Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2230

Senator MISSEN(3.45) —I wish to speak to the motion that we take note of the statement because, like Senator Durack, I find this a rather extraordinary statement. It is no coincidence that it is introduced at the end of a very hectic period, in the same way as we received the report of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union just prior to the previous election. That was no fault of Mr Costigan; it was the fault of that Government in its determination to have an early election. Then, of course, just on the eve of Christmas, on 18 December 1984, we had the statement which was a preliminary forecasting of this report. It does not appear that we have advanced very much further since that time. We are now in the period at the end of a session when the Government engages in what I call the sausage machine type of justice. It produces Bill after Bill in this period after a very slack beginning to the session. Now we are landed with a very important statement.

The statement is very deceptive in a way because it begins with a general statement of the attitude of the Government to the Costigan Royal Commission and to its report. Many worthwhile things are mentioned. One gets the impression from this statement that we will find some action when we reach the recommendations. But in fact there has been very little action. One can see the importance of the Costigan Royal Commission in the investigation of organised crime when one reads this part of the statement:

Taken in conjunction with the other inquiries to which I have referred, the Costigan Commission showed a complex web involving all manner of criminal activity, with links throughout Australia, and cutting across social classes and professions. He found that members of the Painters and Dockers Union had apparently offered their services as general criminal hands and were involved in such diverse activities as 'bottom-of-the-harbour' tax fraud, SP bookmaking, social security fraud, crimes of violence, and fraud and extortion on the waterfront.

Indeed, the Costigan Commission did that. We are indebted to it for the four years of extremely hard work that it did; for the villainy which it has had to suffer and which Mr Costigan has had to suffer at the hands of certain persons since that time, and which he had to suffer at that time; for his work which has opened our eyes to some extent to the seriousness of this whole problem.

One cannot get from the Government anything like a response which would show that it realises the seriousness of this problem. When one leaves the initial statement, which is the greater part of this report and which refers to the very valuable work which the Commission has done in regard to discovering the money trail, the financiers of business and so forth, one expects that the recommendations at the end will show some initiative and sense of urgency on the part of the Government. Senator Durack has pointed out that this is not so. We have found, from reading it, that it is what one might call a report from a looking glass government. It contains sentences such as: 'We are still looking at this', 'we are providing that so and so will look at this', 'the Queensland Government will look at this' or 'some other body will look at this'. Rarely can one conclude that these matters will be dealt with by the Government with the sense of urgency which led to the very existence of the Costigan Commission.

I speak not only as a member of the Senate but also as a member of the monitoring committee on organised crime, the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, which has not yet reported to this Parliament and which has not yet considered the main issues which I think ought to be before it. We have not yet investigated the changeover from the Costigan Commission to the present National Crime Authority. We have not established, and we cannot assure the Senate that we are satisfied in any way, that the investigations that were left behind by the Costigan Commission have been properly carried on. If one could find some satisfaction in this document that the Government was doing things, one would not be so worried. But, for a vicissitude of reasons, we have been denied the opportunity of asking certain questions in the monitoring committee. I hope this will come to an end in the next couple of weeks and that we will be able at last to ask sensible questions of the Authority so that we can satisfy ourselves about the extent to which these matters are being investigated.

As Senator Durack pointed out, 42 matters were referred to by Mr Costigan as requiring, in his opinion, further investigation. Of those matters it is suggested that 20 should be the subject of a reference. In fact only four have been the subject of a reference to the authority. Only two or three of them arise from the Costigan Commission. We want to know why others have not been dealt with. What is the sense of urgency that is overwhelming the Authority and the Government in ensuring that these other matters are investigated? Undoubtedly time is of the essence. In this case, once the trail becomes cold it will be more difficult to pick up these things in the new Authority.

The Costigan recommendations in volume 1 of the report are substantial. They were referred to very briefly in the statement today. Of interest is the reference to volume 9. I will just give one or two examples. The Government had before it recommendations from Mr Costigan that investigations should be continued into the activities of Ray and Packer. The matters in volume 9 are unknown to us because they form part of the secret documents. The commission recommended that certain matters be taken up. Recommendation 10.040 states:

That all the investigations in volume 9 be under the supervision of the National Crime Authority and that consideration be given to the grant of a reference to allow their proper completion.

That is very clear. How does the Government, in this response today, reply to that? It says:

The National Crime Authority is examining the relevant Costigan Commission material and further action will be taken or co-ordinated by the Authority.

That tells us nothing. It does not tell us whether the matters are all being dealt with by the Authority, whether they have been passed over to other persons to deal with them or whether they have been put aside and not dealt with at all. As a member of the Senate, I want to know whether the matters are being genuinely and properly dealt with.

We have heard a lot about Mr Packer. He has had a lot to say in recent times. He has talked a lot about the matters which have been before the public, but he has not talked about the matters which are contained in the secret volumes of the Costigan report. I am not satisfied that they are being properly and vigorously investigated. Reference was made by Senator Durack to the recommendations in the fifth interim report of the Commission. He mentioned recommendation 10.002, which states:

The recommendations summarised in this chapter should not be read in isolation from the volume of the report in which they are primarily found. This did occur in respect of the Fifth Interim Report, and led to a number of misinterpretations which would not have occurred had the critics known the circumstances in which the recommendations had been made. This should not be allowed to occur.

In the document before us today there is no reference whatsoever to that recommendation. There is obviously no conclusion to be drawn that either the Authority or the Government is expected to continue with the investigations of those recommendations. They are not referred to in this volume at all. One could take other examples. It has been pointed out that what is said in most of the recommendations-for example, what it says about changes in the law and the importation of the American law in regard to crime investigations-could be implemented here but is not being implemented. Only the recommendation in respect of the opportunity for the Special Prosecutor to take civil action is, at long last, coming before this Parliament and being dealt with. Other matters of the law are being looked at by Mr Justice Watson, the Queensland Government or some other government, but they do not appear to have any sense of urgency about them whatsoever.

Senator Haines referred to the civil liberties that are affected by some of the powers of the National Crime Authority. I do not think civil liberties come into much question at all. One is fearful that the civil liberties of a community which expects to be protected against organised crime are being greatly neglected by this Government. Far from the National Crime Authority doing anything to harm civil liberties, it is a poor and weak organisation. It is an organisation which obviously needs strengthening. It is one which could have been strengthened had the Government taken up Mr Costigan's recommendations. The Government did take away the old riding power of the inter-governmental committee, which remains a bugbear to the effectiveness of the new Authority. The power of publicity, which I know many of my colleagues on this side of the chamber do not agree with, is-I recommended this when I made my report on the Bill itself-an essential need of the Authority. The Authority is finding this out, as we have seen from the attempts and threats which it has made to go public if it is refused references by the Government. We do not know whether it is being refused references or whether this is a serious concern. This is something we have to find out, and find out pretty soon.

I believe that the statement indicates a very shoddy attitude on the part of the Government. It shows that over a period of nearly one year-since Costigan brought down his final report-the Government has done very little. As Senator Durack has pointed out, the Government has provided some money and some increase in resources and things of this sort, but basically it has not put the weapons in the hands of members of the new National Crime Authority. A great and unfortunate delay has taken place. We do not know what has happened to many of these recommendations. On reading the recommendations that are set out in this document one can gain very little, except that matters are being looked at further. It is time that both the monitoring committee and members of this Parliament took a much closer and sharper look at the activities of the Government and the activities of the Authority. We should satisfy ourselves that we are not being misled by the statements which come in at the end of parliamentary sessions, when they can easily be overlooked by the people. I believe the people are being poorly served by this Government in the attack on organised crime.