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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2594

Senator LEWIS(10.43) —I also, as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, join with Senator Hill and Senator Chipp in just wondering what the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) is on about with this matter. The situation is clear that there would be a mandatory problem, a hurdle as Senator Chipp described it, for the intergovernmental committee to leap over before it could make a reference in this matter. Senator Evans came in here, used moderate language and talked about the Government not seeing this as being a major difficulty. But it is clear, on any view of the Government's proposal, that the committee 'shall not approve the reference to the Authority' unless it is satisfied that ordinary police methods of investigation into the matter are not likely to be effective.

Let us take the case of the painters and dockers in Melbourne. I think a sergeant of police in Melbourne held the files in relation to painters and dockers. He had made such investigations as he could over many years into painters and dockers in Victoria. He was aware of the murders which had been committed within the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. He was aware of the crimes of which members of that union had been convicted. He was thought to be the expert on painters and dockers in Victoria. I have no criticism of that policeman who was doing the best job he could with the facilities available to him. Had the intergovernmental committee been considering whether ordinary police methods of investigation into the matter of the painters and dockers in Victoria were not likely to be effective, the Police Commissioner would have advised the Victorian Attorney-General that of course the police could investigate the matter.

Senator Chipp —And being most honest and sincere.

Senator LEWIS —And being most honest and sincere. The Victorian Attorney-General would have come before the intergovernmental committee and said: 'Well, there have been a couple of wishy-washy loose articles in the Bulletin about the painters and dockers, and that there is something funny going on there, but our police have been keeping an eye on this organisation for many years and we have no difficulty in investigating the painters and dockers of Victoria'. I understand Mr Costigan told the committee that, within two weeks of his investigation into the painters and dockers commencing, he was looking at the painters and dockers being involved in bottom of the harbour tax avoidance schemes. How could the Victorian police have been aware of that? With the material which was then available to the police that inquiry would never have got off the ground. I thought that the committee's recommendation was most moderate. The committee in its unanimous view realised that one could not exclude the police from this matter or make a recommendation which would create difficulties with the States. In relation to the clause the committee recommended:

. . . be redrafted to provide that the Inter-Governmental Committee, before approving reference of a matter to the Authority, shall take into account whether ordinary police methods of investigation into the matter are likely to be effective.

I repeat the words 'shall take into account'. It shall not be faced with an overwhelming burden of establishing to its own satisfaction that the police methods are not likely to be effective, but shall simply take it into account. I suggest to the chamber that this is a most moderate proposal. The amendments moved by Senator Hill and the Australian Democrats are along the lines of the Committee's recommendation. For the Attorney-General to try to persuade the chamber that there is something difficult or wrong with the amendments, makes us wonder what he is on about.