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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1855

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I wish to speak only briefly to the estimates for the Attorney-General's Department. I refer to the remarks made by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) concerning Mr Milte, whom the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) seemed to be determined to foist upon the people of the Northern Territory as an expert who should conduct an inquiry into the Northern Territory Police Force. The people of the Northern Territory were fortunate in that they were able to resist this piece of planting, comradeship, or whatever it might have been, by the Attorney-General to have this man stationed in the Northern Territory. Remarks have been made about Mr Miltes experience, ability and so on. I will not reiterate them. But I certainly support the remarks which were made by the honourable member for Petrie.

I would like to know whether Mr Milte did in fact recommend that the Special Branch of the Northern Territory Police Force be abolished- an act that we in the Northern Territory just could not understand. We know that the Attorney-General appropriated or misappropriated the control of the Northern Territory Police Force, which was a grave mistake, to the administration of a department thousands of miles away. The Special Branch, which had been in existence for 20-odd years, had been operating in what could be called a frontier city. The 3 Services are represented - in not nearly large enough proportions - in Darwin. It is the gateway to Australia from South East Asia and other places to the north. The incidence of drug taking, selling and dealing is on the increase in the area. The coastline of the Northern Territory is very extensive. Generally, the social structure of the Northern Territory points to the necessity for a Special Branch. I am not saying that the ordinary members of the Police Force are inadequate in protecting the public; but they act after the event - after something has happened.

I would like to know what happened to the experience gained over 20 years of operations by the Special Branch. What has happened to that specialised knowledge? Why was the Special Branch done away with? I have been led to believe that it was abolished as a result of a 'complaint'. What sort of a complaint was made to rid the Northern Territory of what was, to my way of thinking and to the way of thinking of other Territorians, such an essential service?

The Attorney-General is reported to have made the remark that the Special Branch was incompatible with democracy. I think democracy has to foe protected. If the Special Branch of the Northern Territory Police Force was not protecting democracy, I do not know what was. I would like an answer to that question. I think its abolition was a very backward step.

Adverting to the estimates of the AttorneyGeneral's Department for the Northern Territory Police Force, I wish to comment upon division 145.2.05. I notice that an amount of $250,300 has been appropriated for the maintenance and running expenses of motor vehicles, boats and aircraft. This has been necessary for a very long time in the Northern Territory. The 520,000-odd square miles of the Northern Territory certainly call for the expenditure on air services. Great distances and large tracts of water are involved. Many of the settlements and missions can be communicated with only by air or by sea. So I am very pleased to see that that item was included. I notice that the expenditure for the Northern Territory Police Force has increased by some $3m. I note that most of that increase will be absorbed in wages and overtime.

The Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, who is in the chamber, has previously spoken of the reconstruction of the Northern Territory criminal code. He has made a great thing of the 2 men concerned who made the report. He has made a great thing of the fact that the previous Government had taken no action whatsoever with regard to gaols, penal systems, prisoners and so on. Recently the Minister was discussing Aborigines and their drinking problems. He will know of course that the Northern Territory Legislative Council called for a report. The body responsible for that report was headed by the eminent Q.C.,

Mr JusticeAdams, and had such experienced and knowledgeable men on it as Mr Haynes Leader, the Reverend Paul Albrecht, who is head of the Lutheran Church in the Northern Territory and who was born and bred in the Northern Territory and has vast experience with Aborigines and the alcohol situation, and Mr Claude Narjic, a full-blooded Aborigine from Port Keats. That report was passed over. It was very comprehensive and dealt to a great extent with the alcohol side of things. It showed that there was consternation about the justice situation, the drinking problem and so on. I think that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, the previous Minister for the Northern Territory, did great injustice to the Legislative Council, to the previous Government and to the people who actually put the report together. I do not know whether the Minister read the report.

In passing I should like to mention the soaring expenses of the Attorney-General's Department' and ask some questions concerning the Commonwealth Police Force. I know that the size of the Commonwealth Police Force in the Australian Capital Territory is expanding rapidly. I should like to know why its members are resigning at such a great rate. Is it because they are dissatisfied with their conditions? What are their conditions? I wish also to refer to the telex system which is connected from the committee room of the Senate Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians direct to the AttorneyGeneral. The Attorney-General receives ball by ball descriptions of the Committee's activities. I refer also to the fact that the AttorneyGeneral employs a private secretary, who is a shorthand typist, at a salary of $17,500 a year. I think that a lot of these expenses should be questioned. The Attorney-General seems to have been carried away with the power which he has been given. I think these questions should be asked during the Estimates debate. I hope that I will receive some answers to them.

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