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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 182


Senator LUDWIG (Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (2:31 PM) —My question without notice is to Senator Ellison representing the Attorney-General. When does the government intend to reintroduce the Criminal Code Amendment (Espionage and Related Offences) Bill 2001? Has the government reconsidered the legislation in the light of the widespread concerns that it would have the effect of increasing penalties for Public Service whistleblowers and for those who receive information from them? If not, why not?


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I understand the bill will be introduced shortly. I do not have the date at hand. But I can say this bill has been misunderstood widely. In fact, it is a bill which does not seek to change the law as such but simply the form in which it is expressed. The Attorney-General has put out a statement in relation to what this bill purports to do. It does not seek to gag the press. It does not seek to stop whistleblowing. It goes to the national security of this country. As I say, there has been widespread misunderstanding of the nature of this bill. It does not seek to change the law, and that has been stated by the Attorney-General. It merely seeks to change the form in which it has been expressed. That is it in a nutshell.


Senator LUDWIG —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister has indicated to you, Madam President, that it is likely that the bill will be introduced shortly. Is it the intention of the government to introduce the bill during the current parliamentary sitting? If the government is of the view that there is a problem out there of widespread concern, can the government indicate that it will be introduced in the current parliamentary sittings, with the appropriate explanatory material?


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —This has been afforded priority by the Attorney-General and the government. It goes to the national security of the country. I will refer this to the Attorney-General and see where that bill is at the moment in relation to its introduction and advise Senator Ludwig accordingly.