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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1294

Senator CHAPMAN —My question is directed to Senator Bolkus representing the Minister for Justice. The minister would be aware that allegations have been made that former Senator Richardson, whilst a cabinet minister, received prostitution services in Queensland which were paid for by organised crime and facilitated by Queensland restaurateur Nicholas Karlos. As the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission has evidence of telephone calls prior to the senator's resignation from parliament between Karlos and Richardson, including calls to Richardson's home and Sydney office, and evidence of many calls to New South Wales crime figure Lenny McPherson, who is alleged to have financed the services, why has the government not asked the Australian Federal Police to ensure that there has not been a breach of section 73 of the Crimes Act, which concerns corruption and bribery of members of parliament, and that the interests of the government have not been compromised in this matter?

Senator BOLKUS —Senator Chapman again raises issues on this particular matter, and he bases them on his assertion that allegations have been made. Allegations have been made.They have been made in here and they have been made in the other house. They have been made by his side of parliament.But on every occasion when his side has been challenged to go outside and say them without the privilege of this place, no-one has been game enough to name anybody. That is the reality of those allegations. Allegations have been made, but no-one has had enough conviction in those allegations to go outside and repeat them. That is the first point.

  With respect to the government's position here, I have already indicated what the position of the NCA has been and what the position of the AFP has been in respect of the information that Senator Chapman and Mr Katter have been referring to. For instance, I have indicated to the Senate in response to questions and imputations put forward by Senator Chapman, Senator Boswell and Senator O'Chee that neither the AFP nor the NCA is involved in a joint operation. We do not have to go into the dates on which I mentioned that. In respect of those sorts of allegations, on 9, 12 and 30 May I advised the Senate that the AFP had provided neither assistance nor information to the CJC or to the Queensland police, and I also went on to say, and I made this very clear, that the AFP at no time has been asked to investigate any such information.

Senator Ian Macdonald —That is what you said last week.

Senator BOLKUS —Of course I am repeating what I have said a number of times because the reality of the record is—

Senator Alston —Could I take a point of order, Mr President? There you have it—a minister admitting that he is blatantly disregarding the standing orders of the parliament which require him to be relevant when answering questions. Mr President, you ought to know that it is not good enough for a minister to say that he somehow does not have to answer a question because it has not been canvassed outside the parliament. It is certainly not good enough for him to pretend that he can get away with answering other days' questions. I therefore invite you, Mr President, to direct him to answer this question.

Senator Robert Ray —On the point of order, Mr President: what Senator Bolkus was saying was that if Senator Chapman's questions from a previous time lacked credibility, he is entitled to cast doubts about the credibility of today's question.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator Alston —I take another point of order. Mr President, it is your right to summarily dismiss any point of order taken in this parliament, but I would have thought, for the sake of ensuring that everyone in this place understands your thought processes, you ought to at least give us some reasons from time to time so we can have some confidence that your rulings are not simply predetermined, are not simply designed to cater for those who refuse to answer questions, and that they are at least endeavouring to uphold the standards of this house.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have frequently given reasons behind the rulings that I have made. I have also made it clear that it is very difficult to determine the question of relevance unless the person is right off the point. The questions that have been asked of Senator Bolkus over the last few weeks on this issue have been very similar in nature and have demanded answers that canvass the same sort of material. I am not going to rule on how Senator Bolkus should answer in fine detail those questions.

Senator BOLKUS —In respect of the AFP, I have stated on a number of occasions that the briefing that the AFP has received from the CJC in respect of this has not disclosed the commission by any person of Commonwealth offences—as I said, even including money laundering. So the direct answer to the question is that no such offences were disclosed. As a consequence, on the basis of this, the AFP has no ongoing investigatory role. No Commonwealth offences have been raised. That goes to the heart of what Senator Chapman is talking about. In fact, I stated on 9, 11, 30 and 31 May that neither the NCA nor the AFP is investigating these matters.

  On 31 May, in answer to Senator Boswell, I said that both the NCA and the AFP had advised the Minister for Justice that they had been informed that the CJC/Queensland police were investigating such allegations. As I went on to say then, and as I said just now, the agencies have also advised that in relation to the allegations, so far as they had been advised of them, there were no possible Commonwealth offences disclosed. That covers—

Senator Hill —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I think Senator Bolkus is missing the point of the question. Therefore, I raise the point of relevance.

Senator BOLKUS —Of course I am not.

Senator Hill —Just listen for a minute.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Hill is entitled to make his point of order.

Senator Hill —The question was not on the basis of what Senator Chapman has alleged in his questions, but on the basis of what Senator Bolkus knows is before the CJC in Queensland. Should not the government be concerned either that former Senator Richardson, in his capacity as a parliamentarian, might have been compromised in breach of section 73 of the Crimes Act or that, alternatively, in his position as a cabinet minister, the position of the federal government might have been compromised? Would not a prudent government therefore have requested of the AFP that these matters be investigated? That is the question and I ask that he answer that question.

Senator Faulkner —This is not a point of order.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Hill is entitled to make his point of order. I ask Senator Bolkus to see if he could address the point that is being raised.

Senator BOLKUS —Mr President, I just have. The question I was asked was: why was the AFP not asked to investigate whether there had been a breach of section 73? The AFP is the body which should be doing this, without political interference. If we instructed the AFP to investigate anyone, those opposite would be the first to come in here squealing about the government asking the AFP, by way of political interference, to do so. The AFP has advised the government that there are no Commonwealth offences involved here. As a consequence, there are no further investigations. That is the answer to the honourable senator's question. Let us see what else he can drag out of the gutter.