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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7630

Senator NETTLE (9:59 PM) —The Australian Greens will be supporting these amendments because clearly a questioning regime is better than a compulsory and coercive detention regime as was proposed by the government initially in this legislation. However, I do think that the way the opposition describe these amendments is a little inaccurate, as they have assiduously gone through the bill and removed any reference to detention, taken out the word, replaced it with `custody' and simply left in questioning as a regime.

The opposition are proposing up to 20 hours of detention for people not suspected of being involved in terrorist activities, and those 20 hours do not include the time in which that person being questioned may talk to their lawyer, get rest that they need, get food or medical attention, talk to an interpreter, wait whilst a lawyer arrives, wait whilst an interpreter arrives, be informed of their rights with regard to this legislation or wait for any intoxication that they are under the influence of to have subsided. All of this time beyond the 20 hours that the opposition are proposing is clearly not questioning time; it is detention time.

The opposition are proposing not merely a questioning regime such as in the models that Senator Faulkner put forward—those of the ACC or the former National Crime Commission. Under that legislation, a summons is issued for people to appear before the examiner—somebody in the ACC office—often for discrete periods of time, in which they will proceed with questioning. Then, if you fail, a warrant can be issued and outlined for those people to appear before the ACC and the examiner. That is not the same as that proposed in these opposition amendments—and later we will get onto government amendments about entry into premises and reasonable force being used in that process—which are about bringing people into a questioning regime of 20 hours with no time limit for any detention beyond and around that.

What was proposed by the government originally was indefinite. Then we heard seven days as a further suggestion. But that was a maximum time limit for which people could be held. What we are hearing from the opposition is a far reduced time period for questioning, but no time limit for those additional activities that fall outside the questioning regime. This turns the opposition proposal not into a questioning regime, as they purport, but indeed into a detention regime. Senator Faulkner talked about the strong and convincing evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, where arbitrary detention is clearly singled out as being in contravention of that international covenant. I suggest to Senator Faulkner that that same and compelling evidence applies to the questioning and detention regime that is being put forward by the opposition in this regime and this package of amendments.