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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7682

Senator BROWN (10:23 AM) —It is a very serious matter, and I take it from the minister that he has not sought that advice before—I would have thought he would have—and that he will advise this committee in the course of its deliberations. You can foresee the situation where a member of parliament is involved, and one might ask the reasonable question which Senator Faulkner referred to a moment ago. Members of parliament are members of the community, and the question is: what immunities may members of parliament have that the rest of the community does not have? At the outset, the first impulse is to say `none'. But I am looking at the extraordinary situation, for example, where a member of parliament may be absolutely crucial to the functioning and the deliberations of the parliament, where they refuse to give information that they may have which they think is inimical to the source of that information and they go to jail. We could then see the whole elected representation and the balance of power within the parliament altered under this piece of legislation. So this is a very serious matter. It is extraordinarily serious.

You do not even have to go to the deliberate abuse of the wide-ranging authority that this gives to the Attorney-General to see that the unintentional consequences for our democracy can be very major indeed. Where are the safeguards in this legislation to prevent that sort of situation happening? They are not there. It has not been thought through but it must be thought through, and the government and indeed the opposition have to look at their failure to understand the consequences of the issuing of a warrant and then the jailing of people in the community. When you are talking about representatives of the community in parliaments, the matter becomes extremely serious. We must think this through. It is no good saying that these certain circumstances would not happen or that the minister would not use the power under those circumstances. If the minister, the Attorney-General, could not use the powers under those circumstances, then we should have it written in here; that is the commonsense thing to do. There is no such provision in this legislation for such circumstances.