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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7857

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (11:46 AM) —The government opposes both the Democrat amendment and the opposition amendment. The Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee considered the suggestion carefully. In part, the government has put into this bill an acceptance of what the parliamentary joint committee said in relation to legal representation. We believe that the regime of an approved lawyer should be set in place to avoid the possibility of an argument, when a person is brought in, over whether their lawyer is appropriate or not. There should be a panel of approved lawyers in place and the person can have access to those lawyers without any need to canvass their security status or otherwise. We believe that having that put in place in advance is much more transparent.

We also note that subsection (4) of the opposition amendment states:

If the prescribed authority is satisfied, on application by the Organisation, that there is a threat of an imminent terrorist act, questioning may commence before the arrival of the person's legal adviser.

There could well be questioning in the absence of legal advice. We believe that the opposition's amendment lends itself to the possible scenario where the suitability of a lawyer is being canvassed and time is ticking away. In this sort of environment, time is of the essence. We want to see the warrant being executed, the person being brought before the prescribed authority immediately and access to the lawyer being straightforward. The approved lawyer process would allow that, and you could get down to the questioning as soon as possible in the presence of a lawyer. That is all regulated by the prescribed authority. It is a much more certain scenario than that canvassed by the opposition, where there could still be a delay in working out whether the lawyer is suitable or not. I think that sort of certainty is what we need when dealing with the important scenarios that we are envisaging with this bill. We certainly oppose both of those amendments. We believe that the government's regime is appropriate. We have taken on board what we believe to be the workable aspects of the recommendation of the parliamentary joint committee, but we do not see this as being as clear and certain as it needs to be.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Lightfoot)—The question is that Senator Greig's amendment to the opposition amendment be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —The question now is that Senator Faulkner's amendment, as amended, be agreed to.