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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 471

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Attorney-General, in both his own capacity and as Minister representing the Special Minister of State. I refer the Attorney to his statement in the Senate on 17 November last year when he said that he expected that there would be a four-month to five-month transition period from the Costigan Royal Commission into the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union to the National Crime Authority. Is it a fact that the Government finally settled on a three-month transition period and that this period has proved inadequate? Will the Government make some special arrangement with Mr Costigan, after the presentation of his report at the end of this month, to ensure that there is a proper completion of the hand-over process , including adequate briefing of members of the National Crime Authority?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The original estimate of four months as the transition period was based on circumstances as they existed in November 1983-namely, that the National Crime Authority legislation would be passed by late November or early December last year. That timetable did not eventuate. Instead, the Senate referred the legislation, as we can all recall, in November, to a Senate committee which did not then report until 1 May this year. With these changed circumstances, the Special Minister of State discussed the matter with Mr Costigan in March this year, and the agreement was reached between them that following the establishment of the Authority by 1 July, there would be a one- month transition period between the Royal Commission and the Authority, with the Commission then writing its final report during August and September. That remains the position.

As to some possible extension of the transition period, Mr Costigan recently wrote to the Prime Minister advising that he may need to seek an extension of perhaps two weeks to enable him to complete his final report. Mr Costigan added that he would be able to advise further next week on that, and the Government will consider any requests that it receives for such an extension to enable the Commission to complete its report. As to the question of a further extension of time for the transition process as such, I believe that the matters that I put on record yesterday in that respect sufficiently answer that point.

In relation to that matter, perhaps I may correct one small error that I made in part of that answer yesterday to Senator Chaney concerning Mr Justice Stewart 's travel arrangements. I advised, on a misreading of the paper in front of me, that the judge went direct from Hong Kong to the United States of America. In fact, he returned to Australia from Hong Kong on 3 September, and he is going back to the United States in about two weeks' time. But the point still holds that he will be away for only two weeks on that trip, and that is the only remaining overseas visit that is proposed this year.