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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1745


Senator DURACK —Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.


Senator DURACK —During the Grievance Debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday, 11 October, Mr Tickner referred to representations which had been made to me as Attorney-General in June and July 1982 by Mr Birney, MP, and the late Sir Ernest White in support of a no bill application by Mr Morgan Ryan. Also the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Lionel Bowen, in answer to a question on 9 October, alleged that the question of 'committing Morgan Ryan for trial had been before me for over twelve months' and that he had not been committed for trial by the Liberal Government. Mr Ryan had been committed for trial on 22 March 1982 on charges of conspiracy and being knowingly concerned in an offence of forgery. His trial was scheduled to commence on 19 July 1982 but was adjourned as a result of the application for the no bill.

There was nothing new in the story that approaches had been made to the previous Government on behalf of Morgan Ryan. That matter was raised in the New South Wales Parliament by Mr Wran, I think, on 29 February this year and reported the next day. This has been ac- knowledged by Mr Fraser and there was nothing unusual or improper about such representations. However, Mr Tickner alleged that I was 'prepared to act on the representations and grant the no bill application provided that political criticism was not likely to be forthcoming'. He later said:

Clearly a cloud hangs over the head of Senator Durack into this matter . . .

Later in the day I issued a Press statement rejecting these allegations. However , Mr Tickner's allegations were widely reported in the newspapers published on Friday morning, but only some papers published my denial. In particular the Australian and the Daily Telegraph ran front page stories without reference to my denial. I shall now read the statement I issued last Thursday evening:

I totally reject the allegations made in the House by Mr Robert Tickner that I had decided to agree to a 'no bill' application in the case of Mr Morgan Ryan.

The only action I took before falling ill was to ask for an independent counsel 's opinion.

The application from Mr Ryan's solicitors was forwarded to me by Mr Jack Birney , MP, and was subsequently supported by representations from Sir Ernest White to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser.

It was received in my office on 23 July 1982 and sent to the Attorney-General's Department for its advice. It was supported by a good deal of material including a QC's opinion.

For those reasons I decided to obtain a counsel's opinion independent from the Department. That was obtained and sent to my office on 13 September.

I never saw it because I was taken to hospital later that day suffering a heart attack.

The decision to reject the application was taken by the Acting Attorney-General , Mr Brown, on 3 November.

The matter was before the Fraser Government for just over 4 months.

After Mr Brown's decision, Mr Ryan had to take his place in the queue for a new hearing date.

That of course had absolutely nothing to do with the Fraser Government.

The fact is that I made no decision at all in relation to the application other than to request my Department to obtain a counsel's opinion. After that opinion was received, the matter was dealt with by the then Acting Attorney-General, Mr Neil Brown, who also sought an opinion from the then Solicitor-General, Sir Maurice Byers. The opinions were to the effect that the conspiracy charge should proceed, and it did proceed. However, a new trial date had to be obtained and that did not occur until July 1983.

Claims were also made by Mr Tickner and the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Bowen, that it was the present Attorney's decision to send Mr Ryan for trial. Although it may be technically correct that the indictment was filed on his behalf, the effective decision to send Mr Ryan for trial was made by Mr Brown when he rejected the application for the no bill. Both the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Tickner made grave accusations against me without any foundation and I repudiate them with the contempt they deserve.