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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 10

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I remind him of his comments in Adelaide on 1 August when he said that if matters were left unresolved by the Black report the Government would consider some more formal proceedings with additional powers. I draw the Attorney's attention to comments by Mr Black in relation to his powers, on page 21 of his report on an Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Making of a Customs Declaration, where he says that he would refrain as far as possible from expressing unnecessary conclusions about disputed matters of fact because the inquiry was held in private and people did not have the opportunity to cross-examine others whose views of the facts conflicted with their own. I ask the Attorney-General: Does he not agree that these restrictions, which obviously Mr Black felt about the proceedings that he was conducting, fully support the view expressed by the Opposition that there should have been and still should be a public judicial inquiry with necessary powers to investigate Mr Young's false Customs declaration and the circumstances surrounding it? I ask the Attorney as well: Did he advise that that was the correct course to take in the first place? Does he now agree that that is the correct course to take?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I do not accept the propositions advanced by Senator Durack . For what it is worth, to put it on the record, I did not advise that any other form of inquiry would have been appropriate from the outset, nor do I believe at this stage that any such other form of inquiry would have been appropriate. It has always been my view that, if matters remained unresolved as a result of that kind of investigation, it would be necessary for some other form of inquiry at least to be considered by the Government. But as matters have turned out the concern was wholly hypothetical because no matters were left unresolved by Mr Black. He stated quite unequivocally that Mr Young did not act with impropriety and, in the light of the application of section 209 of the Customs Act, no question of prosecution of any kind arose. To the extent that there was an unresolved question of law in Mr Black's report about the meaning of section 234 (e) that was, by virtue of the application of section 209, a wholly hypothetical question and, as such, did not need to be resolved. As to questions of fact, it is clear that there was nothing that could be remotely described as an unresolved question arising out of his investigation. It is clear from Mr Black' s report that the fact that he did not have compulsive powers did not, in his view, hamper him in any way at all in his investigations. So in the light of those positive findings and very clear statements by Mr Black it is quite absurd to talk at this stage of any further inquiry.