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Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Page: 145

Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (9:06 PM) —If we are going to talk about rudeness I note that when I looked over, thinking whether I should answer the particular question, the honourable senator who complains of rudeness was, in fact, on the telephone and therefore I thought he was otherwise engaged and would not be able to listen to the answer. Now that he is off the telephone, we as a government of course are more than happy to oblige the honourable senator with the answer.

Senator Bob Brown interjecting—

Senator ABETZ —Senator Brown can laugh, but there is no doubt—and I am sure even the TV monitor might show—that he was on the telephone. The question that Senator Brown asked, as I am advised, is: what does it mean on the basis of circumstances relating to that lawyer in clause 34ZO(2)? I understand that was Senator Brown’s request. What I would invite him to do is to read the whole clause and then it will become apparent to him.

The heading on 34ZO is ‘Limit on contact of lawyer of choice’. Subclause (1) says:

The person (the subject) specified in a warrant ... may be prevented from contacting a particular lawyer of the subject’s choice if the prescribed authority before whom the subject appears for questioning under the warrant so directs.

Subclause (2) says:

The prescribed authority may so direct only if the authority is satisfied, on the basis of circumstances relating to that lawyer, that, if the subject is permitted to contact the lawyer:

(a) a person involved in a terrorism offence may be alerted that the offence is being investigated; or

(b) a record or thing that the person may be requested in accordance with the warrant to produce may be destroyed, damaged or altered.

It is in relation to those two specific paragraphs, (a) and (b), that the circumstances relating to that particular lawyer relate. So Senator Brown’s question can be very easily answered by looking at the paragraphs (a) and (b) of subclause (2). They are the circumstances in which the prescribed authority can so direct, but they can only do so if they are satisfied. The prescribed authority, as I understand it, is any retired judge, so it is a person who has knowledge of the law and has an understanding of the onus of proof, and he or she would need to be satisfied that there was a risk in relation to the matters that I have outlined.