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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2627

Senator BONNER (QUEENSLAND) - Is it a fact that the Attorney-General has ordered a special secret police investigation into the personal, social and political lives of the members of the jury which in October 1 974 found Mr Sydney Anderson, 2 1 years of age, of Papunya via Alice Springs, guilty of the murder of Mr Eric Erlensen? Anderson was duly sentenced to 15 years gaol with an 8-year non-parole period. Is the Legal Aid Service in any way connected with the request for this inquiry? If not, who is? Does the Minister consider that it is right that there should be such a breach of the privacy of citizens under the circumstances?

Senator MURPHY - Mr President,this is a curious question. The same question was apparently asked in the House of Representatives yesterday and late yesterday one of my staff asked me about it. So far as I can recall, at that stage I had not heard of the conviction, nor of the charge, nor of the murder. I have asked for inquiries to be made into the matter. 1 do not know anything about it. I suggested then that there may be some confusion. There was an article in one of the newspapers about the conviction of one, Fogarty, earlier this year on a more minor charge such as damaging a truck. The complaint was made that the man, who was an Aboriginal, had been convicted by an all-white jury in an area of the Northern Territory where a substantial part of the population is Aboriginal.

Senator CAVANAGH - But he was not an Aboriginal. It was found that he was not an Aboriginal.

Senator MURPHY - Whatever the situation may be, the question arose as to whether the juries were being drawn properly so as to be a sample of the community. I recall that I then asked for some inquiries to be made. I did mention this matter to some of the officers and some of the judicial persons in the Northern Territory. As I recall it, the information discloses that the selection of juries is not entirely satisfactory in that for major cases the area from which they are drawn is fairly closely confined and does exclude a substantial Aboriginal population. I will give details to the Senate about the matter, but it troubles me very much that this occurs. It may be that some exaggeration of a report of some inquiry into the selection of juries has given rise to some kind of rumour or gossip. I would agree with the honourable senator that if someone were to look into the background of juries and inquire into their private lives, this would be absolutely intolerable and I would be seeking to stamp it out. I cannot tell the Senate any more than that except to say that the particular matter, as far as I can recall, was not brought to my attention in any way whatever until the request was made yesterday.

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