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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2541

Senator DURACK(8.50) —In relation to proposed clause 10 I move amendment No. (4):

Leave out the proposed clause 10, insert the following new clause 10:

Functions of the Authority '10. The functions of the Authority are-

(a) to investigate, of its own motion, relevant criminal activities in so far as the relevant offence is, or the relevant offences are or include, an offence or offences against a law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory;

(b) where a reference to the Authority made under section 11 is in force in respect of a matter relating to a relevant criminal activity-to investigate the matter in so far as the relevant offence is, or the relevant offences are or include, an offence or offences against a law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory;

(c) where a reference to the Authority made in accordance with section 12 by a Minister of the Crown of a State is in force in respect of a matter relating to a relevant criminal activity-subject to sub-section 12 (1), to investigate the matter in so far as the relevant offence is, or the relevant offences are or include, an offence or offences against a law of the State;

(d) to collect and analyse criminal information and intelligence relating to relevant criminal activities and disseminate that information and intelligence to-

(i) law enforcement agencies; and

(ii) any person authorized by the Governor-General, the Governor of a State, a Minister of State of the Commonwealth or a Minister of the Crown of a State to hold an inquiry to which the information or intelligence is relevant;

(e) where the Authority considers it appropriate to do so for the purpose of investigating matters relating to relevant criminal activities-

(i) to arrange for the establishment of Commonwealth Task Forces;

(ii) to seek the establishment by a State, or the joint establishment by 2 or more States, of State Task Forces; and

(f) to co-ordinate investigations by Commonwealth Task Forces, and, with the concurrence of the States concerned, to co-ordinate investigations by State Task Forces and by joint Commonwealth and State Task Forces, being investigations into matters relating to relevant criminal activities, but not so as to preclude the making of separate bilateral or multilateral arrangements between such Task Forces.'.

If the amendment is carried I will move a whole series of consequential amendments. My amendment goes much further than the amendment of the Attorney- General. As he foreshadowed, the amendment gives effect to the Senate Committee' s recommendation that a distinction be drawn between general and special powers. My amendment is quite different from his amendment. It does not draw that distinction. My amendment would enable the Authority to exercise its full powers , of its own initiative. It would not simply be confined to exercising general powers of its own initiative and having to get approval from the inter- governmental committee to exercise its special powers. The Opposition is particularly concerned about this aspect of the Government's proposal. The proposal is based on the recommendation of the Senate Committee.

Originally the Government's Bill did not clarify the situation, but Senator Evans now says he believes it did. However, the Senate Committee did not believe it did. Certainly, my impression was that the Bill that we had before us was very deficient in this area. The Authority was virtually unable to carry out any effective investigations at all-it could do much less than police forces could do-unless it received a reference from the inter- governmental committee. I concede that the Senate Committee's recommendation is an improvement of the original Bill in that it specifies general powers of investigation and draws a distinction between the general powers of investigation, that is, the more ordinary traditional police methods of investigation, and the special methods of investigation which attract the powers that are invested in the Authority.

However, the Opposition is not satisfied that that distinction is adequate for the purpose of the Authority. We must bear in mind that the inter- governmental committee, which is proposed in the Bill, comprises Federal and State Ministers. That body is given the power of determining, by a majority decision, whether references will be given to the Authority. That committee is comprised of politicians-as I said, Federal and State government Ministers. In accordance with this amendment the Authority's powers can be exercised only with the approval of that body. That seems to me and the Opposition very far removed from the sort of effective, independent national body to investigate thoroughly the menace of organised crime that we have all identified and agreed upon.

It was a major feature of the national crimes commission legislation, which was passed by this Parliament nearly two years ago, that the commission, as it was called in that legislation, should be able to act of its own volition. It did not have a group of Ministers sitting over it and telling it whether it could investigate a particular matter. The whole genesis of the need for a crimes commission, a crime authority, this new national body-whatever one likes to call it-was the inadequacy of the traditional methods of investigation. This was pointed out to me very firmly when I was Attorney-General by joint State and Federal police task forces, which tackled some of the more serious manifestations of organised crime which involved suspicions of corruption, as they frequently do.

