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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 9

Senator CHIPP —I ask either the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Attorney-General a question about which I wrote to the Attorney-General two weeks ago. Is it correct, as reported, that in 1974-75 the then Attorney-General gave instructions to Department of Customs and Excise officials to downgrade their surveillance and inspection of Sydney businessman Abraham Saffron? Will the Attorney ascertain what were the Department's reasons, if any, for its reported high level of surveillance and inspection before the alleged intervention by the then Attorney-General? Will he also ascertain what was the reaction of the Department to the alleged instructions by the then Attorney- General? What were the reasons of the then Attorney-General for not accepting the Department's contrary advice, if any such advice was offered? Will the Attorney arrange to have tabled all documents relating to this matter, including communication between the then Attorney-General and the Department of Customs and Excise?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I thank the honourable senator for giving me advance notice of this question. I am afraid that all I am able to say at this stage is that the matter is being investigated and that answers will be supplied as soon as possible, hopefully later this week.

Senator CHIPP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Has the Attorney- General any explanation as to why it has taken two weeks for the answers to these questions to be provided?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The answer is simply that files relevant to this matter are scattered around a number of departments, as might be expected in circumstances where ancient history of this kind is being delved into and dredged up. Inquiries are proceeding expeditiously. I repeat: Answers will be given as soon as possible.