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Friday, 5 October 1984
Page: 1293

Senator DURACK(9.22) —Mr Temporary Chairman, I have circulated a number of amendments in relation to clause 3, the first six of which deal simply with the proposition that the National Crime Authority should be included along with Mr Justice Stewart and the Commissioner of Public Complaints, as those to whom this material can be given by Mr Temby. I seek leave therefore to move amendments Nos 1 to 6 together.

Leave granted.

Senator DURACK —I move:

1. Page 2, proposed new sub-section 7B (1), line 4, leave out 'either or both', insert 'any or all'.

2. Page 2, after proposed new paragraph 7B (1) (b), add the following new paragraph:

' (c) the National Crime Authority'.

3. Page 2, proposed new sub-section 7B (2), line 11, leave out ', the Commissioner', insert 'or the National Crime Authority, the Commissioner or Authority'.

4. Page 2, after proposed new paragraph 7B (2) (b), insert the following word and paragraph:

'; or

(c) in the case of the National Crime Authority-whether the document is or may be relevant to matters with which the Authority is concerned,'.

5. Page 2, proposed new sub-section 7B (2), line 23, after 'Commissioner', insert 'or the Authority, as the case may be,'.

6. Page 3, after proposed new sub-section 7B (4), add the following new sub- section:

' ''(5) If a document referred to in sub-section (1) is given to the National Crime Authority and the Authority is satisfied as to the matters mentioned in sub-section (2), the Authority may make use of the document for the purposes of the performance of the Authority's functions, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the Authority may-

(a) show the document to a person giving evidence to the Authority;

(b) subject to any relevant restrictions provided by the National Crime Authority Act 1984, include matter contained in the document in any report made, or information furnished, by the Authority in the performance of its functions; and

(c) make such other use of the document as the Authority considers appropriate for the purpose of identifying the person who made the document and the circumstances in which the document was made.''.'

The arguments have been covered extensively by me during the second reading debate. The material which is in the possession of Mr Temby for the purposes of the performance of his functions as Special Prosecutor under his appointment on 21 February this year is known, by way of shorthand, as the Age tapes. In fact, they are mostly transcripts of tapes, but I think that is what everyone has in mind by that expression. This material, as clause 3 provides, is to be made available to Mr Justice Stewart in respect of the letters patent that were given to him as a royal commissioner to investigate what is known colloquially as the Mr Asia syndicate. Despite a very major report by Mr Justice Stewart in relation to that matter, investigation is still proceeding in respect of some matters. Some material on these Age tapes allegedly contains reference to one of his avenues of inquiry. The other person to whom this material may be given under the Bill as it stands is the Commissioner of Public Complaints appointed in New South Wales under the Commissioner of Public Complaints Act.

As I said in the second reading debate, the Age tapes material is said, if genuine, to be possibly relevant to a number of offences under Commonwealth law and under State law. One can only imagine that that is accepted by the Government in its proposal that the material be forwarded to the Commissioner of Public Complaints, because that is a State commission with powers to investigate breaches of State laws that may arise in regard to official misconduct of one kind or another, and therefore, this material must be thought to be possibly relevant to any inquiries that that body may make. So it is a very general reference of this material to the Commissioner of Public Complaints, unlike the reference to Mr Justice Stewart, which is specifically in relation to one of his still outstanding inquiries in regard to the Mr Asia syndicate; but it is not suggested that the material which is contained in the Age tapes is by any means confined to that area that Mr Justice Stewart is investigating. As I have said, the fact that it has been sent to the Commissioner of Public Complaints confirms that a wide range of criminal activity is suggested by this Age tapes material.

