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Monday, 10 April 2000
Page: 15565

Mr SPEAKER (3:25 PM) —Last Tuesday the honourable member for Calwell raised as a matter of privilege actions which amounted in his submission to improper interference in the performance of his duties as a member. The honourable member's concerns arose out of an investigation by the National Crime Authority. His complaint had three aspects: first, alleged improper or illegal activities by or on behalf of the authority; second, the involvement of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in the matter and the use of records held by the department; and, thirdly, the use of telephone interceptions of the member's telephone services. The member provided a substantial amount of material on the matter and examination of this material has revealed questioning of, and comments about, the investigation and the propriety of some of the activities involved. There is also material concerning the involvement of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. The member made the point that he believed the issues raised were of general concern in terms of members and their constituents and not raised in advocacy of his own defence.

It is not difficult to accept that an investigation of this kind and related matters may have a very negative effect on a member's performance of his or her duties as a member. The task for me as Speaker is, however, to make a judgment as to whether there is prima facie evidence of a breach of privilege or contempt. While there appear to be a number of unresolved issues in respect of the matters complained of, it is not clear to me at this stage that there is evidence of an offence against parliamentary privilege such as would allow me to give precedence to a motion. I understand the position in which the honourable member finds himself and the depth of his feelings on the matter. The Committee of Privileges at present has a general inquiry into the status of records held by members, and the member may feel that he could take up aspects of his present concerns with the committee in connection with that inquiry. If, at the conclusion of the current proceedings against the member, he feels that additional material has come to light which raises issues of parliamentary privilege which should be pursued, I will of course be happy to consider them.