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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 688

Senator REID —I refer the Attorney-General again to the letter which former police officer Boyle wrote to him on 8 March in which he rejected the Attorney- General's claim in Parliament on 7 March that police had not sufficiently advanced their investigation of Mr Ramon Sala's passport to justify charges being made. I ask: In the Attorney's defence of the actions of the then Attorney -General, Senator Murphy, has he relied heavily on the false claim which has now been exposed by Mr Boyle? If not, why did the then Attorney-General not take steps to fully acquaint himself with the police view before ordering Mr Sala's release? Finally, does he now agree, in the light of the new evidence, that the Attorney-General of the day erred in his decision to release this man?

Senator GARETH EVANS —No, I do not believe that the Attorney-General of the day erred in his dealings with this matter. As I indicated in reply to Senator Sir John Carrick, all that the Attorney-General knew at the time he was making his decision was that the allegedly false passport had been in police possession for something over a month, or of the order of a month, and that, for whatever reason, no charge had been laid. No doubt if he had pursued the matter he would have appreciated that there was no barrier in law to a charge being made. Certainly, it did depend on the consent of the Department of Immigration, but there was no reason on the face of it why such consent should not have been given if indeed the evidence was such as to justify a charge being laid.

The facts as they were available to the Attorney-General of the day were such as to justify him, I believe, and Mr Menzies believes-he dealt with this matter very fully and reported to the Government-reaching the view that it was unconscionable in our system of justice for someone against whom a charge, for whatever reason, had not been laid to be kept in gaol on an open-ended basis, presumably while further investigations could take place. That might be the way in which some countries or indeed some honourable senators opposite might choose to run a judicial system, a criminal investigation system or a penal system, but it has not hitherto been the Australian way. I do not in any way divert from my support for the former Attorney-General for reaching the decision on the grounds that he apparently employed.