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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2276

Senator VANSTONE (6.33 p.m.) —There is a real temptation to support these amendments because the spirit of them is well based. For example, it seems reasonable to ask an officer who is applying for a warrant to have to indicate whether he or she expects to make an entry without announcement. That does not seem, on the face of it, unreasonable but, in a practical situation, if that occasions people to make bad decisions because of the written position of their expectation and that expectation having, for quite inexplicable reasons, changed, as it frequently does in these sorts of things, that would be a shame. That is very much the case with firearms. If an officer, however experienced or however young, indicates that firearms were not going to be necessary, but then finds himself or herself in a position where it is believed they are now going to be necessary and pauses for a fraction of a second too long, occasioning not just injury, but possibly loss of life to himself, herself or someone else, it is a bad thing. But, in principle, the notion of their turning their minds to these sorts of matters as they apply for the warrant is a good one.

  We have made a different assessment from the Democrats of the consequences of asking them to not just turn their minds to it but to put it in writing as a record, and as to the apprehension that that then creates when the circumstances change. It also begs the question of who checks up. I know that further Democrat amendments want a reporting back and a checking up. We do not support those amendments. One asks: what is its purpose if it cannot be assessed and judged in some qualitative way?

  The suggestion that perhaps police do not turn their minds to these things is not offensive. There have been accidents that should not have happened. We do not want to inflame the debate by referring to any of those in particular, but there have been some pretty appalling examples of loss of life with the use of firearms. It encourages one to think, `Well, let's make them always indicate when they expect to use them'. That is asking for a law to be made with respect to all law enforcement officers to deal with the odd occasions rather than the general situations.

  This does not condone those odd occasions when things go very badly wrong. It is simply that it is not necessarily the basis on which to make a good law. Noting these things will not necessarily achieve anything, but it might in fact achieve a negative because people who have made that decision then pause for just that little bit longer than they should. That could mean loss of life or injury. It could mean ineffectiveness of the warrant because of a failure to make an entry without an announcement when, had that been done, the evidence—or whatever was being looked for—could have been obtained. I think they might have a counterproductive effect.