume SP bookmaking--

that is not a relevant offence as defined in sub-section (1)

namely, the offence of SP bookmaking does not carry more than three years imprisonment--

may be directly or indirectly connected with, or may be a part of, a course of activity involving the commission of a relevant offence as so defined, whether or not the Authority has identified the nature of that relevant offence, the first-mentioned offence--

that is, SP bookmaking--

shall, for so long only as the Authority so suspects, be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to be a relevant offence.

I should not have thought anybody would have to worry about that aspect. It includes even the most trivial offence, provided that the Authority suspects it can be connected with organised crime.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Why do you say directly as well as indirectly?

Senator CHIPP —To cover both. If one asks a simple question, one gets a simple answer. We believe that we have found a compromise solution to the industrial disputes problem. We must be realistic in this debate. Everyone in this chamber desperately wants a National Crime Authority with teeth. We want it to be in shape as soon as possible. We want it to take over the functions of the Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. We know that Mr Costigan has been ill and, so far as I am aware, is still ill. That gives the matter a sense of urgency. What if this Committee goes through an esoteric exercise tonight, takes a hard line and includes industrial offences and does not give a damn about what is done in the House of Representatives? We must live in the real world.

There are forces in Caucus that the Attorney has to do battle with. To some members of the Caucus industrial disputes are sacrosanct. The Senate, with the numbers it can marshal, can pass anything it wants, but the matter still has to go through Caucus and the House of Representatives. I am not suggesting that for that reason this Committee should water down anything that will lead to any weakening of these provisions, but we must be realistic. I believe that the compromise suggested by the Democrats does not water down the Authority's power one iota to get into an industrial dispute if it is connected with organised crime. At the same time it might satisfy those hardliners in the Labor Party who regard any intrusion whatever into any industrial dispute of any kind as nobody' s business but that of the conciliation and arbitration system. Is it appropriate to move my amendments now, Mr Chairman?

The CHAIRMAN —No, the Committee will first have to clear the amendments moved by Senator Durack. If those are lost, Senator Chipp can move his amendments.