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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 802

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(3.55) —I move:

That the Committee not insist on the amendment disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and agrees to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in place thereof.

On 29 May the Opposition in the Senate moved the amendment to the National Crime Authority (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 1985 with which the House of Representatives disagreed, here on 29 May. As was noted in the Committee stage of the debate on that day, the Commonwealth was at that time considering a request by the National Crime Authority for an amendment in very similar terms. The amendment was to be considered on the following day by the Inter-Governmental Committee and the Government anticipated introducing a similar amendment early in the Budget sittings. So, in effect, we supported the principle of the Senate amendment that the Authority be able to co-ordinate its activities with similar overseas agencies. But at the time the matter was being debated in this chamber, we were unwilling to endorse precisely the form of words that was embodied in the amendment then before us. One of the reasons that we were so reluctant is that, borne out by further analysis, there is a distinction that must properly be made between giving the Authority a new function under section 11 of the Act, as would be the case with the Senate amendment, and giving the Authority a new power in respect of the performance of its existing functions under another section of the Act, which is in effect, what the House of Representatives amendment proposes.

After careful consideration, we came to the view that the appropriate course, given the structure of the National Crime Authority Act, was to place the power enabling the Authority to co-ordinate its activities with overseas agencies under section 17 of the Act. Section 17 would then cover co-operation with Australian law enforcement agencies in the existing provision, and co-ordination with similar overseas agencies in the new provision. This would avoid possible difficulties of interpretation that would flow from placing the amendment in section 11. The Act would continue to emphasise that the functions of the NCA are, first and foremost, to investigate relevant criminal activities. The Crime Authority agrees that this would be more in line with the intended nature of the proposed overseas co-ordination provision. Accordingly, with this explanation, which I hope will satisfy everybody as to our bona fides, I commend the Government's amendment to the Committee and hope that the Committee will accept it in lieu of the Senate's amendment essentially to a similar effect.

(Quorum formed)