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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 814

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Attorney-General)(3.12) —The honourable member for Menzies (Mr N. A. Brown) has again put the case he put last week. It would not matter, in his view, that there was no real evidence about any matter. The big issue, in his view, is to have some sort of public discussion about what is said by somebody about somebody else. For example, the whole discussion up to the present-until today, which is quite fascinating-has been on the question of the Age tapes, a compilation of material gathered in the period 1976 to 1981. The significant point about the honourable member's submission today is that arising out of that material is something that was not done. He was a member of the Government throughout that period, or most of it-in fact, he held office. The Temby report clearly shows that the Federal Police got all the information not from Mr Bottom's compilation but from the tapes themselves.

Let me ask the honourable member to address his mind to that question. One has it in the Temby report, with Inspector Lewington, Mr Farmer, Sir Colin Woods, with access to all the tapes and taking information from them. What is it the honourable member now suggests was not gleaned from that information in that period? It was made available to the Federal Police. They had it and I have no doubt they used it. So it is a bit ridiculous, is it not, to come into the House today and say: 'There is something radically wrong'. One knows that Mr Bottom is anxious to prove the authenticity of whatever material he got from somewhere and gave to somewhere else, but the matter was not so well handled if one looks at Mr Temby's finding. Mr Temby in his report, which is a document of record, said:

It is regrettable that 'The Age'--

that is the Age newspaper--

without any apparent malicious intent, handled the transcripts and summaries, and indeed the tapes themselves, in such a manner as to lose both continuity and control of not only the 'original' papers provided to Mr Bottom, but of the sequential collation of the several copies which are in existence.

The management of 'The Age' chooses not to co-operate with us, but even if co-operation had been forthcoming it is unlikely that the origins of the transcripts and summaries could have been reconstructed sufficiently to guarantee the integrity of the material.

That is Exhibit A. That is what you have got. I wish to make the point that the Federal Police got the real McCoy. If one looks at what Inspector Lewington was saying, at the discussions with Hawthorn and at the fact that a transcript was made of those tapes, the Australian Federal Police got the originals at that period and handed them back. So where is the suggestion that there is something new in this matter? Of course, Mr Justice Stewart has had the responsibility of trying to find out whether what Mr Bottom had was really the same as what the Federal Police had. That is simply it.

From the point of view of new matter, as the argument has been developed here today, the only reference appears to come in respect of an application for indemnity. The honourable member for Menzies is now saying 'Never mind about the Age tapes'-he is pretty right about that-'They are all pretty obsolete. They are four and eight years old. They were within our knowledge, as the Fraser Government. We in fact used them. We had them all'. I can understand why he is not worried about them.

Mr N. A. Brown —Who do you say did that?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Who do I say did what?

Mr N. A. Brown —Who in the Fraser Government did that?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It is a matter of record in the Temby report.

Mr Spender —That is nonsense.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Of course it is not nonsense.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The Attorney-General will ignore the interjections.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I cannot waste much time arguing with the honourable member. Surely he is not disputing the evidence given by Superintendent Lamb, who said that he got the tapes from Hawthorn, is he? Surely he is not disputing Superintendent Anderson's statement that early in 1981 Lamb told him that he was receiving information from the New South Wales Police, and he knew that Lamb had been offered tapes. The honourable member is not suggesting that he is refuting the evidence of Deputy Commissioner Farmer, who said he discussed the matter with Sir Colin Woods.

Mr N. A. Brown —With what Ministers of the Fraser Government?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —The honourable member can answer that question.

Mr MacKellar —You said it was the Fraser Government?

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable gentlemen on my left will cease interjecting. The Attorney-General has the floor.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It astounds me to think that the honourable member for Menzies and the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar), both former Ministers, knew nothing about the Commissioner of Police, the Superintendent of Police and the payment of money. I say to the honourable members that I think the intelligence gathered was in fact used. They know that, and the honourable member for Menzies in particular knows it.

Mr N. A. Brown —That is absolute nonsense. You keep repeating those slanders.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I do not want any explanations. I want to make the point that the honourable member got more out of the Age tapes material than Mr Bottom ever got.

Mr N. A. Brown —That is untrue.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Of course the honourable member will deny that. He must do so in order to protect himself in view of his argument today. His argument was based on the fact that there is some new matter in the Age tapes. In the finish he started to get away from that argument and said: 'Oh, I had better try to switch that argument. I had better think of something that happened since the 1981 period, because that is all our period in office'.

Mr N. A. Brown —So you must know about it also.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I know nothing about the matter. Today the honourable member made the point that the other day-

Mr N. A. Brown —You said it would be obvious. What is the difference?

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Attorney-General will resume his seat. The honourable member for Menzies has already spoken in the debate. He will not ignore the Chair and keep chattering across the table.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The honourable gentleman said that a very serious allegation has been made again that the Age tapes were used by a New South Wales member of Parliament to escape prosecution. Can honourable members imagine how that could be done? Can they imagine how the tapes could be used to escape prosecution when in fact all the material was known to the Federal Police at the time? Can they think of a set of circumstances whereby a person can say: 'Look, I am able to stop a prosecution', when the matter was within the knowledge of the police? Is the suggestion made that members of the New South Wales Police did not do their duty? That suggestion comes from Mr Bottom. On a recent AM program, Mr Bottom, who is always desperate to be noticed, decided to make another allegation. The perfect answer for Mr Bottom would be to go along to Mr Justice Stewart and give the information. He is duty bound to do it. Of course, Mr Bottom has a reputation for making aspersions which at times he cannot prove.

