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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 832

Senator BYRNE (Queensland) - I express the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party on this motion to promote the earliest possible consideration of the measure which the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) presented to this chamber. The Democratic. Labor Party supports the motion. Obviously an extraordinarily difficult situation has arisen as a result of the determination of the Full Court of the Supreme Court, of the Australian Capital Territory. The rights of people are gravely affected and are. likely to be more gravely affected if there is an undue delay in presenting to Parliament legislation which will restore a viable juridical system which is no longer available in relation to many ordinances. Senator Murphy made a case that on further consideration this may have to be done and that may have to be done. I am conscious of the recent attitude of the honourable senator when the Australian Capital Territory Evidence' Ordinance was rejected by the Senate. The legal system in Canberra was left without any viable code of evidentiary law to apply- in determination of cases. The courts, were unable to sit. In this chamber Senator Murphy was perhaps the first to realise, the urgency of the situation. He said that there must be immediate introduction of legislation to. stabilise the position. He introduced a private member's Bill.

Senator Murphy - A temporary one.

Sentaor BYRNE- -It was a temporary measure, but it was an. urgent measure. The honourable senator stressed particularly the urgency of presentation. I quote from the Hansard report of the debate of 25 th August 1971. Senator Murphy, addressing himself to the second reading of his Bill, said:

The Bill is a very simple one. It is a temporary Bill. It provides for the continuance of the provisions which were contained in the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance 1971. The Bill proposes to continue that law only until 31st October 1971, and that is the justification for not having a minute examination of the law. It is merely a temporary provision which will overcome the problems of those who are involved in court cases, who might be facing trials and so on. It gives the Government the opportunity to bring in before that time a measure and to have it debated and subjected to analysis in this and the other chamber in the ordinary way.

He went on:

I hope that wisdom will prevail and that the Bill will be passed without any attempt at delay so that those in the Territory who may be affected and whose position has been enlarged on may not be placed in any further difficulty.

I think that the principle enunciated by Senator Murphy at that time is the aplicable principle to this situation. I am rather discomfited that Senator Murphy has now found cause to depart from the principle he enunciated on that occasion. I am at a loss to know why he did so. The cases are virtually parallel. In the first case a body of ordinances was disallowed by the Senate and Canberra was left without any viable evidentiary law. In this a body of ordinances has been declared inoperative by the Supreme Court and again there is no code of applicable law in the Territory. In each case individual rights are affected and are likely to be affected. Each matter is one of urgency. The honourable senator adverted to all those matters on the previous occasion. It appears to me that Senator Murphy's proposition then was a valid one. It received the support of the chamber. The Bill went to another place and was endorsed immediately. Senator Murphy's Bill became the operative replacement legislation.

I cannot see why the same principle does not apply in this case. The honourable senator implied, by interjection, that his was a temporary provision which would give us time to examine the principles. The point is that the legislation is legislation to declare what was the law and each ordinance, which today has been declared inoperative by the court, could have been discussed at the time it was introduced. There is no new situation, apart from the practical operation of the ordinance. Save so far as Senator Murphy might say that that difference justifies a difference in his attitude, I think it is quite an indefensible position. Further time would not warrant the examination of the ordinances which have operated for many years, which could have been the subject of disallowance by the Senate when they were introduced originally and which could have been debated in the intervening years. Whether that has or has not been done, this is not the occasion to do it.

Therefore I think there is no warrant for the position which is now being taken to prevent the Bill coming up for the earliest possible consideration. It seeks to regularise the position, to protect the rights of individuals and to defend the situation of those who otherwise might be unjustly and inequitably affected. Therefore we support the motion to advance the consideration of the legislation to the highest position of priority.

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