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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3885

Senator MISSEN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the undertaking by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to supply to the Victoria Police the names of 12 Australian Secret Intelligence Service agents who took part in the bungled training exercise at the Melbourne Sheraton Hotel two weeks ago. I ask the Minister, firstly, why has his undertaking not been carried out so that the police can interview those involved and take any necessary action against them if it is shown that there are breaches of the law; secondly, has the Foreign Minister now imposed or proposed some unacceptable and improper conditions on the delivery of such information to the Victorian Government and the Victoria Police; and thirdly, has the Hawke Government now abandoned the long-standing principle that there should be equality before the law and will now provide special privileges for some wrong-doers?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Minister for Foreign Affairs instructed the Director- General of ASIS yesterday to provide to the Victoria Police the names they are seeking of those involved in the Sheraton Hotel incident. In conveying the names to the Victoria Police, the Director-General was asked to refer to Mr Hayden's request that the names be handled by the police on a confidential basis and to the undertaking made in a communication from the Victorian Premier that the names would not be revealed for any purpose other than to enable the police to pursue investigations and to consider charges. I add that there are excellent national security reasons for that confidentiality condition being imposed in those terms, which ought not to inhibit the effectiveness of the law enforcement process. It is not the desire of this Government to inhibit that process in any way.

After this instruction was given yesterday, but before it was carried out, legal advice was apparently received by the individuals in question to the effect that persons whose names were to be revealed to the police should be given 24 hours notice of the intention to disclose their identities. Legal advice of that kind was given to them and, I understand, to Mr Hayden. This would allow the persons concerned to exercise such rights as they might have under the law to seek a suppression order in relation to the initial giving of the names to the police. I do not make any comment as to whether such an application for a suppression order would be likely to succeed. Accordingly, in response to that request made on behalf of the individuals concerned, that they have this time to seek an injunction should they be minded to do so, action to convey the names to the Victoria Police has been suspended for 24 hours as from 8.30 this morning. The Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police has been informed of this position by the Director-General of ASIS.