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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3522

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy) —On behalf of the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) I table the report of the review of material relating to the entry of suspected war criminals into Australia, and I seek leave to make a statement relating thereto.

Leave granted.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

The report of the review of material relating to the entry of suspected war criminals into Australia was presented to the Special Minister of State on 28 November 1986 by the person conducting the review, Mr A. C. Menzies. The review has concluded that it is more likely than not that persons who committed serious war crimes in World War II have entered Australia. With his report, Mr Menzies has provided a list of the more significant instances of allegations that particular persons now in Australia have committed serious war crimes. Some 70 people have been identified as warranting further inquiry. They originate in a number of countries and the review has stressed that they are only a minute proportion of the enormous numbers of persons who came to Australia from those areas and who have made such a significant contribution to Australia's development. Mr Menzies has recommended that the list should not be divulged, except to whatever body is charged with taking further action on the report.

As to how these persons entered Australia, Mr Menzies considers that the serious limitations, particularly in the early years, in numbers and geographical spread of staff available to do the necessary checking and the equally serious gaps in the data against which Australian security officers would have made their checks provide the probable explanation for how the overwhelming majority of these persons were able to pass through the security control net and enter Australia. The facts as ascertained by the review did not establish any policy by any Australian government to allow or assist the entry of known or suspected war criminals into Australia; and the review found no evidence whatsoever that any Australian officer had knowingly allowed a war criminal to migrate to Australia.

In summary, the review has recommended that the Government should take appropriate action under the law to bring to justice persons found in Australia who have committed serious war crimes; and that a special unit should be established to deal with requests for extradition of alleged war criminals and to make preliminary investigations of cases recorded by the review as appropriate for investigation. Other recommendations concern entry, deportation and extradition arrangements and the possible need to amend the War Crimes Act 1945 so as to permit the ordinary criminal courts to deal with a war crime. The review notes that the question of entering into special new extradition arrangements, especially with countries with judicial systems markedly different to our own, is particularly sensitive and very much one for policy judgment by the Government.

The Government has arranged for urgent study of the findings and recommendations of the review and the Attorney-General will be putting a report to Cabinet as early as possible in 1987. While the Government has not yet had the opportunity to give detailed consideration to any of the review's recommendations, our present inclination is not to pursue the option of specially negotiated new extradition arrangements in the case of countries with markedly different judicial systems.

At paragraphs 3.42, 6.8 and 6.29 of the report, Mr Menzies mentions that, apart from one matter, a substantive reply had not been received from United States officials to requests for information as to certain individuals of interest to the review. It should now be noted that on 3 December 1986 in Washington, United States officials supplied to Australian officers certain limited information as to these individuals. Mr Menzies has advised the Government that this information is in no way inconsistent with any conclusion or observation in the report. With the exception of the short part of the report described as confidential by Mr Menzies at paragraph 7.1, the review is tabled as presented. A copy of the confidential part has been given to the Leader of the Opposition.