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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 111

(Question No. 1081)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 23 February 1994:

  In light of the $17 million spent by the Australian Government on the recently concluded War Crimes Inquiry, which was described by the Attorney-General as an expression of Australia's commitment to human rights, why has the Government never been prepared to spend the necessary funds to put in place an inquiry into the Hilton Hotel bombing which was a major violation of the rights of a number of Australian citizens within this country.

Senator Bolkus —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  I am advised that the Government has already undertaken research into available sources about the circumstances of the Hilton bombing and the allegations concerning the role of Commonwealth agencies. It has found no evidence to suggest that any Commonwealth agency acted improperly. Any outstanding allegations concerning the Hilton bombing relate to matters which were, and remain, the responsibility of the New South Wales authorities and the New South Wales Government. On that basis, and on the information which is currently available, there is no justification for the application of Commonwealth resources to an inquiry.

  As I advised the House of Representatives in response to a question without notice on 10 February 1994, the position with respect to the war crimes investigations and prosecutions was different. The Commonwealth had received clear evidence, following on from the Menzies review of material relating to the entry of suspected war criminals into Australia, that there were a number of cases requiring further action. It was the Commonwealth's decision that such evidence could not be ignored and that further investigation was required.

  The Government has consistently stated that if the New South Wales Government wishes to establish a State inquiry into the Hilton bombing, then the Commonwealth will cooperate fully. This point has been made in correspondence to the New South Wales Attorney-General, and in response to questions raised in the House of Representatives. The Commonwealth's willingness to cooperate with such an inquiry has already been demonstrated. Indeed, I am advised that the Commonwealth assisted an earlier State-initiated inquiry relating to this matter, namely the 1984 inquiry conducted under section 475 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) by Mr Justice Wood. Obviously, this Government has no conceivable interest in frustrating an inquiry into the events of 1978.