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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 821

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) (Leader of the Opposition) - The matter which has been raised by one of the Opposition senators is an extremely important matter and I think that it ought to be dealt with at once. The suggestion is that some clarification ought to be given as to the position of a person who gives evidence in camera - that is, in private - to a committee of the Senate. I would apprehend that the position is quite clear. If a person gives evidence in camera - that is. in private - he has asked for the protection of the Committee in that he be enabled to give that evivdence in private, and that evidence is given in private and will not be made public, certainly not without the consent of the Senate committee. I would be sure that the Senate would ensure that that privacy was maintained.

The position would be impossible if a committee of the Senate could not safely say to a witness that evidence given in privacy would remain inviolable. I would think that Senator Brown and those others who have felt that there may be some question about the matter should feel content that there is no doubt that the view on all sides of this chamber is that the traditional position would be preserved and that the undertaking to the witness would be protected to the full extent by the Senate. Not only would the evidence not be revealed in this chamber but also the Senate would take all those steps which were within its power to see that that secrecy was not broken elsewhere.

If the Senate committee feels that it is necessary and proper for it to extend to a witness the privilage of giving evidence in private, it must as a condition of that undertaking ensure that the evidence stays in private unless for some reason, such as a witness agreeing that this confidential position be broken, the evidence was made public. One can imagine that in some great affair of State involving some national calamity one might feel that something might be revealed. But I cannot imagine a situation where the Senate would permit evidence which had been given in private to be revealed without the consent of the person who had given it.

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