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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Page: 82

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (5:54 PM) —At the outset of the committee stage I would like to table a supplementary explanatory memorandum relating to the government amendments to be moved to the National Security Information (Criminal Proceedings) Bill 2004. The memorandum was circulated in the chamber on 30 November 2004. I foreshadow that government amend-ments (1), (2) and (3) can be debated cognately, but amendment (3) will have to be put separately because the question will be in a different form. For that reason, I seek leave to move government amendments (1) and (2) together, albeit that I will be cognately debating (1), (2) and (3).

Leave granted.

Senator ELLISON —I move:

(1) Clause 7, page 5 (line 1), omit the definition of national interests.

(2) Clause 8, page 6 (lines 5 and 6), omit “, law enforcement interests or national interests”, substitute “or law enforcement interests”.

The National Security Information (Criminal Proceedings) Bill 2004 applies to federal criminal proceedings to protect information that is likely to prejudice national security. As such, the definition of national security is pivotal to the bill and is used as the basis for non-disclosure of information in criminal proceedings. In its report of 19 August this year the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee criticised the breadth of the definition of national security. Accordingly, government amendment (1) removes the definition of national interests from clause 7 of the bill. The phrase `national interests' forms part of the definition of national security. Government amendment (2) amends the definition of national security in clause 8 of the bill, as the term in that clause is currently defined as:

... Australia's defence, security, international relations, law enforcement interests or national interests.

Government amendment (2) is therefore a required consequential amendment, if you like, of amendment (1). It removes the further reference to `national interests' and in so doing defines national security more narrowly.

Government amendment (3) omits clause 12 of the bill, which contains the meaning of national interests. This government amendment would remove the final reference to `national interests' in the bill. As I indicated earlier, the question to be put in relation to government amendment (3) will be quite different to that in relation to government amendments (1) and (2). Suffice to say this was a recommendation of the Senate committee. The government believes it is a reasonable recommendation, it accepts it, and accordingly these three government amendments reflect that acceptance.