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Wednesday, 11 March 1998
Page: 976


Mr RANDALL —My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General inform the House whether anything has occurred today in relation to the improper use of confidential Federal Court documents detailing government action against Christopher Skase?


Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) —I thank the member for Swan for his question. I inform the House that the Senate has today censured Labor's legal affairs spokesman, Senator Bolkus, for revealing the contents of a confidential Federal Court affidavit. The resolution passed by the Senate is in these terms:

That the Senate—

(a) notes:

(i) that Senator Bolkus, during and after a press conference on 5 January 1998, revealed certain contents of a confidential Federal Court affidavit,

(ii) that this affidavit formed part of legal proceedings undertaken by Mr Max Donnelly, trustee of the bankrupt estate of Mr Christopher Skase, to recover assets allegedly concealed by Mr Skase,

(iii) that Federal Court affidavits may only be obtained by leave of the court or a judge,

(iv) that in relation to the affidavit revealed by Senator Bolkus no such leave had been obtained, and

(v) that Mr Donnelly had not authorised the release of the affidavit by either his firm or solicitors acting for him;

(b) censures Senator Bolkus for:

(i) revealing the contents of a confidential Federal Court affidavit,

(ii) his disregard of the larger public interest in putting at risk the success of Mr Donnelly's legal attempts to recover assets belonging to the bankrupt estate of Mr Christopher Skase, and

(iii) his knowingly taking a course of action directly contrary to the public interest.

The Senate has today reinforced the decision of this House last week to censure Senator Bolkus. Clearly, the parliament of Australia believes that Senator Bolkus has behaved improperly. It is disturbing that Labor continues to deny that there has been any wrong doing. The message to the Australian public is that Labor will do whatever it takes to score a political point and Labor does not care about the proper operation of the legal system. When caught red-handed Labor denies wrong doing.

What the Leader of the Opposition and Labor's legal affairs spokesman are saying by their continued denial of any wrong doing is that they will do it again. By his silence, by his inaction and by his inability to enforce appropriate standards on his frontbench, the Leader of the Opposition is just as responsible as Senator Bolkus.


Mr SPEAKER —Before the next question, I ask that there be a little more subdued level of public conversation.