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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7680


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (10:07 AM) —The record can show that I tried to answer but Senator Brown would not give me the opportunity. Now I have that opportunity, and I will answer. The government does not see any reason why any segment of the public deserves exemption from this bill. There is no reason any segment of the public should be excluded from the provisions in relation to assisting in terrorist attacks. News Limited and the Fairfax group, two big media groups, have different views. I notice Senator Brown relies on the Fairfax argument. News Limited has a different view. They employed lawyers who each had different views. So you can get different views to these arguments. Senator Brown has put forward one. A section of the media has a different view from Senator Brown's. They believe that the media should not be excluded, and the government believes that no-one—and we should not just dwell on the media—should be excluded from these provisions. Everyone is in this together. We all want to assist in the security of our country, and of course we have here a piece of legislation which is essential for that.

Senator Nettle raised some issues and concerns. The government has appreciated the concerns that have been raised, and that is why we have taken on recommendations from the parliamentary joint committee and the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee. There have been three parliamentary inquiries. We have followed them closely, we have responded and we have taken on the suggestions, but we do not believe that the situation Senator Nettle has outlined is a realistic one. We do not say that we will have situations where innocent people who have entered into tenancy agreements will be held in custody for seven days for questioning. That, we believe, is not what this bill would do. We disagree with what Senator Nettle says in relation to these concerns, and we cannot take it further than that. We will just have to agree to disagree on that aspect.

We say that there are checks and balances. If you read the report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee—and I remind senators that it is useful reading— you find that page (xx) outlines extensively some of the safeguards of this legislation. It is acknowledged by the Senate committee that there are important safeguards in this bill. We believe they address the concerns which have been raised, but we are not going to please everybody in the community. You cannot expect that in this situation. We as a government have to make a tough decision. We are making that tough decision in the interests of this country.