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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr HAWORTH (Isaacs) .- Clause 10 of the bill states -

Section eight a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) the words " the law of the Commonwealth " and inserting in their stead the words " a law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory".

I invite the attention of the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) to .this clause because section 8a of the Crimes Act provides that a constable has the right to arrest without warrant if he has any reasonable grounds for believing that a person has committed an offence against the law of the Commonwealth, and that proceedings against the person by summons would not be effective. The amendment contained in the bill would widen this power and extend it to the Territories. I should like to have the advice of the Attorney-General on this matter. I feel that there is a real risk that an officious constable, say, in the Northern Territory, might arrest a person for supplying liquor to a native.

It is not difficult in an appropriate case to obtain a warrant for arrest. The necessity for going before a magistrate or a justice to obtain a warrant is often an effective deterrent against irresponsible arrest. I feel that power to arrest without a warrant should be limited to indictable offences. Everybody knows that constables in remote parts of New Guinea are men of very good character generally, but many of them have been recruited at short notice and with a limited amount of experience in these matters. Where their word is virtually law, they might be tempted to be a little over-enthusiastic and there might be a temptation to abuse their power mainly because of lack of experience. One can imagine that sort of thing happening in some of the wild parts of New Guinea in the case of men who have not had experience and do not appreciate the damage they could do.

An amendment to limit the power to arrest as I have suggested could not possibly interfere with the administration of justice. I do not think that for one moment, but if it is not made the present provision could lead to an unnecessary and unjustifiable arrest on a trivial charge by some native constable who might feel he has some kind of grudge against another member of a tribe. When a warrant has to be obtained from a magistrate, these abuses are not likely to happen. It would remove a difficulty and I ask the Attorney-General to have a look at the matter. I know this is one of the minor things in the bill but it could quite easily be covered. If the Attorney-General sees fit, he might even consider having the bill amended in another place.

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