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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2657

Senator DURACK(6.03) —I am not really satisfied that the Australian Democrats' amendment which has been foreshadowed--

The CHAIRMAN —That can be discussed, but it has not been moved yet. We are discussing your motion to delete the clause.

Senator DURACK —As we are really forced to debate the Democrats' amendment in the light of what the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has said, I want to put on record that I do not think that the Democrats' amendments completely overcome the problem that I see. Amendment (5C) provides:

Where a person has been served . . . with a summons to appear as a witness . . . a member of the staff of the Authority may interview the person before the person so appears--

That means that a statement could be obtained from a witness. The amendment goes on:

. . . but nothing in this sub-section affects the power of a member of the staff of the Authority who is a member of the Australian Federal Police or of the Police Force . . . being a power existing otherwise than by virtue of this sub-section.

I suppose that may be interpreted to mean that anybody can interview anybody else. As far as I know, there is no law to stop anybody going around and asking questions of anybody else who is prepared to answer them. I do not know whether that is what the Attorney-General thinks the result is, but in that case, my objections would be removed. I understood it to be the intention, in all events, to prevent people other than members of the staff of the Authority from interviewing people in respect of possible evidence they may be able to give. That sort of activity and process would go on long before summonses were issued.

The Authority might want to ask people questions about documents or, as I said, financial records. An accountant who is working on complicated financial or bank records may want to ask somebody some questions about them. This could happen long before the Authority decided whether or not to summons anybody. I want to be absolutely assured that staff of the Authority will be able to do that and will not be trammelled in the way in which the Government's amendment certainly would do; I am not too sure by any means that the Democrats' amendment overcomes that.