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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 1309

Senator YOUNG - My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Having in mind further acts of sabotage such as the blowing up of an electricity tower near Gladstone causing so much disruption to large areas of Queensland, I ask: What powers has the Commonwealth Government to deal with those acts of sabotage? Will the Commonwealth Government use what powers it has to deal harshly with such persons? Will the Attorney-General have discussions with the State AttorneysGeneral in an endeavour to have uniformity of penalties in Australia for acts of sabotage to stamp out this type of scurrilous activity by these degenerates in the community?

Senator GREENWOOD - The events to which the honourable senator refers are a further indication of violent activity. He uses the expression 'sabotage*, which I would not regard as an inappropriate expression to use with reference to a wanton destruction of property which not only provides necessary supplies to maintain lifelines in this community but the destruction of which, I imagine, has its effect upon persons who have to depend for their employment on such supplies. Regrettably, this is not the only occasion on which this sort of wanton and senseless destruction of property has occurred. The reason for it is difficult to fathom. In Victoria over a number of years we have seen similar wanton destruction of schools by arsonists. The motivation of the people who engage in that activity again is difficult to fathom. All of it reflects the tendency for people to take the law into their own hands, to ignore the law and to engage in crimes and offences that create a problem for the community in coping with them.

Having said that, I repeat what I have said earlier: Where there is an offence which, on the face of it, is an offence against a State law, even though it might be characterised as sabotage, the investigation must be carried out by the State police. Events that occur in Whyalla are matters of State police investigation. Events that occur in Gladstone are matters of State police investigation. It is only when, as a result of those investigations, there is some element which suggests that a Commonwealth interest is involved that Commonwealth agencies become directly concerned. I appreciate that in the background of all this there is a continuing interest on the part of one or more Australian agencies to protect the security of the nation. If they see any connection between what is happening and the charter under which they operate, then advice is given and appropriate steps can be taken. I believe that there is a need, to which the Prime Minister has adverted, for serious consideration to be given to matters of which this type of violence may well form part. That consideration would be with a view to reassuring the public, to the extent that reassurance can be given, of the adequacy of our existing procedures and also to ascertaining whether our existing procedures and approaches in these matters can be or cannot be improved.

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