PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 - 11/03/1983
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00004433.pdf 5 Page(s)
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  • Fraser, John Malcolm

Embargoed until delivery F 77/ 143
JjjjZU AT LA &
It is a great pleasure to attend the official opening of this,
the 19th AustraliansLegal Convention.
This morning I wish to say a few words about what I believe to be
the unprecedented programme of law reform which is now being
pursued by the Commonwealth Government.
In the last 18 months, there have been: a restructuring of the
Federal Court system; a fundamental revision of Federal
Administrative law; the introduction of important human rights
legislation; a thoroughgoing review of legislation on trade
practices and consumer protection; references on a wide range of
issues to the Australian Law Reform Commission; and of course
threeConstitutionaJ amendments.
Perhaps we should ponder why it is only now that concerted moves
towards law reform have occurred particularly when one considers
that past Parliaments and Cabinets have been dominated by lawyers,
the very people, one might have thought, who would have beeh most
conscious of deficiencies in the law. Clearly, it required a
Cabinet in which the lawyers are for once outnumbered by the
humble primary producer to give the necessary impetus for law
refor:,. Perhaps the temptation for the farmer to be his own bush
lawyer has again proved irresistable.
But I am pleased to assure you that the guiding hand for this
programme of ref6rm has come from a most distinguished lawyer,
the Attorney General, Bob Ellicott.: I believe it'is already clear
that in Bob Ellicott We are fortunate to have. one of the finest
and most far-sighted attorneys in our history. Under Bob Ellicott,
we have taken quite a new direction in law reform in Australia, a
direction entirely. in keeping with, our traditions.
We have deliberately set about promoting what I might term
" participatory law reform". If the law is to be updated, if
advances of science and technology are to beacknowledged and
accommodated, and if our traditional liberties are to be protected,
it is vitl that the community governed by the law should take part
in helping to frame reforms in. that law.
lIe ffotr too net her ej" eecxtp etrhtes ". n otiOonn matnhya t iimmppoorrttaanntt itreemfso rmosf slheoguilsdl atjiuostn , b ethe
Government his adopted the practice of allowing Bills to lie on the
table of Parliament for a substantial period of time, to encourage
/ informed

informed public debate and comment, aimed at improving the
legislation. This process can only be to the advantage of the
nation, and the Government has shown its readiness to amend such
Bills in the light of constructive criticisms received.
' ine Australian Law Reform Commission has also-actively-sought to
engender public interest in the tasks assigned to_ it by the
Government. The Commission has held public sittings and seminars
in all parts of the country. . It has distributed-widely tentative
proposals for reform, and it has stimulated much informed discussi-. c
in the media. This process has amply shown that the Australian
community will respond to an invitation to participate in the
process of legal renewal. Public acceptancd of the need for
reform in many areas which have long remained untouched is now
widespread. Perhaps no better example could be provided of the prevailing mooo
for reform than the recent amendments to our Constitution.
In the 76 years before the recent referendums, 32 proposed
amendments had been submitted to the people but only 5 had
been accepted. On May 21 as you all know, 3 of the 4 proposals
that were put to the vote were passed, and the fourth proposal
only failed narrowly. An essential prerequisite for the success
of the three Constitutional changes was the endorsement given to
them,' in principle, at the Hobart session of the Constitutional
Convention last year. I am pleased to be able'to inform you that,
at the Premiers Conference a few days ago, the Commonwealth and
all six states agreed that the valuable work of the Convention
should proceed, and a further session will be held in Perth early
next year.
Perhaps the most important of the reforming measures which we have
introduced are those which bear directly or indirectly upon the
subject of human rights. I am delighted to see that among your
distinguished guests at this Convention, there are many to whom
this subject is very close to the heart, and I would particularP,
mention your next speaker, the Chief Justice of Canada, the Chief
Justice of Nigeria, and the Lord President of the Courts of Malaysia.
We are living in times when there is an increasing recognition of
the need to respect human rights. This recognition transcends
national boundaries, and is, or should be, the active concern of
all liberal democracies. For too long there has been a tendency
for democratic leaders to be on the defensive; to assume that the
values we cherish such as individual liberty, parliamentary
democracy and the rule of law are too obvious to require active
promotion. There is a clear need for all of us, and this need
certainly extends to the legal community, to proclaim and uphold
the virtues and values of our system of government and liberal
Today, the 4th of July, seems a most appropriate day to affirm that
the renewed emphasis placed on human rights in internationaL affairs,
and the role played by President Carter in this, are to be welcomed
wholeheartedly. The Commonwealth Government is firmly cormmitted
to the cause of promoting hurma rights.
Accordingly we were particularly pleased at the recent election of
Australia to the United Nations Hum. an Rights Commission. T.-

