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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 1341


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is an opinion. It is not a point of order that can be taken under the Standing Orders.


Mr Scholes - I take a point of order. Mr Chairman, is the Minister entitled to continue speaking after you have called another honourable member who is seeking to raise a point of order, as he has done on 2 occasions while I have been in the chamber, and yell and scream and thump the table so that the member taking the point of order cannot be heard?


The CHAIRMAN - Order! No point of order arises. I think the confusion and the noise in the chamber were not coming from only one person.


Mr Beazley - Mr Chairman, on a point of order, I ask you to rule whether this matter is sub judice or not. Charges are pending.


The CHAIRMAN - The Minister has not mentioned any specific case. The Minister has mentioned general charges which have been mentioned by many honourable members today during the course of the debate. In the circumstances I feel that the matter would not be sub judice in the usual use of that term, although, as I said, I do not think that many of the remarks that have been made here today have contributed in any way to the subject before the Parliament.


Mr SINCLAIR - This amendment relates to charges or incidents concerning individuals whose names I have expressly not referred to. If we are to talk to the amend ment at all it is necessary that we regard the charges not in their entirety or in their particularity but from the point of view that they exist. It is necessary that there be consideration of charges. It is necessary that there be consideration of their implications. The point that I seek to make is that from the Government's point of view it is not the Parliament that should be the judge, nor should it be the jury; it is the courts. It is the process of law. Were we to pass this amendment we would be putting the Parliament above the courts and the law. We would be putting the Parliament in a position where the charges, irrespective of the persons, would have no foundation whatsoever. I do not believe that under our system of law, under our system of the division of responsibilities between the executive and the Parliament and the judiciary that it is right, that it is proper or that it is democratic for us to prejudge matters which are more properly matters for consideration by a court of law.

We are not attempting to judge the individuals or the charges against them. I have expressly not referred to individuals. I have expressly not pursued any of the charges against them. I have merely stated the category of offences. I am expressly stating that there are no offences under the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance. I am expressly assuring the House that there are no charges pending either with respect to the removal of tents last night or on 20th July or on 23rd July under the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance.


Mr Bryant - That is specious nonsense.


Mr SINCLAIR - I am talking specifically about the amendment which has been moved and which I do believe, if it were passed, would enable the courts effectively to judge a series of offences or alleged offences which I believe are material if the courts are to occupy their correct and proper place in reassuring the rights of individuals. I would reassure the honourable member for Moreton that I have some sympathy for the case that he has presented. The persuasive arguments that have been presented in this chamber by individuals from both sides must, I believe, be considered by the Government and by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in prosecuting any charges that have been laid. But I do not believe that a useful purpose will be served by the passage of this amendment - an amendment which would put the Parliament above the courts, which prejudges charges that have been validly laid not in respect to the Ordinance now before this Committee, not in respect to the Ordinance the subject of this Bill, but in respect to charges quite unrelated. Such action, I believe, would undermine the authority and status of the police in our society. It is for that reason that I do not believe this Committee should accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).







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