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Friday, 2 March 1984
Page: 315


Senator MACKLIN(11.48) —If one could ask a question of Senator Withers one would ask where he was in 1982. He referred to his Government's legislation and he raised the issue of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. I have with me the Scrutiny of Bills Committee report dated 24 March 1982, when Senator Withers's party was in government. It relates to the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill. The Scrutiny of Bills Committee, which was lauded by Senator Withers because it was going to draw attention to these types of things which, he said, unfortunately slipped through, in dealing with clause 24 for which Senator Withers, Senator Peter Rae, Senator Hill and Senator Watson voted--


Senator Watson —How did you vote?


Senator MACKLIN —I will tell Senator Watson how I voted in a minute. The report states:

This proposed section allows a Collector of Customs to enter a depot at any time without the necessity of first obtaining a warrant.

That matter was raised by the Australian Democrats but the then Government gave a whole series of excuses and refused to do anything about it. But Senator Withers says: 'Do not worry about that; that is why we have all the appeals tribunals'. But the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, dealing with the same Bill under the heading General Comment, said:

A number of provisions are included in this amending Bill which will not be subject to . . . right of appeal-see amendments included in clauses 7, 12, 14 and 31. Clauses 18 and 24 also propose the vesting of non-appealable discretions in the Minister by amendments to sections 83 and 108 . . .

Not only did Senator Withers not read the report of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, which he had lauded, but also he managed to support a Bill which did not allow the vaunted appeal about which he was just talking. I think it is unfortunate that when elections occur and we change governments everybody seems to change advisers, underpants and views. It seems to me that the view put by Senator Rae is a good one. I believe it is useful to consider a progressive change in all of these Acts. I support that change. I support this amendment. I remind Senator Watson that I have supported it in the past, against his Government, and I will continue to do so. I believe that this is the way we ought to go. We ought to remove from the Customs officers their ability, without a warrant, to engage in precisely what they are now able to engage in. I have moved amendments in the past against the legislation of the previous Government. Indeed, I have before me one such amendment on precisely the same matter, which was defeated.

It seems to me that this is a useful device. I am very pleased to see that Senator Rae, when drafting his amendment, did something else that the Liberals did not do when they were drafting Customs legislation. He has actually learned a lesson and provides in paragraph (1C) (d) of his amendment for a date to be put on the warrant, which the Liberals never managed to do in their own legislation and about which I was constantly moving amendments. The last amendment I moved was to four Bills relating to dairy products, edible oils, eggs and honey. They finally accepted my amendment to clause 9 (3) which read:

A warrant under sub-section (3) shall specify a date after which the warrant ceases to have effect.

The previous Government at least got to the stage of accepting that after three or four vain attempts on my part to get it to put a date on its warrants. I am glad to see that Senator Rae proposes to put a date on the warrants, as his Government did not do for so many years.

There is, however, a difficulty in this area on which I would like the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button) to comment. I find it difficult to know precisely what the warrant specified in Senator Rae's amendment would consist of. As I understand the dumping laws I am not sure that one would be looking at an offence when one was seeking evidence on which to proceed in relation to dumping. It is a technical point and I imagine the Minister has some brief on it. I am not sure whether one could get a warrant before a justice. If that is possible, although the Government agrees that it does not want to do it, I would still be happy with Senator Rae's amendment, but I must admit that I have a certain amount of confusion as to what precisely one would be arguing before the justice. As I understand it a prosecution could not necessarily be launched as a result, although if anti-dumping were discovered action could be taken, as a result of those investigation, to prevent the events from occurring. I ask the Minister: What precisely is the situation in relation to any warrant that may be issued pursuant to Senator Rae's amendment? What precisely would be going on in that area? As these are Senator Rae's amendments he might like to comment on that too.