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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1523


Senator FOREMAN —Is the Special Minister of State able to report further on the Australian Federal Police investigations into the complaint made by Mr Kennett on the recording of his car phone conversation with Andrew Peacock?


Senator TATE —As honourable senators will be aware, at 5.30 on 23 March a letter from Mr Kennett to the Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner, Southern Command, was delivered to AFP headquarters in Melbourne. In that letter Mr Kennett made several points, but amongst them he lodged a formal complaint in relation to the apparent-and I emphasise, as he no doubt did, the word `apparent'-interception of his private telephone conversation and requested an investigation into this matter and the prosecution of any person who appears to have committed an offence.

As a result of that complaint having been received, naturally the AFP has undertaken certain investigations. In particular the AFP has interviewed Mr Rene Kalwet of the People for Equality not Institutionalisation. A search of his home resulted in the seizure of a radio scanner and a tape recorder. A copy of a tape recording has also been obtained, though I believe not in the home of Mr Kalwet. Pending examination of the tape so that it can be established that it is what it purports to be, the AFP anticipates providing a brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions later this week.

I emphasise that in the course of my answer I said that a copy of a tape recording has also been obtained. Those members of this chamber who perhaps participated in an earlier inquiry relating to tapes and their authenticity will know how difficult it is to authenticate copies of tape recordings. I would say that great caution needs to be exercised by any member of parliament who wishes to go public on his assessment as to whether the tape or copy of the tape recording used by a radio station is indeed authentic. Telecom has advised the AFP that it is technically feasible to record a car phone conversation through the scanner seized by the AFP at the home of Mr Kalwet, but whether this was in fact done in this instance is a matter still to be determined.

I have great confidence in the ability of the AFP and its technical backup to make a determination, which will then be put to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP quite independently will make a decision using the evidence forwarded by the AFP and any admissions that may have been made as to whether a prosecution should be launched. The DPP will decide what charges should be laid presumably in relation to an alleged offence under section 7 of the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979, but he will do so in accordance with the prosecution policy of the Commonwealth, which is a public document. I emphasise that the decision to prosecute will be his, and certainly not mine or that of the AFP.