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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 25

Senator GREIG (11:19 AM) —The Democrats oppose part 4 of the bill in the following terms:

(9) Part 4, page 31 (line 1) to page 32 (line 15). TO BE OPPOSED.

This relates to the requirement for legal practitioners to submit to security clearances or risk being denied access to certain evidence in a trial. I outlined the Democrats' concerns in relation to those provisions during my second reading contribution. To reiterate those concerns, we believe there is a risk that the security clearance will compromise a defendant's right to instruct a lawyer of his or her own choice, unduly delay the trial process, and possibly increase the defendant's legal costs.

In relation to the impact on legal practitioners, we are concerned by the intrusive nature of the proposed security checks and the perception that this may create in terms of the potential misuse of personal information about legal practitioners. We are also concerned by the fact that the procedures for security clearances are contained in the Commonwealth Protective Security Manual, which is not a public document and is subject to change at the will of executive government. Like many of the highly respected organisations that presented evidence to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, we Democrats are fundamentally opposed to the concept of security clearances for legal practitioners who are, after all, officers of the court routinely required to provide confidentiality undertakings. So we are seeking to remove part 4 from the bill, which establishes the security clearance regime.