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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2607

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(12.09) —The first time the Attorney- General (Senator Gareth Evans) spoke he said that the purpose of the provision was to ensure that there was not a misallocation of resources and that the National Crime Authority did not chase some wildcat scheme, which was not the right priority. He is now saying that it is a question of civil liberties and he is taking up Senator Harradine's point. I do not know whether that is a matter of convenience, a debating point or whether it was the true purpose of the clause in the first place. There are a number of safeguards written into the National Crime Authority Bill. I commented on them favourably in my speech in the second reading debate. One of them is the judicial audit, which does not recommend itself to everyone in this chamber. It provides clearly in clause 47 ( 1) (b) (ii), that the judicial audit can inquire into 'whether the Authority has , during the relevant period, done any act or thing contrary to law or trespassed unduly upon the rights and liberties of individuals'. I assume that the judicial audit will be used for the purposes that the Attorney-General has outlined.

Senator Gareth Evans —But your Party and the Democrats are going to knock off the judicial audit.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Do not talk about us as one monolithic group. We are all personalities and characters with a view of our own, unlike members of the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Hill —You expel them if they have a different view.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —That is right. It seems to me that clearly the judicial audit will overcome the problems that the Attorney is outlining. The proposition that the Attorney has put can be seen only as interference and not as something which will ensure that civil liberties-the rights and freedoms of individuals- are protected. There is a need to ensure that there is a balance between the competing pressures of organised crime and the rights of individuals.

It seems to me that the only way that the Attorney or the intergovernmental committee could audit the activities of the National Crime Authority would be to interfere daily with the activities of the Authority. This would distract the Authority from its purposes. A great deal of the Authority's energy and time would be absorbed because it would have to justify its motives and activities to the Attorney. It would have to provide information which quite properly should not rest with the Attorney. An excellent opportunity would be provided to destroy the work of the Authority in the event that a member of the Committee were corrupt. Perhaps this would enable criminals involved in major crime to avoid the full force of the investigation and subsequent charges and convictions .

I have not heard anything today that would justify the Attorney-General maintaining the right firstly to interfere and secondly to redirect the Authority away from its purposes. As I said before, presumably the Attorney will have confidants in that presumably he will be appointing at least a judge as chairman as well as other competent members of the Authority. I would have thought that the provisions contained in the Bill are adequate safeguards and that the interference of the committee or any of its members is not required.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Durack's amendment to Senator Gareth Evans's amendment) be left out.