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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 634

Senator CHAPMAN —My question is directed to Senator Bolkus, representing the Minister for Justice. Yesterday, in answer to a question regarding any involvement by the National Crime Authority in investigations into organised crime, one of Australia's most powerful Labor Party figures and prostitutes, the minister replied:

I made it very clear yesterday . . . that the NCA has not been involved.

Is it not the case that this investigation by the Queensland Police Service's Major Crime Investigation Squad, State Crime Operations Command—codenamed `Operation Wallah'—is a joint operation using resources and personnel from several Queensland police units, the BCI, the CJC, the National Crime Authority and the Australian Federal Police? Is it not also the case that personnel from the National Crime Authority, in particular, were commissioned to assist to gather intelligence on certain organised crime, identify the principals involved, gather sufficient evidence and prosecute those involved? In the light of this, why did the minister mislead the Senate?

Senator BOLKUS —I did not mislead the Senate yesterday, and I think Senator Chapman should go back and have a closer look at that answer. I am sure he will then discover that I have not misled the Senate. As one of my colleagues said, if Senator Chapman gets someone to read it for him it might do him some good.

Senator Schacht —We have gone from the dog kennel to the gutter.

Senator BOLKUS —As Senator Schacht said, we have now gone from the dog kennel to the gutter. Mr President, I have some further information to report to the Senate on this matter, having told Senator Boswell yesterday that I would do so. I do not know why those opposite are getting excited. Yesterday, Senator Boswell asked me further questions about alleged CJC investigations. He asked whether the Minister for Justice or the Attorney-General had been briefed on the matter by the Australian Federal Police or by the National Crime Authority. I am advised that the answer is no.

Senator Ferguson —Why don't you—

Senator BOLKUS —Hold on; you will get your answer. Since neither the AFP nor the NCA is investigating the matter, there is nothing on which they could brief either minister. That is the advice I got just an hour and a half ago.

  Senator Boswell further asked whether any resources of the National Crime Authority, including its surveillance resource, have been applied jointly with the Criminal Justice Commission or any other law enforcement agency in Queensland. I can reiterate the answer I gave yesterday: I am informed that the NCA is not and has not been—

Senator Herron —Mr President, I raise a point of order. This is an answer to a question asked yesterday, and the minister is taking up time allocated to questions without notice today. I put it to you that he should answer Senator Chapman's question.

Senator Robert Ray —On the point of order, Mr President, Senator Chapman's question referred to an answer that Senator Bolkus gave yesterday to Senator Boswell. Senator Bolkus is quite entitled to give details on that because that is right to the heart of Senator Chapman's question.

The PRESIDENT —As I have heard the question so far, it is perfectly pertinent.

Senator BOLKUS —Senator Chapman's question is essentially the same as Senator Boswell's and that is precisely what I am answering. Senator Chapman then asked me why I misled the Senate. I have already explained that I have not. It may actually suit the purpose of those opposite to listen because they are asking this question day after day, and it really does not do any good to try to interrupt in the way that they have been doing for the last few minutes.

  As I have said, my advice is—and I am advised that I can reiterate the answer that I gave yesterday—that the NCA is not and has not been involved in the joint investigation of either the CJC or the Queensland police on this matter. I am further advised that if any authorised law enforcement agency, which includes the CJC, seeks assistance in relation to a lawful investigation it is independently pursuing, the NCA act enables the authority to pass on such relevant law enforcement material it holds. Whether or not the NCA has provided resources or operational support to another law enforcement agency in relation to any particular matter is not something which can be disclosed because of the secrecy provisions of section 50 of the NCA act.

  Senator Hill interjecting

Senator BOLKUS —I do not know why Senator Hill is laughing; he was part of passing this act. This act got his endorsement. Senator Hill and I were on the committee that actually gave final endorsement to these secrecy provisions. If anyone should understand this he should. But, given the amnesia we are feeling here over recent days, I can quite understand that he prefers to forget that he was party to including section 50 in the NCA act.

  In any event, I can go on. I am informed that there is a longstanding convention that law enforcement operational materials are not canvassed publicly. However, it is quite apparent that this longstanding convention has only been honoured in the breach by the opposition, which seems to be continually indulging in muckraking.

Senator CHAPMAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As the minister has confirmed—and I will quote his answer again—in answer to Senator Boswell's question yesterday he quite clearly said:

I made it very clear yesterday . . . that the NCA has not been involved.

In the latter part of his answer today he said that he is not able to reveal whether or not it has been involved. He has clearly misled the Senate because yesterday he said unequivocally that the NCA was not involved; today he is hedging his bets and ducking and weaving all over the place. Could it be that the NCA is withholding information from the minister and the government because it fears political interference with its investigations?

Senator BOLKUS —Here we go again. Yesterday we had Senator Tambling from the Northern Territory trying to make assertions and allegations. Today I said to Senator Tambling—and it really would do him and his reputation some good if he did not repeat and read out—

  Opposition senators—Senator Chapman.

Senator BOLKUS —In terms of contribution to this place, there is no difference—they are in the same gutter. Today I said that I could reiterate the answer I gave yesterday. I am informed that the NCA is not and has not been involved in any joint investigation with either the CJC or the Queensland police on this matter. Right? Would those opposite like it written out on a blackboard for them? Would they like me to hand it over to them?