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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 556

Senator CHANEY —My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows the question asked by Senator Watson and the Attorney-General's answer. Is the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union still carrying out investigations or is it at this stage simply engaged in preparing reports and working on the handover to the National Crime Authority? Is it not a fact that there is a gap between the investigative processes undertaken by the Costigan Royal Commission and the commencement of any investigations by the new Crime Authority? Is it not a fact that the Government has allowed a hiatus to develop between those two sets of investigations? How does the Attorney justify that? Why was not Mr Costigan allowed to continue his investigative role until an alternative investigative body was in place?

Senator GARETH EVANS —There is no foundation for the imputations, innuendos, sneers and suggestion that underlie that question. The truth of the matter is that it was always envisaged that there would be a transitional period during which most of the emphasis would need to be given to the acquisition by the new members of the Authority of an understanding and the information about these matters to enable them to make judgments about what should and should not be pursued and what should and should not be recommended to the new intergovernmental committee, and a period during which Mr Costigan would be winding up and tidying up the loose ends of his investigation.

As I was a party to the discussions at various stages about that transitional period, I know that it was always anticipated that, to the extent that urgent matters arose requiring immediate investigation-perhaps, the possibility of someone going overseas who might be able to provide crucial evidence in relation to a particular investigation-it was important that there was both continuity of formal legal authority and a capacity to respond readily to the need for resources to be deployed in that way, should the occasion arise. As far as I am aware, no matter of great urgency has arisen which has not been able to be attended to during the transitional period.

We are talking about investigations which, in some cases, have been going on for almost four years. It is by no means self-evident that the inevitable delays of a few weeks or two or three months that are associated with the transfer of resources and staff in investigations as complex as this will cause such great advantage to criminal elements in our community as seems to be suggested by people such as Senator Chaney.