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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2684

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(9.39) —Mr President--

Senator Gareth Evans —Oh, God!

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Through you, Mr President, I invite Senator Evans to repeat his comment. He used the Lord's name in vain in a very unpleasant and unnecessary way, and it was directed at me. Senator Evans speaks longer, more laboriously and more monotonously than anybody else in this chamber. The moment anybody else gets up in this chamber and dares to put a point of view forward he gets exasperated, frustrated and, presumably in his own privacy, a number of other things. I just take up one point, which is a point that Senator Evans was so unnecessary unpleasant about this afternoon when I challenged what the wording of an amendment was. It concerned the powers that were sought to be vested in the parliamentary committee.

Senator Evans spent 10 minutes giving me a misguided lecture about what its powers are. Might I read out, with respect, the section to which I was referring . It was a circulated Opposition amendment and it stated that anybody who wilfully gave false evidence on oath or affirmation before the committee would have a penalty imposed upon them of five years imprisonment. I was seeking to compare that with an offence against the contravention of clause 26 (1), which relates to false or misleading evidence under the Bill. That proposes a punishment upon conviction by imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or by a fine not exceeding $20,000. That was the point I was trying to make. However, in blissful ignorance, Senator Evans, indulging in his own glorious knowledge about nothing, was prepared to argue about it. The fact was that the amendment suggested that the parliamentary committee would impose upon anybody who gave false evidence a penalty greater than that which they would have received if they had given false evidence to the Authority. I think, I should put that right. Having said that, perhaps next time Senator Evans might be less enthusiastic about jumping up and giving us a lecture about his knowledge of parliamentary procedure.

Senator Lewis —I doubt that.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes. My plea is more in hope than in knowledge. This legislation has enormous powers. I fear that there are people who will have a temptation to the view that we ought to be perhaps myopic, perhaps blinkered in our single-minded pursuit of crime of the nature that this legislation is intended to encompass without looking at the balancing considerations. I sometimes thought, as I listened to the debate, that other considerations were put aside and that the balance of competing interests were not taken seriously. I think it was said by Senator Harradine that 10 years ago this legislation would never have been contemplated. I say that, in the terms that it has been passed in so far-and some that have been rejected-I suspect that in 10 or 15 years time such legislation would not be contemplated again. I am sure that in some areas some of the draconian provisions trample upon the rights and freedoms of individuals in an unbridled way in pursuit of crime without considering the balances. I dare to say that nobody is more ambitious than I to see the sort of crime stamped out that this legislation is intended to stamp out.

I touch on a couple of other matters: Firstly, the veto powers. I said in my speech in the second reading debate that I did not think it was a major area of concern to the extent that had been put by some of my colleagues. Frankly, I feel that there is a great deal to be said for recognising the responsibilities and the roles that the States have in the composition, construction and the contribution of this Authority. While my vote would not have influenced circumstances in terms of the final outcome, my inclination, of course, was to pursue the line of State responsibility as well as Federal responsibility.

There seems to be a temptation in this Parliament to assume that all wisdom, all knowledge and all competence reside in this building and that State governments and their members are inferior. Yet, as I look around, I often ask myself about those amongst us who first sought but failed to get endorsement for State parliaments and ultimately managed to succeed in getting Federal endorsement as a result of being a failed State candidate. The same thing applies when I ask myself why it is that the Federal Parliament believes that it has divine wisdom in terms of appointments to commissions and various other bodies. For example, with the exception of some aberrations, the great majority of the judges of the High Court of Australia have come out of the supreme courts of the various States. The sooner we recognise that the States ought to be equal partners, and not unequal partners, not subservient and not second rate in terms of their contribution, the sooner we shall have co-operation, and, in respect of this legislation, effective legislation. I say the same thing with respect to the various police forces. These days, notwithstanding the fact that some revelations of the last four or five years seem to have evaporated from the minds of many people, it seems that the State police forces have demonstrated, comparably at least, an integrity and capacity equal to those of the Commonwealth police force. I do not know why there ought necessarily to be anxiety that the people who will be selected and ultimately elected to the Authority from the States will be in any way inferior to those appointed by the Commonwealth. I almost conclude by saying-

Senator Georges —Never mind the 'almost'; just conclude.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Senator Georges, you tempt me to continue for some time . However, having woken you up, I do not want to keep you in that state for too long.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Will the honourable senator address the Chair?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes, Mr President. Through you, I say to Senator Georges that having woken him up, I would not want to keep him in that state; so I shall limit myself to just a few other remarks.

Senator Georges —That is a bit of an affront. You have been completely out of order for the last 10 minutes.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —A number of areas that I would canvas for the first time in the debate so far fall within the provisions of the Standing Orders relating to third reading speeches. First, I am concerned about the Minister being able to demand a report. I believe that if other people have information that will lead to a temptation to expose in a way that Senator Gareth Evans has been very concerned about. I should have thought that there was some virtue in the judicial audit and that, particularly given the special investigatory powers of the Authority, in time that will, perhaps, be seen to have merit. The present wording allows too long a period before such an audit was intended to take place . I am not particularly enthusiastic about that provision having been removed. I am not certain that a committee of this Parliament will be any more competent to make judgments about the--

Senator Georges —Have you read standing order No. 415?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I will keep speaking, Senator Georges, and you keep reading that.

Senator Georges —You are in breach of it now.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Please continue your remarks, Senator Crichton-Browne.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —With the indulgence not only of you, Mr President, but also of Senator Georges, I should be glad to. The Bill in its final form has some virtue. It has to have extensive powers to give it the capacity to pursue the types of criminals that it is intended to. But at the same time I suspect that the balancing considerations have not been considered in the way in which one might have thought.