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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1847

Senator ARCHER —I refer the Attorney-General to his unconvincing attempt to justify the Government's attitude, and more particularly his own actions over the handling of the Age tapes issue, actions which have been widely condemned by commentators all over Australia in the course of the last seven weeks. In particular, I refer to his claim that, as regards matters covered by State law, there was nothing the Commonwealth could do to pursue investigations because of divisions of power under the Constitution. Does he agree that the Williams, Stewart and Costigan royal commissions were all joint royal commissions established by the Commonwealth in co-operation with State governments? Does he agree that this course of action was always open and remains open to the Commonwealth in respect of the serious allegations raised in the Age tapes material? Why has the Hawke Government consistently refused to approach the Wran Government to set up a joint inquiry?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I made it perfectly clear yesterday that the Government has nothing to be ashamed of in its handling of the Age tapes, and indeed that is a view that has been amply endorsed by Sir James Killen, who not only took that particular view about the approach the Government adopted but also took a considerable swipe at the mean-spirited and unprincipled way in which the Liberals had approached the issue themselves, trying to advance their cause-not that they have been very successful, judging by the current gallup polls-by a campaign of smear, innuendo and reliance on allegation at the expense of fact. I made very clear yesterday what the content of that Age material was, where it bore upon Commonwealth offences, where it bore upon State offences and what action had been taken in relation to it. It was a full and convincing answer in terms of the approach that any government would have taken when confronted with that particular material, and I have absolutely nothing to add to what I then said.