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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7627

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:46 PM) —I have gone over this before. I have indicated that, from a federal point of view, there are only 22 judges across Australia, none of them being in Western Australia. I hasten to add that there are state and territory judges who would not be included in these figures. We do not have those figures from the states and territories but, as I have said earlier, on anecdotal evidence the Attorney-General and I do not believe that you would find more than two or three judges in Western Australia. That does make it unworkable when you consider that, if we had a September 11 in Australia and you had prior notice of such an event, you would want to execute a number of warrants—because there were some 19 operatives that we know of in that exercise. If you had some intelligence prior to that and you wanted to question all 19, you would want to have 19 warrants. I have indicated our own experience where ASIO actions in the last couple of months involved the issuing of a number of warrants on the one occasion, so you do need people around the country available in relation to this role.

Finally, we took on board recommendation 1 of the parliamentary joint committee. That spelt out how you would have federal magistrates and Federal Court judges for issuing the warrants, with members of the AAT as prescribed authorities. We took that recommendation on board. We have now taken on board further concerns by saying, `We'll have that as recommended by the joint committee, but as well as that we'll have former judges to increase the pool size.' We really believe that we have taken this as far as we can in meeting the concerns. In relation to those other aspects of availability of former judges who meet the criteria that are required in this amendment, we have those problems. I cannot take it any further than that. I have dealt with this argument at length in the previous debate.