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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1733

Mr STEELE HALL —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. For how long is he prepared to ignore evidence which was collected by the Australian Federal Police in the course of its narcotic inquiries, and apparently not used in the investigation by the New South Wales Commissioner of Police, Mr Abbott, and his officer Mr Loombs, and which involves allegations that a New South Wales Minister was involved in bribery to secure the early release of prisoners? Will the Prime Minister assure the Premier of New South Wales that he is at liberty to make full use of the information, including telephone tapes transmitted by the Australian Federal Police Commissioner to the New South Wales Police Commissioner, for a full and public investigation into the allegations?

Mr HAWKE —There seems to be no end to the hypocrisy of the people on the other side of the House. When this matter was first raised, as honourable members will recall, the Opposition quickly dropped it after it was decimated. It was suggested that this Government intervened and improperly attempted to apply pressure on the Australian Federal Police in respect of the re-imposition or lifting of phone taps. It was put by the Opposition in that context that it would be absolutely improper for the Government to intervene and to apply pressure to the Australian Federal Police.

We now have a question from the honourable member suggesting that we intervene and tell the Commissioner of the Federal Police how to conduct his affairs. Let me make it clear again, as I did before-it seemed, on the evidence of the Opposition's silence on this matter for some time, that it had learned its lesson-that this Government will not be party to intervening in matters relating to the Australian Federal Police and telling it how to conduct its business. It may be, as it seems it is, the assumption of the people on the other side of the House that that is the role of Government. That may be their standard; it is not the standard of this Government. We will not be intervening through either me or any of my Ministers to try to tell the Federal Police-its Commissioner or other members-how to conduct their affairs. Most particularly, we will not be intervening in any way which may prejudice investigations that the Federal Police are conducting into the tracing of narcotic trading in this country. That is not the sort of conduct in which this Government will indulge, even if, by implication, the Opposition suggests that we should.

As far as the affairs of New South Wales are concerned, let me repeat to this House what I made clear before. As soon as evidence was given by the Commissioner of the Federal Police, Major-General Grey, to the Special Minister of State, that information was conveyed to the political level in New South Wales and it was conveyed by Major-General Grey to Commissioner Abbott. As far as this Government is concerned, we have done expeditiously and with absolute propriety what it was proper that we should do. As soon as information became available to us, it was conveyed at the appropriate level politically, and between the two forces. I understand that people on the other side of the House have a great commitment to the question of State rights and the non-intervention of the Federal Government in the affairs of a State. While they talk about it hypocritically, we act according to the proposition that, where there is a clear delineation in the responsibilities between the Federal Government and its authorities and between the State Government and its authorities, the lines of delineation of authority and responsibility will be adhered to.

I repeat that this Government has acted expeditiously and with total propriety in doing all that it had to do. Now it is a matter for handling at the level of the police and at the level of the State Government in New South Wales. I would not presume to tell the Premier of New South Wales how to conduct his affairs. I would not do it, on the basis that it would not be proper. In addition, the Premier of New South Wales has demonstrated, over a very long period since 1976, his total competence in these matters and the great support that he receives from the majority of the people of New South Wales.