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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 679


Senator GARETH EVANS —Yesterday Senator Archer asked me a question about the Age tapes indemnity matter to which I undertook to seek an early reply from the Attorney-General. I honour that now by indicating to the Senate that I have received the following answer from the Attorney-General:

My actions and decisions in regard to the so-called 'Age tapes' and the illegal activities by N.S.W. Police have nothing to do with allegations made yesterday by Mr Bob Bottom that a very senior political figure in N.S.W. used information on the tapes to head off legal action. I have made it very clear that I want the N.S.W. Police concerned to give evidence to Mr Justice Stewart. I believe they have a clear duty to do so. I have also made it clear that I am supported in this view by the decision of the High Court in the so-called 'ASIS case' last year, that:

'the incapacity of the Executive Government to dispense its servants from obedience to laws made by Parliament is the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy'.

The Federal Telecommunications Interception Act of 1979 constitutes a fundamental protection of basic civil rights in this community. Breaches of it, particularly by police, are not matters that I can, or will, regard except as of the utmost gravity.

Refusal by police officers to provide a Royal Commissioner with evidence they have of serious criminal activity is a very grave matter. I have taken steps that I hope will result in the police concerned reconsidering their position to discharge their professional duty to our community.