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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3513

Senator CHANEY —I again refer the Attorney-General to the opinion that he has been waving around, which he gave to the Prime Minister on 29 August, as to whether a breach of the Crimes Act could result from the conversation between Mr Mick Young and Mr Eric Walsh on 21 April this year. I ask the Attorney to confirm to the Senate that the decision to exercise his discretion not to prosecute Mr Young was substantially based on his view that the political sanction of resignation was more appropriate than the penalty provided for in the criminal law, that is, a possible two-year gaol term, as well as the constitutional penalty that would be exacted of Mr Young if he were prosecuted and convicted of an offence under that section, namely his expulsion from this Parliament. Now that the Prime Minister has said that he welcomes Mr Young's return to the Ministry, will the Attorney-General agree that the political sanction on which he placed so much weight, shortlived as that sanction was, has now been removed? In light of that removal and the substantial difference, therefore, between the circumstances now and the circumstances set out in this opinion, will he now reconsider his decision not to prosecute Mr Young?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that the availability of the political sanction of resignation was one of the criteria I took into account. It was the fourth mentioned out of four criteria that were discussed and applied in that opinion and I can assure Senator Chaney that my answer would have been exactly the same had those considerations not been relevant at all. Of course, it is a matter of judgment as to whether or not one takes the view that the period of time that Mr Young has been out of very senior ministerial office in this country is such as to amount to the kind of resignation that would satisfy everyone. All I can say is that on all the available evidence, six months absence from the Ministry in all the circumstances is something that appeals overwhelmingly to reasonable and fair-minded Australians as a very serious sanction indeed. That penalty, that sanction, has been suffered, has been experienced, and I think the extent and significance of it should be treated with rather more consideration than the insensitive characters on the other side of this chamber seem able to do.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I simply ask the Attorney-General to confirm that in this important respect the facts as they were when he gave the opinion are no longer the facts now.

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that Mr Young has still not been restored to the Ministry. He has resigned and will remain out of the Ministry until such time as a place is available. To that extent the facts have not changed at all.