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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1931

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Minister for Trade)(5.42) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

As foreshadowed in the statement tabled by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) in the Senate on 21 August 1984 in relation to the report of Mr I. D. Temby, QC, as Special Prosecutor in regard to the Age materials, it is necessary to amend the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 to enable Mr Justice Stewart, as Royal Commissioner, to investigate these materials and also to enable them to be handed to the New South Wales Commissioner for Public Complaints for action by him. As a result of amendments successfully moved by the Opposition in the Senate, the Telecommunications (Interception) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984 also provides that the materials may be given to the National Crime Authority.

Under the Bill now before the House, either Commissioner, before making use of the materials, must be satisfied that the document in question is an authentic record and is appropriate to be dealt with by him. Only if so satisfied, may the Commissioner make use of a document for his inquiry. Similarly, the National Crime Authority, before using the materials, must be satisfied that the document in question is an authentic record and is or may be relevant to matters with which the Authority is concerned.

In reaching its decision to proceed with this legislation, the Government has taken into account the fact that the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge was not able to determine that the materials relating to the conduct of a Federal judge were authentic or genuine except to the extent that participants in conversations made limited acknowledgments. Against this, some of the materials are directly relevant to Mr Justice Stewart's inquiry into the Terrence Clark drug trafficking group. As Royal Commissioner acting under royal commission powers given by both the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments and with his unique experience in investigations and special background knowledge, Mr Justice Stewart is probably better equipped than any other inquiry body to establish the authenticity and sources of the material. He will also be able to investigate generally the matters disclosed therein relevant to his inquiries.

His Honour has indicated that he expects to complete this inquiry expeditiously . On its completion he will resume his Nugan Hand Bank inquiries and an extension of his time for reporting in that regard may become necessary. At the same time, Mr Justice Stewart will be Chairman of the three-member National Crime Authority which has recently commenced operation. The Australian community is greatly indebted to the effective and energetic manner in which Mr Justice Stewart carries out his arduous duties. It is appropriate to provide for reference to the New South Wales Commissioner because, as Mr Temby points out, State offences may be involved.

As I have mentioned, as a result of amendments made in the Senate, the Bill also makes provision for the giving of the materials to the National Crime Authority to be used by the Authority for the purposes of the performance of its functions. The Bill also removes doubts as to the lawfulness of a person passing material or information in his possession, which he reasonably suspects to be evidence of an illegal interception, to law enforcement agencies which may use it for the purpose of prosecution of that offence. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Steele Hall) adjourned.