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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2640

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(4.10) —As to the last question, I do not think that a final decision has been made, but I have certainly recommended to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) that the responsible Minister be the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) rather than me. It is a tricky question because in some ways this body is right in the middle of the two areas of responsibility. I think that on balance, particularly given the way in which the structure and functions of the Authority have evolved in the course of the debate, it is more analogous to a criminal investigation process and an extension of police capacity than it is to the kind of prosecution function as such that comes under my wing. It is a matter of judgment.

Senator Chipp —Have you discussed that with the States? Are they happy about that?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It has not been a matter of particular concern, I think, to the States which Minister it is. We have operated on a perfectly co-operative basis.

Senator Hill —Has it been discussed with the States?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I think that the issue has been canvassed, but it has not been the subject of formal discussion as such. I think they were just interested to know how it would finally wash up. We have not yet reached the stage of making a decision on it, but I imagine the matter will be formalised quite soon. I think that is the way it is going. It is also proposed that there be a special sub-committee of one of the appropriate Cabinet committees, involving me as well as the Special Minister of State and perhaps another one or two Ministers as well, to ensure that there is continued liaison and co-operation between the respective departments to the extent that the functions of the Authority will overlap. That matter is being amicably resolved by reference to general considerations of ministerial work load, but more particularly the functions that are being performed and how they integrate with other functions in the Department.

Let me finish by answering Senator Chipp's suggestion. I think the difficulty about his proposal and the example he mentioned is that, in some quarters at least, it has been regarded as something less than an unadulterated triumph in its actual execution. Perhaps judgments that are being widely made at the moment are premature. I for one express no lack of confidence at all in the people who were produced by that consultative process. But then again, he was dealing with a large board which, by its very nature, had to be representative of competing interests within the Australian community. Here we are dealing with the appointment of a much narrower expert body, and I am not sure that the same considerations apply. I will certainly take on board Senator Chipp's suggestion and discuss it with the Government to see what the reaction is. I would think at this stage that the most likely reaction, which is my own instinctive reaction, would be to say that we do not want to go down the track of a formal process of that kind. I would be very happy to engage in any formal discussions of the kind I have had in the last few days with Senator Chipp and, I think, with Senator Durack very briefly on an earlier occasion. I am happy to pursue that further just to get reactions to the names that are being canvassed around. It is very much the Government's desire that there be no controversy about the appointments . We want people who are credible, respected and universally seen to be appropriate appointments to the body in question. Unless we do that the exercise will be self-defeating and counter-productive in terms of the co-operation we want to have and the respect and credibility that this body must have in the community at large if it is to do its job properly.