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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 829

Senator BOSWELL —My question is directed to Senator Bolkus representing the Minister for Justice, Mr Kerr. I refer the minister to the AAP report of 12 May which said:

The federal government today conceded that the National Crime Authority (NCA) could be assisting in a probe into allegations that a senior Australian Labor Party figure had sex with prostitutes paid for with proceeds from organised crime.

I ask: when was the minister advised by the NCA that there was a probe into these matters, and by whom, and was the name of the ALP figure divulged to the minister at any of these briefings, and what was his name?

The PRESIDENT —I call the Minister representing the Minister for Justice, Senator Boswell.

Senator McMullan —Senator Bolkus.

The PRESIDENT —I am sorry, Senator Bolkus. My apologies; a Freudian slip.

Senator BOLKUS —The minister's name has never been officially divulged to me.

Senator Ferguson —Minister!

Senator BOLKUS —I am just responding to Senator McMullan's point here. In fact, no name has been officially divulged to me on this particular issue. In terms of an AAP report, if Senator Boswell had relied on the AAP then it would never have got here in the first place. I do say to Senator Boswell, though, that it really behoves all of us in this place when dragging up issues like this to recognise that, when one talks about operational matters, the enforcement agencies have a responsibility to keep them as operational matters and to keep them out of the political arena. It also behoves us, I think, to ensure that: firstly, we do not trawl people's names in here without justification; secondly, we do not find them guilty by parliamentary innuendo, attacking and naming here; and, thirdly, we do not jump to conclusions for political reasons. Dare I say it, but on this matter the opposition is involved in all of that. It is really trawling a person's name in here and trying to make a political issue out of it.

  I must say that, in terms of hypocrisy, if this opposition is concerned about issues that the electorate is concerned about, if the opposition's polls are showing that the electorate does not want parliament to become a gutter, then Senator Boswell as leader of his party in this place has a responsibility to desist from dragging this sort of stuff into this place. It is utter sewage. Senator Boswell's leader who, at the same time, has come in here professing a new approach ought to steer away from the hypocritical approach we are seeing from his side of parliament today. It is pure hypocrisy to claim a gutter free approach from the opposition's side when, as I say, the opposition has a mortgage on the gutter—it has taken over it.

  As I said to Senator Boswell at the start of this answer, I have not been officially briefed about anyone, nor would I ask because when it comes to operational matters it has been quite understood by people involved in this policy issue in this place that we should not ask, we should not be involved. As long as there is no political interference, and that should be the concern of the parliament—the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the government—we should not be trawling people's names through this place.

  In terms of the NCA's obligations and its conduct, we have determined as a parliament—and we in the Senate were quite insistent on this clause going into section 50 of the NCA act—that the authority should operate in private. The charter that we have given the AFP ensures that it, too, operates in private. The Criminal Justice Commission in Queensland also has secrecy provisions which, as I say, may not be being met at the moment. It does Senator Boswell's reputation no good, nor does it do the reputation of the opposition or the parliament any good, for Senator Boswell to come in here slinging dirt like this.

Senator BOSWELL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his lecture on what we should and should not be doing; but the briefing to the minister is not covered by section 50 of the NCA act. I ask the minister again—and I ask him, deliberately, not to avoid the question—was he briefed by the NCA and, if so, when?

Senator BOLKUS —Senator Boswell is asking me that?

Senator Boswell —When was Mr Kerr briefed?

Senator BOLKUS —I have no right to be briefed by anyone. I have been advised by the Attorney-General's staff in respect of this. Whether the Attorney-General has been briefed and on what particular date I will find out for Senator Boswell.