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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 564


Senator CHANEY —I refer the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the very large stack of departmental papers he tabled yesterday relating to the Black Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Making of a Customs Declaration. I ask the Minister: Do the papers show that the so-called new evidence that led to the establishment of the Black Inquiry came from Mr Lanham, the Collector of Customs in South Australia? Did the Minister interview Mr Lanham for an hour in his Canberra office on 25 July 1984? At the end of the interview, did the Minister, in Mr Lanham's absence, dictate a summary of what Mr Lanham had said? Was that summary dictated in the first person, that is, as though Mr Lanham had composed it himself? Was that summary or statement then read to Mr Lanham and was he asked whether he agreed to it? Did he say that it was accurate? Was the document then forwarded to the departmental officers in Adelaide as the Lanham summary under the heading: 'Record of conversation of Mr Norman Lanham'? I ask the Minister: Does he normally deal with discussions with his departmental officers in this extraordinary manner? If a statement was required from Mr Lanham, would not the appropriate course have been to allow Mr Lanham to put his account in his own words and perhaps to have them taken down or to allow him to write them down, rather than having the words dictated by the Minister in his absence?


Senator BUTTON —My recollection of what took place on 25 July when I interviewed Mr Lanham is as follows: I asked Mr Lanham a number of questions. I wrote down in my handwriting his answers to those questions as though they were expressed in Mr Lanham's own words. On that day Mr Lanham also produced to me a copy of a diary of another Customs officer, a Mr Jennings, I recall. I, frankly, could not read Mr Jennings's handwriting.


Senator Walters —Have another--


Senator BUTTON —Let me finish. During the next 20 minutes or so, during which time Mr Lanham was in and out of my room, I dictated to my secretary what I had written down in my handwriting as being Mr Lanham's statement. Mr Lanham was then asked to dictate to a secretary in my office the contents of Mr Jennings's notebook. He did that. He was then asked to read the statement which I had written in my handwriting as it had been transcribed by a secretary and was asked whether he agreed that that was what he had said to me. That is what took place as I recall.


Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister has not actually dealt with my question. I asked whether the appropriate course, and perhaps I should add the normal course, would have been to allow Mr Lanham to put down his statement in his own words. The Minister also said in his answer that Mr Lanham was given the document to read. Among the papers tabled yesterday was a document from Mr Hayes, the Secretary to the Minister's Department, which states that, at the completion of the Minister's work, Mr Lanham was invited back and the Minister read the summary to him. I ask the Minister again: Which is true-what he has just told the Senate or what Mr Hayes put in the document which the Minister tabled yesterday?


Senator BUTTON —My recollection of what took place in respect of the statement which I took from Mr Lanham and wrote down in my own handwriting and had typed was not that Mr Lanham was invited back. Mr Lanham was sitting in an annex to my room and was in and out, as I said. I went out to Mr Lanham with the statement. I spoke to him. Insofar as Mr Lanham subsequently did come back into my room, that is certain. I presume I invited him back into my room. As I recall it, the fact of the matter was that I went out to Mr Lanham with the statement. He then read it in the presence of one of my secretaries as he also read over the typed version of Mr Jennings's diary which the secretary had transcribed at Mr Lanham' s dictation. If the Leader of the Opposition finds any points in that answer or in anything else which he perhaps regards as material, I have no doubt he will pursue it.