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Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1816


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(9.56) —A number of questions have been raised relating to clause 13. The last question raised by Senator Walters will require some investigation, since her question has some historical relevance, I suppose. The Government, in deciding that the application of the Royal Commissions Act was the best way to go in empowering the Commission to carry out its duties, considered other ways in which the Commission could have been empowered. However, it decided that the Royal Commissions Act was the most appropriate one in relation to the purposes of this inquiry. The concerns of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills were drawn to the attention of the Minister, Mr Cohen, and he responded. Although that response is already on record in this debate, I think that, since there has been a lot of interest, I should put it on the record again. The Minister wrote:

The Committee's first comment relates to the application of section 6a and 6dd of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 through the provisions of clause 13 of the Bill.

Rather than create a completely new set of machinery provisions for the Commission, the approach adopted in the Bill is to apply the provisions of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 with only those changes which are necessary to enable the Commission to operate satisfactorily. It is likely that there may be provisions of the Royal Commissions Act, as applied, which will not be used by the Commission of Inquiry e.g. sections 6p, 7a, 7b and 7c. It is considered that, although possible, it is unlikely that any question of self-incrimination would arise, given the terms of reference of the Commission, (i.e. an inquiry into the existence of world heritage areas and alternatives to forestry operations in those areas).

The other issue raised by the Committee concerns the power of entry on land given by paragraph 14 (c) of the Bill and it stated:

There are important qualifications on the power given in paragraph 14 (c). First, the person entering the area must be doing so for the purpose of exercising his or her powers or functions under the Act. Secondly, it is only those areas which contain forestry resources which are able to be entered under paragraph 14 (c) i.e. for the purposes of examining those resources-the trees. It does not enable entry into premises and it is not a comprehensive power of `search'. Therefore, it is not comparable to the search warrant provisions of the Royal Commissions Act 1902. In my opinion, the power is necessary to enable the Commission of Inquiry to examine forestry resources which may be alternative to those in the Lemonthyme and Southern Forest areas and report within the one year inquiry period. This relatively short time frame has been decided upon so as to cause least disruption to Tasmania and its forestry industry.