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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1111


Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer him to his answer to a question from Senator Collard earlier in Question Time today in which he referred to a letter dated 25 October 1982 from former Prime Minister Fraser to the Premier of Victoria concerning the Fraser Government's plans for the transfer of the work of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union to the proposed National Crimes Commission and his attempt to use that letter to justify the Hawke Government's handling of the transfer of investigations from the Costigan Royal Commission to the National Crime Authority. I refer the Attorney in particular to the second paragraph of that letter, and ask him: Does not that letter propose that the extension of the Costigan Commission would be to 1 July 1983, on the express assumption that the National Crime Commission would commence operation early in 1983? Does this not indicate a transition period of approximately six months? Further, I ask the Attorney whether Prime Minister Fraser said in the letter, in reference to ensuring an orderly transition:

I have advised Mr Costigan that the Government would, if necessary, consider extending his Commission beyond 1 July 1983 to ensure that this occurs.

Is it not clear from the letter from Mr Fraser to Mr Cain that the Fraser Government contemplated an adequate period of six months or more for this orderly transition by contrast with the Hawke Government's closing down of any investigation by Mr Costigan on 30 June this year, before the National Crime Authority was constituted on 1 July this year, leaving only three months with a belated extension to four months for briefing the new Authority and writing a report, and with no overlapping of investigations at all?


Senator GARETH EVANS —No, there is no foundation for the series of assertions that has just been made. The truth of the matter concerning the proposal being hawked about by the Fraser Government in its legislation is best described in a further telex from the then, I presume, Acting Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, to the Premier of Victoria on 4 January 1983, in which the proposal was that the life of the Costigan Commission be extended until six months after the establishment of the National Crimes Commission or 31 December 1983, whichever occurred first. The logic of that, in case it has not occurred to the Leader of the Opposition, is that in the event that the Crimes Commission took longer than the middle of 1983 to get established and running, the transition period in fact would have been shorter than six months. That was just the logic of the particular formula that was adopted. I think it may have turned up in the statute. Certainly it was the executive formula that was being hawked around.

A time period of around six months was contemplated by the previous Government, but there was no irrevocable commitment to it being six months or more than six months. The one irrevocable commitment in the then Government's position was that, come what may, the Costigan Commission would be terminated by 31 December 1983. It is now, in case nobody opposite has noticed, October 1984. Still the Costigan Commission is going and still it is going as a result of a series of extensions that were given to it by the Hawke Labor Government.

The transition is proceeding. It is an orderly one. Nobody has anything to hide . It is exactly the kind of process that was anticipated by the previous Government. Yet again, it is cant, hypocrisy, humbug and disinformation for the Opposition to be claiming otherwise.


Senator CHANEY —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of the Attorney-General's florid and inaccurate response, will he agree to the incorporation in Hansard of the letter which he produced so that his answer can be judged against the facts? I ask him to agree to the incorporation of this letter in Hansard.


Senator GARETH EVANS —Yes, provided I can also incorporate the full text of the telex to Mr Cain from Mr Anthony which concludes with a copy of his Press release which he proposed to issue and which, for the record, is expressed in the following terms:

Mr Anthony said that following its creation the National Crimes Commission would, for a limited time, operate in parallel with Mr Costigan's Commission during which time Mr Costigan would be able to finalise his inquiries and furnish his report. The Government intends that Mr Costigan's final report should, in any case, be made not later than 31 December 1983.

I am delighted to have that incorporated, along with the text of the other matter, in Hansard. I seek leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter and telex read as follows-

Prime Minister Canberra 25 October 1982

My dear Premier

I refer to our earlier correspondence concerning an extension of time for the Costigan Royal Commission.

As the Acting Attorney-General has discussed with you, the Commonwealth has agreed to extend the Royal Commission to 1 July 1983 on the assumption that the National Crimes Commission will be available to commence operations early in 1983. As the Acting Attorney-General informed you by telex on 13 October, the Commonwealth is introducing legislation to establish this body. The Commonwealth recognises the need to allow for an orderly transition between the Royal Commission and the new body. I have advised Mr Costigan that the Government would, if necessary, consider extending his Commission beyond 1 July 1983 to ensure that this occurs.

In response to a request by the Royal Commission for guidance as to its future planning, the Commonwealth is indicating that, while it does not seek to direct the Commission as to how it should carry out its functions, it sees certain areas of priority for action by the Commission in the remainder of its term. These priorities would be action to facilitate the efforts of the Special Prosecutors and their Task Forces in prosecuting the offences highlighted in the interim reports and action to finalise discrete segments of the investigations, particularly those relating more directly to the Painters and Dockers Union.

The Commonwealth notes that Mr Costigan foreshadowed the need for an extension of some two to three years to enable him to complete his inquiries. Obviously, considerable work will be outstanding at 1 July 1983 as indeed it would be at the end of 1983. We would have in mind that the outstanding information which the Royal Commission has gathered would be made available to the National Crimes Commission to be dealt with pursuant to the legislation establishing it.

You may wish to consider whether the National Crimes Commission should be authorised to investigate breaches of Victorian law arising from that information. The Acting Attorney-General will be discussing with you the Commonwealth's intention to establish the Crimes Commission and the general question of participation by the States.

I am asking the Acting Attorney-General to speak further with Mr Costigan and with you concerning the future of the work of the Royal Commission and the transition to the National Crimes Commission. I have written to Mr Costigan advising him of this.

Yours sincerely Malcolm Fraser The Hon. John Cain, M.L.A.

Premier of Victoria,

Melbourne, Vic. 3000

FROM DEPT PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET

475 4.6.83 PK

TO THE PREMIER OF VICTORIA

FROM THE ACTING PRIME MINISTER

IMMEDIATE

RRRRRRRRR

RESTRICTED

My Dear Premier

COSTIGAN ROYAL COMMISSION

I propose to announce that the Governor-General has approved the extension of the reporting time for the Costigan Royal Commission into the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union until six months after the establishment of the National Crimes Commission or 31 December 1983, which ever occurs first.

I have asked the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, to consult with you early in the new year about the future work of the royal commission and arrangements for transition to the National Crimes Commission, as foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in his letter of 25 October 1982. The text of the Press release is as follows:

'Extension of time for Costigan Royal Commission into Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union activities

The Acting Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, announced today that Mr Costigan, Q.C. had been given an extension of time to make his final report on his inquiry into the activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union. Mr Costigan, who had been required to make that report by 31 December 1982, will not be required to do so until six months after the establishment of the National Crimes Commission, or 31 December 1983, whichever occurs first.

The Government's intention to establish the National Crimes Commission as soon as possible was announced by the then acting Attorney-General, Mr Brown, on 15 December after the Bill to establish the commission had passed all stages in the Parliament.

Mr Anthony said that following its creation the National Crimes Commission would, for a limited time, operate in parallel with Mr Costigan's Commission during which time Mr Costigan would be able to finalise his inquiries and furnish his report. The Government intends that Mr Costigan's final report should, in any case, be made not later than 31 December 1983.'

Yours Sincerely (J. D. ANTHONY) ENDS: 10.20 AM

PREMIER AA32636

PRIMIN AA61616