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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 866

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - Clause 2 states:

This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.

That is not always provided in legislation. Sometimes Bills come into operation when proclaimed. The importance of this clause flows from what has been provided for in the Bill and the way in which it affects the rights of persons. I ask: What provision is being made for persons such as the one who appeared before Mr Justice Meares today and made a habeas corpus application? In the exigencies of all that has happened I can only repeat the information I have received and cannot warrant for its accuracy.I am informed that the Commonwealth said that it could not go on with the matter but insisted on having the Solicitor-General to represent it.

Senator Greenwood - That is nothing like what happened.

Senator MURPHY - For whatever reasons, the case was not dealt with today. It is to be dealt with tomorrow morning. Whatever may be the facts of that case, it does not matter. The point is that there may be people in custody throughout the country who want to act on the basis that today they are lawfully entitled to be free. If they cannot establish that, it is the end of the matter. But let us assume that there are people who could establish, as of tonight, that they are entitled to their freedom and who, as of tomorrow are going to start proceedings. What is to happen to them? Is this legislation to be rushed through tonight or is some reasonable opportunity to be given to the people who have commenced proceedings to have their cases heard? Is the great writ of habeas corpus to be set at nought? Does the Commonwealth propose to delay proceedings or rush this legislation through the Parliament in the middle of the night so that a citizen who considers that he is improperly in custody will be deprived of his right to be heard? If the Bill is passed tonight, is the Government going to prevent persons from pursuing applications which they may have commenced before the courts in which they have a claim of legal right under a writ of habeas corpus or similar great remedies for civil rights? Is the Commonwealth going to act in such a way that it will defeat the cases which have been instituted today or yesterday by people who consider that they have a right to a habeas corpus? I would like to ask whether clause 2 is intended to be used in that way.

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