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Tuesday, 30 November 2004
Page: 84

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (6:03 PM) —There are existing legislative protections for sensitive information. The government believes these are inadequate, but senators might be interested to know that existing legislative protections entail the closed court requirement under section 85B of the Crimes Act and section 93.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. Those provisions permit a court exercising federal jurisdiction to order that proceedings be held in closed court and remain unpublished in certain circumstances. They provide that orders can only be made where they are expedient in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth. These sections therefore may not be able to be used to protect security classified information that relates to the international relations of the Commonwealth—that is why we believe they are inadequate—but what I am saying is that there is a regime in place already. So what we are proposing really is a continuation of a principle which exists at Commonwealth law. In relation to what I think has been held by the Australian courts for some time now, any information which could cause embarrassment to Australia in its relations with other countries is sensitive. In this particular case we believe we need to clarify—and codify, if you like—the law as it relates to criminal proceedings in relation to national security, and of course they can include international relations.

Question agreed to.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Lightfoot)—The question is that clause 12 stand as printed.

Question negatived.