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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 158

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services) (10.48 a.m.) —We have been through the arguments before. I ask Senator Harradine to look at Senator Lees's words yesterday in her contribution to this part of the debate. We have tried to strike a balance in two steps—that is one way of saying it. Everything that Senator Newman has said is possible under this legislation when it comes to forcible entry, seizing of documents or evidence and so on. What we were looking at—and what we hoped to achieve—was the prior stage of investigation for evidence of the sorts of things which, if officers have to seek a warrant, may not be there when they come back.

  As Senator Lees said, many of these examples will deal with evidence that will be easily rearranged, moved or replaced. Those are the sorts of things that also need to be investigated. Everything Senator Newman says, this bill agrees with; it spells it out. But, as I have said before, there are very restricted powers under this bill. It is not for forceful entry or the seizure of evidence, and it certainly does not involve going to patients' records—or anything of that sort.

  I will reiterate a point for Senator Harradine. Practical experience to this point has shown that what is happening now is not effective. Large amounts of taxpayers' dollars are being lost. In this place we have already agreed to a sunset clause, I think until 1996.

Senator Newman —Yes.

Senator CROWLEY —With this legislation in place, if the balance—as the deliberations say—is not quite exact, the sunset clause certainly means that within a short time there will be a possibility to restrike that balance, should the evidence show it to be necessary. I believe that to this point a large amount of work has gone into this bill. It has been extensively canvassed through the Senate standing committee. There has been agreement at large, in light of all the evidence, that the balance—as proposed by these amendments to the legislation which have been brought in by the government—has been struck. I remind Senator Harradine that practical experience, as he says, shows quite clearly we are not recouping those dollars at the moment. The sunset clause is there; so if the balance has gone that way, within a very short time the whole process would be reviewable.