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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 359

Senator DURACK —I refer the Attorney-General to the answers he gave yesterday concerning the handover from the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union to the National Crime Authority and the range of Mr Justice Stewart's current responsibilities. I draw his attention to his answer yesterday to the effect that a team of lawyers headed by Mr Phillip Cummins, QC, is presently sifting through suggested references from the Costigan Commission to the National Crime Authority and his comment that this is a long and complicated process. Can the Attorney say how much time Mr Cummins has been able to put into this task? How many other lawyers are engaged? Are they working on a full time or part time basis? Is it a fact that Mr Cummins has been heavily engaged in court work and is likely to take on new commitments in the near future and will obviously not be able to devote all his time to this aspect? Does the Attorney consider it possible for Mr Justice Stewart to discharge his responsibilities with a proper sense of urgency given his heavy workload as head of both the National Crime Authority and as the Royal Commissioner inquiring into both the Mr Asia affair and the Nugan Hand Bank, investigations which, from the Attorney's answer yesterday, are likely to be delayed to some extent? Will the Government take action to ensure that the sifting process is speeded up and that Mr Justice Stewart is given a more realistic program so that a proper and determined attack on the menace of organised crime can be mounted as Parliament intended when it passed the National Crime Authority Act?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I will seek a detailed response from the Special Minister of State on the personnel arrangements presently in place for the processing of the material in question. To my knowledge it was the case that Mr Cummins had certain other court commitments in the first period of his engagement that were to occupy some of his time. It was also my understanding that he would be working full time for the last three months of the year. If there has been any change to that arrangement I will let the honourable senator know accordingly.

It is also the case, as I said yesterday, that we have two very highly experienced and very competent commissioners, apart from Mr Justice Stewart, engaged full time in the business of the Commission at the moment, plus a number of other lawyers, and other staff. I am quite sure that nobody is concerned to delay the proper shaping up of references and other investigations more than can possibly be helped, and consistent with the enterprise and the objective which we all share of continuing effectively the attack on organised crime in this country that work will proceed with the greatest expedition possible.