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Wednesday, 20 March 1985
Page: 573


Mr N. A. BROWN —I ask the Attorney-General a question concerning the authentication of the Age New South Wales Police tapes and the granting of indemnities to the police officers involved in the making of the tapes to resolve the dilemma caused by conflicting advice given to him by Mr Temby and Mr Justice Stewart. I ask the Attorney-General: Is not the real cause of his dilemma the fact that the transcripts of the tapes reveal that on 9 February 1980, at the time of investigations into the alleged Cessna-Milner drug case conspiracy, and at the time of other alleged criminal activities revealed by the tapes, he had a meeting, albeit an innocent one, with one of the alleged principal conspirators? Is not this the classic case of the appearance of a conflict of interest from which an Attorney-General should completely divorce himself? Will the Attorney-General therefore undertake not to make decisions on this matter personally, but request the Solicitor-General or some other independent officer to exercise the discretion to avoid even the suggestion of a conflict of interest?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —There is no conflict of interest on my part. I acknowledge that Morgan Ryan saw me on a number of occasions, as he did the former honourable member for Phillip, Mr Birney, who was a member of the honourable gentleman's government at the time.


Mr Tuckey —That doesn't change anything.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —That does not change anything, but the reason for the interview related to whether a no bill should be filed. The honourable gentleman was the Attorney-General at the time and would know of representations made in that respect. I know nothing about the case in question to which he now refers. It is significant that at the time which the honourable gentleman mentions, 1980, the Fraser Government was in office. It is significant that what are alleged to be tapes and transcripts of tapes were all made between 1976 and 1981. It is also significant that they were made as a result of Australian Federal Police talking to State police, getting evidence of interception and, in fact, paying an informant money. All those matters are now matters of record as a result of Mr Temby's report. It certainly highlights the fact that the honourable gentleman, if not himself, certainly through his Attorney in the same Cabinet, would have been aware of a lot of information that was made available to the Federal Police at that time. If he now shakes his head and indicates that he does not know, I am astounded, because the evidence is very clear. It was known between 1976 and 1981. It was made clear to Sir Colin Woods, the Commissioner of Police. It was made clear to Inspector Lamb. It was known that the informant was called Hawthorn and that he was paid money for this interception. The difficulty we now have is that the New South Wales Police, if you look at Federal Police evidence, obviously committed a breach of the Telecommunications (Interception) Act. There were no prosecutions lodged. Perhaps there was insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution. The difficulty that the honourable gentleman is raising relates to matters solely within his own period of office, basically within his own period and it relates to information-


Mr Sinclair —It is for you to exercise the discretion.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It is not a question of discretion. I am in this position--


Mr N. A. Brown —I am asking you about 1980.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Yes, and the honourable gentleman was in office at the time. I am telling you about 1980. I am telling you about the illegal interceptions--


Mr Hodgman —He wasn't even a Minister in 1980.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I meant when the Fraser Government was in office. Is that a problem? Do not tell me that honourable members did not know that Senator Durack was the Attorney-General at the time. How stupid can they get? One day they might make a statement as to what authority they had to use public money to pay an informant knowing he was breaching a Federal law. They might think about that. The problem that I now face relates to a conflict of advice, not to a conflict of interest.


Mr N. A. Brown —It must if you met the man yourself.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I met the man, the same as anybody else would have met the man.


Mr N. A. Brown —In 1980?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I would not admit to 1980. The issue we are talking about is the honourable member's knowledge and the fact that the man--


Mr Tuckey —But we are talking about you.


Mr SPEAKER —Order!


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —The period we are talking about relates to a period when he was in office.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, if you want to give advice, tell him to sit down.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Perhaps honourable members opposite would prefer that I sat down. The dilemma relates to the fact that 31 New South Wales police apparently breached the Federal Telecommunications (Interception) Act. Therefore, that renders them liable to punitive action. Not only that, they passed the information on to Federal Police, and that certainly relates to the question. I see no reason why those New South Wales police officers cannot do their duty and just tell the truth. That is all they have to do. They are not above the law. Nobody can give an exemption, particularly to law enforcement officers, on the basis of their having licence to do what they like, even though they break the law. The issue for them is very clear. They should do what they were asked to do by Mr Justice Stewart and tell him the facts. When will they do it? Mr Temby, QC, advises me that they are not entitled to an indemnity, and he is the Director of Public Prosecutions. The honourable gentleman talks about conflict of interest. Those officers are not entitled to indemnity merely because they are police. In fact, they are not entitled to indemnity, particularly because they are police. They have a duty to disclose any offence within their knowledge. They had a duty to do something about it when they were aware of it between 1976 and 1981 and on that basis, if they do their duty, there will be no problems with which the honourable gentleman is now so concerned. The previous Government, of which the honourable member was a member, had all this knowledge at the time and did nothing about it.


Mr Sinclair —But you have a question before you now. It has nothing to do with that.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I have not desisted from trying to do my duty, which is to suggest again to the New South Wales police that they revise their attitude that they want an indemnity and that they give all the information to Mr Justice Stewart. Whether they will be prosecuted is another matter. The matter Mr Justice Stewart is investigating is their knowledge of crime and criminal activities arising from an alleged transcript and tapes. It is another matter of record, of course, that copies of the tapes and transcripts were also within the possession of the Liberal member for Northcott. He said he had received them from the New South Wales Liberal Party headquarters.