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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 674

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Does the former Attorney-General agree that, despite his personal campaign last year and the best efforts of both the Hawke and the Wran governments to block all inquiry into the Age tapes and transcripts, matters raised in that material simply will not go away? Does the Government intend to pursue the same tactics of obstruction in respect of the allegation of Mr Bob Bottom that a very senior New South Wales political figure used information from the tapes to head off a potentially embarrassing court case, or will it take steps to ensure that this claim is fully and properly investigated? If the Government is at long last prepared to investigate these matters will it move immediately to establish, in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, a royal commission not only into the Bottom allegations but also into all other matters raised in the alleged recordings of telephone conversations by New South Wales police, of which the Age tapes are only a part?

Senator GARETH EVANS —If anyone has been scraping the bottom over the last 12 months on this issue, it is the Opposition. We do not propose to encourage it in its delusions and fancies that there may be some political nourishment for it in an exercise of the kind that is proposed.

Senator Chaney —How many more people have to be gaoled before you own up?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Bottom allegations remain, as so often, utterly mysterious as to their content but quite pernicious--

Senator Chaney —No wonder you were sacked. You have no idea.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I repeat that the Bottom allegations that have surfaced on this occasion, as with so many other such allegations in the past from that gentleman, if he might be so described, not only lack any substantive content of a kind to which it is possible to respond at the moment at either a State or Commonwealth level, but at the same time accomplish the purpose that people like Senator Chaney, contemptibly interjecting again today as is his wont--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw that word.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I will not withdraw, Mr President, so long as the flow of interjections of the kind that I have just been receiving from the Leader of the Opposition continue--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General to withdraw the word he used.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I withdraw in deference to you, Mr President. But I would appreciate some respect being shown by the gentleman opposite, if he might be so described, when one is trying to deal, as I am, with the quite serious allegations that have been thrown about in profound indifference to the truth of the matter.

Senator Chaney —Farquhar, Jackson, Humphreys-a figment of the Opposition's imagination! You never did your job.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Chaney, I ask that the Minister be heard in silence. I call the Minister.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The latest Bottom allegation, as with so many others before it, serves its purpose of establishing by smear and innuendo a climate of opinion which, as with so many other occasions in the past, it is perfectly likely, when it is subsequently investigated, if it is subsequently investigated will be proved to be utterly without foundation. The Government certainly has no intention whatsoever of going down that particular path on this occasion. I remind the Senate that there have been many avenues available for particular matters allegedly arising from the Age tapes to be examined by a variety of different bodies of independence and integrity. They have been looked at by the Director of Public Prosecutions. They have been looked at by special commissions of inquiry in New South Wales. They have been looked at by Solicitors-General. They have been looked at now and are still being looked at by Mr Justice Stewart. Under the terms of the legislation that was passed last year in this place, and as a result of an amendment initiated I believe by the Opposition, or at least by the other side of the chamber, the National Crime Authority is capable of looking at this material should it be moved by the protestations and whimpering of the Opposition to so act. I am not sure that it will; that is a matter for it and for the Inter-Governmental Committee. There is no need whatsoever to establish any further muck-raking machinery of the kind that is so dear to the hearts of the muck-rakers opposite.