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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 24 August 1995) . . Page.. 1419 ..

It was my inclination initially, for example, to delete paragraph 33A(1)(c), which refers to the right of immunity extending to a person acting under the direction or authority of the director or a member of the staff of the office. But officers of my department put it to me that, if a person was acting under the direction of the DPP and was saying certain things in good faith and in the purported exercise of a power or performance of a function, they ought to enjoy the same immunity to be able to impart the information. This will not necessarily be in the context of a statement to the media. It could be in all sorts of contexts - imparting information to parties to the case or to victims of a crime or whatever it might be. It will not always be the DPP who will be out there making statements on his or her own part. It will be a question of all sorts of people possibly having access to information which might be sensitive in this way.

The Bill does give rise to the very real question of why a similar provision should not be extended to all sorts of people who work for government - officers of the Family Services Branch, for example who are constantly dealing with cases concerning allegations of child abuse, who will constantly be providing information to people who are in a position to need to know about certain allegations and who, it could be argued, should have certain protections. I confess, Mr Speaker, that I do not know precisely where to draw that line, but it does seem to me that the line ought to be at least established and it certainly ought to surround officers in this particular category. It may be that, if the pressure falls on the Government or the Assembly to consider extension of this principle, we should establish some process to examine how that extension should occur. Perhaps an inquiry by the Legal Affairs Committee or some other process could determine that.

For the moment I believe that the step we are taking here is appropriate in the circumstances. The Government certainly gives an assurance that it will carefully consider any further applications for extension of this principle and will attempt to make sure that officers exercising these powers do not abuse them. If they do, we will certainly join any moves to reconsider the way in which they are provided for in legislation such as this.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.11 to 2.30 pm

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