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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3901

Mr BRUMBY(4.44) —by leave-At the outset I wish to say that, as a member of the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority, I endorse the report which has been tabled here today. One of the most important aspects of the report and of the Committee's work-indeed, one of the highlights-is the vastly improved relationship which now exists between this parliamentary Committee and the National Crime Authority. Honourable members with an interest in this subject will be aware that in its first report the Committee drew attention to some very serious communications gaps and difficulties between the Committee and the Authority. I am pleased to say that considerable progress has been made in bridging those gaps and in permitting the Committee to report to Parliament in a much more informative way.

I wish to make a few other comments about the report. In debate on this report the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) claimed that this Government was not doing enough to tackle organised crime and, indeed, that our record in this area had been less than satisfactory. Let me say simply that none of us would be talking in this debate were it not for the fact that the Hawke Government established the National Crime Authority and a parliamentary committee to oversee its activities. That is the first thing that needs to be said. It was this Government which established the National Crime Authority and which gave it the role, the teeth and the powers to make a meaningful attack on organised crime in Australia.

That is not all we have done. We have also drastically improved and increased the resources which are made available to the Australian Federal Police. I know that that is a policy with which the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) is particularly pleased and of which he is proud. We have been able in the difficult budgetary circumstances to increase resources to the AFP. Thirdly, it was this Government which brought in and foreshadowed what I and, I believe, the community consider to be very tough legislation which really tackles organised crime head on. Those are some of the things that this Government has done to tackle organised crime. It is simply not true, as the honourable member for Gippsland said, that this Government has been less than satisfactory in its performance in that area.

I wish to comment also on the question of the Committee's responsibility to report to the Parliament and to examine trends and changes in criminal activities. Over the last year the Committee has been able to have briefings from commissioners and senior officers of police forces in each of the Australian States and the Northern Territory. It is a matter of great concern to me-and this is highlighted in our report-that the Premier of Queensland has, on two occasions, refused to give the Committee access to his Commissioner of Police so that we can examine trends in organised crime in that State. That is a matter of concern and I know that the honourable member for Gippsland, who is a member of the National Party, is at a loss to understand why the Queensland Premier should restrict this Committee in its important work against organised crime.

I turn to the comments that were made again by the honourable member for Gippsland, who said that the work of the Authority was being restricted by `political control'. I am totally at a loss to understand what he is suggesting by that meaningless statement. Let me make this clear: Mr Justice Stewart has said publicly and to this Committee that were any political imperatives or controls impeding the work of the Authority the National Crime Authority would say so publicly. In other words, he made it quite clear that there would be no political controls over the work of the National Crime Authority. It is quite incorrect and misleading for the honourable member for Gippsland to suggest that.

The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) made an interesting comment about the need for the Committee and the Government to decide now about the future of the National Crime Authority because, under its sunset legislation, it is due to be wound up in 1989. It is one thing for the honourable member for North Sydney to come into this House and make such statements, but it is quite another when one looks at the comments on this issue and the position taken by members of his own Party who serve on this parliamentary Committee. They have said that it is not necessary yet to make a decision about whether the Authority should be continued after 1989. Certainly the Committee acknowledges that deliberations on that subject will have to take place in the near future. However, when a Liberal member comes into the House and makes those statements criticising the Government it puts him way out of line with members of his own Party who are members of the Committee.

The final point I make concerns comments made by the honourable member for North Sydney regarding the computer security system held by the National Crime Authority. The honour- able member for North Sydney, I think, made the rather tenuous link between a computer system in the National Crime Authority and the computer system which would be established for the Australia Card. This Committee would have been remiss in its responsibilities if it had not ensured, to the best of its knowledge and ability, that the computer system used by the National Crime Authority was itself secure. Clearly, it is our responsibility to ensure that that computer system is secure and, in our view, on the information available to us, it is secure. It is really stretching the imagination, and it is tenuous in the extreme, for the honourable member for North Sydney to say that in some way that suggests that a security system, a computer system, set up by the Australia Card registry would be a security risk to Australia. I find that a preposterous analogy. It simply does not hold water. The parliamentary Committee is doing a good job in reporting to the Parliament on the work of the National Crime Authority. The relationship between this Committee and the Authority has improved; and I look forward to further reports on the work of the Authority and on the extent of crime in Australia.