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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2641

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(4.13) —I asked Senator Evans to repeat for me what he thought were the appropriate qualifications because, as I recall, he was saying that one member of the Authority might have a capacity in computer technology and another one might have a qualification in something else . The truth of the matter is that while the Authority is not a judicial body, a vital function of the Authority will be its hearings. That involves accepting and rejecting evidence and, of course, considering the question of the use of coercive power in the gaining of evidence. If a member of the Authority does not have the competence to deal with such matters at a hearing the Authority will be lacking in terms of proper integrity. We talk about the Authority being cohesive . I think that the number of members of the Authority is inextricably tied to having a quorum of at least two. No doubt the Attorney-General will argue that if the Authority has only three members a quorum of one is adequate.

Senator Chipp —A quorum here is one third.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes, but we are blessed with quality, not necessarily quantity. I include Senator Chipp in that. Understanding the laws of evidence and the enormous powers that this Authority will have, we want continuity, safety and a common approach. We cannot have those safeguards if there is a quorum of one. One cannot have those safeguards if one member of the Authority is in Sydney, one is in Melbourne and one is in Brisbane or taking evidence somewhere else-all of whom have a different approach to and style of accepting their responsibilities and role. Senator Evans says that it would create administrative difficulties to have a quorum of more than one. That is a very poor excuse. Senator Evans made the observation earlier, following my comments, that there is a great deal to be said for considering the balance of protecting civil liberties and pursuing criminals. I think it is terribly important that the Authority have at least five members. If I had my way I would have a quorum of three. The Authority requires people who have the necessary qualifications, who are competent to take evidence and who are able to understand the law in that direction. It is absurd for Senator Evans to tell us that it would create administrative difficulties to have more than one member present. It is absurd to have somebody who is an expert in bloody technology chairing a hearing when somebody is claiming immunity from self-incrimination, perhaps seeking immunity from providing his own business documents. It is absurd that a guy who is an expert in technology can make profound judgments as to whether that person should be granted immunity.

Senator Hill —They have to be lawyers.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —According to Senator Evans they all do not have to be lawyers. There could be a junior policeman from the Australian Federal Police. It seems to me that there is a great deal of merit in having five members of the Authority and a quorum of two. And the members chairing meetings of the Authority should have a knowledge of the law.