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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1519


Senator BOLKUS(6.00) —As a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs I also rise to speak to the report . Like Senator Lewis and every other speaker before me on this matter I commence by congratulating Senator Tate for the way in which he handled the Committee's procedures and conducted this inquiry. It has been a difficult inquiry, one that has been forced on the Committee in terms of the time that was available to it. It is one that canvassed quite a number of issues, some of them of very deep complexity. As Senator Lewis mentioned, Senator Tate managed to bring the Committee together in such a way that we have been able to agree on substantially all the 65 recommendations. Of those, only a handful were not agreed to in one way or another by individual members of the Committee.

I must also congratulate and thank the Committee secretariat together with the barrister charged to work with us, Mr John Lord, from the Melbourne bar. Their work was extremely helpful. They also had to work under extreme difficulty, working both at weekends and late at night. The amount of work that they contributed should also be placed on record. The other people involved in the Committee who should also be acknowledged are those who put time, effort and thought into the preparation of submissions. We had over 40 submissions some of which were of great length. Some people spent a substantial amount of time with the Committee assisting it to reach its conclusions. Of those, none were more co -operative than Mr Redlich, the Special Prosecutor, and Mr Costigan and his staff who gave us an insight into how an authority such as this can operate. Their assistance ought to be recorded.

As has been mentioned, the National Crime Authority Bill 1983 is a response to a major problem in Australian society. It canvasses all parts of society, whether it involves the social effects of organised crime, whether it relates to the impact on loss of tax revenue or whether it impinges on law enforcement agencies and corruption therein. Governments over the years have had the responsibility to respond to this problem but have not done so. As Senator Lewis mentioned, over the last number of years organised crime has blossomed.

I have been fortunate enough to get a copy of a report written by Mr Cusack, commissioned by the Victorian Government in 1954, on activities that took place in Victoria in 1954; the then so-called Victorian market murders. It is interesting to go back to the recommendations of Mr Cusack, a person who was brought over from America to advise the then Victorian Government on organised crime and on ways to tackle it. He responded in a number of ways. But the problems that he highlighted then are those that are very much relevant now. He recognised that there was a lack of co-ordination in government response to organised crime. He suggested then that a special extortion squad should be formed, that the Special Branch of the Victorian Police should have an intelligence gathering role and that a criminal intelligence unit should also be set up to assist the operational commands in detecting or suppressing organised crime.

Essentially, that was the first time in Australia that there had been recognition of the fact that organised crime was of such a nature that it could not be adequately handled by conventional law enforcement methods. Mr Cusack recognised the necessity for specialist training, a specialist approach and an intelligence gathering role in respect of organised crime as distinct from the conventional role of responding to individual offences. It is interesting to note that the list of recommendations he made-somewhere in the vicinity of 15 or 20-are very much those that could well be the core of the Government's response, both in respect to the National Crimes Authority Bill and the response of the previous Federal Government when it put up its proposal. Since then there have been a number of inquiries-in fact there have been eight as the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) indicated to me this week in reply to a question on notice-on different aspects of organised crime in this country ranging over the last 20 years. But substantially the last seven inquiries have been since 1974. This is an indication of the growing nature of the problem.

At the outset of the debate on the establishment of the National Crime Authority Bill I raised my doubts about the ability of such a response to handle adequately the problem. I was extremely sceptical about it. I am pleased to say that, like other honourable senators involved in this inquiry, the process of education that I have gone through has been a very healthy one. I still do not resile from the fact that I have some doubts about the effectiveness of the organisation, but I accept fully that there is a need for an effective co- ordinating body of criminal intelligence. This body is one that has the greatest possibility of meeting the problem.

The report that has been publicised has been claimed as being one that will strengthen the Authority. That is so. I believe that, in the overwhelming number of its recommendations, it makes for more effective authority but, in doing so, does not necessarily detract from or impinge upon individual civil liberties. It is a balance between expanding the areas of operation of the Authority but, at the same time, in some parts it acknowledges that an individual's rights should be protected. This is done in a number of areas. The Committee, in recommending that the Authority be graded towards a prosecutional role, directs the Authority in the future to act in those areas of utmost priority and need. The acceptance by the Committee of the derivative use exemption to self-incrimination is also extremely important.

I made a number of comments in my minority report about my attitude to crime and the reasons for organised crime flourishing. I made the point that all those unenforceable social laws that act as the incubator for organised crime ought to be tackled by government in somewhat of a radical way in order that a major part of the community can be detached from the web of organised crime. When we attempt to enforce unenforceable laws it leads to bribery, corruption and the establishment of avenues to facilitate organised crime. That is the web that ensnares thousands of Australians, willingly or unwillingly. I believe that those laws ought to be re-assessed. My minority report deals with that point in detail.

A point about which I was also concerned, as was Senator Crowley, was the question of accountability. We are setting up an authority which has the potential to act excessively in terms of its legislative charter. Mr Justice Kirby, in his contribution to the National Crimes Commission Conference approximately a year ago, made the point that we stand the risk of creating either the cosmetics of an ineffective agency or a too powerful institution unaccountable in practice to the courts or to our democratic institutions. I believe that there is a danger there. The Government, in its proposal to have a judicial audit of the Authority, as well as having the Authority susceptible to Ombudsman purview, is proposing a mechanism which may or may not be effective but which offers the only chance of an effective overview of this Authority. I think it is necessary, given the types of powers and functions the Authority is to have, to have this sort of overview mechanism. I note that the majority has recommended an alternative system but I think the conventional system will be adequate for the particular task. I think my time is very well up. Any other points that I have to make I will make in the course of the debate when the Bill comes before the Parliament.