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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 741

The PRESIDENT —I wish to inform the Senate of certain steps I have taken to protect the privilege of the Senate and its committees, as I did on 23 August 1983 when it was necessary to take similar steps in relation to the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies. Under Article 9 of the Bill of Rights of 1688, as applied to the Senate by section 49 of the Constitution, proceedings in the Senate, including proceedings in Senate committees, may not be impeached or questioned in any court. This means that evidence given before a parliamentary committee may not be referred to in any court proceedings in such a way that that evidence is commented upon, used to draw inferences or conclusions, analysed or made the basis of examination or submission. This is a matter of law and the immunity cannot be waived by the Senate.

This afternoon two witnesses appearing before the New South Wales Local Court in the committal proceedings relating to Mr Justice Murphy were required to produce documents, and documents were produced, including statements made to the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge. Because of the possibility of the evidence before that Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge being referred to in a manner contrary to the immunity I have mentioned, I have arranged for counsel to appear in the court tomorrow to make a submission to draw the attention of the court to the limitations which the law imposes on the use of parliamentary evidence in court proceedings.