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STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
10/08/2007
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007 and four related bills concerning the Northern Territory national emergency response
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
Senate committee
Friday, 10 August 2007
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007 and four related bills concerning the Northern Territory national emergency response
Final

CHAIR (Senator Barnett) —Good morning, everybody. This is the hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiring into the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 and related bills. The inquiry was referred to the committee by the Senate on 9 August 2007 for report by 13 August 2007. The Australian government’s legislation package for the national emergency in the Northern Territory comprises five bills: the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007, the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007, the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Bill 2007, and two appropriation bills. The provisions of the legislative package flow from measures announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on 21 June 2007. This announcement noted the significant reports of abuse and potential neglect of children, including the report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse.

The committee received submissions as at the close of business yesterday for this inquiry. All of those submissions have been authorised for publication and will be available on the committee’s website. I am advised there are now 51 submissions. The committee appreciates the attendance of all witnesses at the hearing today, particularly those who have travelled from interstate. Your efforts are of considerable assistance, and I thank you. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee.

The committee prefers all evidence to be given in public but, under the Senate’s resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. It is important that witnesses give the committee notice if they intend to ask to give evidence in camera. If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may of course also be made at any other time.

[8.02 am]