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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2652

Senator DURACK(5.33) —The Opposition had given notice of an amendment in almost exactly the same terms as the one now moved by Senator Chipp . In fact, with the deletion of the reference to the Ombudsman I think it is exactly similar. I did not refer to this matter when I moved my previous amendment so I very briefly say that the Opposition does believe that the National Crime Authority needs some form of external review even though we did not think that a review by the Ombudsman or by a periodic judicial audit was desirable in the particular circumstances of this case, particularly in relation to the Ombudsman. It is an anxious question as to whether his jurisdiction should extend to the Authority. Normally, as I said, one would support that, but in the particular circumstances, for the reasons I have already given, we took the view that it was not desirable.

The end result is that without the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman and without a form of judicial audit the Authority is left without any external review or monitoring, apart of course from the Executive. I believe that, because there is a good deal of concern in the community about the way the Authority may operate, that concern is misguided. I do not want to repeat the debate we have had for over two years on this subject. I believe the Authority, if properly constituted , will be chaired by a judge. I believe also that its other members and staff should be properly selected and appointed.

I must say I am somewhat concerned that the Authority apparently will not be administered by the Attorney-General but by the Special Minister of State who is responsible for the Australian Federal Police and other matters. I think I would be more confident if it were being administered by the Attorney-General.

Senator Gareth Evans —That is the nicest thing you have ever said to me.

Senator DURACK —It is relative praise. I would not like the Attorney to take it too far; he might encourage me to qualify it a little more. It is better left as I said it. I do think there is justification, and indeed a need in all the circumstances, for a parliamentary committee to monitor the body. Senator Chipp has moved that it be this parliamentary committee; it should be a joint committee and it should monitor the general operations of the body. The purpose of the committee will not be to get into the detail of particular cases. I think it would be most undesirable for the Parliament to turn itself into a grand inquisitor of crime. That is a quite inappropriate role for this Parliament or any committee of this Parliament. The amendment specifically provides that it is not to investigate particular cases. It will not be second guessing what the Authority has done in a particular case. Nevertheless, it will have the authority to monitor and review the performance and functions of the Authority; so it will have a wide brief. I believe that that will be an assurance to those people who are legitimately concerned about the creation of such a new institution in our society. It is one which none of us really wants to have but it has been forced on us by the threat to our society of organised crime.

Senator Georges —That's a lot of rubbish. I have been hearing rubbish like that for the last two years.

Senator DURACK —I take it that Senator Georges will be voting against this Bill at the third reading.

Senator Georges —That is not my position.

Senator DURACK —If Senator Georges is not voting against it, I do not know what the nature of his proposition is now.

Senator Georges —I have never heard so much rubbish in all my life as has been dished out here over the last hour or so and this latest proposition is the worst.

Senator DURACK —Ignoring the ludicrous interjections from Senator Georges, I emphasise the fact that Senator Chipp's proposal is a sound one.

Senator Georges —It is absurd. We are now going to set up a parliamentary committee to supervise one of the instrumentalities we are going to set up.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Georges, you are interjecting far too much. Senator Durack has the call.

Senator DURACK —The hour seems to tend to bring out these sorts of interjections from Senator Georges. I hope we will be able to continue without his help, as we have quite successfully for some hours. So for those reasons the proposal of Senator Chipp is warmly supported by the Opposition and I believe that it will allay the concerns that I know a number of people have. I believe it is an appropriate role for a parliamentary committee and I am sure the committee will discharge its obligations in the best traditions of parliamentary institutions.