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New South Wales police tapes

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Parliament and the public interest are the real winners from the latest developments over the New South Wales police tapes.

The Opposition is, naturally, pleased that the Hawke and Wran governments appear to have accepted our position on police indemnities and the need for a new royal commission investiĀ­ gation.

But it would be a mistake to view last week's events from a standpoint of political partisanship.

The somersault on these issues by Attorney General Bowen is a reminder that there is still strength left in the parliamentary system. Executive government does not roam unchecked in Australia. If government had had its way, the tapes would have been buried a year ago.

The tactic of scorn, abuse and refusal to investigate pursued so vigorously by former attorney general Evans on behalf of the Hawke government would probably have succeeded had it not been for the Senate and some sections of the media, notably

the Age and National Times newspapers.

It is a tribute to their courage and perseverance that the editorial staff and management of these papers were prepared to continue their campaign on the tapes in the face of unĀ­ ceasing attack by Senator Evans and Premier Wran.

Politicians have come to expect such tactics from their opponents. It is ironic to note that as recently as Friday week, Senator Evans berated the Opposition as "mx;ck rakers" for suggesting the need for fresh inquiry into the "tapes, something which his own government agreed to a few days later.

But it is rare for proprietors and journalists to pursue an issue over such a long period given such an onslaught and, if the polls are correct, a somewhat apathetic public. Hopefully that apathy has been given a good shake by the events of the

last 15 months.

If it has, then quite apart from charges and convictions which may flow from Justice Stewart's new inquiry, the persistence of the media and of Liberal, National and Democrat Senators will have been rewarded.

It should not be forgotten that all that was ever sought was a full inquiry to uncover all the facts behind the allegations and to pursue those who may have committed criminal offences.

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