----- Forwarded message from "Wilkins, Patti (Sen J. Faulkner)"

    Date: Wed, 3 Dec 2003 14:43:34 +1100
    From: "Wilkins, Patti (Sen J. Faulkner)" Patti.Wilkins@aph.gov.au
      To: nedrium@netspace.net.au

Dear Geoff

Thank you for writing to me about the ASIO Legislation Amendment Bill

After the Willie Brigitte incident, ASIO identified some loopholes in
their new laws when questioning people about terrorism, especially when
they are foreign nationals.  The amendments before Parliament are
technical in nature and close those loopholes.

The Opposition fought strongly to ensure there are strong safeguards
within ASIO's new questioning regime and, in relation to the amendments,
we support measures which ensure:
* ASIO has sufficient time, within a safe environment and
under the control of the prescribed authority (who is a retired senior
judge), to question people where other methods of intelligence gathering
would be ineffective.
* People who have important information regarding
terrorism cannot be allowed to either slip out of the country, or avoid
questioning.  This is an obvious loophole and it should have been
spotted by the Government much earlier.
* For a limited period, people do not disclose information
they have about an ongoing ASIO investigation.  After 28 days a person
could reveal the warrant had been issued and they had been questioned by
ASIO, but they could not reveal the contents of the questioning until
after two years.

The Opposition regards this last amendment as a reasonable measure to
protect the integrity of ASIO's intelligence operations against
threatened terrorist activity. 

When a person is being questioned, they will still have their lawyer
present, questioning will be supervised by a senior judge and it will
also be video taped.  Nothing in the amendments alters a person's right
to seek a remedy in Court.

The person being questioned still retains those important legal rights.
However, what will be curtailed for a limited period is the ability to
tell anyone about their questioning by ASIO.

While such provisions against disclosure are never free of controversy,
restrictions on reporting of information are normal for organisations
whose task is to investigate and prevent serious criminal activity.
These safeguards exist, for example, with the Australian Crime
Commission, where there is an obligation not to disclose information
about an investigation for five years. 

The Bill alters a small part of the machinery, rather than the
framework, of the anti-terrorism questioning regime established in June
2003 by the Parliament.

We do not believe these amendments are of such significance as to
warrant a full Senate Committee inquiry which could delay their
implementation until mid-2004.  The original ASIO Bill was subjected to
two detailed Parliamentary inquiries and these new provisions will be
subjected to the same sunset clause and public review as ASIO's current
questioning regime.

Yours sincerely
John Faulkner


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