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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 756

Senator CHAPMAN —My question is directed to Senator Bolkus, representing the Minister for Justice. Yesterday the minister reiterated his earlier statement that the NCA had not been involved in the joint law enforcement agencies' investigation, which I revealed as codenamed `Operation Wallah', which is investigating alleged activities and associations of former Senator Graham Richardson. Is the minister aware that the NCA provided to Operation Wallah, between 15 March and 18 March 1994, information on the Queensland criminal activities of one Leonard Arthur McPherson, the Mr Big of organised crime in New South Wales, and his associates. Intelligence files reveal that McPherson has an extensive criminal history,

including possession of explosives, consorting, attempted murder, possession of firearms, assault causing grievous bodily harm, receiving, stealing, false pretences and a variety of other offences. Why does the minister continue to mislead parliament by denying the involvement of the NCA in Operation Wallah?

Senator BOLKUS —Yesterday Senator Chapman put out a press release accusing me of misleading the Senate because I had responded to a question about a joint investigation between the NCA and the Criminal Justice Commission. It is interesting that today Senator Chapman has asked again about the joint investigation. My advice is that both the AFP and the NCA have advised the Minister for Justice that they are not part of a joint operation codenamed Operation Wallah.

Senator Alston —Where are you getting this advice from?

Senator Hill —Joint, again.

Senator BOLKUS —Let me go on. I said this yesterday, and it is worth noting it as well. I should explain for the benefit of those opposite that the term `joint operation' as has been used by Senator Boswell and Senator Chapman has a very specific meaning in terms of working together.

  Opposition senators—Oh!

Senator BOLKUS —We are talking about a joint investigation, Operation Wallah. When we talk about a joint operation we are talking about precisely that: working together under formal arrangements such as a reference, a task force, a memorandum of understanding, or whatever. I said yesterday that the advice has been that there has been none, and both the AFP and the NCA have advised the Minister for Justice that they are not part of a joint operation. I also said yesterday—

Senator MacGibbon —Hiding behind words.

Senator BOLKUS —I am hiding absolutely nothing. If those opposite want to interpret black out of white, they can do so. If they want to attribute to me answers to questions that they think Senator Boswell should have asked, they can do that. But if opposition senators want to judge me on what I have said to them, they should go back to the Hansard, and they will find absolutely no discrepancy.

  What I was going on to say is that it is a fact, as I said yesterday, that nevertheless law enforcement agencies do share information on a daily basis. They provide assistance to other agencies. That is the way that law enforcement has always operated. It is the way that law enforcement works. To characterise this as a joint operation, however, is incorrect.

  Having said that, let me also repeat what I said yesterday: the Australian Federal Police, I am informed, has not provided any assistance or information to any Queensland law enforcement agency with respect to the particular matters raised by Senator Boswell and Senator Chapman. With respect to the NCA, as I said yesterday, whether or not the NCA has provided resources or operational support to another law enforcement agency in relation to this particular matter is not something which can be disclosed because of the secrecy provisions in section 50 of the NCA Act. Senator Hill sits there smirking because he was deputy chairman of a committee, of which I was chairman, that ensured that such an imperative of those secrecy provisions prevails over the NCA.

Senator Hill —Operational details.

Senator BOLKUS —Senator Hill cannot squabble now. I have sort of wondered what Senator Chapman's new-born interest is in law enforcement. It did not take me all that long to find out that a person who has been chased out of the South Australian media, out of the ABC in South Australia, now finds himself on Senator Chapman's staff—Mr Chris Nicholls. Mr Chris Nicholls, who was chased out of journalism in South Australia, finds a resting place in the sleazy gutter that Senator Chapman and the National Party are finding themselves in. No wonder they are asking this sort of in-the-gutter question.

Senator CHAPMAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister really is just making an absolute laughing stock of himself now. I noted yesterday in my supplementary question that he was ducking and weaving in providing the answer that he provided yesterday. But I refer the minister to the answer that he provided the previous day to Senator Boswell when there was no specific reference by him to any joint operation. The minister simply said:

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

He did not refer then to specific joint operations; he was referring in a general sense. Will the minister stop backing and filling, and will he answer a straight question: has the NCA been involved in any way in Operation Wallah?

Senator BOLKUS —As I said at the start of my answer to the first part of Senator Chapman's question, Senator Boswell asked me about an investigation jointly with the Criminal Justice Commission or other law enforcement agency. My answer was to that question, both yesterday and the day before. Get that straight on the record.

  I will not be part of any guilt by association. Everyone in this country knows about Lennie McPherson. What relevance he might have to the particular matter that has been raised in a gutless way in the other house is totally unknown to anybody. But Senator Chapman comes in here and drags that name into the context of this discussion and finds guilty anyone who may or may not be implicated in it. He ought to be ashamed of himself.