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Thursday, 23 March 1972
Page: 862

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I am concerned about this matter. I do not wish to say anything contrary to what my leader has said because I support his attitude. We are in the position now where we have to support it. However, in my view a disgraceful state of affairs is being perpetuated. The provisions to which we have been referring were introduced as an ordinance and the Senate decided that they were matters for substantive legislation. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) then tried to have the decision of the Senate changed by rescinding the Senate's decision disallowing the ordinance because, as there was then no evidence ordinance operating in the Australian Capital Territory, the Supreme Court of the Territory could not function. At that stage Senator Murphy came to the Minister's rescue and introduced a Bill to provide temporary provisions. It is now proposed to extend the time limit for the operation of those provisions. The original Bill con tained all the objectionable features which had been contained in the regulations on which the Senate wanted discussion.

When the Bill was debated in the Senate, Senator Murphy was very vocal and quite informative in stating that some clauses of the Bill could not be entertained as provisions of an evidence Act. We heard also expressions from the Democratic Labor Party on many of the clauses. It was apparent that the whole Senate was of the opinion that some provisions of the Bill were undesirable and that, because they could act to the detriment of a defendant in a particular case, they should not be included as provisions of an evidence Act. The Attorney-General has had since August last year to correct this situation.I suggest that in postponing consideration of some provisions of the Bill the Attorney-General was indicating that he also was of the opinion that the measure could contain undesirable features which need to be investigated. The proposal to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs would suggest, as the Minister has stated, that further consideration of the provisions is required. We are left with the situation where we are to continue with some of these undesirable provisions in the legislation. I repeat that the Minister had from August last year until 31st March this year to correct the situation, and the Evidence, (Australian Capital Territory) Bill was not introduced until March this year.

The proposition now is that we extend for 12 months the operation of an Act containing provisions which we have found to be undesirable and which could act to the detriment of a defendant. It is hoped that in extending the operation of the provisions for 12 months no-one will be caught up by the provisions and convicted on evidence which the Senate and possibly the Committee will find is such that it should not be permitted to be used in a court. I have no doubt that we will cary the second reading of the Bill, but I think there should be some attempt to speed up the process and to introduce for the Australian Capital Territory an evidence Act which the Parliament agrees will be proper for use in trying people in our courts.

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