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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1748

Mr RUDDOCK(4.15) —I take the opportunity of debating the estimates of the Attorney-General's Department to refer particularly to that part of the estimates that deal with royal commissions and commissions of inquiry. Of late there have been a number of inquiries. Of course important royal commissions have been established in relation to a number of questions. Those that have been more topical include the ones related to organised crime. We also have a royal commission in relation to security matters-the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies-chaired by His Honour Mr Justice Hope. It is known as the Hope Royal Commission, or in some quarters the Coombe royal commission. The Royal Commission which deals with security matters, is an important one. In a sense it has been subsumed by the sorts of comments of a more glamorous nature that have been made from day to day and the real reasons for establishing this Royal Commission have, in part, been ignored. The reasons have become very much more clouded by what I describe as the revealed worst aspects of Australian Labor Party cronyism and incestuous Labor Party opportunism. This has been demonstrated by much of the evidence that has been given to that inquiry. The first and most important reason for the establishment of that Royal Commission was to establish whether our nation's security had been placed at risk. The secrecy that has surrounded much of the evidence that has been given to the inquiry has obscured the issue of Australia's security simply because so much of the evidence has been given in camera.

The second issue that the Commission was asked to inquire into was leaks from the Cabinet Committee on National and International Security. One might be surprised to learn that that was its purpose. It was suggested in the early days when this inquiry was established that it may have another purpose. I think it was very clear that the Government, in establishing its terms of reference, had in mind that this question of leaks from the National Security Committee was of the utmost importance, notwithstanding the fact that the Government sought to fit the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) with the blame for information that was leaked all around this city-Canberra-about links between David Combe and the expelled KGB agent, First Secretary, Ivanov. The sinister purpose that the Government had when it established this Royal Commission has almost been forgotten, but I do not think one should allow that to happen.

I remind honourable members of a debate that took place in the House of Representatives on 17 May last. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) made it clear that the actions not only of the Government but also of the Opposition were to be reviewed. He asserted that the Leader of the Opposition had been briefed on the affair and asked who he had talked to after the matter first arose. He asserted that that in some way linked the Leader of the Opposition with the leaks from the Security Committee of Cabinet. The Deputy Prime Minister said that strong evidence would be given to the Commission that perhaps the damage came from the Opposition. He said that simply because Mr Combe's name was mentioned in Parliament by the Deputy Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) who else but the Leader of the Opposition could be involved?

Mr Duffy —This does not have much to do with the Attorney-General's Department.

Mr RUDDOCK —It is responsible for royal commissions. The Deputy Prime Minister said:

Are we to suggest that there was no discussion at all with the Leader of the Opposition . . . Do honourable members honestly think we can accept that situation.

When matters were raised about our national security and about Mr Combe, the Deputy Prime Minister wanted the Opposition blamed. He was hopeful that the Opposition would be fitted with the blame by the Commission. The Government was in such a hurry to do this that it failed to ask whether any of its members were involved. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), who set up the Royal Commission, was the source of some information which was given to his friends and acquaintances. He failed to recognise that they might, as they now claim was the case, naturally have concluded that Mr Combe's being banned from contact with Ministers must have arisen from his association with Ivanov and Ivanov's expulsion. The Commission was established without inquiry of a mere six members of the National and International Security Committee of Cabinet as to whether any information they had given friends-or dare I say cronies?-might have been the source of what was widely known and leaked security information. Clearly, on the evidence submitted to date to the inquiry, Labor members have been found wanting.

The Labor Party has suggested that there ought to be discussion of these matters. On many occasions Government counsel before the Commission has attempted to stop the discussion of some of these questions by claiming privilege. The Opposition has been largely silenced but people such as Mr Duncan of Adelaide and Senator Bolkus have continued to discuss these matters in public . Discussion has also taken place in the Australian Capital Territory in relation to one of the subject matters we were discussing-that is, the question of Australian security and the future of the Australian Security Inteligence Organisation. As reported in the Canberra Times of 10 October 1983:

The ACT branch of the ALP wants the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation disbanded and the Federal Government to convene a special national conference-

Presumably of Labor Party members-

to consider the future of Australia's security and intelligence.

The report then stated:

The president, Mr Marc Robinson, said later that a branch meeting, held at the Canberra College of Technical and Further Education, had been called in response to a similar resolution recently by the South Australian branch. About 50 members attended.

Mr Robinson said reports that the branch was to undertake its own investigation into ASIO were incorrect. Rank and file support was needed for a special national conference.

A majority of State branches need to agree to the resolution before a national conference can be called. The ACT and South Australian branches are the only ones to do so.

The reason I raise this matter in relation to Australia's security organisation is that the Royal Commission, about which I have spoken, clearly has before it this question of whether or not there has been a leak in relation to Australia's security and whether Australia's security had been placed at risk. Yet we have in the ALP, at a time when the Opposition is being called upon not to discuss these matters, not only considerable discussion about security in general but also very considerable discussion about the future of Australia's national security organisation, ASIO. Of course, many people in the ALP are seeking to have the Organisation disbanded. I find it alarming that the Prime Minister and members of the Government have not called upon those members of the ALP who have been anxious to discuss this question of ASIO's future to await the outcome of the inquiry of the Royal Commission. I would have thought it would be most appropriate for this matter to be put aside, as the Opposition has been asked to put aside its criticisms and comments about aspects arising out of this inquiry.

I want also to raise in discussion this afternoon the future of the National Crimes Commission. We have had tabled in the Parliament only this week the annual report of the Special Prosecutor Mr Robert Frank Redlich. That report is another document that calls upon the Government to establish what Mr Redlich calls a robust, independent, national authority to meet a national crisis. Yet we know that the Labor Party is dithering about this matter. It has committees that are considering the matter. The Labor Party Caucus has put aside the request of the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) for the establishment of a national crimes commission. Notwithstanding the urgent need for a national authority to investigate organised crime, this matter is being put to one side.

It should not be forgotten that the proposal for a national crimes commission was before this Parliament last year. Certain legislation was passed through this chamber. Yet this Government, since it came into office, has organised a conference in an attempt to try to get some agreement, admittedly about important questions such as the sort of capacity that a national crimes commission ought to have to inquire into organised crime, its powers and the like. But I do not think it is fair, when there is this urgent need, to have discussion going on interminably as it has and this urgent task put to one side. I think the delay is unconscionable. Daily, matters are raised which ought to be within the purview of a national crimes commission.

Questions have been raised in relation to organised crime in New South Wales. It has been brought to our notice that the Commonwealth has sought to convey certain information about organised crime to authorities in New South Wales and that the New South Wales Government appears to be unwilling to set up its own inquiry. I think it is important that the Commonwealth have an inquiry of its own to investigate some of these matters. There are important Commonwealth aspects to the matters that have been raised. The question of taxation is one such matter-the taxation of those who were bribed in the context of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Bribes are regarded as income. There are other important questions that ought to be raised also.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.