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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 1118

Mr PEACOCK —In view of the answer the Prime Minister has just given, I ask a question of the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer the Minister to the tabled correspondence between the Government, Commissioner Costigan and Mr Justice Stewart in which Commissioner Costigan clearly expresses the view that the transition to the National Crime Authority is a failure. Is the Minister aware that the investigations of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union effectively were terminated on 30 June when Mr Costigan had to devote all his resources to writing his final report? Commissioner Costigan himself has been unable to carry out those investigations. Is the Minister also aware that the present transition arrangements effectively mean that it is unlikely that the National Crime Authority will be pursuing investigations until later this year? How can the Government justify a handover schedule under which investigation virtually ceases for six months, giving criminals a long reprieve, in circumstances in which the National Crime Authority refuses briefings from Mr Costigan? Will the Minister ensure that the intergovernmental committee reviews the transition dispute with a view to making it effective and to ensure that the National Crime Authority does receive briefings from Mr Costigan, and does not resolutely refuse to receive them?

Mr YOUNG —I make it clear to the Leader of the Opposition that the material that was gathered by Commissioner Costigan was handed over to the National Crime Authority via the Attorney-General, as I have already informed the House, on or about 14 July.

Mr Sinclair —Nothing has happened since then.

Mr YOUNG —I ask the right honourable member to let me finish. That included all the material of the major investigation and evidence gathering undertaken by the Costigan Commission. Nothing that was given to this Government has been withheld from the National Crime Authority. In addition to the material that was handed over on 14 July-it may have been 15 or 16 July, I will check the dates; it was about that time-material on two additional matters has now been forwarded by Commissioner Costigan to the Attorney-General under the Royal Commissions Act and this also has now been forwarded to the National Crime Authority.

I have been anxious, as I have informed the House, that the intergovernmental committee should meet as soon as possible. That will depend upon the National Crime Authority reaching conclusions on what references it requires from the matters handed over by Commissioner Costigan. That is very much the decision of the three people who have been put in charge. This involves not only the three people who make up the National Crime Authority; all the senior people who have worked with Commissioner Costigan, all the information that is available to Commissioner Costigan and all the computer programming carried out by Commissioner Costigan are to be transferred to the National Crime Authority. Nothing is missing. There is no missing link in the transition from Commissioner Costigan to the National Crime Authority.

In the discussions I held with the National Crime Authority last week it was my suggestion that perhaps we should have a meeting of the intergovernmental committee for the purposes of meeting those people now appointed to the National Crime Authority if it was felt by the National Crime Authority that it needed more time before it could ask for references. I understand that the National Crime Authority now believes that it would require the final report of Commissioner Costigan on top of the material already handed over to it.

I also outline to the Opposition, in case honourable members do not understand the operations of the National Crime Authority, that it is not just a matter of the Authority following the one avenue of asking for a reference from the intergovernmental committee; the Authority may set up task forces to carry out further investigations, it may receive references from State representatives who make up the intergovernmental committee or, indeed, the Australian Federal Police, through the Australian Government, may ask for references to carry out evidence gathering and prosecutions that can be brought to bear. Lots of things are being undertaken at the moment. Nothing that has been available to Commissioner Costigan, none of the materials that have been gathered--

Mr Peacock —Why didn't briefings occur?

Mr YOUNG —I ask the honourable member to let me finish. As I said, all the senior staff who worked with Commissioner Costigan will be working for the National Crime Authority. All of those people who have been used by Commissioner Costigan will be transferred. It is not a one-man band, as Commissioner Costigan is the first to point out. He has a staff of 120 people.

Mr Peacock —Why didn't you even suggest that they have briefings?

Mr YOUNG —Much of that staff was given to Commissioner Costigan by this Government. We doubled the resources of Commissioner Costigan in our first year of government. All of those senior people will be handed over. All of those people are able to brief the National Crime Authority on all the operations of the Costigan Commission. It may be that it has taken a little longer than we would have anticipated or hoped for the National Crime Authority to be able to seek references from the intergovernmental committee. They are not the only ones who have had this view. When I had my discussions with Commissioner Costigan and counsel assisting, Mr Meagher, they said that the National Crime Authority will have to be particularly careful in matters that it seeks reference on. They said it is not a matter which they can rush into. On these questions the National Crime Authority has in fact acted in the way in which Commissioner Costigan described to me it would have to act. There has been no hold-up in terms of the material that Commissioner Costigan wanted to go to the National Crime Authority . I believe that material went to the National Crime Authority on exactly the same day as it came to this Government. All the material that is available to Commissioner Costigan will be the property of the National Crime Authority.