It was shown that the ordinary police powers of investigation were quite inadequate to deal with these matters. We saw the need, or at least the value, of forms of investigation which had greater powers. That was clearly shown in Mr Costigan's inquiry. Despite all the great resources that were put into that inquiry Mr Costigan had the power to summons witnesses. He had the power to summons people to produce documents. These powers were absolutely central to the success of that inquiry. As I have said, problems were revealed by the joint task forces which did not have those powers. We set up the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking. Again, that Royal Commission was set up because of the inadequacy of police methods of investigation, in particular into aspects of the Clark syndicate. The Stewart Royal Commission was set up as a royal commission because it was the only way in which these powers under the Royal Commissions Act could be exercised.

That is why these bodies were set up. When we finally formed the view that it was necessary to have an ongoing body-not just ad hoc bodies-that would really be effective in tackling organised crime in this country, the central feature of that body-the whole raison d'etre of the body-was the special powers. It was not for the sake of setting up a national body. We have a national police force. We have the Australian Federal Police. We could jazz that up in various ways and provide it with more resources. We could call it an Australian FBI. We could do all sorts of things but they would be based upon the exercise of traditional powers, powers which have been revealed over and again to be inadequate. The whole point of setting up a national body, a national crime authority-whatever one calls it-was to give it powers so that it could summons people to produce documents and require answers subject, of course-as was the case with the national crimes commission and as will be the case with the National Crime Authority-to preserving a privilege against self-incrimination.

Senator Missen —So, this is one of the most vital issues in the Bill, is it not?

Senator DURACK —It is not in the Bill. The Bill is totally deficient in this respect, and I am very disappointed-indeed, I am very surprised-that the Senate Committee did not seem to understand this central feature of having a new body. If there were to be no special powers, I cannot see why the Authority should be set up. The police forces should have been strengthened. The point of having this body is to use the special powers.

Senator Gareth Evans —Not to have it for all-purpose fishing expeditions whenever the Authority feels like it.

Senator DURACK —The only bodies that have had an impact on organised crime and come up with anything effective have been the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking, the Winneke Royal Commission into the Activities of the Australian Building Construction Employees and Builders Labourers Federation, in Victoria, and similar bodies which have been set up in the past on an ad hoc basis. The whole point of setting up these bodies is so they can have those special powers. The Senate Committee is saying that the Authority can exercise these special powers only if it is given the authority to do so by the inter-governmental committee of Federal and State Ministers-seven Ministers who are going to have to be summoned and who will debate and no doubt horse trade. I have been on plenty of inter-governmental committees and I am only too well aware of the difficulties in getting them to make decisions. How many years has the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General been trying to make a decision on a defamation code? It has been trying for five years, and it still has not made a decision. How long does the Ministerial Council for Companies and Securities take to make decisions on matters? How much detailed attention does it give to these matters?

These bodies deal with the broad brush of political considerations. They consist of a group of politicians. I am not knocking them for that as they have a particular purpose to fulfil, but it is not an executive purpose. That is what this Authority is; it is an executive body, to make proper investigations and to exercise the powers that it is to be given under this legislation to make these investigations effective in obtaining evidence on which prosecutions can be brought and hopefully can succeed.

We are setting up this new body to fight organised crime and corruption in this country. Heavens, from what we have known in the past and what we are confronted with, I think we need it urgently. Only today Senator Lewis said during the second reading debate that there was evidence of a new, great cocaine drug racket in this country. It is staring us in the face, and it has been for several years. Yet we are going to trammel, hogtie and hobble this Authority-not quite as much as is proposed in the Bill-in the way in which is proposed by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) in giving effect to the Committee's recommendation. It is still going to be a very great limitation on the proper and effective operation of this body. That is why my amendment is designed to enable this Authority to exercise its powers and initiative. There are plenty of other limitations in the Bill. Proposals have to be made in private, people will have protection against self-incrimination and so on. There are plenty of matters which will limit the Authority in exercising those powers.

It is imperative, in the view of the Opposition, that this body be able to act on its own initiative where it sees the necessity to act. It does not have to get all of these Ministers together and debate the question endlessly. By the time the Ministers have got round to it, the bird will probably have flown and the evidence will have been destroyed. What use will the whole exercise be? For those reasons I strongly support this amendment.