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Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1829


Senator NEWMAN(11.13) —I acknowledge that what the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) has said is correct-that the response to the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has been read into the record by the previous Minister at the table, the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan). However, I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that, also the Scrutiny of Bills Committee had access to the response of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) and, in the light of that response, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee rejected the Minister's response. It said that the right to refuse to give answers to questions where this may result in a person being required to incriminate himself or herself is one of the most important protections available at common law and it should not be removed lightly.

I also draw Senator Evans's attention to the direct comment about the Minister's response, which suggests that the present Bill has been thrown together in a hasty and slipshod fashion with more concern for ensuring that the Commission is able to operate `satisfactorily' than for the consequences of applying, in a blanket fashion, provisions of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 which may be wholly inappropriate to the nature of the Commission's inquiry. The Minister for Resources and Energy, with his legal experience and his well-known concern for civil liberties, should find this clause abhorrent, as I do and we all do on this side. I urge him to get the Government to give further consideration to accepting this amendment, which goes to one of the basic rights and liberties of a citizen in this country, in spite of the fact that in this case those citizens happen mostly to be Tasmanians. Do I take it from the Minister's silence that he does not intend to answer that? Has the Government not come to grips with it?