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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 15

Senator GREIG (10:36 AM) —by leave—I move Democrat amendments (5) and (6) together:

(5) Clause 29, page 23 (lines 25 to 28), omit paragraphs (3)(a) and (b).

(6) Clause 29, page 23 (line 33) to page 24 (line 1), omit “the defendant, the legal representative or”.

These amendments relate to what is no doubt the most controversial aspect of the bill—namely, the potential for a court to hear evidence in the absence of the defendant and his or her lawyer. I spoke on that issue at length in the debate on the second reading and noted the wide range of highly respected organisations which have expressed concern that this will fundamentally compromise the defendant's right to a fair trial. We argue that it is a fundamental element of Australia's criminal justice system that a defendant should have the right to be present during his or her trial. Indeed, it is a right enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. By enabling the court to hear evidence that may adversely affect the defendant in their absence, this bill violates that fundamental right. We Democrats are strongly opposed to these provisions and take the view that they should be removed altogether from the bill, and that goes to the heart of these two amendments.