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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 893

(Question No. 1038)

Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 February 1994:

  (1) Did the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) write directly to the defendant's solicitor/counsel in a recent prosecution in the Geelong Magistrate's Court involving Mr Frank La Pira.

  (2) Was the letter written by the CAA's corporate solicitor, Mr David Williams; if so, does Mr Williams understand that this is in breach of the Commonwealth's Prosecution Policy and the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983.

  (3) Was the letter written as the result of an approach to the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Roser, or Mr Williams, by a member of the Australian Aviation Advisory Committee; if so, please identify the member.

  (4) What is the relationship between that member and Mr La Pira.

  (5) Do Mr Roser and Mr Williams understand that their approach was an interference with the course of justice.

  (6) Did the prosecutor of the case, Mr Geary, from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office in Melbourne complain about the interference and say that it undermined the seriousness and purpose of the prosecution.

  (7) Did the DPP himself, Mr Rosenes QC, write to the Chairman of the CAA complaining about this interference in the prosecution; if so, what was the response and what action is being taken.

  (8) Will these matters be independently investigated.

Senator McMullan —The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Yes.

  (2) The letter was written by the CAA's Manager, Legal, Mr David Williams on the understanding that it had been requested by staff of the DPP's Office. In those circumstances, there was no intended breach of the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth or the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983.

  (3) No, the letter was written at the request of the Defendant's Counsel, and on the understanding that the Defendant's solicitor had been requested by the Office of the DPP to obtain such a letter. The Office of the DPP states that no such request was made.

  The matters raised in the letter did result from discussions between Mr Gary Ticehurst, in his role as Chief Pilot of G & A Helicopters Pty Ltd which firm employs Mr La Pira—and the CAA's Mr Barry Diamond, District Flight Operations Manager, Moorabbin.

  Those discussions followed from a letter from Mr Ticehurst to the Authority, addressed to Mick Mayoh, General Manager Finance, passed to George Macionis, Director, Directorate of Safety Regulation and thence to Mr Williams, for advice as to appropriate action. As the letter was from the Chief Pilot of the employer and not from a person purporting to represent Mr La Pira, Mr Williams referred the matter to Mr Diamond for discussion with Mr Ticehurst.

  Mr Ticehurst is a member of the Australian Aviation Advisory Committee.

  (4) Mr Ticehurst is the Chief Pilot of the Company which employs Mr La Pira.

  (5) Mr Roser was not involved in the process.

  The Authority acknowledges that it was inappropriate to express a view to the Defendant's solicitors on the appropriateness of the prosecution when the prosecution was part heard and without involving the informant and the prosecution in the process.

  The Authority further acknowledges that there was an error of judgement in that the Office of the DPP should have been contacted by the Authority to confirm that it had requested such a letter as was sent.

  (6) Yes.

  (7) Mr Rozenes QC wrote to the Chairman of the CAA about the matter on 13 January 1994. After investigation and review of the matter, the CAA's Chief Executive Officer, Mr Roser, responded to Mr Rozenes on 11 March. Mr Roser advised that he was satisfied that there was no deliberate undermining of the prosecution's case or intended exclusion of the prosecutor from developments during the case. The review did identify a need for closer co-ordination and improved liaison between the CAA and the DPP's Office, and this is being pursued. Mr Roser also reported the matter to the Chairman of the CAA.

  (8) No.