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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2574

(Question No. 824)

Senator Primmer asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice , on 1 May 1984:

(1) Has the Ombudsman, Professor Richardson, refused to investigate a complaint by a former Treasury officer, Mr D. Eastman, that he was assaulted by a Treasury security officer, Mr L. Ruxton, on 29 June 1983 while collecting documents from his personal file to which he had obtained lawful access under the Freedom of Information Act.

(2) Did the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, Mr Ralph Willis, in 1983, following information provided by Mr Eastman, write to the Ombudsman suggesting that in future the Ombudsman might declare any cases in which he found himself investigating the actions of a former staff member of the Ombudsman's office.

(3) Has the Ombudsman failed to make such a declaration when investigating a complaint against the former Department of the Capital Territory.

(4) What other avenue is available to Mr Eastman to have his complaint properly investigated, given that the Ombudsman has refused to investigate Mr Eastman's serious allegations against a Treasury officer.

Senator Button —The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1), (2) and (3) I have been advised by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Richardson, that following preliminary inquiries he has declined to investigate a complaint made by Mr Eastman against an officer of the Department of the Treasury concerning an incident which occurred on 29 June 1983.

The office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman was established, through legislation passed by both Houses of the Parliament, as an independent authority to investigate the actions of the Commonwealth administration. The Ombudsman's ability to carry out effectively his statutory functions depends on his independence being maintained and respected both by the Government and other members of the Parliament. Any attempt to direct or control the Ombudsman's investigations constitutes a serious threat to those purposes for which the Ombudsman was established.

(4) Mr Eastman has at his disposal those legal avenues available to all citizens for the investigation of allegations of assault.