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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 988

Senator DURACK(12.36) —The report of Special Prosecutor Gyles, which has just been tabled by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) is a most important and interesting document which will repay a great deal of study and consideration and, I think, debate in this chamber at an appropriate time when we have a greater opportunity than we have today to study it and give it the attention it clearly deserves. Therefore I hope that after saying some words about it this morning we will adjourn the matter for further debate, as I am sure the Attorney himself will concede the importance of it. Nevertheless, I propose to speak to it briefly now.

One of the main reasons for doing so is the circumstances in which Mr Gyles was appointed. I believe his appointment was a very interesting and important initiative taken by the Fraser Government when it was confronted with the full horror of the bottom of the harbour tax avoidance schemes. Once the extent of them became fully known to the Fraser Government one of the particularly firm steps that was taken was the appointment of Mr Gyles. That entailed the passage through the Senate-I am pleased to say that the Senate gave the legislation a speedy passage-of the Special Prosecutors Act 1982. I believe that that initiative of the Fraser Government in the criminal law enforcement area was an important achievement. The experience that Mr Gyles and successive governments have had in that office, the resources that have been given to it and the work that has been done-all clearly establish the need to have the statutory provision of Special Prosecutor. The report of another Special Prosecutor, Mr Redlich, was tabled in the Senate only a few days ago, and that also emphasises the great value of this new office.

Despite the appointment of a Director of Public Prosecutions, the new prosecution effort and independence of office which are entailed in that appointment and the fact that it has a continuing role, I still believe-I have said this before-in the need to retain the legislation under which the Government can appoint a Special Prosecutor for very special reasons. I am a little concerned that the work of both Mr Redlich and Mr Gyles-as special prosecutors-is being ended and that that work is to be carried on by the Director of Public Prosecutions. In the case of Mr Redlich I can see very good argument for that, but I believe that the terms of reference of Mr Gyles, in his role as Special Prosecutor, emphasise the true function of a Special Prosecutor. It is very much a special role. Mr Gyles was confronted with a special problem of great magnitude, and he will not by any means have completed that work by the end of his two-year appointment.

I do not know whether Mr Gyles is available to continue his appointment. Perhaps the Attorney could indicate whether Mr Gyles is available for reappointment. If he is not, somebody else could be appointed to carry on his work as Special Prosecutor. I note that Mr Gyles, in his report, recommends that even if the Government continues with its present policy of transferring the whole of this office-the staff and the work-to Mr Temby, as Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Temby should be appointed Special Prosecutor. Maybe that has something to do with the deficiencies that have emerged in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983, which has been referred to by Mr Redlich in relation to its limitations on taking civil remedies and so on. The powers that the Special Prosecutor has in regard to remedies are perhaps better stated in the Special Prosecutors Act than they are in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. The Attorney in his statement tells us simply that he is considering this point. I know that he has not had very much time to consider it, and I am not critical of him for not having made a decision on this matter, which is clearly one of great importance and difficulty.

I wish to give my support to the view that at least Mr Temby should be appointed Special Prosecutor. The desirable course, if Mr Gyles is not available , would be to appoint another Special Prosecutor to carry on his work as a special exercise. It is a unique problem and a totally discrete exercise of its own of enormous magnitude and importance. That is clearly shown by some of the statistics that have been provided in this report by Mr Gyles of the nature of the work that he has undertaken. One hundred and fifty persons have been identified as high priority targets for breaches of the Crimes Act, of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth. Already 150 persons have been identified . One thousand persons have been interviewed, 400 statements and records of interview have been taken and 28 prosecutions have been launched. That is an indication of the magnitude of the task. It is a commendation of the work that Mr Gyles and his team have performed.

It is most unfortunate that only the early stages of prosecution have been reached. Certainly, there has been one conviction but the prosecutions which have been launched, on the basis of a great deal of material, are only at the earliest stages. A matter of this magnitude and seriousness needs the leadership of a man of the quality of Mr Gyles who can devote all his energies and all his attentions to this task. Of course, he will have to brief a number of counsel. He will have in-house staff and so on to do the work.

Of course, the Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for all the prosecutions, and the implementation of the prosecution policies, by the Commonwealth. That in itself is an enormous task. We know that Mr Temby has also been diverted into other tasks of a high profile and importance. We are not criticising any of that. What I am saying is that it is a mistake to believe that Mr Temby, despite his resources and his personal qualities, can do all that work and at the same time supervise, manage and carry forward with the necessary vigour the enormous task revealed by this report. We knew that it was an enormous task when he was first appointed.

The statistics that are revealed here show, if anything, how much greater the task was, how much greater the problem was, how much greater the threat to the revenue of this country was, than was believed two years ago, even in the wake of the McCabe-Lafranchi report which, of course, led in the first place to action being taken by the Fraser Government. Subsequently, there was the report of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, immediately in the wake of which the Special Prosecutors Act was passed and Mr Gyles appointed.

I emphasise the unique character of this task and the clear necessity for one person to lead it and to devote the whole of his time and attention to it. As I have said, 150 persons have already been identified not just as targets but as high priority targets. Twenty-eight prosecutions have been launched. Obviously a tremendous amount of work still has to be done and I believe that can only be carried out effectively by the continuance of Mr Gyles or, if he is not available as seems to be the case from the Attorney's reaction when I asked that , the appointment of somebody else of Mr Gyles's calibre and standing. I have a number of other comments I want to make on this report and I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.