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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2280

Senator CHAMARETTE (8.13 p.m.) —The Crimes (Search Warrants and Powers of Arrest) Amendment Bill 1993 proposes a number of amendments to the Crimes Act to ensure that the provisions relating to search warrants and powers of arrest are defined and consistent. I would like to make some comments in relation to the issue that is being discussed now, but also, to save time later on, to speak in more general terms on where the Greens are coming from in relation to the Democrats' amendments.

  Civil liberties groups have raised a number of criticisms of the bill. Some of the criticisms include insufficient control over the issuing and serving of search warrants; the one which I mentioned in my speech on the second reading, the creation of an offence of not giving one's name and address to a police officer; and the reversal of the onus of proof by allowing adverse inferences to be drawn from failure to attend identification parades.

  The Greens (WA) feel that these criticisms of the bill are valid. We feel that, while there is a need to ensure that mechanisms exist for the detection and prevention of crime, it is also very important that there be proper monitoring of police activities and that important civil liberties be preserved. One does not require great feats of memory to recall examples of gross police corruption, misuse of power and curtailment of civil liberties.

  Senator Vanstone has a point in that sometimes people do make statements that, without legal advice, they regret and that those statements can be used in some way; nevertheless, people who do not have any record of the arrest or their comments at the time are in far greater danger of having their vulnerability used against them. Anyone who has worked in the criminal justice system knows of the incidences where there are allegations that people have been verballed. When that occurs—and it occurs again and again—it is as much in the interests of the police who are making those arrests to have some evidence that they have conducted themselves legitimately and validly as it is for the people who are under scrutiny and are being arrested.

  The amendments that Senator Spindler has put before this committee, including the one that is being considered at this time, should not be merely regarded as an interference in the course of the duties of police. It is actually an aid to the monitoring of correct police behaviour, and it could protect police from allegations of verballing innocent people and using their powers in an improper way.

  We have seen every government in Australia afflicted with police corruption of some variety in recent years. The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs examined the bill and raised several concerns. Consequently, Senator Spindler has produced a number of amendments. The amendments are all supported by the Greens (WA), including this one. We believe that the amendments preserve the balance between the detection and prevention of crime and the protection of civil liberties. We find it difficult to see how these amendments could be opposed.

  The amendments that deal with the administration of search warrants will enable efficient scrutiny to ensure that the system is operating efficiently. Those ensuring protection of civil liberties attempt to protect rights that have been developed over centuries. So we support all the amendments. We regret that once again the opposition and the government will ensure the passage of this bill, but we register our support for the amendments and our opposition to the spirit under which the amendments are being rejected.

  Amendment negatived.