Mr N. A. Brown —He is almost always right.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —What about Miss Schreiner, the magistrate in New South Wales? What about the inquiry before Mr Justice Cross which, of course, must cause some concern? At that inquiry Mr Bottom withdrew his allegations. Having virtually destroyed the woman's integrity this man then got up and said: 'I have no evidence to offer'. That was an outrageous situation. Enough of Mr Bottom.

The question is: Has somebody been caught out? At the moment nobody has been caught out. In the last week honourable members opposite have been arguing in this Parliament against advice given to me by Mr Temby, the Director of Public Prosecutions, that an indemnity should not be given to police who previously had a chance to say whether they had intercepted telephone calls and who said no. That is his argument. Mr Justice Stewart says that they have requested that indemnities be granted.

Mr Spender —Were these police officers questioned on oath?

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member for North Sydney will be speaking in the debate later. I suggest he save his powder.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I think that is a matter for further judgment. I am not going to comment on that, except to say that Mr Temby was right in saying that they were asked. Of course, their names have not been divulged. I would like to disclose the report of Mr Justice Stewart but he has made the point that he does not want the report disclosed because he is still dealing with the matter. I make the point. I am sure that if there is any suggestion at all that any evidence given by any police officer will assist in the prosecution of a criminal, of course it would be considered, but at the present time we are considering a request from 31 police officers saying: 'I want an indemnity'. They have all been through the mill before. Every one of them said: 'We had nothing to do with the interception of tapes'.

I think the Opposition is getting carried away with the suggestion that a royal commission will establish anything different from what Mr Justice Stewart can do. He is virtually a royal commissioner now. He has all the powers of a royal commission. In fact, as the head of the National Crime Authority he can investigate matters there on his own reference, if he gets the approval. What was the idea of setting up a National Crime Authority if we are going to prevent it from doing any of this work? Is it because there is this fanaticism of raising some political issue about this mythical thing called the Age tapes that the Opposition has overlooked the real issue as to what it is all about? References have been made to the National Crime Authority in specific matters-nothing to do with the Age tapes. Despite what Mr Warren Owens has said in the Sunday Telegraph-that he was very concerned that the National Crime Authority might not be able to do its duty-that is not the view of the National Crime Authority. It would be better if reporters who want to make those allegations were to check the position. I cannot see for the life of me what the Age tapes have to do with any current reference before the National Crime Authority. All the Age tapes are dealing with at the moment is whether Mr Bottom produced something that was valid or not. I make the point that everything that Mr Bottom had was about third hand. It had been chewed over, used, diluted-composite material-and apparently sold by him. That is his privilege. But do not let us make the point that it is first class evidence. It is not.

In this argument about crime and the question of what has happened in Australia, it was not just in New South Wales. If one looks at the recent publication on the weekend regarding New South Wales, one would not relate organised crime to any one government. It is coming out in a book this week apparently. We will know the seriousness of the situation. It is very important that police, both Federal and State, uphold the law. The point I have been trying to emphasise here, despite the argument by the Opposition that it does not really matter, is that I do not think you can willy-nilly allow people to go on intercepting telephone calls without rhyme or reason.

Mr MacKellar —Who said that?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It has been happening, and you know it has been happening. You know very well that it happened in your time.

Mr Porter —You told us.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Apparently I have to tell you. You are so ignorant of the facts that I have to keep telling you what happened in your time. There is obviously a lot of material that has been accumulated. It is rather sad, is it not, to think, that, when royal commissions and joint task forces are established, the evidence given to the people that we appoint says: 'There was no interception.'? It seems to go against the grain if somebody can find the tapes even. They themselves would be adamant. We see the reasonable explanation given by the Federal police in your time that perhaps they were not intercepts; they might have been through listening devices or something of that nature. That was the argument given.

Coming back to the point of organised crime, we are all very anxious to attack organised crime. The whole purpose of the National Crime Authority is to do that. It will do that. From the point of view of the Opposition's history on organised crime, the National Crime Authority was brought about because organised crime was not attacked in the 1970s or the early 1980s. We saw Nugan Hand, bottom of the harbour taxation schemes and the activities of painters and dockers-all this criminal conduct-going on right across Australia. It was not limited to one State. It was right across Australia. Nothing was done about it. It was on that basis that there has been an overwhelming swell of public opinion, inquiring why the previous Government in the national sphere could not do something about it. It is for that reason also that all State police Ministers have been very anxious to co-operate.

If one looks at the structure of the National Crime Authority, one will see that for the first time the State Ministers are involved with the Commonwealth in a unified attack on crime. From now on there will be no limitations that we have only Federal powers and not State powers. We now have a composite capacity to deal with what is deemed to be relevant criminal activity. I am sure that any honourable member who has knowledge of any criminal activity would refer that matter to the National Crime Authority. I pay tribute to Mr Justice Stewart. He has a very difficult job. The only difficulty that I have to resolve at the moment is a conflict between him and Mr Temby on the question of indemnities in respect of matters, as I make the point, that I think are very ancient and well-used.

But the other issues are still very current from the point of view of what criminal activity is still going on that we can attack. I assure honourable members that we will get more of it from the point of view of the prosecutions that Mr Temby has under way now. I believe many people will go to gaol and I say to the honourable member for Menzies that they should have gone to gaol when his government was in office. Enough of the personal argument. The questions are: Is the law adequate; is it being properly enforced; and am I able to assess my discretion when indemnities are asked for? I undertake to do that, but it will be done on the basis of the law and whether there has been any breach of it; and certainly the question of whether we could get a prosecution would deserve the utmost consideration.