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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3899


Mr McGAURAN —by leave-As the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority said in presenting the Committee's second report, the relationship between the Committee and members of the National Crime Authority has improved markedly since this time last year on the advent of the tabling of the Committee's first report. I would stress, however, that I feel that it will take even more time before there is a proper understanding between the members of that Committee and the Authority itself. The Authority has special responsibilities, not least those spelt out in the legislation as to confidentiality. On the other hand, members of this chamber, the elected representatives of parliament, also have responsibilities to oversee a body which has been given powers equivalent to that of a royal commissioner. There is a need for the two bodies to reach a similar approach and an appreciation of each other's different spheres of responsibility. There has been an excellent improvement in relations between the members of the Authority and members of the Committee. I am certain that over a period of time a better understanding of each other's respective positions and a greater degree of trust and confidentiality will emerge so that each of us can perform the responsibilities with which we are charged.

I would also add that I still am concerned that the Authority can use its coercive powers-that is to summon witnesses, call for documents and employ its personnel, with all their specialist training and professional expertise-only upon reference from the Inter-Governmental Committee which is made up of the Commonwealth Minister, the Special Minister of State, and Police Ministers or Attorneys-General from the various States. Other than a specific reference from that group of-and I do not mean this in a derogatory sense-politicians, the National Crime Authority is unable to employ its special coercive powers. That does not prevent its using the normal techniques of investigations and surveillance if only to acquire intelligence. I believe that, at worst, this amounts to a degree of political control and, at best, presents restrictions in respect of definition. I remain unconvinced that the NCA has sufficient power to tackle the evil crime organisations that exist throughout Australia and pose such a grave threat to the most basic moral and traditional fabric of our society. I do not intend to take up very much more time of the House, as the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender), the shadow Attorney-General, will be making his comments on the report.

I am concerned about a whole number of matters regarding this Government's approach to organised crime. I welcome the Chairman's foreshadowing our investigations next year, particularly in regard to the relationship between the Authority and other law enforcement bodies. We have touched on this aspect a number of times with the Authority and other law enforcement agencies, but I and a number of other members would like to put a number of questions. We need to be satisfied that the NCA is without doubt receiving the assistance and co-operation of the more entrenched longstanding bodies. I note in recent days the public wrangle between the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence and the Australian Federal Police in which allegations have been made that the AFP is not sharing intelligence with the Bureau. That factor concerns me greatly.

In conclusion, I wish to congratulate the Chairman on the performance of the Committee under his stewardship this year. It is not an easy role and I disagree with him fundamentally on a number of issues. Nonetheless, there is no doubting his willingness to allow all members to put their points of view, and in unrestricted fashion to examine the witnesses who may come before the Committee. I also add to the Chairman's comments my congratulations to the staff of the National Crime Authority who assist us so very efficiently.