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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 709


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(4.19) —The Senate has before it some 21 pieces of correspondence originating from a letter from the Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). Mr Costigan's message to the Prime Minister is that if he is to do two things-that is, write his report fully and brief fully the incoming National Crime Authority-he will need more time. It is fascinating that nowhere in the other letters, whether from the Prime Minister or the National Crime Authority, has that fundamental question been addressed. The question could have been addressed very simply by saying: 'Complete your report. We will give you an extension of your commission for two or three weeks or whatever time is necessary to brief the Authority'. In other words, overcoming the problem was entirely within the hands of the Prime Minister and the Special Minister of State (Mr Young). But the 21 letters have shown a considerable conflict, without any kind of leadership from the Prime Minister. The end result is, of course, a clear statement by the royal commissioner which Senator Chaney has quoted and which reads:

I note your confidence that failure to receive briefings will not constitute a serious impairment to the work of the authority. I do not share that view nor do I understand how it could sensibly be entertained; you will not be able, without briefing, to take on my investigations, if that is your intention.

Nothing could be clearer than that. Some weeks beforehand Mr Costigan had written to Mr Hawke in the clearest of terms. He pointed out that the task of writing the report would occupy the remainder of his commission. He stated:

It follows there will not be time before 30 September for the National Crime Authority to be briefed on current operations or investigatons or to gain an understanding of the higher levels of operational techniques.

So far as these matters are concerned, therefore, the transition from the Commission to the Authority will fail. I have pointed out this problem on many occasions and there is nothing to add. The impact of that on the Authority's future operations is a matter for the Government and the Authority.

The fact is that in that paragraph lies the whole story of those 21 letters. I repeat what Mr Costigan stated:

I have pointed out this problem on many occasions and there is nothing to add.

The important thing to add is that the Prime Minister studiously ignored the request. Indeed, the National Crime Authority, as I read the correspondence, did not support any extension of time for briefings. It said that it could do its job without any further briefing. The serious situation is that, as Mr Costigan has pointed out, there are grave difficulties. He said repeatedly that there would not be time available. For example, Mr Costigan's letter of 3 July to the Prime Minister said:

I fear the time taken will be longer than you anticipate.

Perhaps the most important thing in Mr Hawke's letter to Mr Costigan, in response to his statement that he would not have time, is a condolence and reference to Mr Costigan's previous illness. These words then appear:

It is, of course, unfortunate that it has cut short the time remaining for your inquiries.

If it is unfortunate that it has cut short the time remaining for his inquiries, why was it not incumbent upon the Prime Minister to extend the time? Of course, the finishing of the report is all-important. But the fact is that the briefing of the National Crime Authority is of abundant importance. It is strange that the Authority is not seeking an extension of time. It is important to realise from these documents that Mr Costigan has repeated that the National Crime Authority is so constrained in its powers and constricted by the law that he cannot see that it can do the job it has set out to do. I find this bundle of letters very revealing. I find it totally revealing that the Prime Minister shows no leadership and that at no time does he say: 'Let us settle this. Let the three of us get together to resolve the matter'.