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Friday, 11 November 1927
Page: 1344

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I do not intend to traverse all the arguments put forward, as the Senate will have another opportunity of making up its mind finally on the subject. One aspect of the matter in regard to Senator Duncan's amendment has been made perfectly clear as a result of the statement made this afternoon by the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. That honorable gentleman said that a great deal of the evidence given before the committee was of a confidential character, and that the committee had given to some of the witnesses a definite undertaking that their evidence would not be made public.

SenatorKingsmill. - Every witness was given that assurance.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree that it is often necessary, in the public interest, that evidence of this character should be given in camera, but I think there is a great distinction between giving evidence in camera and the committee giving a definite assurance to the witnesses that under no circumstances will their evidence be made public. I think that under no circumstances whatever should an undertaking of that kind be given. The committee has every right to say to a witness that it will hear his evidence in camera, but that he must leave it to the good sense of the committee to determine whether or not it shall afterwards be revealed, in the public interest. It is possible that a witness might, under a pledge of secrecy from the chairman of the committee, give evidence which it was of the highest importance should he given the widest publicity. I have noticed on several occasions that very wide undertakings have been given not to reveal information. All our committees and commissions taking evidence should hesitate long before they give a definite pledge of that kind.

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