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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7688

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (10:59 AM) —Firstly, in relation to the article, I think Senator Nettle really misunderstood. This article was not an opinion of the editor and it is not the opinion of the Herald Sun; it is merely reporting that proposed powers under this legislation did not find favour with the Australian Press Council. That is its opening line. When it says, `Media under threat' it is a report of what someone else is saying. That article is talking about a number of objections that the Press Council had and it then goes on to recite the differences between a number of people in relation to this argument. It is an article which is reporting a situation; it is not an editorial.

We do say—and stand by the fact—that there have been News Limited editorials which have said on balance that this bill is correct and that journalists should not be exempt. That is where you look for the opinion of the press. Senator Brown did cite editorials, but an article which merely reports that some people are critical does not mean that the editorial, the editor or the press group are of the same view. This article is merely reporting what people said. It does nothing more, nothing less. You would expect that in any paper. So that argument really falls to the ground in relation to that.

In relation to the question of whether people would have been questioned before the issuing of a warrant, that really depends on the circumstances. You could well have a situation where there is strong information that the person would tip off terrorist groups if there were any questioning—for example, if people went to visit them. That is part and parcel of the consideration of the issue of the warrant. You have to look at whether the person concerned would advise colleagues or sympathisers of the questioning and thereby let them know that the law enforcement agency was onto them.

Firstly, you would have to satisfy those requirements which I have pointed out. It is very clear. I will not go through them again—I have gone through them several times already. There may be cases where someone is not questioned first because, if you did that, they would tip off other people. But the Attorney-General would still have to be satisfied that the warrant would substantially assist in the collection of intelligence that is important in relation to a terrorism offence and that relying on other methods of collecting that intelligence would be ineffective. They would have to produce to the Attorney-General evidence to show that, if asked the question, `Why not go and ask him?' they say, `We did,' that person would tip off the people being investigated. They would have to provide some evidence of that because that is what the Attorney-General would have to be satisfied about. The same applies to wire-taps or any other means of surveillance. So it really does depend on a case-by-case basis. I think there were three questions—Senator Brown, you might remind me of them.

Senator Brown —Notifying the President.

Senator ELLISON —I think I answered that one in relation to the Senate. That is a resolution of the Senate, and that notification would have to be issued.