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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 2970

Mr BEDDALL —Is the Minister representing the Special Minister of State aware of allegations made on the Four Corners program last night of organised criminal activity and corruption of officials, including police officers in Queensland? If so, will the Commonwealth stand ready to assist the National Crime Authority should it decide to seek a reference in relation to these matters?

Mr YOUNG —I preface my answer by saying that if there is another area of which this Government can be rightly proud it is the development of law enforcement agencies in this country since we were elected in March 1983. The Australian Federal Police not only has developed the new resources which have been given to it by this Government, which have been quite substantial, but also has built a new professionalism under the Commissioner, Major-General Grey, which previously did not exist in this country. Combined with that, we have seen established the National Crime Authority. In spite of all the criticism, innuendo, allegations and books and newspaper articles by some journalists who now find the heat being turned on them by the same sort of ritual, we sustain our view that the National Crime Authority with the co-operation of all the other law enforcement agencies in this country could do an effective job of combating organised crime. There was a great demand in this country from the community that something be done. There have been too many royal commissions leaving too many recommendations and too many questions unanswered by previous administrations in this country.

One of the major criticisms of our legislation on the establishment of the National Crime Authority from the Opposition was that it could be politically manipulated because representatives of each of the governments had the right of veto over a reference being sought by the National Crime Authority. We held the view that that would not occur. But to make sure that there could be no misunderstanding of it, at the first meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee, with the approval of the Prime Minister, I put forward to the Committee representatives of all governments that should any government in this country refuse to give the reference sought by the National Crime Authority it would be immediately made public and the reasons for that refusal would be made public so that it would have to defend the decisions it was taking. The National Crime Authority does not make public references being sought from the IGC. To date, no reference sought from any jurisdiction, Commonwealth or State, has been refused by any government. Every government has sought to facilitate any inquiry being undertaken by the National Crime Authority. The Authority does not need a reference to use all its powers to hold any investigation. It has general investigative powers it can undertake for any purpose without going to the IGC, and so it has done. If the Authority was so disturbed by what appeared in the allegations on the ABC last night as to seek a reference, that would be the business of the National Crime Authority. Neither the Commonwealth nor any State has previously stood in the way of facilitating a reference that the National Crime Authority may have felt it required to use all the powers vested in it under the legislation passed by this House. As we have done in the past four years we will do in future years while still in government to see that we effectively combat organised crime in this country.