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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 772


Senator TEAGUE —I refer the Attorney-General to the letter from Mr Frank Costigan, QC, to the Prime Minister dated 25 March 1983, just after the last election, in which the Royal Commissioner referred to what he considered to be the 'outrageous' suggestion by the Attorney-General that he would be assured of a Federal judicial appointment if he accepted the position of head of a national crime commission. Even if we accept the Attorney's claim in the Senate in June this year that this serious allegation was the result of, as he put it, misunderstandings between Mr Costigan and himself, is it not still a fact that in the same letter Mr Costigan gave, as the main reason why he would not accept the position, his belief that the proposed commission 'cannot do the job it is supposed to do'? Despite the passage of time and the changes which have been forced on the Government by the Senate, is there anything to suggest that Commissioner Costigan has materially changed his mind about the inadequacy of the present National Crime Authority? Is it not a matter of great concern that the man who has pioneered the fight against organised crime in this country should still regard the Government's response as so totally un- satisfactory?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I note that the honourable senator in his question raises the matter of Mr Costigan's letter of March last year only in order then immediately to accept the explanation that I gave the Senate more recently about the circumstances of that exchange. Given that, I can regard the reference which prefaced his question only as wholly gratuitous. As to Mr Costigan's well known lack of enthusiasm for the concept of a National Crime Authority, that is something that has been quite overtly and explicitly articulated by Mr Costigan on many occasions, public and private, over the last two years, not least in the seminar in this chamber which occurred early last year. That ought not to come as a surprise to anybody.

As I have indicated on numerous occasions, in particular during debate on the National Crime Authority Bill, there are very difficult policy questions that have to be wrestled with in coming to grips with the most appropriate means of attack on organised crime. The Government believes, for reasons which have been spelt out on innumerable occasions and which I do not propose to waste time spelling out today-honourable senators will get a pretty fair summary of them in the report of the Special Prosecutor, Mr Redlich, where he expresses enthusiasm for the concept of a crime authority in one of the less quoted passages of his contribution in recent days-that this is the most appropriate and balanced way of dealing effectively with the problem of organised crime, while at the same time not capitulating completely to those who would not give sufficient weight to the protection of individual liberty, or sufficient weight to the interests of those other components of our Federation that wax so large in the rhetoric of the Opposition but which wax so little in their actual policy commitments. The reality is that law enforcement in this country has to be a co-operative process . We believe that the arrangements that are being set in place with the National Crime Authority will ultimately advance that cause far more successfully than a succession of ad hoc royal commissions of the kind that have traditionally been credited to this purpose.

There is very little more that I can say except to repeat the Government's confidence that the transition process will, despite some ups and downs along the way, work successfully. We have complete confidence in the membership of the new authority and complete confidence in its commitment to get on with the job that obviously still very much needs doing.