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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2531

Senator DURACK(6.17) —I would have thought it would be preferable if the Committee had before it the alternative amendments. My amendment No. (1) provides for the widest definition of 'relevant offence'. I believe the amendment of the Australian Democrats would probably be a second choice. As far as the Opposition is concerned, if the definition proposed by me is not carried, the Democrats' amendment would be preferably to the Government's . I suggest we vote first on my proposed definition of 'relevant offence'. Is that agreeable?

The CHAIRMAN —Order! That would be the way it would automatically be done, Senator Durack. If you would move your amendment to the Attorney-General's amendment, that will be dealt with first.

Senator DURACK —I move:

Definition of 'relevant offence', leave out all words after ' ''relevant offence'' means an offence-', insert:

'(a) that involves, or is of a kind that ordinarily involves, two or more offenders and substantial planning and organisation;

(b) that involves, or is of a kind that ordinarily involves, the use of sophisticated methods and techniques; and

(c) that is committed, or is of a kind that is ordinarily committed, in conjunction with other offences of a like kind,

and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes such offences that involve theft, fraud, tax evasion, currency violations, illegal drug dealings, illegal gambling, obtaining financial benefit by vice engaged in by others, extortion, violence, or bribery or corruption of or by an officer of the Commonwealth, an officer of a State or an officer of a Territory, or that involves matters of the same general nature as one or more of the foregoing;'.

The object of this amendment is to give effect to the criticisms that I have been making on behalf of the Opposition to the definition of 'relevant offence', which is contained in the Bill. This is a long standing criticism of mine. The object of my amendment is to limit, in an illustrative way, the role of the National Crime Authority. I have no concern about the Authority running off and chasing hares which have nothing whatever to do with its functions. Its functions are stated fairly clearly. No matter how well resourced it may be, I cannot imagine that the Authority would want to get into areas which, in its opinion, may be outside the areas that it should be interested in, namely organised crime and official corruption. As I said, no matter how well resourced it is, it is unlikely to be totally adequate for the type of investigation that it would be justified in making. It will have to set priorities. Therefore, I do not have any real concern about the likelihood of the Authority getting outside what we all consider to be its proper role.

I have the concern that the Government's definition in the original Bill-I still retain this concern in respect of the Government's proposed amendment of that provision-would simply hog-tie the Authority in, I think, a very serious way in the sense that people who will be the subject of investigation will make all the running they can out of restrictions of this kind and challenge the Authority at every step it takes. We have already seen this happening over and over again. People will have the means to challenge at every step and end up running to the highest court in the country in order to stop and stymie the Authority's work.

As I have said, I believe the amendment which I have moved is also in accordance with the views of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, and that Committee criticised the provisions in the Bill. It particularly referred to the limitation that offences would have to carry a penalty of more than three years imprisonment. The Committee also suggested that the type of offences be listed in an illustrative rather than a definitive or exhaustive way. The object of my amendment is to give effect to those very wise recommendations of the Senate Committee. As I said, the Government amendment does not satisfy either of those requirements of the Senate Committee and that is the reason we are opposed to it and are suggesting an alternative. I also believe the Australian Democrats amendment is deficient but perhaps I should wait until Senator Chipp speaks, as no doubt he will, and gives the reasons for his amendment. We can perhaps then discuss this matter at a later stage of the Committee debate.

The other matter that is of particular concern to the Opposition is the limitation on the definition of 'relevant offence', which excludes 'genuine industrial disputes'. That is, it is proposed that genuine industrial disputes be exempt from the definition of 'relevant offence'. The relevant provision reads as follows:

'relevant offence' means an offence-

. . .

(d) that does not arise out of a genuine industrial dispute as to matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employees;

I believe that this could be a major problem for the Authority. Of course, the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union looked into the affairs of an industrial union which turned out to be a cover for major criminal activity. That may well be an exception. However, it is clear also from the evidence of other commissions that have operated in this area that there may well be a mixing of industrial activity and organised crime. I think it would be almost impossible for the Authority actually to make exclusions from what may be well and truly an appropriate inquiry by the Authority if it then had to determine whether some of these matters arose out of a genuine industrial dispute. That is a very general and vague sort of consideration. I believe that such a provision would be a great limitation on the role of the Authority.

It is not suggested that the Authority will be seeking out genuine industrial disputes for the purpose of interfering in industrial activities. It is simply a matter of when it is investigating what it thinks may be organised crime or official corruption it should not then have to ask itself: 'Is there some genuine industrial dispute mixed up in some way with these activities?'. If in fact it did come to that conclusion its investigations would be rendered impossible. So the Opposition believes that is a very serious limitation of the function of the Authority. Of course, the Committee will observe that the amendment that I have moved does not make any particular limitation of that kind in relation to the definition of 'relevant offence'.