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Shadow Minister wants police to investigate leaking of sealed final volume of Cole royal commission report; Minister says police have more important things to do.

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Wednesday 24 September 2003

Shadow Minister wants police to investigate leaking of sealed final volume of Cole royal commission report; Minister says police have more impor tant things to do


LINDA MOTTRAM: Another leak of confidential Government information has sparked calls for another Federal Police investigation. 


The Federal Opposition says the police should be called in after the sealed, final volume of the Cole Royal C
ommission into the building industry became public via a newspaper story last week, on the same day that the Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, announced the Government's response to the Royal Commission. 


Labor says the leaking of the secret volume has the potential to prejudice legal proceedings, with the Cole findings including details of 26 alleged criminal cases, mainly involving union officials. 


Tony Abbott has told AM that he thinks the police have better things to do so Labor says it will go to the authorities.  


Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Federal Police are investigating who leaked an Australian intelligence assessment on Iraq to a Melbourne newspaper journalist. ASIO asked the police to act. 


And the Government's asked police to investigate who leaked information to the Opposition about a break-in at the Transport Department, even though the Minister, John Anderson, says there's no evidence it happened. 


Last week the Financial Review newspaper published quotes from the secret volume of the controversial Cole Royal Commission into the building industry. 


Labor's Craig Emerson says the Workplace Relations Minister, Tony Abbott, should call in the police. 


CRAIG EMERSON: The leaking of the sealed volume of the Cole Royal Commission is a very serious matter because on the one hand it could prejudice prosecutions, and on the other hand it could deny natural justice to those against whom allegations have been made.  


TONY ABBOTT: Obviously I'm disappointed that it's been leaked, but I understand that the confidential volume went from the Federal Attorney-General's office to various State agencies and instrumentalities so in the great scheme of things there would no doubt have been quite a few copies circulating, and I guess in the end it's not absolutely surprising that sooner or later it leaked.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Tony Abbott campaigned up hill and down dale for a high-powered inquiry into the building industry. The Government set up the Royal Commission, so the report was government property.  


TONY ABBOTT: This volume, it never came into my hands, it's never been in my hands, and I think dealing with this subsequent leak is really out of my hands, although I'd be perfectly happy to see an investigation if that's what the relevant people want. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But you don't think it warrants an investigation?  


TONY ABBOTT: You know, given all the things that the police and other authorities have got to do, I don't particularly want them to be spending their valuable time chasing a will-o'-the-wisp because there must be a lot of copies of this thing around the place and where do you begin to investigate something like this? Rather than people consume their time and energy investigating leaks I think it's better if they consume their time and energy trying to clean up this industry.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor says if the Government is concerned about some leaks, it should be concerned by them all.  


The newspaper report based on the leaked volume did not focus on any individuals, but the view is because the secret last volume is in the public arena it could possibly be misused.  


Craig Emerson says if Mr Abbott won't act, he will.  


CRAIG EMERSON: He should now refer this matter to the police for investigation and if he doesn't, I will.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But as one source puts it, the bottom line is the leaked report was the Government's property and it isn't complaining, so it's unlikely the Federal Police will investigate. 


LINDA MOTTRAM: Alexandra Kirk reporting from Canberra.