OPPOSITION LAWMAKERS have raised concerns that one of the proposed amendments to the Commission of Enquiry Act will strip witnesses of the right against self-incrimination.
That amendment, according to opposition Senator Arthur Williams, is outlined in Clause Five of the Commission of Enquiry (Amendment) Act 2013, which was debated by the Senate yesterday.
The clause indicates that it is not a reasonable excuse for a person to refuse or fail to produce a book, plan, or document on the ground and that either one may incriminate the individual.
"In our jurisprudence, there is a privilege against self-incrimination. What this subsection is doing is to remove that privilege," Williams argued.
It was one of several concerns Williams highlighted that caused the Senate to postpone the debate on the bill.
He also took issue with a provision in the bill for a fine of $3 million or a three-year prison term for using insulting language to or disturbing a commission of enquiry.
"So if I say to a commissioner, 'I don't think you are up to the task', … that is going to make me liable to a fine of $3 million and up to three years in jail," Williams underscored.
Pointing to a provision in the bill for the offence of contempt, the leader of opposition business in the Senate argued that such an offence would fall squarely within the law about contempt.
"This clause attracts the same fine as bribery of a witness. What are we doing?" he questioned.
"There is no need for this clause. I could never support that," he asserted.
Justice Minister Mark Golding, who piloted the bill, said he accepted some of the concerns and agreed that more time should be allowed for the issue to be discussed.