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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 197


Senator ELLISON (12.18 p.m.) —I can understand Senator Spindler's concerns. However, during the course of the hearing, I recall there was some concern raised about the memorandums of understanding which were entered into by potential witnesses, the situation being that the potential witness entered into the memorandum of understanding before the decision was made to accept the person into the scheme.

  That memorandum stated that there could well be incriminating material which could be used unfairly against the witness; the theme in that regard being that if people were to assist the court in giving evidence there would be no need for people to put their necks on the line and disclose a lot of other incriminating information. There is, of course, the age-old rule against self-incrimination.

  When one is dealing with people who have this shield behind which they can hide, Senator Spindler's concerns have some relevance, but if we let the memorandum of understanding or a summary of it be available for production it could be that there is some information which might be incriminating in another matter for the witness. So, by producing the information, all the dirty washing of the witness is laid bare—dirty washing which might not be relevant to the case in point. I just flag that as a concern which might be considered in relation to Senator Spindler's proposed amendment.

  I see Senator Spindler's point in relation to a participant who, having given evidence, has entered into a memorandum of understanding and it subsequently transpires that because the participant gives evidence in another case then someone might think, in the memorandum of understanding, that there is crucial material to the case in point. They are the two conflicting issues that I see in this matter, and perhaps the government needs to tread a fine line between those two aspects.