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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 127

Senator SIBRAA —Has the Attorney-General seen the report in the late edition of the Sydney Morning Herald this morning in which it is stated that 'numerous people refused to be interviewed by Mr Temby's investigators, including the Sydney lawyers Mr Michael McHugh QC, Mr Bruce Miles and Mr Terry Christie'? For what reasons might these people have refused to be interviewed?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have seen that report, which is presumably based on paragraph 19 of Mr Temby's report into the Age materials which I tabled last night. I should point out that there could be a number of perfectly understandable and unexceptional reasons for the reluctance of practising lawyers in particular to be less than fully forthcoming to an inquiry of this kind. For example Mr McHugh, QC, contacted my office today after he had read the newspaper report to say that he disagreed with Mr Temby's description of what occurred as reported, at least in the paper. Mr McHugh said that after being approached by Mr Temby in the course of his investigations he, Mr McHugh, formed the opinion that such conversations that may have involved him were the subject of legal professional privilege, but that apart from that aspect he remained quite willing to assist the investigators.

I cannot comment on the circumstances of the other individuals but no doubt there may well be perfectly justifiable reasons for their having declined to comment. I should repeat in that respect what was said in the tabling statement last night, that the Government in tabling the report in full, as it did, with a number of individuals named in it had to consider the fact, and I will quote from the tabling statement:

. . . that a number of individuals are named in the Report in such a way as to make it possible in practice that, justifiably or not, adverse inferences might be drawn about them. Basic civil libertarian principles demand that the reputations of individuals, and particularly those about whom no adverse findings or recommendations are made, should be given the maximum possible protection.

I went on to say in the tabling statement, quoting the Commissioner of Police:

. . . the tabling of the police report may unfairly bring to public attention personal details and statements of individuals who have been involved in the police inquiry and who are quite innocent of any wrong doing.

I think that needs to be reiterated and emphasised. The Government, as I say, had very much in mind those sorts of considerations but, on balance, thought it appropriate that the desires of Mr Temby, as an independent statutory officer, be fully respected, and his desire was clearly for that report and the accompanying police document to be tabled in full. The difficulty about doing that is always that adverse inferences, justifiably or quite unjustifiably, may be made about individuals caught up and named in one way or another in these inquiries. I hope that members of the Opposition-or indeed anyone else-do not unfairly utilise the Government's candour, as it were, and Mr Temby's candour in putting on the public record in the way that he did and the way that we did in tabling it in Parliament, the full text of Mr Temby's report.