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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 4


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:36 AM) —First, I will just make this clear so that Senator Brown gets the answer and does not have to ask this question again. There is no black list of lawyers. I repeat: there is no black list of lawyers. He mentioned that there is some black list, some list of lawyers that are black listed. That is not true. I make that very clear for the record.

Second, I am not aware of any lawyers that have applied for security clearance that have been refused. It is open for any practising lawyer in Australia who has a practising certificate to apply for security clearance—any lawyer. I am aware that the process that is involved is conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth Protective Security Manual. Persons are assessed for their suitability to access national security information. The process involves a range of background checks and assessments. The Australian Security Vetting Service, which I mentioned yesterday, is located within the Protective Security Coordination Centre, a division of the Attorney-General's Department. That security vetting process is a confidential process.

Different processes are applied according to the level of security clearance required—top secret, secret or confidential. So it could well be that, for the issue at hand at the hearing, only a certain level is required. It could require a higher level. It depends on the circumstances of the case. This is not abnormal in security clearances. These different levels have been around for a very long time. They have been applied across the board and they would be applied to those people involved in the trial, not just the defence counsel. I want to make that very clear. The fact that the prosecuting lawyer is a prosecuting lawyer from the DPP does not mean that that person gains instant access to information. They too would have to be security cleared to the required level. That must also be borne in mind.