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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7633


Senator HARRIS (10:21 PM) —I rise to put a question to the minister. The minister has claimed that the bill will not affect the civil rights of Australians. I believe that that is incorrect. In their submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, the Law Council of Australia make the comment:

The Law Council objects to the capacity proposed to be conferred by s.34F(4) to detain incommunicado persons not themselves suspected of any criminal offence for a period of 48 hours, and strongly opposes any capacity to seek an extension of the 48 hour period pursuant to s.34F(7). The Law Council rejects as unacceptable the test of whether or not the prescribed authority is satisfied that there are “reasonable grounds” for believing that if the person is not detained, the person “may” alert a person involved in a terrorism offence that the offence is being investigated, may not continue to appear or appear again, or may destroy, damage or alter a record or thing.

The Law Council of Australia are clearly saying that a person who is not suspected of any criminal offence can be taken into custody for 48 hours. If we look at the powers of the bill, we find some rather frightening things. A person may be detained for questioning without being suspected of having committed or having been involved in planning an offence. They do not even have to be suspected of being involved in the planning of it, yet they can be held incommunicado. That person may be held for 48 hours. The period of detention may be extended if certain grounds are satisfied, with no maximum period of detention specified.

There is no right to silence. Well, excuse me: if the right to remain silent is not one of the fundamental civil rights that we have in Australian society, what is? The privilege of refusing to answer on the grounds of selfincrimination does not apply. How can the minister sustain the argument that it is not a gross deterioration of the civil rights of an Australian person if they can no longer claim the right not to answer, based on the fact that it may incriminate them?

It goes further. There is no right to legal representation. You lose your right to remain silent. You lose your right not to answer because you may incriminate yourself. Then you have no right to have a legal representative there to advise you. Minister, are you still maintaining that this bill does not remove or detract from the civil rights of Australians? That is absolutely preposterous, and for this reason One Nation believes this legislation should not be amended but be defeated.