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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2518

Senator LEWIS(5.03) —The National Crime Authority Bill was being debated last night and I am continuing that debate. Last night I pointed out that the Fraser Government had introduced the National Crimes Commission. That legislation was passed by Parliament but was not proclaimed by this Government. At the time when the Fraser Government introduced that legislation, it was subjected to attacks from the then Opposition, now in government. It was alleged that the Fraser Government was trying to hide crooks. We heard Senator Walsh, in particular, frequently screaming across the chamber that we were crooks ourselves. Altogether there was much vilification of the Fraser Government and the then Attorney-General, Senator Durack, about that legislation.

Now, with hindsight, it is clear that the proposed National Crimes Commission was strongly based, having powers which this Government is not prepared to include in its legislation. This Government and the present Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) have come up with a whimper-a feeble, powerless sook of a thing, able to be diverted from its proper role by far too many people and far too many devices.

The legislation, as originally introduced into this place by the Attorney- General, was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which, notwithstanding the majority of Government members on that Committee, came up with grave criticisms. The Committee pointed out how weak the legislation was and made 49 recommendations, of which about 40 were absolutely crucial if the Authority were to have some teeth to deal with so-called organised crime. That was a majority decision of which all the Government members and two of the Opposition members were part. If the Government had implemented the proposals of that Senate Committee, the Authority would have had adequate teeth to perform its role.

The Committee proposals have been gutted by the Attorney-General, despite his gobbledegook-as it turned out to be-in response to the report. The Attorney- General said that the report was particularly helpful and constructive, and that the Government, the police Ministers and Attorneys-General had decided to accept in very large part the Committee's recommendations. It appeared at that stage that the Government would accept sufficient of the recommendations to give the Authority some teeth. In fact, that was all typical of the Attorney-General who seems to speak what I would call 'newspeak in wonderland'. He is a sort of Alice in Oceania if I can combine two books. Instead of accepting in very large part the Committee's recommendations, he has gutted its proposals and once again the Senate is confronted with a gutless creature, similar to the one previously introduced by this Government, although in slightly different form. The Government seems to think that by changing the form of the proposals in some way or other, it can sneak through an authority which can be frustrated by the people involved in the sort of crime that should be attacked by such an authority.

When I talk to some people, especially around the Parliament, they express concern about small people who might be harmed by such an authority. Let me assure honourable senators that the Crime Authority should not and would not be aimed at small people around this nation who might have a bet with the local SP bookmaker or perhaps avoid some taxation. Not at all. The evidence that Mr Costigan gave to the Committee showed that there are about 2,000 real crooks in this country and they are involved in every possible means and device to take from the nation moneys illegally obtained. They use everything they can think of -tax avoidance schemes, strong man stuff, standover tactics and drugs and they are involved in anything and everything they can possibly dream up. They spend their entire working lives, if they can be called such, involving themselves in crooked schemes to take money out of the community in very large lumps.

Let me look for example at the Queensland cocaine ring as part of my explanation of the need for a strong Crime Authority. Recently the Age newspaper in Melbourne published a number of articles on the alarming growth of the cocaine trade in Queensland. I am in no way criticising State or Federal police involved in this matter. I am certain that they are dedicated policemen who in many ways have been frustrated by the expertise and the finance of crooks. I am also not really critical of governments which perhaps have been unable to provide the finance necessary or to see the need until recent times as a result of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union and the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking.

I understand that the Federal and State police have, for a number of years, been watching as planes and ships have brought shipments of cocaine into Australia. These shipments have been landed in little towns and on beaches in Queensland, at places such as 1770 Beach, Agnes Waters, Bustard Head and Double Bay Island. I understand that in these areas there have been shipping and air movements of a regular and suspicious nature and these have been checked on for a number of years by Federal and State police. Apparently there are people living in those areas with a great deal of income and no obvious signs of how they came by it. Some of them, apparently, spend their time as good environmentalists. They own or have owned yachts and planes but they do not or did not appear to fish for a living or sail or fly as part of a normal recreation pattern.

The belief is that, from the north, people take packages down the coast to Noosa where, in several restaurants and night spots, some of which close for an hour or two only to reopen later in the light, large quantities of cocaine are moved. We are talking about one of the worst drugs in the world-cocaine. The cocaine trail flows south to Brisbane and then to Sydney. The cocaine trail is international, with contacts and suppliers in Latin America, the United States of America, Asia and Great Britain. It is well financed with millions of dollars available for the purchase of drugs and for the boats and planes needed to convey them. It is well organised. The main Noosa-centred coke ring has up to 50 people in it, ranging from Sydney-based managers and financiers to local petty criminals. The Queensland group has contacts at every level of society. I hope it did not have any contact with the New South Wales Premier, who recently had a holiday there and who, apparently, did not enjoy it from what I read in one of the newspapers. I am not suggesting that he did have any contact. I know nothing at all about it. Anyone could have a holiday in Noosa.

