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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7619

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (8:54 PM) —I have to correct something that Senator Nettle said. Members of the AAT are prescribed authorities, not issuing authorities. We have separated the role of the issuing authorities from the role of the prescribed authorities. Issuing authorities issue the warrant; they are not prescribed authorities who preside over questioning. That is a separate role. To have mixed those two would be an issue; that is why we have separated them. Senior legal members of the AAT are prescribed authorities, not issuing authorities. I want to correct the record for Senator Nettle, who was under the impression that the members of the AAT were to be issuing authorities.

As I understand it, Mr Richardson's comments were in relation to the number of instances in which these provisions would have been used since September 11 and not so much how many times they would be used each year. I am glad that I have been advised of that because it brings his evidence into focus more accurately. He can look back and see two or three instances since September 11 last year where these warrants could have been used. In hindsight, he can say that with some degree of certainty.

As to the future, it is very difficult for anyone to say how many times these provisions would be used. All I can say is that we live in an environment where there is a threat to security. We have seen actions taken by ASIO in past months which in one case have resulted in charges being laid. As I said to Senator Faulkner in answer to an earlier question, it would not be beyond the realms of possibility to see these provisions being used in the future. I would hope that we had an environment where these did not have to be used, but as the government of Australia we have got to look out for the security of this country, and we have to have provisions in place in case the need arises for our agencies to use them. That is why they are there. In the current environment you could not rule out these provisions being used, and that is why they are so important.