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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2755

Senator DURACK —I refer to the Attorney-General's personal explanation yesterday concerning his contretemps last year with Mr Costigan and also to Mr Costigan's Press release of yesterday, which I am sure that the Attorney-General has read with some care. I refer particularly to two matters stated by Mr Costigan in that Press release which explain why he regarded the suggestion of a judicial appointment as 'outrageous'. Mr Costigan said:

On many occasions I have stated, and I again state, that I am not seeking an appointment to the Crime Authority on any terms.

He also said:

I am very strongly of the view that judicial appointments should be limited to those selected to discharge judicial functions.

Mr Costigan was also of the view that completion of the work of a royal commissioner should not be 'crowned', as he put it, by appointment as a judge. I ask the Attorney: Is it not clear from Mr Costigan's statement that he had very good grounds for the reaction he made to the suggestions of the Attorney-General about a judicial appointment? Was the Attorney not aware of these views, strongly held by Mr Costigan-views shared, of course, by the vast majority of the judiciary and members of the Victorian Bar? In light of these matters, why did the Attorney-General raise the question of a judicial appointment with Mr Costigan in the context in which he did?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I want to add very little to what I said yesterday in relation to this matter. I will say only that I do not share the view of Mr Costigan about the inappropriateness of judges performing royal commission or other similar functions. Indeed, Mr Costigan in his statement yesterday acknowledged that reasonable men and women and reasonable lawyers might have different views on that subject. As to the question of someone being 'crowned', as Mr Costigan put it, with a judicial appointment following the successful completion of some other period of service for the Government, I simply say this : The context in which the question of a judicial appointment was raised was not in any sense that of reward, or 'crowning' in Mr Costigan's language; the context was rather that of a rational way of structuring the continued operation of the kind of investigations that Mr Costigan had been carrying out at substantially less cost to the taxpayer than the between $300,000 and $400,000 a year that we were then paying to Mr Costigan, with costs of similar orders of magnitude for counsel assisting him, by virtue of the daily fee basis on which the arrangements had originally been entered into. That was the context in which these matters were canvassed.

I note that Mr Costigan in his statement yesterday confirmed my own statement to the Senate that there was no question of bribe language being employed by anyone, no question of that being in any conceivable way a remotely accurate description of what transpired between us. I hope that after all the due sensationalism that this particular episode has created around the place the matter will be allowed to rest and be appreciated as the very minor contretemps that it in fact was.

Senator DURACK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I accept to a large extent what the Attorney has said, but he really did not answer the two questions I asked him, namely, whether he knew of Mr Costigan's attitude to a judicial appointment in the context that was the subject of the conversation and whether he was aware also of the views of the vast majority of members of the Victorian Bar on that same subject. Why did the Attorney raise the matter if he did know of those attitudes?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware that a large number of Victorian practitioners share the traditional view of the Victorian Bench that it is inappropriate for judges to be involved in matters of this kind. I am equally well aware that large numbers of Victorian practitioners take a very strong view to the contrary . I happen to be one of them. I had no knowledge of what Mr Costigan's attitude may or may not have been to the suggestion of someone with Federal judicial office performing that particular role. Mr Costigan's attitude was not, as I recall it, made particularly plain to me on the occasion of our discussion. Certainly, the language of outrage that was subsequently employed was not in any way communicated to me; thus my reaction as I reported to the Senate yesterday.