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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 731

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(8.04) —Having just listened to the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans), I think that sophistry is alive and well and living in the Senate. We have no objection to the letter going to the Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge. Indeed, members of the Committee, through the introduction of the letter to the Senate and its incorporation in Hansard, have notice of the terms of the views of Mr Temby, QC, through that means. The letter reflects the sorts of concerns which the Opposition has been expressing.

I must say that what has been expressed by the Director of Public Prosecutions seems to me to be good sense. He points out that in a situation in which additional inquiries are at hand 'any opinion given might become invalidated quite quickly'. Of course, that is true. An opinion given on the basis of facts known today when further facts may be produced tomorrow may be cast into doubt and question and may require the matter to be further considered. Mr Temby makes a number of points. He says that he will respectfully decline to give an opinion :

. . . until the Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge has taken such evidence into the allegations as might touch upon the question of criminality.

That seems to be counsel of commonsense. A little later in his letter he says:

Now it is known that the Senate has set up a Select Committee to take evidence, it seems to me to be a pointless exercise, and put my Office in a most invidious position, if we are required to undertake an exercise in parallel to that which is to be performed by the Select Committee.

That, of course, is not to say that there is not a role for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The point is that where there is the possibility of a further exposure of facts and information it obviously seems wise to leave the determination of whether or not a criminal offence arises to the determination of those further facts and to the exposure of those further facts.

Mr President, I thank you, in common with the Director of Public Prosecutions, for making this letter available to the Opposition. It seems to me that the only quarrel we might have with the Attorney-General is the suggestion that in a sense the Committee should reconsider its role in light of this letter. It seems to me rather that the letter sets out the commonsense proposition that, given the parliamentary course of action which is to be pursued, the second course of action should await the satisfactory conclusion of that other exercise. That would appear to me to be the appropriate course. We welcome the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions has, in fact, given the Senate his views in this very prompt way. I do not believe that that affects the work which the Senate Committee is to undertake; rather, it bears out the concern which we expressed about the course which the Government wished immediately to put into hand.

If we go back to the original proposition which was put by the Attorney-General we face the possibility that if we had followed the course that he laid down we would have referred this matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions may well have considered it in a way that the Senate regarded as inconclusive. The Attorney's original comment of last week made it clear that that was a possibility. We would then have had the prospect of a further Senate inquiry and a further submission to Mr Temby at the end of that. Thus what Mr Temby has disclosed in his response is a concern which should have been evident to the Government at the time when the original suggestion was put forward.

My only concern about the matter is that I do not think, as was inferred by the Attorney-General in his comments, that the letter gives rise to the possibility that the Committee should decide that it should make no further inquiry. Rather, the letter underlines the commonsense proposition that the Committee should complete its work, that the Parliament should carry out its function and meet its responsibility; then, if there is a residual question about the possibility of criminal prosecution, that matter should be dealt with at that point and not before. Thus, I support the sending of the letter to the Committee, not because I think it amounts to something which should divert it from its course but because, given the fact that the Committee faces a difficult and important task, it is important that it should clearly understand the views of the Director of Public Prosecutions which are set out in his letter to the President of 10 September.