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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7613

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (8:22 PM) —The director-general of intelligence might have said only two or three occasions. However, an occasion could involve several, if not many, warrants because you might have an operation which includes several states. We have recently seen operations carried out by ASIO across Australia simultaneously. I suppose you could call all that one occasion. In such a situation you would need to have a number of people available across Australia, even in smaller states like Western Australia. That is the problem you face. I think it is a quite reasonable scenario. You would have to issue several warrants because you could be dealing with a group of people who are conspiring, and that group of people—obviously a terrorist group—are not acting via one person alone but through several, if not many, people across Australia. You would take out your action or you would carry out your operation simultaneously, and that would involve the issuing of many warrants, albeit on one occasion.

Law enforcement has experienced this many times. I have seen it in the Australian Federal Police where, in relation to organised criminals, warrants have been issued in different states at the same time so that the operations are carried out at precisely the same time and no-one is given advance notice or can give anyone else advance notice. That is the scenario which tests the system. The environment we have been living in since September 11 and in more recent months is a different environment to what we have experienced in the past. As to the future, who knows what we might require as to the frequency of these warrants. That is why everyone regards this bill so seriously. It is a bill that we hope will never have to be used, but we are realistic. In the environment that we are living in, we cannot rule out that these provisions will not be used in the future, and therefore they must be available. If they are to be available, the system has to be workable. We cannot afford to have a situation where there is only a limited number of former judges, where we cannot locate them in a hurry and where they are not available.