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Thursday, 9 March 1972
Page: 648

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - I can only say that where Senator Murphy was not exaggerating he was being melodramatic. In the first place I think this provision has existed in Tasmania snce 1910. It has not created the situation which he is fearful may occur in a small community like the Australian Capital Territory. I think that therefore there was a degree of exaggeration and melodrama in what he said. In the second place, I think that to make an exception in this area is to deny the efficacy of the provision where it appears in other legislation. In this country in recent years many of the major company investigations have been carried out under a provision that a person is required to give answers to investigators appointed under the Companies Act. Those investigators are assisted by the information which they receive. I have little doubt that they receive information from otherwise recalcitrant, reluctant witnesses because there is an immunity from prosecution in the sense that the answer which is given cannot be used in subsequent proceedings. Such a provision appears in other legislation introduced after the Companies Act.

Thirdly, it is appropriate that the immunity should extend to the non-use of the answer which is given in a particular circumstance in which a person finds himself. If a person is a wrong doer he knows that, he is a wrong doer. If he has to give an answer when he is in court it appears to me that he has to make his choice. Either he answers the questions or he remains mule and possibly goes to goal until he answers. That situation can be avoided if he is given the assurance that if he answers the question that answer cannot be used in prosecutions against him afterwards. In such circumstances. I think he is jolly lucky. It is hard enough on many occasions for the police to obtain material which may be used as the basis of a prosecution against a person. But if the police receive such material I think it is only appropriate in the interests of the community that that person should have to face his trial. He has the advantage that he has given an answer which cannot be used in evidence against him. But if there is other evidence why should it not be used? To argue the case that he should be completely immune from prosecution raises enormous problems some of which 1 canvassed when I last spoke but to which I do not really feel Senator Murphy has addressed himself.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Murphy's amendment) be left out.

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