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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2650

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(5.14) —I said in my second reading speech that I thought there was some virtue in the provisions relating to the Ombudsman and a judicial audit. I was pleased to hear the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) acknowledge for the first time to my knowledge in this debate, that innocent little people will be involved. When one examines the draconian provisions of this legislation one understands that people will be caught in the web, the trap, the parameters of its powers and terms of reference , and they will be subject to coercive powers. Following the last disgraceful vote, I think that there is virtue in having some sort of discipline, control and over view of the activities and functions of the Authority. If, as the Bill says, there is no guarantee that there will be somebody with legal training- never mind a judge-sitting independently and unilaterally, divorced from the mainstream of judicial advice, making determinations of the type that fall within the framework of this legislation, it is important that there should be some sort of protection. However, that sort of protection would not be necessary if the Attorney-General had not stepped so briskly in the opposite direction when there was an opportunity to provide people with reasonable protection rather than simply the protection of the normal sort that is available in any judicial authority. This can be described as nothing less than quasi-judicial.

In regard to the judicial audit, at least there is the chance that, at the end of the day, there might be one judge of a supreme court in a State or one judge in the Federal Court overviewing and examining these activities and seeing whether, in the words of the legislation, any act or thing contrary to law will not trespass unduly on the rights and liberties of individuals. I understand that the Democrats will be supporting the Opposition. Therefore, what I do ultimately in voting for or against this provision is of no moment. But given the draconian provisions of this Authority, given that it has unique powers and responsibilities that do not extend to any other permanent semi-judicial body, I can see no better occasion on which there should be some restraints, discipline and overview of its activities. Perhaps I should look further at Senator Chipp's proposition of a joint committee of parliament on this topic. However, having watched these matters in the period I have been in this Parliament, I do not see how such a body will have the expertise, skill, wisdom and knowledge, least of all the time, to investigate the detailed matters which will be involved in the type of investigation and inquiries that will be conducted by the Authority. There is a great deal to be said for having a judge, a person with experience and qualifications, who will be able to take an overview and report competently to the Parliament on the activities of the Authority.