elections for this Commission were strongly contested and it was
a signal honour for Australia to be selected.
The Commonwealth Government is determined to play its part in
enh-ancing human rights in this country. In the last sittings of the
Commonwealth Par f ament, the Government introduced a Human Rights
Commission Bill.' The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that
Commonwealth and Tetritory laws, acts and practices conform with
the international covenant on civil and political rights.
Significantly, the Bill will give individuals a specific right
to complain to the Commission. The Bill has deliberately been
left to lie on the table of the House during the present Parliamentary
recess to encourage public comment. In the light of comments
received, amendments may be made to the Bill, and I hope that
discussions with state governments will establish a foundation
fo'-Commonwealth-State co-operation ir this.-important field.
Another current Bill of great importance is relation to human rights
is the Criminal Investigation Bill. The basic purpose of this Bill
which is based on a report of the Australian Law Reform Commission,
is to codify and clarify the rights and duties of citizens and
Commonwealth Police when involved in the process of criminal
investigation. This is an area in which there has been much dissatisfaction,
considerable writing, many proposals for reform, but
not much legislative action. With this Bill, as with the Human Rights
Commission Bill, the Government is proceeding in a way that will ensure
adequate opportunity for the views of all interested persons to be
presented and duly considered.
Apart from the-Human Rights Commission Bill and the Criminal
Investigation Bill, the Government has been active in a number of
areas which relate to human rights. Some matters have been referred
by it to the Australian Law Reform Commission for consideration and
report. Others have been the subject of direct legislative action
by the Government.
The matters which the Gove: rnment has referred to the Law Reform
Commission include a reference for a major review of the laws
to protect privacy in the Australian community: a reference to
reform the laws of defamation, so vital for striking the right
balance bet'een freedom of speech and the maintenance of honour
and reputation: a reference relating to the issue of aboriginal
customary laws and whether it is possible and desirable to incorporate
aboriginal tribal laws into the domestic law of Australia:
and finally, perhaps of particular interest to many present here
today, a reference concerning the question of the standing to sue
in Federal Courts and Courts exercising Federal jurisdiction.
It is appropriate that at this point of time, following the
establ'ishment of the Federal Court of Aus. tralia, we should reconsider
the rules which govern the rights of persons to open the doors to the'
Courts. These rules fundamentally affect the relevance and capacity
of the courts and the legal system in providing solutions to the
problems and tensions of our society. / In a

In a number of other matters, the Government is proceeding without
prior references to the Law Reform Commission. In particular I
draw attention here to-a wide range of measures that are designed
to make public administration more responsive to the needs of the
cit. zen. These measures when completed will give the Commonwealth
a s~ stem of administrative law as comprehensive. and as well attuned
to the protection of human rights as exists in any other common law
country. Ma, I refer briefly tq some of these measures: The Administrative
Appeals Tribunal was brought into being on 1 July 1976. The
jurisdiction of the Tribunal has been expanded since then and the
Government is-taking steps to give the Tribunal-jurisdiction in
social security and repatriation matters: The Administrative Review
Council has been appointed. It has already provided advice to the
Attorney-General on a number of aspects of administrative law and
procedures, and will be of considerable value as a " watch-dog" to
cnsure that administrative procedures: provide proper protection
for the rights of individuals: The Ombudsman Act has been enacted
and the first Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Jack Richardson,
took up duty last Friday: Parliament recently passed the
Administrative Decisions ( Judicial Review) Act. When it comes
into force it will supercede the old prerogative writs and introduce
simplified procedures for judicial review of administrative decisions
and actions. The Act also gives a person for the first time a
general right to obtain the reasons for administrative decisions
and actions which adversely affect him: The Government proposes
to introduce a Freedom" of Information Bill in the budget sittings
of the Parliament: The Attorney-General is preparing legislation
to establish standard procedures for Commonwealth Administrative
Tribunals along the lines of the recommendations made by the Kerr
Committee in 1971. All of these measures taken together will form
a system intended to provide individuals with adequate means of
obtaining information about decisions of government that affect
them, and effective and impartial investigation of their grievan.
In 1980, Australia will be hosting the sixth United Nations Cong
on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders. The
Congress which will be held in this magnificent building, the
Sydney Opera House, will be attended by over 1500 delegates, and
ill, I understand, be the largest United Nations meeting to have
Loen held in this country. The Congress will focus world attention
on Australian criminal justice, laws and practices. A comprehensive
programme for the congress has been launched, involving the
Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General and other Ministers.
Governmental and private agencies have been asked to revise and
update relevant laws and practices and to bring Australian programmes
and achievements in this field to the attention of Congress participants.
I am sure that Australian lawyers will wish to contribute to
the success of the Congress.
Finally, may I mention a recent initiative tak'r by the Government
which could have a significant impact on the profession; s management
techniques. The complexity of the law and increasing volume of
legal business require a search for new methods to enable existing
resources to be deployed with greater efficiency. The Commonwealth
Government has been conscious of the need to meet this challenge
for some time, and has recently decided to establi. > i a computerbased
legal information retrieval system. Cononwealth StaU. tes
passed to the end of 1973 have been placed on magnetic tape ac. arc:

hGeenledr ailn ' sa Dceopmapruttmeern td attoa boabstea. i n vIitr tisu alnloyw apnoys sifbalcet uaflo r intfhoer mAatttioornneycboacaepbon
pon ounirtetnt chcutetlnnehui oddtbs eyeedt o oitSfnuttf rahentetreu hsdted, ea sttd aoSa tbtbyaoaa tt sebhoe aep. srSe e tr aafttiaTusieh tlneedg sss oS. ota nas tvuuicatshsT eu hsaeap l sr pasaccdystaississtecepeda lm ba llyasies wi , un anctneioad tn bd1w e9ah7at3its cewhnti iliolsn
demonstrated later during this Convention, and I am sure you
will find it of interest.
iAMtscs rhiose. tgnu hnteoiriCsutfih geibamhcuiistsatr fnimucoyoalfoenn u , vattinooat td hra eital shr eetn aoiCu lcmomidopnbsiomvetsrmerictun ucantos nfiis ctor emyne a sitaipnitfsosv e norowslisueevn r le ltoao fsm opaacwtosti thshaeiietlr cto ship oartnnoohI fdfe h etaoscll vsoeeeimngg oasaanllkir deeep ftirreoan aors brfttsleeihuedsteb. suss iettoiaonnn. Atslilve
are to keep pace with our constantly changing society.
I wish the Convention well in its deliberation.
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