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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 582

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(4.13) —The Opposition will support the amendment which has been moved by the Australian Democrats. It is an amendment which, in the course of a series of discussions with the Democrats, we agreed was a way of removing the arrangement which the Government had proposed, which was that the matter should be sent off to Mr Temby as some form of condition precedent to any further parliamentary action. For reasons which have been substantially aired in public over recent days, I think that there is no need to go through the reasons again as to why the Opposition believes that the direct reference to Mr Temby without any further parliamentary action being taken is not appropriate. However, I make a number of comments about the proposition which the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) has been arguing for both in this place and publicly. The Attorney has stressed that as there is a possibility of a criminal matter it lies within the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions. I certainly agree that if there is evidence of criminal behaviour the Government is certainly entitled to put it before the Director of Public Prosecutions to see whether a prosecution should lie. We have, of course, emphasised however that the business of this Parliament is not to determine that question and that the Parliament has a different task to perform.

I am concerned that the Attorney-General has been able to give us assurances during the course of the public debate that Mr Temby will take only 10 days to do this job. Quite frankly, I am very curious as to how Mr Temby, or indeed how anyone else, can know how many days will be required to examine a matter where the evidence has not yet been put before him. I suppose the procedure will be that at the time this committee meets, assuming that this amendment is carried, and when it has commenced its work, Mr Temby will get the same material as is available to the committee. He will then have to examine that material and determine not only what weight he puts on it but also what other information he might require or believes should be obtained before a decision is made as to whether or not a prosecution should be brought. I would have thought that, without having access to the material, without knowing what additional material might be sought and without knowing what the response of those who might be asked to provide further information would be, really one would be dealing with a pig in a poke. One cannot possibly know what the time scale would be unless the assumption is that the Director of Public Prosecutions would do no more than rely on the evidence which is already available through the work of the original Senate Committee, the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge. For my part, I would have thought it doubtful that the Director of Public Prosecutions should necessarily be satisfied that the ambit of the inquiry undertaken by the Committee so far is as far as the matter needs to be taken.

The other point which perhaps needs to be borne in mind is that, as the committee will be commencing work on the inquiry, and as, according to the motion which is to be moved, that inquiry will be in public, it is obvious that further material which may be relevant to the separate question being referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions may well come to hand day by day during whatever period the Senate inquiry runs. In that case, I would have thought it doubtful that the Director of Public Prosecutions would have come to a concluded view on the matter before the totality of the evidence which will be available is available. So I am a little puzzled. Unless the Government proposes to instruct the Director of Public Prosecutions that he will consider the matter in the light of the now available evidence and no other evidence, I am very doubtful that the sort of time limit which the Attorney-General has publicly assured us has been suggested can be guaranteed in advance.

The Opposition welcomes the fact that this amendment has been moved by the Australian Democrats. As we have made clear, we believe that the reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions should not be used as a subterfuge or excuse to remove the Parliament from its area of responsibility. On that basis we will support the amendment which ensures that the reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions is contemporaneous with the select committee commencing its work and that there is no question, therefore, of the Director of Public Prosecutions being substituted for the Parliament in carrying out the Parliament's functions.

I note that outside commentators have made a series of comments on the desirability for this matter to be dealt with in the broadest possible way and not merely treated as a matter for prosecution. I still believe, and I have not spoken in the formal debate in this House so far, that this matter could have been dealt with far better had we had a government attitude which was determined to deal with it in a satisfactory way rather than having it put to bed. We have a government which is not prepared to co-operate with the Opposition and the Australian Democrats. What has been proposed here, both by this amendment and what will be proposed in the subsequent motion to be moved by Senator Durack, will achieve as much as can be achieved in the face of a totally unco-operative government.