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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 255

Senator SCOTT —I ask the Attorney-General whether any decision has yet been made as to whether Mr Justice Stewart should continue with his separate investigation of the Nugan Hand Bank or will this inquiry be taken over by the National Crime Authority? What stage has the Nugan Hand investigation reached, and when is a report expected? Is Mr Justice Stewart currently overseas in connection with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Activities of the Nugan Hand Group and will he have to be away again in the near future-including as long as a month-in the United States? If so, is the Attorney-General concerned that the work of the National Crime Authority may suffer because of the enforced absence of its chairman during the important early stages of the Authority's life?

Senator GARETH EVANS —At the moment Mr Justice Stewart is engaged in three separate enterprises. One is in his capacity as chairman of the National Crime Authority. Of course, he is assisted in that respect by two other full time commissioners, Mr John Dwyer, QC, of the Melbourne Bar, and Mr Max Bingham, QC, former Tasmanian Attorney-General, who ought to be well known and respected by honourable senators opposite. To the extent that Mr Justice Stewart will be pre- occupied with other matters in the immediate future or the extent to which he has overseas trips to make-I am not sure of the details of those-one must nonetheless assume that the work of the Crime Authority in this important transitional stage will be proceeding apace.

The second task Mr Justice Stewart has is in his capacity as continuing to hold a commission on the basis of letters patent given to him back in 1981 as the royal commissioner on the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drug Trafficking, which is the Mr Asia or Terrence Clark affair. It is in that capacity of course that the so-called Age tapes were referred to Mr Justice Stewart some time ago. It is in that capacity that Mr Temby has recommended in his report, tabled this week, that Mr Justice Stewart pursue certain further matters, including the provenance of the tapes and the substantive content of them insofar as they affect matters related to the Royal Commission. Mr Justice Stewart undoubtedly will be giving priority to that task in the immediate future. In that respect I correct a complete misapprehension in the Age editorial this morning which is full of misapprehensions of various kinds, but in particular to the effect that Mr Justice Stewart shortly is about to wind up his royal commissionership.

Senator Chaney —Read it. Go away and read it.

The PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Chaney.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Mr President, I am endeavouring to inform the Senate. I am not prepared to tolerate the offensiveness of the Leader of the Opposition. I ask that you bring him to order.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have already asked the Leader of the Opposition to restrain himself.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I hope he will. I make it clear for the record that contrary to what was stated in the Age editorial this morning there is no question of Mr Justice Stewart imminently winding up the royal commissionership which is relevant to his further investigation of the Age tapes.

The third capacity in which Mr Justice Stewart is presently acting is as the royal commissioner investigating the Nugan Hand affair. I am advised that that was intended to be completed by the end of this year and that in particular the local government part of the reference was close to completion. My most recent understanding is that that will now be delayed, perhaps by three months, as a result of the necessity to give priority attention to the other matters to which I have referred. However, at this stage there is no intention to absorb the Nugan Hand royal commission activity into that of the National Crime Authority. A separate team of lawyers and staff is working on the Nugan Hand matter. As I said, it is approaching completion in all relevant respects. A report can be expected to be to hand some time early next year.