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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2657

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(6.00) —Let me explain the genesis of this clause. It arose from concern expressed at the ministerial meeting following the receipt of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. A number of States expressed a concern that the street role, as it were, of interviewing people and conducting actual investigations continue to be carried out by the police rather than by a new army of investigators attached to and working for the Authority in some capacity other than as seconded policemen or policemen working in the Authority task forces. The feeling was that we did not want to create a ninth police force.

The Authority, in its conduct of its investigations, will be relying essentially on police officers either in their capacity as members of the co- operating forces or alternatively as members actually attached to the staff of the Authority. As a practical matter it is unlikely to arise, but to the extent that on the ground, on the street, investigation is involved, it was felt-and the Commonwealth acceded to this point of view-desirable that the investigative activity be carried out by police officers rather than by anyone else.

I think it has subsequently emerged that the proposal was probably too restrictive in the form in which it had been moved by the Government as an amendment and that there ought not to be a limitation on Authority staff as such in interviewing people who are scheduled to appear before the Authority. It is perfectly appropriate that Authority lawyers, for example, should engage in preliminary meetings and consultations with putative witnesses to get proof of evidence, and so on, in a familiar way. There was no real intention to deny that . Certainly, the language in which the draft was put down was wide enough to encompass interviews and discussions of that kind.

With that in mind the Australian Democrats have, after consultation with the Government, foreshadowed that they will move amendments (5B) and (5C). Amendment No. (5C) is the big one, (5B) is consequential, and the Government fully accepts the terms of those proposed amendments. I foreshadow that when they are moved we will support them. That substantially narrows and limits the force of the amendment to which the Opposition is expressing objections. We will be supporting the Democrats because the proposed amendments fill the gap that was unfortunately left by the original terms of our amendment. In the light of that, I think that most of the objections that the Opposition has expressed really fall away. I hope we will reach a quick solution by all agreeing to accept the Democrats' amendments and move on.