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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2604

Senator LEWIS(11.52) —I support the point that Senator Crichton- Browne has just made. I say sincerely to the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) that I would not in any way suggest dishonesty on his part. I say that openly. But we have to look down the track. We are not establishing an authority to be in existence for six months. The Authority has been created. Although there is a sunset clause that gives the Parliament the opportunity to have another look at it in five years time we are setting in place an authority which will be in existence for the next 30, 40 or 50 years. The probabilities are that at some stage in the future a Minister of the Crown associated with the Authority may be crook. That is a possibility.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Not unwell; corrupt.

Senator LEWIS —He may be corrupt. It may be that he is not a crook or corrupt in himself but, as a result of something he has done at some stage in his past, some crook may be able to blackmail him. One of the things which became very clear to the Senate Committee investigating this matter was that the people whom the Crime Authority will be aimed at have very large sums of money in store for use.

Senator Gareth Evans —But you would have to blackmail seven Ministers.

Senator LEWIS —With respect, the Attorney-General misunderstands. He is talking about the legislation providing for a unanimous vote. That is not the point. The point is that in order for the intergovernmental committee to make a direction the Authority would have to reveal to it matters of such detail that a dishonest Minister at that meeting would get information which he could relay to someone. Within hours the money that person had in Australia would be out of Australia and in a Swiss or Singaporean bank.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Or they have gone themselves.

Senator LEWIS —They may also go themselves. The most important thing about these crooks is that their money is available. The Senate Committee was told that some of these people continue to operate from gaol. It is just a matter of reorganising their office arrangements. As long as they have managed to get their $10m or $20m, or whatever the figure is, overseas, they can continue to operate wherever they are.

That is a matter which causes me concern. I accept very much what Senator Harradine said about the Government's amendment. I understand his problem, although I would like to say one thing, through you Mr Chairman, to Senator Harradine. I do not accept that governments are responsible only to the people and that at the next election the people will make a decision. I accept that governments are responsible to the people and certainly at an election that political responsibility can be sheeted home. But in between elections the Executive government of this nation is responsible to this Parliament. It is parliaments which ask the difficult questions. In the course of an election the Prime Minister or leader of a party can talk with great rhetoric about what he will do, the promises he will make and all the rest of it. But it is the Parliament that asks the Minister or Prime Minister how they will do it, where they will do it, when they will do it and how much money it will cost. They are the difficult questions that politicians can avoid in the course of an election campaign. That is why the Executive government must be responsible to the Parliament.

I put to the Senate that if we allow the Executive government to interfere in a situation where the Authority may be getting a bit close to the bone-we anticipate that it may be investigating someone's political colleague-suddenly there could be a direction to the Authority. It could be couched in all sorts of language. It could say: 'Look, there is another matter which is more important at present'. A resolution could be passed at the intergovernmental committee to the effect that the Authority should give priority to X instead of A. The result would be that A, in respect of whom the Authority was getting a bit close to the bone, would manage to escape through the loophole. It may have been expressed at the intergovernmental committee in a most proper and reasonable manner. Nevertheless, the proposed government changes would enable that to happen.