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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7690


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (11:12 AM) —I can assure Senator Brown that I do not treat the subject lightly, but the question of throwing politicians in jail is something which is sometimes treated more lightly in the wider community, and I was reminded of that. I dealt with the aspect of failing to answer a question earlier and I will not go into it again, because time is not on our side. I addressed extensively the question as to why we have that regime. It is in other legislation and it is nothing new to Australian law enforcement. It is something that we have accepted where a situation is serious enough that failure to answer a question will result in a possible prosecution and penalty upon conviction.

Senator Brown also raised the question as to what happens when someone has been detained for questioning and they do not cooperate. Do we still say to the employer: `We can tell you where your employee has been; they have been involved with us'? Certainly, we would take appropriate steps to assist in relation to any query by the employer. That would be handled carefully, because obviously we do not want the employee to suffer any unnecessary embarrassment. You would not want to impart information to anyone who did not need to know; you could simply back up the fact that this person was required. If they did not answer questions and were charged, then that is a charge which is laid in the normal way and it is processed through the courts—with, no doubt, bail applying.