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Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 872

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - Let me endeavour to put the position in language which to me is clear and which I hope can convey my meaning equally clearly to those listening. As a result of the inoperativeness of this Ordinance which was tested before the Supreme Court, there are other ordinances dating right back to 1940 which are likely to be. and one must assume to be, tainted with the same inoperativeness. In those circumstances it means that, ever since those ordinances purported to be the law, where people have been charged with offences created by those ordinances and they have gone to prison and served their sentences, or they have been convicted and fined and have paid their fines, those people would, on the argument which the Opposition is now raising, be entitled to say: 'We should never have been in prison; we should never have had to pay fines. Does the Government intend to compensate us? What is our redress?' That is what they could say. I ask honourable senators to consider the magnitude of the number of offences which have occurred and the number of persons concerned even in the Australian Capital Territory in the last 30 years. It would be an impossible task to seek out everybody and, following the Opposition's view, to do justice to them on the basis that they were unlawfully convicted, fined or imprisoned. Of course, there are people who are at present in much the same position - people who either are currently serving sentences or are paying fines or awaiting charges. It may be said that these people should not now be proceeded against or that they should be reimbursed or recompensed for what has happened to them. That again is an enormous task. It is said that those people who were charged with the offences which occurred when tents were removed from outside Parliament House on 20lh

July and 23rd July - with assaulting the police, with hindering the police and with using indecent language - in some way ought not to be charged, prosecuted and possibly convicted; that they ought to be in some way exonerated. But for all I know - and I do not know the facts - there may be other people who, on those days or days in close proximity to those days, were charged with comparable offences - assaulting the police, hindering the police or using indecent language - in Civic Centre or at some other place in the Australian Capital Territory. Are they to be treated in the same way as the people who were in front of Parliament House, or are they to be left to be comprehended by the general validating legislation? These are some of the problems which are posed, and if one is to take in isolation this argument which the Opposition raises and give to it all the weight which the Opposition wants to give to it and then to accept on that premise that people were being charged with criminal offences when in fact, because the ordinances were inoperative, no offences were in existence, what one is doing is acknowledging a principle which, if equality means anything and if fairness means anything, must go right across the board. That is an irresponsible position to adoptThe purpose of validating legislation is to ensure that what the community believed to be the position continues to be the position. The essence of any validating legislation, I believe, is that it is made to apply fairly and squarely across the board and exceptions are not made.

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