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Tuesday, 12 November 1985
Page: 1961

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney- General. I refer to the decision of the Privy Council, which was announced today, to uphold Clive Lloyd's appeal from the Supreme Court of New South Wales, restoring his award of $100,000 damages for defamation. Although wishing Clive Lloyd the best of luck, I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that the Premiers Conference in June 1982 unanimously agreed to abolish the remaining rights of appeal to Privy Council and that the British Government agreed to facilitate a request from the Commonwealth Parliament for the passage of legislation to give effect to it through the House of Commons? Why has it taken the present Government three and a half years to get to the stage where it has only just listed legislation for possible passage in this session to give effect to the agreement to abolish appeals to the Privy Council? Does the Government intend to proceed to the passage of that legislation in this session? If not, can the Minister tell us when the Government intends to give effect to this decision?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I agree with Senator Durack that the Lloyd case graphically demonstrates, whatever one thinks of the verdict, the absurdity of matters of this kind being dealt with in British courts. It remains a very strong preoccupation of this Government to remove those lingering absurdities, to remove the residual links, and to remove, once and for all, in particular, the capacity of the Privy Council to hear appeals from any Australian court. Why has it taken three and a half years to move from the initial principled agreement of the Premiers to legislate to produce this state of affairs? The short answer is because of our passionate commitment to the principles of co-operative federalism and the way in which we have been unmercifully mucked about by the States in reaching agreement as to the chapter and verse way of doing it.

I am very pleased to be able to report, as I have on earlier occasions, that complete agreement was reached a few months ago as to the precise language of the various enabling pieces of legislation in each State parliament in the Commonwealth and in Britain that are necessary to bring about this state of affairs. The last report I heard, a short time ago, was that the relevant and necessary legislation had been introduced in every Australian State parliament except Tasmania. If Senator Walters could use her well-known capacity for stirring the possum and get her colleagues down there off their respective tails to get that legislation passed I am sure that her colleague, Senator Durack, would be indebted to her, as would we all. I may be doing them an injustice. Conceivably, they may have introduced the legislation by now. I hope that is the case.

Senator Lewis —You could zap down in an aircraft and fix it up.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Senator Lewis is all class. He is so subtle. We have not been able to take the necessary action at the Commonwealth level until the State legislation has been passed. The Commonwealth request and consent legislation is ready for introduction at any time. It is our hope that the relevant Commonwealth legislation can be passed this session, to wrap it up at the Australian end, thus making possible the passage of the relevant British legislation very early next year. The British Government has indicated its willingness to go along with that timetable. So it does remain only for all the various pieces of the jigsaw to fall together in the way that I have indicated.