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Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1832


Senator PUPLICK(11.45) —Can the Minister then tell me from where the Commission obtains independent authority to hold hearings which may not be public hearings? Clause 10 (4) of the Bill states:

Subject to subsection 6d (2) of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 in its application in accordance with section 13-

which we are now on-

hearings before the Commission shall be held in public.

Sub-section 6d (2) of the Royal Commissions Act states:

If any witness before a Royal Commission requests that his evidence relating to a particular subject be taken in private on the ground that the evidence relates to the profits or financial position of any person, and that the taking of the evidence in public would be unfairly prejudicial to the interests of that person, the Commission may, if it thinks proper, take that evidence in private, and no person who is not expressly authorized by the Commission to be present shall be present during the taking of that evidence.

I therefore ask the Minister: What capacity does the Commission have, and where does it derive from, to hold any hearings which are not public hearings other than when the financial position of an individual might be adversely affected? The Minister says that this is a matter within the discretion of the independent Commission. I put it to him that the reading of clause 13 together with the reading of clause 10 (4) takes away from the Commission the capacity to hold any private hearings other than on the question of commercial sensitivity covered in section 6d (2) of the Royal Commissions Act.