Prisoners of War and Enemy Aliens Bill, 1956—Report and Final Stages.

I move the amendment standing in the name of Senator Sheehy Skeffington:—

In page 6, line 28, after "section" to add ", provided always that this sub-section shall in no circumstances be interpreted as dispensing with the necessity, after such an arrest on suspicion, for charging and bringing to trial, in accordance with the due process of law, any person so arrested".

Senator Sheehy Skeffington is ill at the moment and he asked me to move it on his behalf.

I should like to second the amendment, and my reason for doing so is mainly to receive an assurance from the Minister that the amendment is not necessary. I imagine that the Minister will be able to give me that assurance. I would like a firm assurance from the Minister that this Bill will not be used to keep people in confinement without due process of the law within a reasonable time.

Might I make a comment on Senator Cox's speech? I have never before heard a speaker moving an amendment with such brevity. Might I also say that it does not matter what assurance the Minister gives, if there is something wrong with the Bill and it becomes law? If the Bill does in fact allow people to be detained without trial, the assurance of the Minister is not going to be of any great value. If there is something wrong with the Bill, the Minister's assurance is only binding on the Minister and not on his successor. The due process of the law must be observed by this Minister and his successor. All the amendment asked for is a due process of the law. That has to be observed by every Minister and therefore the amendment is not necessary.

On the Second Reading and the Committee Stage, Senator Stanford and others raised the objection to this sub-section that it does not give any information as to what procedure must be followed after arrest. When dealing with the matter. I said that a person when arrested must be brought in the proper process of law to justice when he has the right to defend himself and do all things for that purpose. Following the Committee Stage, I decided to have the matter re-examined and I referred it to the Attorney-General for his viewpoint as to what was the strict interpretation of the law and what he thought of the whole matter. I got a very positive reply that not only was the amendment unnecessary, but that in certain circumstances it could be harmful and might not operate as the Senator intended. The view of the Attorney-General was definite that as the law now stands any person who makes an arrest—that is, any police officer or army officer—must have the person brought before the court immediately. If you put in the words "within a reasonable time", the question of what would be a reasonable time would arise. It could be a week or two weeks or more, and it would confuse the whole situation. The Attorney-General held that the amendment was unnecessary and that no question can arise as to the operation of the due process of the law when arrests are made. Senators may have the assurance that there is no restriction whatever on the rights of the person.

I feel sure that answer will fully satisfy Senator Sheehy Skeffington. He was anxious to have it on record that the liberties of people would be protected. I think the reply of the Minister has been very reassuring and I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.