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Wednesday, 13 November 1985
Page: 2035


Senator COATES —On behalf of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, and pursuant to Standing Order 109A, I give notice that it is my intention at the giving of notices on the next day of sitting, to withdraw Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 2 standing in my name for the next day of sitting, relating to disallowance of the Extradition (Republic of South Africa) Regulations (Amendment). I seek leave to make a statement of explanation.

Leave granted.


Senator COATES —Since May this year the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has been scrutinising regulations concerning extradition to South Africa of fugitives in Australia. The Committee obtained undertakings from the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) to amend the original regulations to ensure that they were more protective of personal rights. I reported these matters to the Senate on 31 May 1985 at page 2905 of Hansard when, in light of the undertakings, I sought leave of the Senate to withdraw the notice of motion of disallowance.

When the amended regulations were scrutinised by the Committee last month, it was discovered that they did not incorporate one of the Attorney-General's undertakings. This related to a proposal not to extradite to South Africa a fugitive accused of a revenue offence. Since leave to withdraw the original notice of disallowance was given on the basis that the full package of undertakings from the Attorney-General would be implemented, the Committee asked for an explanation for the inclusion of revenue offences. The Attorney-General explained that originally his Department had thought that under South African extradition law there could be no extradition to Australia of a revenue offender and that therefore there should be no countervailing discretion to extradite to South Africa for revenue offences. The Attorney- General's Department later discovered that there was no such limitation on extradition from South Africa and the Attorney-General considered that Australia should permit reciprocal extradition to South Africa for revenue offences. The Committee has accepted the Attorney-General's reasons for retaining a discretion in extradition to South Africa of revenue offenders, although it would have preferred to have been expressly informed at the earliest date that it was proposed, for understandable reasons, to depart from a significant element of a ministerial undertaking.

The Committee has also resolved with the Attorney-General doubts which the Committee entertained concerning his apparent discretion to extradite to South Africa when it might be unjust, oppressive or inhumane to do so. The Committee has been advised by the Attorney-General that his apparently wide discretion is not as wide as it appears and is, in the particular circumstances of this case, adequately subject to judicial control. Finally, senators may not be aware of the fact that as a result of the Committee's scrutiny of these Regulations the Attorney- General has introduced, in the recent Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No. 2) 1985, amendments to the extradition Acts to protect the rights of persons who may be subject to extradition. The amendments are at pages 18 and 22 of the Bill and concern the definition of an extradition crime. When the Committee identified certain flaws in the new definition of an extradition crime the Attorney-General readily agreed to correct them at the earliest date.

The Committee thanks the Attorney-General for his assistance with all of these matters and commends him for his readiness to protect personal rights and liberties.