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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 665


Senator BOLKUS —I refer the Attorney-General to claims in today's National Times that there had been a clash between the Attorney-General and the former Special Prosecutor, Robert Redlich. I note that the article claims that there has been a number of complaints by the Special Prosecutor and that Mr Redlich had disagreed with the Attorney-General about a number of operational problems. Is the article correct? If so, what action has been taken to resolve these matters?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The National Times article to which Senator Bolkus referred deals in a very selective manner with certain correspondence passing in confidence between Mr Redlich when he was the Special Prosecutor-until the middle of this year-and me. The original authority that was given to Mr Redlich under the Special Prosecutors Act related to illegal activities identified in the Costigan Royal Commission into the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union other than activities already referred to Special Prosecutor Gyles. The principal objective of the correspondence so far as I was concerned was to establish the exact nature of the tasks being carried on by Mr Redlich under that authority and to prepare for the following transition to the Director of Public Prosecutions, it being the Government's intention that the Director, as soon as possible after establishment of his office, would take over Mr Redlich's responsibilities.

During the correspondence, certain misunderstandings occurred on the part of Mr Redlich, but those were eventually corrected and the assumption of responsibility by the DPP was finally smoothly effected on 5 June 1984 when the Melbourne office of the DPP took over Mr Redlich's responsibilities.

In order to give extra weight to those assertions and to silence the red-faced scoffers on the other side of the chamber, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard my original letter of 1 December, my reply to Mr Redlich's letter of 7 December, which was written and sent on 20 January, and a further letter of 25 January to me from Mr Redlich.

Leave granted.

The letters read as follows-

Mr R. F. Redlich,

Special Prosecutor,

PO Box 21A, G.P.O.,

Melbourne, Vic. 3001

Dear Robert,

Thank you for your letter of 29 September 1983 with which you enclosed a Schedule of matters that had been the subject of inquiry by the Costigan Royal Commission and were presently or potentially a matter for handling by your Office.

The number and range of these matters are considerable. Your Office has undoubtedly, since its establishment, performed most effectively and the Government appreciates your very important contribution to enforcement of the law in these difficult and troublesome matters. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions Bill will soon be enacted and, as you know, it will then be my intention that the Director of Public Prosecutions to be appointed under this legislation assume responsibility for the work now being carried out by your Office.

To enable a smooth transition from your Office to that of the Director, it is desirable that the work of your Office should be kept to manageable proportions and readily identifiable areas.

Matters within categories A and B in the Schedule do not appear to have reached the stage of being your Office's responsibility. As to matters in category C you have received some information but again these matters do not appear to have reached the stage of being your Office's responsibility. Your limited participation in matters in these 3 categories will need to be fully recorded so that the Director on appointment can readily decide what responsiubility, if any , he will assume in respect of these matters. I should be glad if you would let me know if you consider it necessary to take a more active role in any matter in these categories.

Commonwealth matters in categories D and E in the Schedule appear at least in part to have reached the stage of being your Office's responsibility. There is a considerable number of matters in these categories and I should like to receive regular reports on progress in each case.

As to the matters in category F, there is apparently a difference of opinion between Mr Costigan and yourself as to whether these matters have been referred by him to your Office. Given the wish I have expressed above that the work of your Office should be kept to manageable proportions and readily identifiable areas, I am disposed to query the need for your Office to concern itself in these matters.

There remain the numerous matters of only State concern listed in the Schedule. I understand that you have received a brief from the Victorian Government to advise in relation to these matters. Having regard to the pending transfer of responsibility to the Director, I should like you to conclude your advising role in relation to these matters as soon as possible. Different considerations must of course apply where prosecutions have been instituted for Commonwealth and State offences.

It would not, in my view, be appropriate for you to take responsibility for any further matters identified by Mr Costigan without reference to me.

The views expressed above, are, I believe, consistent with the instrument dated 21 October 1982 signed by the then Acting Attorney-General specifying the matters for the purposes of paragraphs 6 (1) (a) and 6 (1) (b) of the Special Prosecutors Act 1982 in relation to your original appointment as Special Prosecutor.

As soon as I am in a position to say when the Director will take up his duties I shall let you know and more precise arrangements can be made for the transition.

I am forwarding a copy of this letter to Mr Costigan.

Yours sincerely,

GARETH EVANS

Mr R. F. Redlich,

Special Prosecutor,

PO Box 21A, GPO,

Melbourne, Vic. 3001

Dear Robert,

I am sorry to read from your letter of 7 December that you see difficulty in giving effect to several of the requests contained in my letter of 1 December. As I said in that letter, your office has undoubtedly performed most effectively since its establishment and the Government appreciates your very important contribution to enforcement of the law in these difficult and troublesome matters. Nothing that I said in my earlier letter should be interpreted as suggesting any diminution of effort in these matters.

However, there have been significant developments in recent weeks that we must now take into account. The Director of Public Prosecution Act 1983 has been enacted and I hope shortly to announce the appointment of the first Director. My present intention is that the Act will be brought into operaion on 1 March 1984. A small central office of the DPP will then be established and, as soon as practicable thereafter, branch offices will be established in the larger State capitals.

Your present appointment will of course expire on the appointment of the D.P.P. and it is therefore necessary to consider urgently the future of your office.

In principle, it is, I believe, clear that your office should, as soon as practicable, be absorbed into the office of the DPP. To enable decisions to be made as to how and when this should be achieved, I should like you to submit as soon as possible a report on the present activities of your office and how your present staff resources are being used.

On receipt of this report and after consultation with the director designate, I shall let you know what is planned in relation to your office.

