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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 874

Senator NEGUS (Western Australia) - I am not a lawyer. I am just an ordinary Australian senator and the way 1 view the situation is that 1 do not think any of these people mentioned would have been charged if they had been average law abiding citizens.

Senator Mulvihill - You reckon they ought to be put. in leg irons, senator?

Senator NEGUS - 1 feel that if I were in the situation where a police constable came to me, at any place in any situation, and asked me to move on because I was breaking the law. I would believe him. 1 would nol ask him for a copy of the law to which he was referring. I would probably go home and ring up the Department in question. As I said in this chamber last night by way of an interjection which was taken the wrong way, if the law was produced to me, in all probability as an ordinary citizen 1 would not be able to read and understand it. The law is expressed in such legal terms. I feel that the average citizen knows when he is breaking the law.

In my opinion, the Aboriginal embassy in front of Parliament House was a complete eyesore. If I had had anything to do with it the Aboriginal embassy would have been moved purely for health reasons. The embassy had no hygiene facilities at all. I feel that this Government was very lenient in allowing it to remain there for so long. The judgment of the Full Court - and I have been through it very carefully - states that the Court had not found the Ordinance to be invalid but merely inoperative. The Ordinance was found to be inoperative purely and simply because it was not notified in the right way. The Ordinance was not put on a board in the right way. If all ordinances were put up on a board, Parliament House would not be big enough to hold them all and no-one would know where to look for the particular ordinance they were seeking.

If the officers of the police force had done what might be thought to be the right thing and had taken with them copies of the Ordinance and handed them out, and had said: This is the Ordinance; we are moving you off this land', any average citizen in those circumstances would have known that he should not be there. If the police had asked these people to move and they had moved quietly, no charges of any kind would have been laid against them. This situation arises purely because of the incorrect way in which notification of ordinances was carried out over the years under the various governments - not just the present Government. People have accepted the past procedure as correct. I do not think one should throw stones in the direction of the present AttorneyGeneral. He is acting only on the basis of something produced by somebody behind the scenes. He believes that in all probability what is presented to him is correct. This is a situation that has been going on for years. We are all in exactly the same position.

When this Bill has been passed tonight we will not know that it will stand up until it has been tested before a judge of the Supreme Court. It might be found that there is something wrong with this law, but I suggest that we can do no more than accept that the Bill has been given deep and due consideration. We hope that it is right. As a Parliament we have to do our job and pass the Bill, in the same way as parliaments have been doing for 32 years. In the past we have enacted legislation which we felt was right and were told was right, but we can all make mistakes and we should admit that we do make mistakes. In this instance we are trying to correct a mistake that has been made evidently for 32 years by various govern ments, it is such a simple thing to correct this mistake with this legislation. Let this law then stand until someone challenges it. If it then becomes necessary to change the law again we will do so, and we will continue to change it if necessary.

When one considers all the laws that the Parliament has made over the years one could think that they should all be put on the scrap heap and burned. But how are we to know whether a law is valid or invalid? We are not all lawyers. Only the judges who have these matters pointed out to them are in a position to decide on the validity of a law. In my opinion this whole situation has been brought about by the fact that Aborigines put an embassy on the lawns in front of Parliament House. That was a disgraceful exhibition. I feel that they gained nothing by doing that and that they would have gained much by quietly approaching the right department or members of Parliament and asking them to act on their behalf. So far as I am concerned the situation is as it should be. We are endeavouring to correct a fault in the law. I am opposed to the amendment and propose to support the Bill.

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