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Friday, 5 October 1984
Page: 1292


Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(9.13) —At the close of play last night I was concluding my second reading reply in this debate, making the point that there is no justification for a royal commission now to be instituted to deal with the Age tapes material. The very point of the legislation now before the Senate is to ensure that that material will be dealt with in a royal commission context, namely by Mr Justice Stewart using his terms of reference in the Mr Asia, now Nugan Hand, affair which are ample to enable him to examine both the providence of the tapes if they indeed exist, and accordingly, the question of authenticity. Equally, Mr Justice Stewart's fairly wide-ranging brief in relation to that royal commission-the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking-is such as to enable him, quite usefully one would imagine, to use any hard information which did emerge as authentic from his preliminary inquiry. Equally, that would be true of the New South Wales Commissioner for Public Complaints who is also vested with authority by this legislation to look at the material. Certainly, in the event that the material did prove to be authentic and it appeared to justify a reference to some other law enforcement agency or body, the Government would, of course, under those circumstances, be prepared to look again at the possibilities of that material being communicated to those other bodies and agencies. But for the moment, the character of the material has been such and, as I indicated yesterday, has been so thoroughly worked over already by so many different bodies and agencies, that it would appear to be quite unnecessary to take the step that is proposed by the Opposition in this second reading amendment. I suspect in fact that were it not for the desire of the Opposition to breathe some new life into the so-called organised crime debate, this legislation would be seen as a perfectly satisfactory small remedial piece of legislation to enable matters to proceed in a way that is wholly rational and wholly defensible. Let us not hear any more talk of new royal commissions into this already overworked area. Let us allow the existing machinery to get on with the job, armed with the authority that is vested in those pieces of machinery by the legislation now before the Parliament .

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Durack's amendment) be added.