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Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1830

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(11.19) —The standard mechanism for dealing with this very difficult question, which does of course raise issues of principle, is that an executive inquiry of the status of a royal commission ought to be able to inquire fully and fearlessly and without inhibition or limitation on the matters within its investigative charter and, accordingly, that people ought not to be allowed to refuse questions that are properly relevant to that charter. However, the corollary of that, which as I recall has traditionally been accepted in relation to royal commissions, is that such evidence should not be able to be used in any subsequent criminal or other process against the witness in question. That is the trade-off that has traditionally been adopted in relation to Executive inquiries of that kind that are provided for in the Royal Commissions Act and are involved here. Of course it is anticipated-I hope this is understood-that it is highly unlikely, in the context of the present inquiry, which is about the proper management of forestry resources, that issues of self-incrimination will even remotely arise. So I do not believe, with the utmost respect, that people should get their knickers in a twist about this issue in the context of the Tasmanian inquiry, because it is highly unlikely, as a practical matter, that this would ever come to practical relevance.