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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 710

Senator MISSEN(4.24) —I would like to say a few words about these very revealing parts of correspondence-I repeat, parts of correspondence-which have come before the Senate. I take it that we have not yet received the further correspondence which apparently took place at some earlier time between Mr Costigan and the Government and which we would also want to see. I will not go over the details of the correspondence because honourable senators have read it. One sees in that correspondence a great deal of patience, and also exasperation on the part of Mr Costigan in seeing the work which he has done so successfully in this country for four years possibly being frittered away because of the failure to follow up and have a proper period of briefing of the new National Crime Authority.

It is essential that we look at this matter at this time. Many of us are concerned that the new Authority has perhaps the chance of a snow-flake in hell of succeeding in doing what the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union did and in carrying on its work. This, of course, will be the eternal indictment of this Government and its clients who have persuaded it to weaken this Authority. But we have not yet even reached the first base. We are not in a position where we can judge that. We need a joint committee of this Parliament to scrutinise and try to help that Authority to overcome what appear to be the inherent weaknesses that are placed in its way. In the correspondence Mr Costigan, after great exasperation in finding that he is not able to do all of the things that were expected of him at one time, states:

. . . the transition from the Commission to the Authority will fail.

That is stated in his letter of 22 August. I think that there is a real reason for that judgment being made by him. Obviously, the Authority has not yet had the type or degree of briefing that it should have had. It is remarkable that the Chairman of the Authority does not consider the need to have a briefing, not only as to the methods whereby the Costigan Commission achieved such remarkable success in the last few years, but also on the outstanding matters and the whole strategy of the campaign that it must continue and extend. It is to investigate areas which Mr Costigan could not investigate. His terms of reference were, after all, circumscribed. Areas he investigated had to have something to do with the Ship Painters and Dockers Union. That was a remarkably wide area of involvement in organised crime, but it no doubt left many other areas that one would expect the new body to investigate. If that body is not properly briefed, and if it is not able to use and pick up the valuable work that has been done and to complete it, I think we are in for a lot of trouble.

It is a matter of great regret, of course, that Mr Costigan was ill and could not complete the work that he was then doing. But as Senator Sir John Carrick said, it is remarkable that the Government did not say: 'We need to extend the time to ensure that you complete the inquiry and that you complete your examination of the evidence that has been called'. We should not have to wait for many months before the new Authority is in a position to take up and perhaps obtain new references from that rather creaky inter-governmental committee-I have criticised the form in which that committee is described in the Act-and which might well lead to it never going on with those inquiries. I believe that this correspondence is most revealing in indicating that the Hawke Government is not really serious about the pursuit of organised crime, which is probably one of the worst features of Australia. The Hawke Government may suffer later from the hands of the people, but we all may suffer if this cancer in our country grows beyond control, partly due to the foolishness of the Government at this time.