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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7706


Senator GREIG (12:35 PM) —As an amendment to government amendment (18), I move Democrat amendment (1) on sheet 2789:

(1) Amendment (18), omit paragraphs 34HAA(2), (3) and (4), substitute:

(2) If questioning under the warrant has not commenced and the person requests the presence of an interpreter:

(a) the prescribed authority must defer explaining the warrant under section 34E to 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.

(3) If questioning under the warrant commences before the person requests the presence of an interpreter:

(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 explain the warrant to the person under section 34E.

This Democrat amendment proposes to establish an alternative in preference to Democrat amendment (7) which appears on sheet 2779. The underlying purpose of both amendments is to ensure that a person detained for questioning has access to an interpreter upon their request and that this right is not solely determined by the assessment of the prescribed authority, as is presently the case with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002.

We agree with the government that, where questioning has not commenced and an interpreter is required, questioning should be deferred until the interpreter arrives. We also agree that, where questioning has already commenced before an interpreter is requested, any further questioning should be deferred until the interpreter arrives and the prescribed authority should again advise the person of all matters under section 34E.

However, whilst government amendment (18) grants a person a right to an interpreter upon their request, it negates this right if the prescribed authority believes that the person has a sufficient knowledge of the English language. We Democrats can see absolutely no reason for this limitation on the right to an interpreter. The legislation introduces what has widely been described as draconian detention regimes and it seriously infringes on the rights and liberties of a person being questioned and severe penalties are associated with any noncompliance associated with the warrant.

We think it is imperative that the person being questioned is fully able to understand the requirements made of her or him, the questions he or she must answer and, perhaps more importantly, the ramifications of noncompliance. For these reasons the person being questioned should have the right to an interpreter upon his or her request at any time during the questioning. Whether or not the person is in a position to understand the questions being put to him or her is not a matter for the prescribed authority to determine. Therefore, our amendment seeks to remove the power of the prescribed authority to negate a person's right to an interpreter upon request.