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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 6


Senator BROWN (9:45 AM) —I ask the minister for the third time: who heads up the Australian Security Vetting Service? It is a simple question; it should be a simple answer. I go to the document that we have just heard is secret. Obviously, you get to the point where lawyers are going to be vetted according to a secret list of criteria which is not going to be made available to them. The minister says that an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be open to them. Are the criteria that are being used to vet a lawyer and to prevent her or him from appearing before a court going to be made available in that hearing at the AAT? Are the reasons for black-listing the lawyer going to be made available at that hearing of the AAT? I understand that they are not going to be made available to the court. I would think therefore that they are not going to be made available to the AAT and therefore an appeal to the AAT itself becomes a farce. It should be remembered that we are talking about a government department vetting lawyers and determining whether or not they are fit people to appear before a court on grounds such as lifestyle—and I will ask the minister about that in a moment.

The Greens are saying that this should be determined by the courts. If you are going to have a just determination as to who is or is not a fit person to hear information which, in the national interest, is to be kept secret, the court should make such a determination on the evidence brought before it by the government. What this legislation does is to rip away the ability of the court to make that determination and leave it to politicians, to the government of the day, to the Attorney-General and to this so far secret Australian Security Vetting Service. I have never heard of it before, but there it is in Attorney-General's. I ask the minister again: who is it? Who heads it up? How many people are there in this section of the department? He says that there is no black list. There is a putative one; there is one coming down the line, and when we ask for the criteria used by this secret part of Attorney-General's for vetting lawyers in the future, the minister says that the Senate cannot have it because that is secret, too. So there is a series of questions that I want to have the minister answer before we proceed.