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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 567

Senator CHIPP —I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General a question similar to that asked by Senator Archer, and notice of which I unashamedly gave Senator Gareth Evans at about a quarter to one today to give him ample time to get a reply from the Attorney-General. What is the Attorney-General's response to today's very serious allegations on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program AM by journalist Bob Bottom that a senior politician in New South Wales has had access to the so-called Age tapes for several years and had actually used some of the material on them to prevent an embarrassing court action involving himself? Why is the Attorney-General so reluctant to facilitate the passing of the vital information on these tapes to the National Crime Authority by granting indemnities to the 31 policemen involved, just as the Stewart Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking recommended, particularly when Senator Evans himself as Attorney-General, no doubt for good reason, had no hesitation in granting indemnities to all manner of crooks and criminals-I repeat for good reason-and, in particular, granting parole to a creature like Fulcher who served only four and a half years of an 18-year sentence? Why not grant indemnities to the policemen, who were doing their bit?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Ample time may have been given me by Senator Chipp to seek a reply from Mr Bowen but there has not proved to be ample time for me to get one. Under the circumstances I do not believe that I can add to the answer I gave Senator Archer other than to say that I am not sure that the media reporting this morning has properly construed Mr Bowen's response in Question Time yesterday to the extent that it is not clear, from my reading of his answer, that he was in fact saying that a final Government decision had been made on the indemnity question.

Senator Durack —Did you hear him on AM this morning?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I did not hear him on AM this morning, so Senator Durack knows more than I do. It is the first time in the seven years I have been in this Parliament that I can acknowledge that Senator Durack has been ahead of me. I accept the point.

Senator Chaney —How long were you Attorney-General-20 months? Just like Halley's Comet.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I will return in 80 years to haunt the honourable senator. As to the gratuitous reference by Senator Chipp to the Fulcher case, I can only say in that respect that, as is well known to honourable senators opposite-certainly to Senator Durack who was party to the decision in question and certainly to Mr Neil Brown in the other place who was also party to the decision; I believe it is well known to Senator Chipp as well-the decision to release that particular gentleman at the time was made by both governments, first in principle, then in practice by me, on the basis of reasons which were well known to both governments at the time and which I believe have ample objective justification.