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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7682

Senator BROWN (10:20 AM) —The minister has just said, `I assure the Senate that this power and this discretion by the minister who is asked to approve a warrant will be used properly.' How can the minister give such an assurance? No matter how satisfied he might be with the incumbent minister, how can he assure us that future ministers are going to use this discretion properly? I will answer that: he cannot. That is why you need to write legislation which is as specific and as clear as possible. When you put the word `reasonable' in there you simply mean that the minister of the day has to think, by her or his reasoning, that it is okay. Of course they will be influenced by the ASIO approach to the minister's office.

You cannot be assured of such a thing. That is why the legislation needs to be very clear and specific. This is our opportunity to prevent misuse of the legislation, no matter how good the intent of the government is. That is why we are discussing the proposition that the warrant should be absolutely essential to the collection of intelligence. The minister is saying, `No, you can't have that; we want it to be reasonably—in the view of the minister—essential.' There is a vast difference in these things. This legislation is wide open to abuse. Minister, under what circumstances could a member of federal or state parliament be secretly removed from the streets, or from his or her home, without anybody else in the country knowing where they had gone for days, under this legislation?

Senator Faulkner —The same circumstances as apply to everybody else—that's the answer.