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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 672

Senator ROBERT RAY —I ask the Attorney-General whether it is the case, as alleged in the Age headline this morning, that Special Prosecutor Redlich was told not to pass on information about possible race fixing to the Victoria Police. What are the circumstances surrounding the matters reported in the Age article in question? Finally, will the Attorney request that police inquiries be initiated with a view to determine under what circumstances the report by Robert Redlich was leaked to the Age?

Senator GARETH EVANS —This morning's Age on page 16 contains a story under the heading, as Senator Ray has said: 'Redlich was told not to pass on race fixing claim'. That headline is a gross misrepresentation of what is contained in Mr Redlich's report which will, incidentally, I hope, be tabled in this Parliament later today, of what is contained in a reply I gave last night to a question from the Age, and of the very story that appears below that headline which incorporates the substance of my reply. At no time was Mr Redlich told not to pass on any material to the Victoria Police. In fact, it appears that he was not told anything at all and that is the nub of his complaint.

In his actual report quoted yesterday by Mr Peacock and others in relevant part Mr Redlich states that he wished to pass certain information on to the Victoria Police and he sought my direction as to how this could be done. He then states that at the time of writing his report he had not received advice from my Department as to how the matter should progress. It is true that he did not receive formal written advice, although it may be that he did have some oral communication from my Department. The departmental file indicates that a draft letter of reply from me was submitted to me. I directed certain revisions to it, expecting that it would be resubmitted, but apparently it was not for reasons which I will not now go into.

The facts are that part of the material given to me by the Age on 1 and 2 February contained purported transcripts of telephone conversations involving one Robert Trimbole. As this part of the material might have contained material which, if authentic, could have been relevant to his functions, a copy was given to the former Special Prosecutor, Mr Redlich, on 24 February. On 2 April, Mr Redlich wrote indicating that some of the information in the transcript might provide a basis for further investigation by the Victoria Police in relation to State offences. He doubted, he said, whether he had the power to release the material to the Victoria Police and expressed his tentative view that to pass the material to others would constitute an offence under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act, and he asked for advice on the matter. It was clear when the matter was looked at within the Department and by me that if the material given to Mr Redlich was in fact information obtained from the interception of telephone conversations, there was certainly no provision in the Telecommunications (Interception) Act which would allow him to pass the material on. What made the question particularly tricky, however, was that there was no solid foundation for ever believing that the material was authentic and, if it was not authentic, it would not have been illegal to pass it over, although it would have been quite worthless.

While this conundrum was being contemplated by my Department in April, members of Mr Justice Stewart's staff informed my Department that he, Mr Justice Stewart , would be requesting an amendment to the Act to allow him to investigate essentially the same parts of the Age material. When Mr Justice Stewart duly wrote to me-I received his letter in late May-he indicated that his investigation would need to cover questions involving the authenticity of the material. In the light of the concerns that had been expressed by both Mr Redlich and Mr Justice Stewart at that time, we engaged on a major policy review of the legislation. It was too late then to bring the legislation forward because there were only a few days left of the last Budget session. In any event , Mr Redlich's own commission wound up soon thereafter. But we did untangle the policy issues over the recess and early in this session introduced remedial legislation to solve the problem.

I should mention for the benefit of the sceptics, including Senator Chaney, that we had to wrestle with a number of quite difficult policy issues, and in particular-I do not know whether Senator Chaney has ever wrestled with anything like this-whether it is ever appropriate to allow illegally obtained material to be used for investigation purposes, or whether, by doing so and opening up the acceptability of illegally obtained intercepted evidence, this amounts to a dangerous encouragement to the obtaining of further such illegal intercepted material. The answers to those policy dilemmas are contained in the legislation we will be debating shortly in this place. In essence, the points we have adopted are as follows: Our proposed legislation authorises the transfer of all the relevant material to Mr Justice Stewart to enable him to test its authenticity, using the full armoury of coercive powers available to him; secondly, the legislation authorises the use by Mr Justice Stewart for criminal intelligence purposes of the material he can establish to his own satisfaction is authentic; thirdly and finally, the legislation authorises the communication of such material to law enforcement authorities for the purposes of investigation and prosecution of the offences of illegal investigation itself.

That is a long explanation but I think it needs to be appreciated that there were all sorts of reasons why Mr Redlich did not get the answer he should have got as soon as might have been desirable, in the best of all possible worlds. Certainly the headline is wholly misleading, and once again one is left with the question as to who leaks these things. I have my suspicions. I have requested today that a policy inquiry take place into how it was--

Senator Chaney —Open government strikes again. Shoot the messenger.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have a very clear idea in this instance of where the early manuscript version of the Redlich report came from. I hope that Senator Chaney will be appropriately embarrassed when that information comes to light.