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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3134

Senator MacGIBBON —My question to the Attorney-General arises from the joint Press release by the Attorney-General and the Special Minister of State on 12 June this year on the National Crime Authority. Can the Attorney confirm that the National Crime Authority will continue to explore all matters that the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union is investigating and will the personnel and all the records of the Commission be transferred to the new body? Will the Nugan Hand bank inquiry continue after Mr Justice Stewart's transfer to the National Crime Authority? Has the Attorney seen the article in this week's National Times by Brian Toohey in which he said, in relation to the Nugan Hand inquiry:

The latter point is of considerable interest to a number of New South Wales Labor Party figures who were involved with the bank.

The New South Wales Premier, Neville Wran, who has been extremely keen to limit the powers of the Crime Authority, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Stewart appointment.

Can the Attorney categorically deny the inference in Mr Toohey's article that the Labor Party had ulterior motives in the appointment of Mr Justice Stewart to the National Crime Authority?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The last part of the question is offensive and beneath anyone's dignity to reply to, but lest that should be misconstrued I do offer the categorical denial that Senator MacGibbon has sought. I do so contemptuously because it was a contemptible question.

Senator Chaney —I take a point of order on the use of that language by the Attorney. An article has been referred to. If the Attorney had said there was something contemptible about the article he might have been in order, but the fact is that an inference from the article has been raised with the Attorney and he has been given an opportunity, which he has taken, to categorically reject it . I suggest that is all that was required.

Senator Chipp —Mr President, in your ruling on the point of order. I ask you to take into consideration the fact that this Parliament has just passed legislation instructing an authority to fight organised crime. An honourable man of total integrity has been appointed to head that body. I suggest that any reflection in this Parliament under privilege on the integrity of that man must go to the integrity that the public holds of that authority.

Senator MacGibbon —Speaking to the point of order, my reason for raising the question was that I was outraged at the inference in the article. I gave the Attorney-General, the top law authority, the opportunity to clear Mr Justice Stewart's name on the public record.

The PRESIDENT —Ruling on the point of order taken by Senator Chaney, I think that the Attorney-General has used, if I might use the expression, exaggerated language. I ask him to temper his reply.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Senator MacGibbon's expression of outrage then was as hypocritical as his original comment was outrageous.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Attorney-General to withdraw that remark.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The remark that it was outrageous or that it was hypocritical?

The PRESIDENT —The remark which the Attorney has just made.

Senator GARETH EVANS —In deference to the Chair, I so withdraw.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Not in deference to the Chair.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Certainly not in deference to Senator Crichton-Browne. As to the other matters raised in the senator's question-I refrain from using the expression 'the honourable senator'-the answer in brief is this: As to the records of the Costigan Commission, yes, provision has been made in the legislation, as any honourable senator who had half an appreciation of the terms of it would recall, for all the records that the Commission wants to hand over to be handed over to the new Crime Authority. As to the personnel, that is a matter for negotiation and discussion in the weeks ahead. I do not pre-empt the role of either the Minister or the new Authority itself in putting those arrangements in train. It should be said, however, that there is no foundation for the speculation I have seen in the newspaper that the whole enterprise will be shifted lock, stock and barrel to Sydney simply by virtue of the appointment of a Chairman from that State. Obviously it makes sense to maintain the core of the operations, at least so far as it concerns the computer analysis and so on, in Melbourne. Beyond that, I do not commit the new Authority to anyone running it to any particular course of action. As to the particular matters currently the subject of investigation by the Costigan Commission, obviously it is a matter for discussion between both the Costigan Commission and the new Authority as to which of those matters are appropriately the subject of continued investigations. That is exactly why a transition period has been established in order to enable that process to take place and those investigations which justify formal references being shaped up around them being so treated.

The Nugan Hand inquiry presently being conducted under separate letters patent, a separate commission by Mr Justice Stewart, will certainly continue to fruition . Whether that continues as a separate inquiry or whether it too becomes part of the terms of reference of the National Crime Authority itself is a matter still to be resolved. The odds at this stage are probably in favour of allowing that to continue as a separate reference in its own right under the existing letters patent but that is not something about which the relevant governments have yet made a final decision.