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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7854


Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (11:25 AM) —I thank Senator Nettle for her questions in relation to this. It does come back, as we have canvassed before in this committee stage, to the importance of the prescribed authority and the role of the prescribed authority. You must remember that in this emergency situation that we speak of, when there might be a real and immediate threat to public safety, which is something that I think this parliament has to take account of, where a person may be questioned without the presence of a lawyer—the opposition believes it has to contemplate such a circumstance and that a regime has to contemplate such a circumstance—the prescribed authority would be present. We argue very strongly for a prescribed authority of seniority and standing, a prescribed authority who will ensure appropriate safeguards and appropriate protection. It is very important, obviously, in the sort of circumstance that you speak of.

I would envisage advice being provided to the person being questioned—it would obviously be in the hands of the prescribed authority—at the earliest available opportunity. As I understand the broad thrust of what the government proposes in relation to the statement of procedures and the like, there would be no suggestion that a person would not be informed to that level of detail of their rights and what was occurring in terms of the procedures from the moment the process commenced. I am not sure why Senate Nettle thinks this might wait for a four-hour period. I would not contemplate that it would take a great length of time. It could be done as the process began. I think that would be a responsibility the prescribed authority would take very seriously, particularly in the circumstance where a lawyer was not present.