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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2648

Senator LEWIS(5.03) —Firstly, let me say that I thoroughly support the Ombudsman and the role that he plays in our present system. I think he does an excellent job. It is not for that reason that I oppose what the Attorney- General (Senator Gareth Evans) said. The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs heard and considered all of the matters raised by the Attorney-General in what he has just said to the Senate and ultimately dismissed his proposal as being illusory. I say to the Senate that it was deceptively illusory because the Attorney-General was just talking about protecting small people caught up. If this measure goes through, small people will in some way or other think that the Ombudsman will be able to protect them. That will be a general feeling throughout the community. The truth of the matter for those small people who find it necessary to appeal to the Ombudsman is and will be that he will not be able to protect them. So it will be deceptively illusory. People who are now not seeking protection will think that it will be all right and that they will not have to worry when it happens to them because the Ombudsman will look after them. When it does happen to them they will find that they will run into a brick wall because the Ombudsman will not be able to help them.

The real situation here is that by the time the Ombudsman gets around to looking at matters the attack on their civil liberties will have passed; it will be too late. Otherwise, if he is to be sufficiently quick to protect their civil liberties, he will really need to set up a special department to override and second-guess the Authority every step of the way. For the Attorney-General to suggest to the Senate that the people that Senator Chipp, Senator Durack, I and others have been talking about as being the people who will be the subject of the Authority-in other words, the wealthy crooks in this country-will not be able to use the ombudsman proposal to delay--

Senator Chipp —Abuse.

Senator LEWIS —Yes. To suggest that they will not be able to delay and abuse the system is just totally naive. They will have the lawyers, accountants and experts in these matters. They will be able to afford them. Those people will be able to devise schemes which will abuse the ombudsman proposals. There is no doubt about that. Ultimately, of course, the Ombudsman will find out what has happened and he will chop off that means of abuse. Then, of course, they will have the money and expertise to devise some other system of abuse. It really will be a grave interference with the Authority. It was not only Mr Costigan and Mr Meagher who spoke along these lines but also Mr Hampson and Mr Justice Nicholson. They were all desperately concerned about these proposals being misused by the people that they had had something to do with.

Then we look at the judicial audit. Again, that really will end up being another illusory deceptive device. The Parliament will probably think it is all right because a judicial audit is going on and when people complain to the various politicians about the fact that their rights have been interfered with politicians will be able to write back to the people saying that there is a judicial audit and no doubt, in due course, the judicial auditor will examine the matter and report on it one way or the other. Of what value will that be to some person who has just been trampled almost to death as far as his business is concerned by some misuse of the powers by the Authority? To find out 18 months later that the Authority was misusing its powers will be of no value to him at all. I am opposed to both of these proposals, firstly on the grounds of misuse and abuse of the ombudsman system and, most importantly, on the grounds of the deceptive nature of these proposals. People will think that their civil rights are being protected when the truth of the matter-

Senator Chipp —It will give them a false sense of security.

Senator LEWIS —As Senator Chipp said, it will give them a false sense of security when, in fact, their civil rights are not being protected at all.