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Confidence in ASRR Review

The following is from the Senate Estimates and how the Senators are concerned about full confidentiallity and priviledge.

Senator XENOPHON: I still do not know how the panel is going to do its job if it does not give privilege to people.

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Subject: RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION
COMMITTEE – Estimates 18th November 2013   Print: [Wednesday, November 20, 2013]
Senate Monday, 18 November 2013 Page 36 of 39

Senator XENOPHON: If there is evidence given to the panel would it be covered by any form of privilege? That is
very important. If it is not covered by privilege you may find that people are not prepared to come forward to give
evidence.
Mr Mrdak: Clearly, the panel will have to establish arrangements, particularly for taking evidence where people wish
to protect certain confidential material. That is one of the areas the department will work—
Senator XENOPHON: Confidentiality is difference from privilege, though.
Mr Mrdak: I do not think a panel of this nature could offer privilege in the same way that the parliament can.
CHAIR: Witnesses to this particular panel—and I am sure Dick Smith would like to make a presentation given that
he is not on it—would want to know with confidence they would not be intimidated because of the evidence that they
give, which is one of the protections of course which this committee offers. But there will be none of those
protections, to the best of your knowledge?
Mr Mrdak: We are now exploring the way in which we will provide protection of confidential material. I am sure the
panel will be very concerned to ensure that there is protection of both material and evidence being provided to it—or
certainly submissions being provided to it. But, clearly, a panel of this nature cannot provide something of the form
of privilege in a way that you would understand it for a parliamentary committee.
CHAIR: Would it be peculiar to provide privilege for that panel to appear before this committee so that there would
be privilege?
Mr Mrdak: That would be a matter that we would have to explore.
CHAIR: Can I invite you to invite the panel to appear before this committee and give us the answer? We would like
it to appear because, if we are going to do this properly without fear or favour, I think we would offer the opportunity
of privilege.
Mr Mrdak: I will seek some advice, Chair, in relation to how the panel may interact with the committee.
CHAIR: We could start with a private briefing.
Senator Sinodinos: Can I just caution on this. When the minister made his statement, I think he made it clear that
this was looking at systemic and strategic issues. It was not meant to reopen every investigation that has occurred
or to pursue individual grievances.
CHAIR: That is all right, but there are systemic issues.
Senator Sinodinos: I understand that, but as long as we all understand that it will be not so much focused on the
specific but drawing out from the specific what general lessons there might be. It is not a forum to reopen individual
investigations.
Senator XENOPHON: But, Minister, with respect, the Senate unanimously handed down its findings, and they were
scathing findings by any objective measure. It was a damning report of CASA and the ATSB—absolutely damning.
No-one can criticise the methodology of the committee and the forensic work that the committee put into this.
Insofar as there are a number of recommendations made based on what the committee found to be very serious
failures in respect of the Pel-Air investigation, then surely that is relevant in looking at systemic failures on the part of
CASA and the ATSB.
Senator SINODINOS: I do not think we are talking at cross-purposes. I am just saying that this is not a forum to
replay the whole of that investigation.
Senator XENOPHON: Yes, but insofar as the Senate made a number of recommendations that were scathing of
the ATSB and CASA—
Senator SINODINOS: All of which is on the public record.
Senator XENOPHON: from my point of view we do not want it swept under the carpet. There is a genuine concern
by all members of this committee about airline safety in this country.
CHAIR: There was some dramatic downgrade of the incident.
Senator XENOPHON: That is right.
CHAIR: What was it from?
Senator XENOPHON: It went from being a safety issue identified as critical to being downgraded significantly. That
is something that Senator Fawcett asked many questions about. There were issues about whether CASA and the
ATSB colluded or not. That was raised. Can I remind the minister that the committee took such a serious view of this
that it referred the evidence to the Federal Police for investigation into whether there was a breach of the TIA
legislation.
Senator SINODINOS: I think we are in furious agreement.
Senator XENOPHON: I still do not know how the panel is going to do its job if it does not give privilege to people.
Senator SINODINOS: Having listened to all of this, we will go away and get advice on how we can handle this in a
way that means that—
Senator XENOPHON: If you can.