Procedures to be observed by Senate Committees for the protection of witnesses

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In their dealings with witnesses, all committees of the Senate shall observe the following procedures:

1. A witness shall be invited to attend a committee meeting to give evidence. A witness shall be summoned to appear (whether or not the witness was previously invited to appear) only where the committee has made a decision that the circumstances warrant the issue of a summons.

2. Where a committee desires that a witness produce documents relevant to the committee's inquiry, the witness shall be invited to do so, and an order that documents be produced shall be made (whether or not an invitation to produce documents has previously been made) only where the committee has made a decision that the circumstances warrant such an order.

3. A witness shall be given reasonable notice of a meeting at which the witness is to appear, and shall be supplied with a copy of the committee's order of reference, a statement of the matters expected to be dealt with during the witness's appearance, and a copy of these procedures. Where appropriate, a witness shall be supplied with a transcript of relevant evidence already taken.

4. A witness shall be given opportunity to make a submission in writing before appearing to give oral evidence.

5. Where appropriate, reasonable opportunity shall be given for a witness to raise any matters of concern to the witness relating to the witness's submission or the evidence the witness is to give before the witness appears at a meeting.

6. A witness shall be given reasonable access to any documents that the witness has produced to a committee.

7. A witness shall be offered, before giving evidence, the opportunity to make application, before or during the hearing of the witness's evidence, for any or all of the witness's evidence to be heard in private session, and shall be invited to give reasons for any such application. If the application is not granted, the witness shall be notified of reasons for that decision.

8. Before giving any evidence in private session a witness shall be informed whether it is the intention of the committee to publish or present to the Senate all or part of that evidence, that it is within the power of the committee to do so, and that the Senate has the authority to order the production and publication of undisclosed evidence.

9. A chair of a committee shall take care to ensure that all questions put to witnesses are relevant to the committee's inquiry and that the information sought by those questions is necessary for the purpose of that inquiry. Where a member of a committee requests discussion of a ruling of the chair on this matter, the committee shall deliberate in private session and determine whether any question which is the subject of the ruling is to be permitted.

10. Where a witness objects to answering any question put to the witness on any ground, including the ground that the question is not relevant or that the answer may incriminate the witness, the witness shall be invited to state the ground upon which objection to answering the question is taken. Unless the committee determines immediately that the question should not be pressed, the committee shall then consider in private session whether it will insist upon an answer to the question, having regard to the relevance of the question to the committee's inquiry and the importance to the inquiry of the information sought by the question. If the committee determines that it requires an answer to the question, the witness shall be informed of that determination and the reasons for the determination, and shall be required to answer the question only in private session unless the committee determines that it is essential to the committee's inquiry that the question be answered in public session. Where a witness declines to answer a question to which a committee has required an answer, the committee shall report the facts to the Senate.

11. Where a committee has reason to believe that evidence about to be given may reflect adversely on a person, the committee shall give consideration to hearing that evidence in private session.

12. Where a witness gives evidence reflecting adversely on a person and the committee is not satisfied that evidence is relevant to the committee's inquiry, the committee shall give consideration to expunging that evidence from the transcript of evidence, and to forbidding the publication of that evidence.

13. Where evidence is given which reflects adversely on a person and action of the kind referred to in paragraph (12) is not taken in respect of the evidence, the committee shall provide reasonable opportunity for that person to have access to that evidence and to respond to that evidence by written submission and appearance before the committee.

14. A witness may make application to be accompanied by counsel and to consult counsel in the course of a meeting at which the witness appears. In considering such an application, a committee shall have regard to the need for the witness to be accompanied by counsel to ensure the proper protection of the witness. If an application is not granted, the witness shall be notified of reasons for that decision.

15. A witness accompanied by counsel shall be given reasonable opportunity to consult counsel during a meeting at which the witness appears.

16. An officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a State shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy, and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a Minister.

17. Reasonable opportunity shall be afforded to witnesses to make corrections of errors of transcription in the transcript of their evidence and to put before a committee additional material supplementary to their evidence.

18. Where a committee has any reason to believe that any person has been improperly influenced in respect of evidence which may be given before the committee, or has been subjected to or threatened with any penalty or injury in respect of any evidence given, the committee shall take all reasonable steps to ascertain the facts of the matter. Where the committee considers that the facts disclose that a person may have been improperly influenced or subjected to or threatened with penalty or injury in respect of evidence which may be or has been given before the committee, the committee shall report the facts and its conclusions to the Senate.

Matters constituting contempts in relation to Senate committees

Without derogating from its power to determine that particular acts constitute contempt, the Senate declares as a matter of general guidance, that the following breaches may be treated by the Senate as contempts.

Interference with witnesses

A person shall not, by fraud, intimidation, force or threat of any kind, by the offer or promise of any inducement or benefit of any kind, or by other improper means, influence another person in respect of any evidence given or to be given before the Senate or a committee, or induce another person to refrain from giving such evidence.

Molestation of witnesses

A person shall not inflict any penalty or injury upon, or deprive of any benefit, another person on account of any evidence given or to be given before the Senate or a committee.

Offences by witnesses etc.

A witness before the Senate or a committee shall not:

a. without reasonable excuse, refuse to make an oath or affirmation or give similar undertaking to tell the truth when required to do so;

b.without reasonable excuse, refuse to answer any relevant question put to the witness when required to do so; or

c. give any evidence which the witness knows to be false or misleading in a material particular, or which the witness does not believe on reasonable grounds to be true or substantially true in every material particular.

A person shall not, without reasonable excuse:

a. refuse or fail to attend before the Senate or a committee when ordered to do so; or

b.refuse or fail to produce documents, or to allow the inspection of documents, in accordance with an order of the Senate or of a committee.

A person shall not wilfully avoid service of an order of the Senate or of a committee.

A person shall not destroy, damage, forge or falsify any document required to be produced by the Senate or by a committee.

Unauthorised disclosure of evidence etc.

A person shall not, without the authority of the Senate or a committee, publish or disclose:

a. a document that has been prepared for the purpose of submission, and submitted, to the Senate or a committee and has been directed by the Senate or a committee to be treated as evidence taken in private session or as a document confidential to the Senate or the committee;

b.any oral evidence taken by the Senate or a committee in private session, or a report of any such oral evidence; or

c. any proceedings in private session of the Senate or a committee or any report of such proceedings,

unless the Senate or a committee has published, or authorised the publication of, that document, that oral evidence or a report of those proceedings.

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