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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7705


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (12:31 PM) —by leave—I move government amendments (17), (18) and (25) on sheet DT377:

(17) Schedule 1, item 24, page 18 (line 24), at the end of the heading to section 34H, add “provided at request of prescribed authority”.

(18) Schedule 1, item 24, page 19 (after line 2), after section 34H, insert:

34HAA Interpreter provided at request of person being questioned

(1) This section applies if a person appearing before a prescribed authority under a warrant requests the presence of an interpreter.

(2) A person exercising authority under the warrant must arrange for the presence of an interpreter, unless the prescribed authority believes on reasonable grounds that the person who made the request has an adequate knowledge of the English language, or is physically able, to communicate with reasonable fluency in that language.

(3) If questioning under the warrant has not commenced and the prescribed authority determines that an interpreter is to be present:

(a) the prescribed authority must defer informing under section 34E the person to be questioned under the warrant until the interpreter is present; and

(b) a person exercising authority under the warrant must defer the questioning until the interpreter is present.

(4) If questioning under the warrant commences before the person being questioned requests the presence of an interpreter and the prescribed authority determines that an interpreter is to be present:

(a) a person exercising authority under the warrant must defer any further questioning until the interpreter is present; and

(b) when the interpreter is present, the prescribed authority must again inform the person of anything of which he or she was previously informed under section 34E.

(25) Schedule 1, item 24, page 27 (lines 13 and 14), omit “or subsection 34H(4) or”, substitute “, subsection 34H(4), paragraph 34HAA(3)(b) or (4)(a) or subsection”.

Government amendments (17), (18) and (25) implement recommendation 18 of the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee. These amendments make it clear that the subject of a warrant may request that they be provided with an interpreter. Recommendation 18 of that committee report provided as follows:

The committee recommends that proposed section 34H be amended to provide that an interpreter is also to be provided on request by the person being questioned.

We have an amendment here which provides that an interpreter must be provided when requested unless the prescribed authority believes on reasonable grounds that the person can communicate in English with reasonable fluency. This element of discretion will prevent requests for interpreters that are designed to delay questioning. When an interpreter is to be provided, all questioning under the warrant must stop until the interpreter arrives. If the subject of the warrant had been informed of the matters required by section 34E before the request for an interpreter was made, those matters must be repeated once the interpreter arrives. It will be an offence for an official to knowingly fail to defer questioning. The offence will be punishable by a maximum period of two years imprisonment. We believe that these provisions are important. The recommendation by the committee in this instance was a sensible one and we have taken it on board.