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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2608

Senator DURACK(12.26) —The Opposition supports the proposal by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which is given effect by the Government's amendment to extend the period of office of the members of the National Crime Authority to four years. The Opposition's amendment that I will move is to increase the membership of the Authority from a chairman and two other members to a chairman and four other members. There are consequential amendments by the Opposition in relation to those matters. There is also a separate amendment by the Opposition, which is Opposition amendment No . (19A), which deals with the quorums of the sittings of the Authority when it is conducting hearings. I will deal with that subsequently.

I will deal firstly with the reason why the Opposition has moved for an increase in the membership of the Authority from in effect three to five. The membership of the Authority, as is provided for in the Bill, and which is unaffected by the Government's amendment, is a chairman, who shall be either a judge or a lawyer qualified to be a judge. I think it has been assumed that the Chairman will be a judge. One of the members of the Authority is to be nominated by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and another is to be nominated by the Australian Police Ministers' Council. Two of the three members of the Authority will be appointed by State Ministers. The Opposition is quite happy about that. We believe that is an important step. It has been achieved over the last 12 months of discussions in relation to this matter, whereby the States will have a major role in the work of this Authority. We have had a good deal of discussion about the pros and cons of State participation including the importance of having that participation in the Authority. I accept that it is desirable to have the States participating in such an Authority, although I have never believed that it is essential. My view has always been that there is such a lot of purely Federal crime. In fact organised crime, particularly with the importation of drugs, has become very much a federal offence, although as I have said on other occasions the organised crime syndicates do not have much regard as to whether they are breaking State or Federal laws on what the jurisdictions are. Nevertheless there is justification for an authority of this kind simply to deal with Federal crime. As we know, Mr Costigan has shown the extent of Federal crime.

The position is that the Authority will now have two of its three members representing the States. One will be appointed by the State Minister responsible for police and the other by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Although that is an important and valuable development, I question the desirability of the Authority having that preponderance of State representation, bearing in mind that the representatives who will be nominated by the States will almost inevitably be representatives of the traditional system. The officers who are appointed will come out of the traditional law enforcement system and will have very valuable contributions to make. Nevertheless, we are setting up a new authority which, for the first time in Australia, will be clothed with new and, hopefully, adequate powers to investigate the nature of organised crime, I think demanding new expertise, techniques and great resources .

In the view of the Opposition, it would be desirable for the members of this Authority to be people who are able to look at the problem in a new light and in new ways. They should not be so traditionalist, as I fear nominees of the State governments will be. Therefore the Opposition believes that the best way of providing for that new approach is to appoint people to the Authority who are expert in the area in their own right, not necessarily as a result of their experience only, valuable and all as that will be. I have in mind a person such as Mr Douglas Meagher, the counsel assisting Mr Costigan.

Senator Gareth Evans —He is a fine author.

Senator Chipp —He writes occasionally for the Age.

Senator DURACK —I do not know whether he writes for the Age. My knowledge of these things is perhaps not as extensive as that of the Attorney-General. However, that has absolutely nothing to do with the point I am making. The point I am making is that the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union has revolutionised the investigation of crime in this country. It has made a major contribution to that. Certainly, it was given great resources. However, of the two people, Mr Costigan has the honour, glory, the big name and so on. But the counsel who has assisted him has brought a new and fresh approach to the whole matter. He has had the resources but he has also had a new mind and an innovative approach. Mr Meagher has made a major contribution. People may criticise him for one reason or another. The Attorney-General has perhaps a lot of reasons to be critical of him. He probably feels a little hurt if Mr Meagher has been the author of criticisms. However, I think the Attorney- General thoroughly deserves most of the criticism he received in those articles and in others. Perhaps he is a little touchy on the subject. I hope that will not cloud his judgment in relation to this proposal because I am sure if he brought to bear an independent judgment on this matter and just detached himself somewhat from the negotiations he has been entering into and saw what the result of it would be, he would agree with my argument that it is desirable to have on this Authority people with fresh approaches and innovative abilities. I believe that that is most desirable. That is why we are proposing the amendment.

The other aspect of the amendment is, as I said, to some extent separate. But I think it is an argument in favour of expanding the Authority. The Senate Committee recommended that, at formal hearings of the Authority, when exercising its special powers, at least two members of the Authority should take part. I think the Senate Committee had in mind the question of civil liberties and control of the way these matters are conducted. It felt that it was better to have two members of the Authority conducting hearings. One member of the Authority perhaps might be a little more gung ho than he ought to be. If there were two members there would be a restraining influence, one on the other. I think that was a sensible recommendation of the Committee. The purpose of my amendment is to give effect to the recommendation of the Committee. I understand the Government has not taken up that amendment. It may believe that to have two members of the Authority always tied up in hearings would be somewhat impractical and would cause administrative problems and detract from the ongoing work of the Authority in other matters.

Senator Gareth Evans —Exactly.

Senator DURACK —There is some substance in what the Attorney-General said. Nevertheless, there is an easy solution to it; namely, expand the Authority. The original National Crimes Commission legislation which I have mentioned from time to time provided for an Authority of up to five members. I think it would be desirable, for all those reasons, that the Authority be expanded in the way recommended and that there be two members of the Authority sitting on formal hearings. I move the Opposition's amendment to Government amendment No. (46) to clause 29:

(28) Proposed paragraph 29 (1) (a), leave out '2', insert '4'.

Senator Chipp —Could the Authority be split into two and have two hearings at once?

Senator DURACK —It might be able to do that as well. But I think it would certainly make it easier for the general administration of the Authority if it had increased numbers so that even if there were only two members sitting at the one time it would not be such a burden on the other member of the Authority as it obviously would be if long hearings were being conducted by two out of the three members.