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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 384

Mr N. A. BROWN —The Attorney-General may be aware that in answer to a question this morning the New South Wales Attorney-General said that he had had discussions with the Commonwealth Attorney-General concerning the authentication of the Age tapes and the granting of immunities for police officers involved in making the tapes-that is clearly a Federal matter as the New South Wales Attorney said-and that, I use his words, 'until the Commonwealth Attorney-General makes up his mind there is nothing further that I can say about it'. I ask the Attorney-General: When will he make up his mind about the granting of immunities? In the course of making up his mind, will he include a consideration of those tapes relating to the Cessna-Milner drug case and the events surrounding it?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It is true that there have been discussions between the Attorney-General of New South Wales and me on what is regarded as the authenticity of the Age tapes. The honourable gentleman would know that the matter arose last year and was investigated by Mr Temby, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who furnished a report to this Parliament. That report indicated that the Australian Federal Police were aware of some interceptions by the New South Wales police in the period, surprisingly, when the honourable gentleman was Attorney-General, in 1981-82.

Mr N. A. Brown —Acting.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Apparently nothing was done when he was Acting Attorney-General. It is obvious that if there were interceptions by the New South Wales police they were illegal. That is the position. The Director of Public Prosecutions has suggested that the matter be referred to Mr Justice Stewart to investigate further the question of authenticity. As I understand the position, Mr Justice Stewart has sought to interview 31 New South Wales police officers. Of course, they are under the control of the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Police officers have indicated, through their solicitors, that they are not prepared to assist in the inquiry or to give any evidence unless they are granted indemnity in respect of their illegal interceptions.

Mr Howard —I don't blame them.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Although the honourable gentleman is saying that he does not blame them, the question is: Can one make one law for one person and another law for another?

Mr MacKellar —The New South Wales Government is-

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It is not a matter for the New South Wales Government; it is a matter for me. That is the question I am considering at present on the basis that the people involved are police officers who are bound to give their utmost service to the lawful enforcement of justice in Australia. They have information which they feel would be of benefit but they were not prepared to give it earlier. They are now prepared to give it on the basis that they do not suffer any penalty. There is no guarantee that they would suffer any penalty from the point of view of strict evidence that may be admitted against them. That is my dilemma at present. The average citizen in Australia may ask: If police officers are granted indemnity, because they can intercept anybody's conversation, why should the law be enforced against other people and not the police officers?

Mr Howard —So you still think the tapes are fakes?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —What the Government has to look at is what is being put to me at present both by Mr Justice Stewart and Mr Temby. Irrespective of what further evidence is given, it is not likely to lead to the prosecution of any person. I make that point in answer to the honourable member's interjection. The other point I make is this: Mr Temby is of one view and Mr Justice Stewart is of another view, which certainly does not help me. I think there are further avenues that might be explored and it is convenient now, as the honourable member has asked the question today, to say that I had a discussion with Mr Justice Stewart this morning and he is prepared to explore further the other avenues on the basis that all the evidence available can be given to him.