In that event, the Opposition has already suggested, but the Senate has not accepted the proposal, that there should be a royal commission into the whole matter. Nevertheless, as I have said, there is-it is apparently accepted by the Government-a sufficient degree of concern about these Age tapes and their possible relevance and usefulness in criminal investigations for the Government to believe that they should be made available to Mr Justice Stewart in his inquiry and to the Commissioner of Public Complaints in respect of any possible complaint that may be made about official misconduct or corruption by that officer appointed under the New South Wales Act in respect of the breaches or possible breaches of New South Wales laws. So here we have another recognition by the Government of the possibly substantive character of the Age tapes. It has , as we know, accepted them as requiring and justifying a reference to a special prosecutor, Mr Temby himself, and we have Mr Temby's report before us, tabled earlier in these sittings.

It is recognised that there may well be some substance in the Age tapes. I think that it is now recognised by most people that they are not just simply a hoax and that there may well be material provided in these tapes or documents that will point to criminal activities, breaches of either Federal or State laws . It seems to be unsatisfactory that such material should be available only for the limited type of inquiries which are not already specified in the Bill-namely , that of Mr Justice Stewart or any such inquiries that may be made by the Commissioner of Public Complaints in New South Wales.

The Government and the Australian Democrats do not see the justification for a royal commission into this matter. I find the view that they have taken very surprising, particularly that of the Australian Democrats whose leader, Senator Chipp, has played a leading role in regard to concerns about organised crime and what ought to be done about it. Nevertheless, the Democrats have decided this morning by their recent vote that they will not support a royal commission into the matters. At the very least I would have thought that the newly established National Crime Authority, which is a joint Federal-State body now in existence as a result of legislation that we have passed, would be a most appropriate body to receive the Age tapes material from Mr Temby. As I have said previously, Mr Temby has indicated that he cannot take his inquiries any further at this stage because he has not received the co-operation that in some respects he might well have expected to receive. That has not been forthcoming. I quote from paragraph 31 of his report in which he states:

The matter could be taken further by the materials generally being referred to some body or person having coercive powers.

He does not talk about the material being referred just to Mr Justice Stewart although he suggests that Mr Justice Stewart as a royal commissioner has those powers, and he also mentioned the Senate Select Committee. He says:

The matter could be taken further by the materials generally being referred to some body . . .

Therefore the Opposition believes that the National Crime Authority is the body which certainly satisfies that view expressed by Mr Temby as Special Prosecutor in his report to us dated 20 July. The object of these amendments is to add to the list of bodies-the destinations contained in this Bill for this material, namely, Mr Justice Stewart and the Commissioner for Public Complaints-a third body, the National Crime Authority. Amendments (1) to (6) are consequential amendments to give effect to that proposal from the Opposition.

As I have said, this material refers to various possible breaches of Federal and State law. I understand the matter was referred to the Solicitor-General of New South Wales because of possible breaches of State law and that inquiries are going ahead in New South Wales in relation to those matters. I do not know what progress has been made with the New South Wales investigations of this material; maybe there has been some report on it of which I am not aware. If there is, I would be pleased if the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) could indicate what the state of play is with the New South Wales investigations.

But be that as it may we have clear knowledge of the situation in which Mr Temby found himself of not being able to take the matter further because of the non-co-operation of people. He specifies a number of people from whom he sought co-operation, including some New South Wales lawyers who, I say disappointingly, have not provided information to him which he should be expected to have received. But there are other people obviously who have not co-operated either. The only way to ascertain this is by having a body with the necessary powers. The National Crime Authority has the powers which may be able to take the matter further. It has the expertise and, if it gets a reference, it has the ability to exercise those powers. It is already sifting through all sorts of other material on which it will be approaching the Government to exercise those powers if it thinks necessary.

This material should be added to that exercise which the National Crime Authority is making. If it believes that there are matters which could be taken further by the exercise of the powers, it has the ability to approach the governments and hopefully the governments would give the necessary reference to it to enable the coercive powers to be exercised. But at least at this stage, so far as we in this Parliament can take it, we make that material available to the National Crime Authority. The only thing that prevents that being done, so far as I can see at the moment, would be the provisions of the Telecommunications ( Interception) Act. To make it perfectly clear that the Authority can have this material, this amendment should be made.