I had in mind developments on these lines in suggesting in my previous letter that, to enable a smooth transition from your office to that of the Director, it was desirable that the work of your office should be kept to manageable proportions and readily identifiable areas. It is certainly not intended that your office should, pending the appointment of the Director, cease to co- ordinate certain investigations or handle prosecutions. However, pending assumption of office by the Director, a period for consolidation rather than expansion by your office would seem appropriate.

You referred to a number of matters in category F which, in a previous letter, you described as matters as to which there was a difference of view between Mr Costigan and yourself on whether Mr Costigan had referred the matters to you. Your latest letter suggests that you are further advanced in dealing with some of these matters than you earlier indicated. However, before commenting further on your involvement in these matters, I shall seek Mr Costigan's views.

In suggesting that you conclude as soon as possible your advising role in relation to matters of State concern only, I had in mind the difficulties that could occur in transferring responsibility to the Director, if your advising role was in a state of partial completion. I appreciate the desirability of co- ordinating investigations which involved breaches of both State and Commonwealth laws and the encouragement of co-operation with State agencies. However, in this area too, it would, I think, be wise to follow the principle that the period before the Director takes up office should be one of consolidation rather than expansion. Therefore at this stage you should seek to complete present tasks in this area and be cautious in taking on new ones.

You next referred to the view expressed in my previous letter that it would not be appropriate for you to take responsibility in any further matters identified by Mr Costigan without reference to me. In my view, it is quite inappropriate and indeed contrary to fundamental principle that decisions as to the matters to be handled by a Special Prosecutor should be made by any person other than the First Law Officer. An exception could be justified only in special circumstances and for a very limited period.

While I would myself think that the phrase 'alleged illegal activities identified' by the Costigan Commission in the instrument executed by Acting Attorney-General Brown on 21 October 1982 should be read as applying only to activities identified on or before the date of that instrument, I appreciate that the question is not entirely clear. One possible course would be for me to revoke that instrument and substitute for it an instrument 'expressly limiting your authority to matters identified by Mr Costigan up to a specified date. If either Mr Costigan or you see difficulty in complying with my wish in this regard, I propose to take this course.

Nothing in this letter should be interpreted as a suggestion that the work of your office should now be wound down or phased out. However, as indicated above, you should, in the limited interim period, bear in mind that your office will in due course be integrated into the office of the Director and you should seek to avoid new activities that would complicate that integration or commit the Director to a particular course of action of long term significance.

If you feel the need for further explanation, I shall be glad to discuss the above with you.

I am furnishing a copy of this letter and your letter of 7 December to Mr Costigan with a request for comment on the matters mentioned in category F.

Yours sincerely,

GARETH EVANS

Sentor the Hon. Gareth Evans, 25th January, 1984 Attorney-General,

Parliament House,

Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.

Dear Gareth,

I have received your letter of the 20th inst. I am relieved to learn that none of the ''requests'' contained in your letter of 1st December were designed to result in ''any diminution of effort'' on the part of my office. Those '' requests'' undoubtedly would have had that effect. I am also anxious to obtain your views and those of the Director as to the role, if any, that the Director's office will play in investigations currently being co-ordinated or undertaken by this office. The course that I now follow on some of these investigations will be influenced by your respective views. Similar considerations apply to the '' civil remedies'' I am now exercising.

As your letter of 20th January contains a clear direction that I not accept any ''new'' matters that are referred to me by Mr Costigan, I shall not undertake consideration of such matters without having sought and obtained your approval.

Thank you for your kind words in our conversation of Thursday last. I shall do all I can to assist the Director in his new endeavours and to ensure a smooth transition.

I hope to arrange a meeting with the Director shortly to discuss these matters.

I note in concluding that no one from your Department has yet contacted me about any of these important issues, notwithstanding the ''shabby treatment'' that I have already drawn to your attention.

Yours sincerely,

ROBERT F. REDLICH


Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —Are there any other letters?


Senator GARETH EVANS —That exchange of correspondence does not include Mr Redlich's letter of 7 December to me. There are two reasons for not giving that letter at this stage. One is that its terms have been amply set out in the National Times in relevant part. The second reason is that large parts of that letter deal with specific cases. There has not been time to edit that letter to remove those things that must remain in the realm of confidence. Should there be any desire on the part of the missionary zealots of the Opposition to pursue this matter, I would be only too happy to incorporate that letter in Hansard in an appropriately edited form. I simply mention for the oral record as well as the written one the terms of Mr Redlich's final letter to me in this exchange of 25 January which, in relevant part, reads as follows:

I have received your letter of the 20th inst. I am relieved to learn that none of the ''requests'' contained in your letter of 1st December were designed to result in ''any diminution of effort'' on the part of my office. Those '' requests'' undoubtedly would have had that effect.

The implication is 'had they been requests' because the word 'requests' is in inverted commas. It continues:

I am also anxious to obtain your views and those of the Director as to the role if any, that the Director's office will play in investigations currently being co-ordinated or undertaken by this office. The course that I now follow on some of these investigations will be influenced by your respective views. Similar considerations apply to the ''civil remedies'' I am now exercising.

As your letter of 20th January contains a clear direction that I not accept any ''new'' matters that are referred to me by Mr Costigan, I shall not undertake consideration of such matters without having sought and obtained your approval.

Thank you for your kind words in our conversation of Thursday last. I shall do all I can to assist the Director in his new endeavours and to ensure a smooth transition.

Any suggestion that at least as of 25 January this year relations between Mr Redlich and me were other than those of sweetness and light is utterly misconceived.