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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2400

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(12.08 a.m.) —If anyone was in any doubt about the thickness of Senator Crichton-Browne's hide we have had ample confirmation of that tonight in the way in which he has detained the Senate on this matter. I am sure that the Minister for Resources and Energy ( Senator Walsh) who is responsible for this matter will take into account what Senator Crichton-Browne has said.

I will detain the Senate for a couple of minutes to respond to some rather extravagant and silly things that were said by a number of honourable senators, who should have known better, on the adjournment last night. I have not had an opportunity, having been away today, to respond prior to this and I think it is necessary, with the Parliament getting up, to set the record straight. As to the matters raised by Senators Townley and Jessop relating to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, I think I have sufficiently responded to that in media comments during the day, to which Senator Townley was rather indignantly reacting tonight. I do not wish to add anything further to what I have already said on the public record there.

As to the matters raised by Senator Kilgariff, and rather pompously followed up by Senator Chaney, concerning the alleged theft of certain Commonwealth property from the Pine Gap station some months ago in November 1983, and my alleged role in it, it is necessary to say just a little more. Of course, this was the subject of questions to me in this place on 9 and 10 May by Senator Messner. Senator Kilgariff does not seem to have referred to those questions or answers in giving his rather garbled account of the events last night. Certainly his reference to my having attended some house somewhere in Melbourne at which a raffle took place is a bizarre misconstruction of what was discussed in this place on 9 and 10 May, which was an allegation that the material had been on display at an Australian Labor Party conference last year attended by some 450 delegates, including me, and that some raffle might have taken place or been organised on that occasion.

I denied any specific knowledge of such a raffle when I spoke in the Senate on 10 May. I certainly repeat that denial tonight. What I did undertake to do for Senator Messner at that stage was to seek some follow-up investigation by the Australian Federal Police. That occurred. I have in fact had a report from the Australian Federal Police via the Special Minister of State (Mr Young), which came to me during the last parliamentary recess. I neglected to put that on the public record, but since the matter has now been raised again by Senator Kilgariff I do so. The relevant part of the letter of the Special Minister of State to me read as follows:

I have now received a report on the matter from the Australian Federal Police ( AFP).

I am advised that on or about 13 November 1983, the AFP Officer in Charge of the Pine Gap Station reported that female demonstrators at Pine Gap had removed the perimeter gate bearing a number of signs. Police recovered the gate but the signs had been detached and were missing. Enquiries made by the AFP have failed to identify the person or persons involved in removing the signs.

However, based on media reports, the AFP understands the signs were apparently subsequently auctioned or raffled on 27 November 1983 at an Australian Labor Party meeting at Collingwood Town Hall, Melbourne. Further media reports suggest that this ''auction'' was organised by the Hon. Joan Coxsedge, MLC, as part of a fund-raising effort on behalf of the Anti-Uranium Group.

Considering the circumstances surrounding the removal and the difficulty involved in identifying the person or persons who removed the signs, and having in mind the considerable expense that would be incurred, I am advised the AFP decided not to pursue the matter. This decision does not, of course, preclude the AFP from taking further action in the future should information be received indicating the identity of the person or persons involved.

I hope that that once and for all sets this rather absurd matter to rest and inhibits the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) from making the kinds of allegations about my responsibilities as Attorney-General that he has been minded to make on this and other occasions in the past. Mr President, I wish you and everybody else a cheerful and happy Christmas and say that I hope that we are all a little bit more sane and sensible when we return in the new year.