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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 739

Senator MURPHY (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask whether the Attorney-General will assure the Senate that the Government will observe the great principle of the rule of law which is against retrospective criminal legislation and that lt will not act to turn conduct which was lawful when carried out into criminal action by subsequent legislation. Also I ask whether he will take action to see to it that legislation is introduced to compensate those who have been convicted or penalised under laws which as a result of the decision of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory yesterday have been found not to have come into effect.

Senator GREENWOOD (VICTORIA) (Attorney-General) - The enormity of what Senator Murphy asks almost takes one's breath away. He is aware of the decision which was made in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and he knows that the implications of that decision are that if the Court is correct in the decision which it has passed virtually every ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory over the past 30 years has been incorrectly notified. It would also follow that almost every regulation would be affected. When I say 'almost every' it is certainly a reasonable interpretation from the judgment of the Court that regulations which have been made under Commonwealth statutes almost since the inception are regulations which also have been improperly notified. Therefore actions taken, convictions in the courts, actions by policemen and a tremendous number of decisions of the courts might well be argued to have absolutely no validity whatsoever.

What Senator Murphy is asking me to give an assurance about at this point of time is surely not that everybody who may have been convicted in the courts of the Australian Capital Territory under ordinances which may have been improperly notified should be paid compensation. Presumably there are some people whom the Australian Labor Party - because he is their spokesman - would like to have protected whilst a host of others be not protected. That sort of discrimination I think is quite opposed to the rule of law as I understand it. If he is suggesting that compensation should be paid to everybody who has been convicted - assuming, as I said, there was a basis upon which that claim would be made - I think it displays an inexplicable sense of public responsibility.

Senator JAMES McCLELLAND (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What has become of your devotion to law?

Senator GREENWOOD - If Senator James McClelland, who has interjected now 4 times while I have been speaking, is dissatisfied with my answer I suggest that he can ask questions during question time and have the elucidation that he would like. 1 assure the Senate that the Government is aware of the implication of this decision. Already action has been taken and currently a Bill is before the House of Representatives. It is hoped that with the co-operation of the Opposition we shall be able to rectify what would appear to be a defect as found by the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and rectify it in the interests of the community as speedily as possible.

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