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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 547

Senator MINCHIN (8.58 p.m.) —This 618-page report frankly documents an extraordinary waste of taxpayers' money. In this age of political correctness that is probably not a sensible thing to say, so I hasten to add that I am not here to defend Nazi war criminals. Indeed, my father spent six years—from 1939 to 1945—risking his life every day from a cockpit to shoot down Nazi pilots. I certainly do not seek to defend them. But I do speak as someone who is very concerned about what I regard as a deplorable waste of taxpayers' money through this process.

  I particularly raise this matter as a South Australian senator, given that all three ultimate prosecutions were of South Australians whom I represent. In terms of the cost of this exercise, which is really the pertinent point of my comments, this report itself notes that from 1987 to 1992—the years covered by the report—salaries were of the order of $6 million and administrative expenses were of the order of $9.3 million. So for this special investigations unit we are talking about an expenditure of $15.3 million.

  Of course, this report does not go into the actual legal costs incurred in the prosecutions themselves. I gather the advice we have from the AG's department is that we are talking about a total expenditure of $30 million on this exercise. As a representative of the taxpayers in this place I want to point to the significant lack of achievement as a result of this expenditure.

  A total of four cases were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions from this five-year exercise; only three prosecutions were commenced after all this effort, and the three prosecutions involved three old men living in South Australia. All three prosecutions ultimately failed. In the first case the Supreme Court of South Australia acquitted the defendant, in the second case the charges were dismissed by a magistrate and, in the third case, the charges were dropped by the DPP.

  As I said, South Australians, more than anybody else in Australia, were the people most exposed to this federal government fiasco. Every day we had one and a half million South Australians watching this fiasco. And South Australians across all walks of life were very angry when they saw, daily, this waste of their money.

  It staggers me that anyone could think that, after nearly 50 years, justice could be done in this area or that successful prosecutions could ever hope to be completed. We all wish that World War II criminals had been dealt with at the time, and dealt with satisfactorily, but the fact is that we were talking about bringing these prosecutions nearly 50 years after the event. It is no wonder that ordinary Australian taxpayers thought that this was the craziest waste of money they had ever seen.

  From the ordinary taxpayers' point of view, Canberra comes up with some amazing ways to waste money, but this really took the cake. Ordinary South Australians in particular who were going about their business were seeing old men dragged before the courts and prosecuted for things done 50 years ago. There was never any hope of getting satisfactory evidence or of satisfactory justice being done. And of course those South Australians concerned about the waste of money were ultimately proved right in that every prosecution brought failed. As the report itself notes on page 5:

Many investigations were finally abandoned even though the allegations appeared to have substance. This was either because the suspect had died, before or during investigation, or because important witnesses had disappeared or died.

Frankly, what on earth did the government expect? We could have told it this would be the case before this was ever launched and before we wasted $30 million of taxpayers' money. The community has every right to be very angry about the waste of this money which this report documents. I hope that it will never be repeated.