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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 68

Senator ARCHER —I also ask a question of the Special Minister of State. I need to prefix it by saying that I too particularly regret the lack of commitment on the part of his predecessor in these matters. Recent media reports indicate that the Perth office of the National Crime Authority has been closed because of Federal funding cuts, even though its extensive investigations into organised crime and drug trafficking in that area are not complete. Is it a fact that the NCA has uncovered links between organised crime and some well known local names? Will the Minister give an unequivocal assurance that there will be no reduction in effort in Western Australia until all investigations are concluded? Will he give the Senate the reasons for closing the Perth office?

Senator TATE —Of course, I will not comment on any particular details of the operation of the National Crime Authority in relation to the reference which required the setting up of the Perth office. As I understand it, the office in Perth was established by the National Crime Authority, of its own initiative, to undertake investigations under one reference and part of another. My advice is that both investigations are now completed, with some minor matters to be finalised. The claim that the office was only halfway through or at an incomplete stage of those investigations under those references is not correct. I have been advised by the National Crime Authority that it does not expect to need to operate an office in Perth in the next few months. If it were required, the NCA would undertake the dedication of resources to achieve it. Senator Archer will be aware, as will honourable senators, that the National Crime Authority, when it does not act under a reference from the Inter-Governmental Committee, acts of its own motion. I believe this was the case with the investigations undertaken in Western Australia. There was no political intervention whatsoever, in other words, in its undertaking the setting up of the Perth office. I hope that there will be no political intervention-there certainly will not be on my part-in its autonomous decision to close it.

I also emphasise that it does have a certain autonomy, which was confirmed to me by Mr Gordon Hill, the Western Australian Minister for Police, whom I phoned before lunch. He expressed his confidence in the dedication of the Commonwealth Government in fighting organised crime. He emphasised, too, the autonomy of the National Crime Authority in these matters. I have already had some communication which leads me to hope that I may meet with Mr Justice Stewart of the National Crime Authority in the very near future to discuss the whole question of its adequately performing what the Parliament requires within, obviously, the limits of budgetary considerations.