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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 711

Senator PETER BAUME(4.28) —I support the remarks of my colleagues and observe that we have had not just one tabling of documents, but, as I have been advised today, a further tabling of documents. This Government has been reluctant to come clean with all the correspondence, in spite of the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in the Hansard of the House of Representatives of 6 September that he would 'table . . . the full correspondence from Mr Costigan and the National Crime Authority'. I am led to believe that there have been more documents tabled today which add to the material available and which serve to emphasise the concerns which my colleague Senator Missen has just expressed.

The nation has only just been learning about the extent of organised crime in Australia and, with the work of Mr Costigan and the other investigators, of the possibility that we might be able to intervene effectively to do something about it. The letters which we are now discussing in the Senate-the 21 pieces of correspondence-are extraordinary for what they reveal.

This is an issue of public interest. We could ask: How is the public interest to be served best? Mr Costigan is quite clear that the pubic interest will not be served best by the processes and procedures which have been laid upon him, which have been ordained by the Government and from which it will not move. Mr Costigan says that the present procedures will not allow for the optimum pursuit of the fight against crime and will not allow for the optimum pursuit of the work he has done or the contribution he has made in trying to categorise some of the activities and in trying to intervene. Mr Justice Stewart or some other people disagree with Mr Costigan's view. I come back and ask: How do we seek to serve the public interest best on this matter when Mr Costigan says that the procedures laid down are not adequate and the Government says: 'We don't care. You will follow them in any event'. I believe we will not serve the public interest by following the course which the Government is pigheadedly taking. We will not serve the public interest by having the partial tabling of letters by the Prime Minister, with more coming out when Mr Peacock, the Leader of the Opposition, makes it clear that the letters--

Senator Button —Who is that?

Senator PETER BAUME —Come on now! This is a very significant issue. Senator Button may attempt to divert us, but the fact is that Mr Peacock made it clear that there has been an incomplete tabling of documents and more documents have appeared. We wonder whether that is all. The public interest will not be served best by some fight for territory or some unresolved disagreement between those who have an interest in the matter. I suggest that the enormity and importance of this task to us all cannot be underestimated. If Mr Costigan believes, as is clear from this correspondence, that a certain process is essential for him to hand over this work, why do we not follow the process he has recommended or why do we not get adequate answers as to why a different process should be followed? If Mr Costigan believes that a certain process should be followed, what is to be lost by following it? Why are people so determined to ignore what he says and so determined to do otherwise? What reason is there for people to disagree with him ? What reason was there for the Prime Minister to table an incomplete bundle of papers last week? What reason is there for the public interest to come second to some bureaucratic fight between people on a matter which is of such critical importance to us all?