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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2639

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(4.01) —It is difficult to respond to Senator Durack's invitation, as much as I would like to, in other than a very generalised way and by indicating what my thinking on it is rather than necessarily trying in any way to speak for other Ministers. The views I have been canvassing are really reduced to this: On the question of a chairman, I believe it would be highly desirable for a judge to head the body. It ought to be someone with a great deal of practical experience in criminal law. Whether that experience is from investigation of a royal commission nature as such or whether it is simply by virtue of prior practice and on-the-Bench experience is a matter that will need to be left in the air at the moment. But certainly it needs to be someone who is highly experienced at conducting hearings, highly experienced in the proper procedure, highly sensitive to the kinds of competing considerations involved here and highly expert in his knowledge or experience of the kind of crime at which the agency is directed.

As to the other two members, certainly so far as the representative of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is concerned, I hope that a prominent lawyer-I imagine a silk rather than a second judge-would be the most appropriate appointee, someone with a great deal of experience in hard-nosed, on-the-ground criminal investigation.

Senator Chipp —Michael Hodgman has just taken silk.

Senator GARETH EVANS —God forbid.

Senator Durack —Like Mr Meagher.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Well, a number of names suggest themselves. I certainly do not want to canvass the merits or prospects of any individual at this stage. As to a third member, I think it is probably desirable that it be someone with legal qualifications, not necessarily a practising lawyer, to the extent that so many of the questions that will arise in this exercise involve proper interpretation and application of legislation and, indeed to the extent that they will involve the conduct of hearings, someone with a familiarity with and capacity to handle such hearings. It is the view that it is desirable that there be someone, at least one of the three positions, with prosecution side experience. Conceivably that could be a senior police officer, but it should be someone with a sensitivity to and understanding of police procedures. That is important. Somewhere within the troika, one would very much hope that also one could attract someone of considerable administrative experience and capacity and , hopefully, someone with the capacity in particular to master quickly the computer technology that has been so central to the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union and which will be taken over by the new Authority. To the extent that any one of those particular attributes is lacking in the final body that we produce, there will of course be ample capacity to provide expertise with the senior level staff of the Authority. To that extent what I am saying should in no way be regarded as sine qua non of the effectiveness of the outfit. With regard to the kind of concern that Senator Durack has expressed about somehow the senior officials getting together and foisting one of their number or someone else upon the Authority, while I have every respect for senior officials-I hasten to add in the context of my present company-I do not think that is a very likely outcome. If anyone were to be appointed with that kind of background, undoubtedly it would be someone with the real credentials to make a very effective job of it. We want expertise.

Senator Crichton-Browne —What sort of expertise?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have just been indicating for the past five minutes what sort of expertise.

Senator Crichton-Browne —You are not doing a very good job, clearly.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The day I can penetrate Senator Crichton-Browne's perceptions of these things I will regard as an occasion for doing handsprings around the chamber.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Try going to Rostrum instead of going into the verbal diarrhoea that overcomes you every now and then.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have considerable difficulty. When I answer honestly and frankly a question put to me, I am accused of having verbal diarrhoea. If I do not answer questions, I am accused of stone-walling or something of that kind equally inappropriate for the occasion. I have said as much as I can reasonably say. I do not propose to contribute further to the length of this debate by repeating what I have already said.