Senator Chipp —What is the source of this? It is very interesting.

Senator LEWIS —I do not propose to disclose my source at this stage. I may in due course. The gathering and distribution of cocaine involve criminals from every eastern mainland State. Victoria supplies the muscle-in some cases, hard men like the one who was sent up to Noosa to make sure that the town was 'kept quiet'. Senator Chipp, I am quoting from evidence given by a policeman to the Costigan Royal Commission in open session. This crime ring involves people who are dangerous and willing to murder. I believe that the deaths of Terrance and Susan Basham in August 1982 were an offshoot of the dealings of the Queensland cocaine ring. Basham apparently fell out with some of the hard men in the Queensland syndicate and he was murdered for it. This syndicate used the painters and dockers to do their hard work, men like the chief suspect in the murders of Chuck Bennet, Ferret Nelson and Ian Carrol in Victoria; and men like Mad Dog Cox, escapee and killer, who was a recent visitor to towns in northern Queensland. They include well-known and long time criminals with extensive histories in the drug trade. At least three of the principals in the Queensland rings are named in Volume 2 of the Woodward Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking. The men learned their trade importing heroin and growing marihuana. Now they have shifted their operations to cocaine and they are hard to catch.

The present police operations against these people have been difficult. There has been a lack of manpower and a lack of finance. For example, there has not been the money to pay police expenses. They can easily evade the police by going into the high price international standard restaurants where they do their deals . The police do not get the expenses to follow them in. Police do not have the resources to keep up with these people as they move at high speed off the coast and along the coast. Though several police forces have been involved in different States, there has been a constant problem of co-ordinating resources and information.

This is an international and three-State operation. To combat these criminals requires a sophisticated and effective structure. There is a need for an authority to combat these criminal activities, an organisation with technological skills and the capacity to strike swiftly and effectively at this major crime syndicate. It is clear that, until the State and Federal police enlisted the help of the Costigan and Stewart royal commissions, they were facing an uphill battle. The royal commissioners, with their wide-ranging powers and ability to use computer technology, have been of enormous assistance in extending police knowledge of the operations and dimensions of the crime ring that they are up against.

There have been a few successes in the fight against cocaine. I refer to the recent conviction of one Fernandini in Sydney who was given eight years gaol on cocaine trafficking charges. A ring of this size and the history of the police fight against it demonstrate why it is so important to establish a strong National Crime Authority.

What are we faced with in this Government's present proposals? Those who support the proposals need to ask themselves-I refer not only to all members of the Government but, in particular, to the Government members of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which looked at the Government's proposals and not at these amendments-will the termination of the Costigan inquiry and the Stewart inquiry and the establishment of the National Crime Authority result in a disruption to the struggle against the cocaine trade ? Will the National Crime Authority be able to follow on where Costigan and Stewart have led? Will these crooks, with their enormous illegally gained funds, be able to interfere in the proposed National Crime Authority's action? These matters should be of grave concern to the people of this nation. I can only speculate about the motives of those who want a weakened Crime Authority and those who want the Costigan royal commission, in particular, terminated forthwith. My colleague from Victoria, Senator Missen, indicated the sorts of motives that he thinks may be behind the desire to wind up the Costigan royal commission. We know that the right wing of the New South Wales Labor Party has been a key agent in attempts to weaken the Crime Authority. The price of this politicking-that is what it is, sheer politicking-will be the weakening of the struggle against one of the biggest criminal operations in this country which I have just outlined to the Senate.

These people, in effect, are giving encouragement and support to those criminals to continue in their deadly trade. In effect, the international crimes syndicates will say that the risks of detection are low and the profits are enormously high. That is why we ask Government senators and Australian Democrat senators to have a look at the Government's proposals. The Government is opening up the opportunities to chop off the National Crime Authority from taking the steps which are necessary to deal with crime syndicates such as I have outlined. We are not talking about small people. We are not talking about the protection of the ordinary citizen. These are crooks with millions and millions of dollars to spend to avoid conviction and detection and to delay investigation and refer matters to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will not know that he is dealing with a crook and will not be able to recognise a crook because these crooks have so much money they will be able to persuade decent, influential, substantial people in the community that there is merit in their claim. Recommendations will be made and senators and members of the other place will be lobbied on behalf of what would appear to be reasonable and decent citizens to stop something or other or alter the legislation.

All of this is like Soviet misinformation. It is all planned to deceive and to achieve a particular end. At the present moment there appears to be, for some reason or another, a plan to bring an end to the current inquiries in which Mr Costigan is involved. As a result, people all around the country, from different States as far apart as Tasmania and Queensland, are making representations in relation to the Costigan inquiry and in relation to this current National Crime Authority. Why? Clearly they appear to be referring to States rights. However, on analysis, one wonders what the purpose of the lobbying is. I ask the Senate to listen carefully to the suggestions being put by Senator Durack on behalf of the Opposition and to consider carefully our amendments that will give the Authority the teeth that it needs to deal with the problems of this nation.