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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 6


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:49 AM) —I have been advised that Mr Mark Withnell heads the Security Vetting Service. It is not secret; it is in the annual report. I do not think that is very secret; it gets tabled in this parliament. As for the numbers, I will take that on notice and advise the committee. I do not have that to hand but I think that is in the annual report as well. In relation to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, it does have access to all the information. Senator Brown is quite wrong to suggest that it does not. There is a special security division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal which hears appeals of this sort. As you would appreciate, there are a number of appeals to the AAT which deal with sensitive matters—not just in the area we are talking about but in other areas. The AAT is no stranger to dealing with these situations. The special security division of the AAT deals with these matters and has access to all the information. So the appeals process is a thorough one. It is a transparent one and one which provides that aspect of check and balance. In relation to the Protective Security Manual, access to that document is restricted. It is one which I understand is being currently reviewed and updated. There is no dark mystery in that; it is appropriate that these things be reviewed, and I give that to the committee by way of information. For security reasons it is not released, and that is the situation.