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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2603

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I move:

That the proposed new clause 6a be added: 6a In the performance of its functions the Commission shall review laws to which this Act applies and consider proposals with a view to ensuring;

(i)   that such laws and proposals do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties and do not unduly make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent upon administrative rather than judicial decisions,

(ii)   that, as far as practicable such laws and proposals are consistent with the Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights'

I did not advert to the purpose of this proposed new clause during the second reading debate. One thing which a law reform commission can do, when it is reviewing all Commonwealth laws, is to examine them to see that they accord with traditional and accepted concepts of individual rights and the way in which individual rights ought to be protected and determined. Therefore, it is desirable to write into the Bill, so that it becomes part of the statute law, that this is one of the basic considerations which the Law Reform Commission shall have in mind. It gives a slant- a bias, if one likes- to the way in which the Commission shall approach its task. I think that all honourable senators are appreciative of the work over many years of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I think that those honourable senators who have been members of that Committee will see in some of the words used in the amendment language which has always guided that Committee in its deliberations. That Committee is required to look at regulations and ordinances to see that they do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties and that they do not make the rights and liberties of citizens dependent upon administrative rather than judicial decisions. There has always been some question whether the Regulations and Ordinances Committee could not take its examination into the field of Bills which were before the Parliament. That question has never been resolved. The accepted view seems to be that that would be an excessive function by the Committee.

The Opposition thinks that the Commission could be charged with that function. I know that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) agrees. I think that there is some novelty in the provision relating to the articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Its use as a standpoint from which all legislation which is being reviewed could be testedin order to ascertain whether it accords with those principles is also a desirable function for the Commission to have in mind. I think that the projected Human Rights Bill which has yet to come up for debate in this Senate seeks to incorporate those articles as part of the substantive law of the Commonwealth. I am sure that the Attorney-General is already aware of the many comments which are being made as to the problems this Bill will create. That is a matter for subsequent debate and subsequent decision. But at least in the work which this Commission undertakes it can certainly perform a useful function by having regard to the general standards and principles that are contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and I think that this is of benefit. I cannot see disadvantage in it being part of the obligation of the Commission to act in that way. The other amendment which I couple with this one is an amendment to clause 3 as to the definition-

Senator Murphy - Could you leave that amendment?

Senator GREENWOOD -The AttorneyGeneral, I see, is indicating to me that he would like to leave that, and because of the responsive way in which we are working at the moment, I defer to him.

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