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Wednesday, 27 October 1993
Page: 2669

Senator BOLKUS (Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (7.16 p.m.) —The government opposes the amendment. I think we come to this debate, as we did some 12 years ago, and since then, with the need to obtain as much openness as is workable. The Evans proposals at that particular time were geared towards that. I remember being part of, if not chairing, a Senate committee in the early 1980s on the issue of FOI. Once again we addressed the need to balance the interest of openness with the interest of ensuring that—

Senator Margetts —Why have you changed your mind?

Senator BOLKUS —No. I just said that we have to balance the needs of those competing interests, as we are now doing. Senator Margetts referred to what Senator Gareth Evans said on this matter, but what Senator Evans said concerned a situation that prevailed some 12 years ago. We have now had 12 years experience with this legislation—or some of us might have had 12 years experience with this legislation.

  Over those 12 years we have seen restraint shown in the use of certificates. We have seen that a minister has the imperative of reporting to parliament when not following AAT recommendations to revoke certificates. But, more importantly, in 1987 a Senate committee reviewed the act and rejected the concept of abolition of conclusive certificates.

  We understand where honourable senators opposite are coming from, but we also have the experience of 12 years, together with that 1987 Senate committee report, to indicate to us that a balance has to be maintained. The conclusive certificates have been used only as a last resort in the most sensitive cases. That was a view that was adopted by the Senate committee; it is a view that should be taken by this place when making a decision as to how to handle the amendment moved by the Greens.

  Question put:

  That the amendment (Senator Margetts's) be agreed to.