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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 472

Senator CHIPP —I ask a question either of the Leader of the Government in the Senate or of the Attorney-General, whichever is appropriate, concerning a question I asked on 21 August about the alleged downgrading of surveillance on one, Abraham Saffron. Ministers will remember that I wrote them a letter two weeks before the Budget session commenced saying that I would ask the question, which is now six weeks ago. The question was as follows:

Is it correct, as reported, that in 1974-75 the then Attorney-General gave instructions to Department of Customs and Excise officials to downgrade their surveillance and inspection of Sydney businessman Abraham Saffron? Will the Attorney ascertain what were the Department's reasons, if any, for its reported high level of surveillance and inspection before the alleged intervention by the then Attorney-General? Will he also ascertain what was the reaction of the Department to the alleged instructions by the then Attorney-General? What were the reasons of the then Attorney-General for not accepting the Department's contrary advice, if any such advice was offered? Will the Attorney arrange to have tabled all documents relating to this matter, including communication between the then Attorney-General and the Department of Customs and Excise? In his reply the Attorney said: Answers will be supplied as soon as possible, hopefully later this week.

In the Minister's research has he come across a subsequent request from New Scotland Yard concerning the behaviour of Abraham Saffron? As it is now a further two weeks since that date, I ask the Minister: Is he now able to supply answers to my questions? If he is not able to do so, I ask him respectfully why it is taking so long to provide this information.

Senator BUTTON —That is a very long question, part of which, as Senator Chipp has explained, is quite familiar to me. The second part, of course, is a later addition.

Senator Chipp —About Scotland Yard?

Senator BUTTON —Yes.

Senator Chipp —I have got the request.

Senator BUTTON —It might expedite the process if Senator Chipp gave it to me. I say, by way of preface, that Senator Chipp said he wrote to Ministers about this matter. I have no recollection of his writing to me.

Senator Chipp —I wrote to the Attorney.

Senator BUTTON —I want to make that correction, because I do not believe he did write to me and I do not believe he wrote to the Attorney-General as far in advance of the question being asked as he said. This matter has been investigated by officers of various departments. That investigation is now almost complete. I undertake to provide Senator Chipp with an answer to his question this week. I think it is better, as the Attorney-General explained in an answer he gave to Senator Chipp a couple of weeks ago, that the matter is properly investigated, having regard to the fact that there are files in a number of departments, than that it be handled quickly and an inadequate answer supplied. I undertake to give an answer to that question and the supplementary part of the question insofar as it is possible this week.