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Wednesday, 24 March 2004
Page: 21808

Senator BOLKUS (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs. I ask: is the minister aware of AFP Commissioner Keelty having raised the issue of his resignation with any member of the government? The minister has stated that the commissioner never raised the matter with him but, as the minister responsible for the AFP, does the minister have knowledge of the commissioner's resignation having been raised with any other minister, including the Prime Minister?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I do not have any knowledge of the police commissioner offering his resignation to any other person apart from me. He did not raise it, as far as I am aware, and he certainly did not raise it with me.

Mr President, it is a bit rich. We have the opposition coming in here and making out it is defending the Australian Federal Police Commissioner. At least Senator Ray had the honesty yesterday to say that he had not always been satisfied with the evidence that the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police gave at estimates committee hearings. But have a look at what Senator Faulkner had to say. The AFP issued a press release on 26 September 2002 saying that Senator Faulkner had got it wrong. This is what Senator Faulkner said in a press release:

Further questions have been raised about the quality of evidence provided to parliament by the head of the Australian Federal Police, Commissioner Mick Keelty.

Mr President, as outlined in the Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday, the opposition—led in this chamber by Senator Faulkner—is making out that it is in some way defending the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, when Senator Faulkner has a track record of attacking the Australian Federal Police Commissioner—without foundation, I might add. This requires an apology to the police commissioner. At least Senator Ray had the honesty, when he was addressing this issue yesterday, to outline his attitude.

The opposition does not like this—of course it doesn't—because the truth hurts. I have made the position on this issue very clear. The matter is over and done with. The police commissioner has made it very clear that he wants to get on with the job of carrying out the foremost role of law enforcement in this country. He has a very important job to do in relation to law enforcement and the security of this country, and I want to work with him in that regard.

Senator BOLKUS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. All that bluster does not cover up the fundamental question. I ask the minister again: isn't it the case that when the Prime Minister was asked yesterday whether he or his office were aware that Commissioner Keelty was considering his resignation last week, he restated—stating the obvious and avoiding the question—that the commissioner did not tender his resignation. Minister, isn't this just typical of the government's evasiveness on this and other matters? Can the minister now answer a simple and direct question: is he aware of Commissioner Keelty having raised the issue of his possible resignation with any member of the government?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The answer is that I am not aware—and, for the third time, I have already answered that question. It was not raised with me and I am not aware of it having been raised with anyone else. Commissioner Keelty has indicated nothing but a desire to continue doing his job as police commissioner for the Australian Federal Police and in his role as Chairman of the Australian Crime Commission. This government intends to support him in that role—a role which he is carrying out very well.