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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 116

Senator JACK EVANS(11.35) —Today I do not intend either to attack Mr Young or to defend him. I think that the time for that has passed. This has been a long, drawn- out, tedious attack. Day after day and week after week politicians, journalists, interviewers and editors have been dragging it out, putting it on the front page of newspapers and using it as lead items on television news programs to try to get something out of what has become known as the Paddington Bear affair. Yesterday this was continued when the bulk of the Opposition questions were related to this particular issue. I think it needs to be drawn to the attention of this Parliament, because it does not seem to have sunk in yet, that apart from the politicians and the media the rest of Australia is bored stiff with this affair. It has been closed, there is nothing more left in it to drag out. Nobody around Australia, apart from the politicians and the media, has made a public comment. That should surely demonstrate to all of us that the public wants us to get on with governing, with running and legislating for this country and not dealing with trivialities that have been dragged up in this whole event.

Politicians have become very upset about what are known as media beat-ups; that is, when the media grabs hold of a minor issue, a minor slip-up by a politician from anywhere in this Parliament and beats it up into a major event. On this occasion the politicians have been the guilty party. The politicians have been the ones to beat this up into an event and the media have found that, because there is nothing else coming out of the Opposition, it has no alternative but to follow the lead of the politicians. I am not criticising today's debate. We have the Black Report on an Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Making of a Customs Declaration before us and the Senate has to debate that report, but for goodness sake let us not be distracted forever by comparative trivialities.

We are not debating the Combe-Ivanov affair which seems to be the only issue of any consequence in what Mick Young has done over the last few months. In my opinion, that was a much more serious affair. What is happening simply is that members of the Opposition have gone on a fishing expedition and this is what they have found. The evidence is in Hansard from what has been revealed this morning. Members of the Opposition have discovered Mrs Young's and her sister's shopping habits. That was the total result of the fishing excursion. They might have discovered a bit more about their fashion tastes. All that has come out, apart from that, from this whole inquiry, has been that Mr Black is quite satisfied that Mr Young did not attempt to coerce anyone to cover up. I think therein lies the rub. That is the problem and that is what is hurting. Up until recently this matter was compared with the MacKellar colour television affair. Of course, there is only one significant difference; that is, there was an attempt to cover up. I think it is fair to say that, out of this whole inquiry Mr Black has found, with justice, there was no impropriety by Mr Young, Mrs Young, her sister, the Australian Customs officers, officers of the Department of Administrative Services or any other employee of the Commonwealth. That is what this Parliament wanted to find out. Our answer is contained in the report tabled in this Senate. There have been a couple of other benefits from the report. The Customs forms will be changed, one hopes, to benefit all international travellers. I have trouble with the forms and I bet Senator Peter Rae, a former shadow Customs Minister, has trouble with them-indeed, I bet everybody in this Parliament has trouble with Customs forms. I guarantee that if one were to conduct an inquiry through the freedom of information procedure into every Customs form filled in by a parliamentarian returning to this country, one would discover errors in 90 per cent of those forms.

Senator Walters —You speak for yourself.

Senator JACK EVANS —I have spoken to many Liberal members on this topic and I find that I speak for most of them. There is a need to clear up that form and to make it obvious when somebody is deliberately misleading a Customs officer. That will happen as a result of the inquiry by Mr Black. I would like to think that following this debate we can wrap up the Paddington Bear affair and get into much more important issues that should be of concern to the Parliament. I have deliberately restricted myself to five minutes of my allotted 30 minutes on this topic because I want Parliament to get on to discuss more important issues, such as the growth of the multibillion dollar organised crime syndicates in Australia and their effect on our various parliaments. Let us look at that matter. If one wants to find where there are problems with parliamentarians, I suggest one should start there. Do not start by looking at a piece of paper that was filled in erroneously.

Let us examine issues such as unemployment and the problems of three million Australians who are living in poverty, and at the difficulties of 800,000 children who are destitute in Australia. Let us examine why Australia is falling behind its neighbours and competitors in science, technology and tertiary education levels. Let us look at all the areas of future development, instead of looking backward at somebody's clerical error. Let us examine the massive decline in manufacturing industry. Let us also examine the question of survival, disarmament and nuclear-based targets in Australia. For goodness sake let us sort out our priorities and discuss issues of real significance for the people of Australia. Let us stop wasting their time and the time of Parliament on this affair.