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Tuesday, 14 May 1985
Page: 1942

Senator Gareth Evans —On 21 March 1985 (Hansard, page 565) Senator Archer asked me, as Minister representing the Attorney-General, the following question without notice:

In the light of the willingness of the New South Wales Police to give evidence to Mr Justice Stewart under indemnity from prosecution, does the Minister now concede that there is a means of authenticating the material? Why is the Attorney-General not prepared to ensure that the truth is established about the tapes and criminals brought to justice? Does it have anything to do with the possibility, as alleged today by Bob Bottom, that a very senior political figure in New South Wales used information on the tapes to head off legal action and would be exposed if police gave evidence?

The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Government, having given detailed consideration to the issues involved in the granting by an Attorney-General of an indemnity from prosecution and following consultations with the New South Wales Government, Mr Justice Stewart and Mr Temby, Q.C., introduced amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 to allow materials resulting from illegal intercepts in New South Wales up to 28 March 1985 to be furnished to the Stewart Royal Commission and to allow the Royal Commission to pass those materials to all relevant investigation, prosecution and police authorities. This action may now be taken without the commission of an offence against that Act.

At the same time, the relevant Letters Patent establishing the Stewart Royal Commission were amended by both the Commonwealth and New South Wales to expand the powers of the Royal Commission to investigate the unlawfully obtained material.

Where Mr Justice Stewart is satisfied of certain matters he may recommend to the Attorney-General that indemnities be granted to the person giving the evidence including, of course, police officers. Those conditions are outlined in my second reading speech given on 28 March 1985.

Specific answers to the honourable senator's questions are as follows:

(a) Investigation of the authenticity or otherwise of the tapes can now proceed.

(b) The actions which culminated on 29 March 1985 with the amendment of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission and amendment of the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 ensure that the means are available to establish the truth.

(c) No.