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A-G bounces check idea

Briefs

Cite as: (2003) 77(6) LIJ, p.14

Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams has raised the possibility of privately-funded lawyers in cases involving sensitive national security material having to pass a background check.

Speaking at a Pitcher Partners/President’s Luncheon on 9 April, Mr Williams said that at present public servants and federal prosecutors had to be cleared before handling confidential material.

He is currently introducing checks for legal aid lawyers in such cases. The proposal has raised the ire of state Attorney-General Rob Hulls, the Law Institute and Victoria Legal Aid.

However, Mr Williams said he would prefer to see all parties to such cases having to pass security checks.

“I don’t see why if prosecutors have to do it people on the defence side shouldn’t have to do it,” Mr Williams said.

“I agree if legal aid lawyers have to do it then other lawyers should have to do it too.”

Mr Williams withstood tough questioning on a range of topics, including the war on Iraq, the restructure of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the listing of terrorist organisations.

Chris Maxwell QC, of Australian Lawyers Against the War, then presented Mr Williams with a petition signed by 200 lawyers opposed to Australia’s involvement in the “illegal” war against Iraq.

Mr Williams denied the war was illegal, saying that Australia, the US and Britain had received independent legal advice that Security Council resolutions had authorised the action.

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