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Wednesday, 9 October 1985
Page: 905


Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats) —by leave-I thank the Senate for giving leave. During the last sitting of the Senate on 11 September I placed a series of five questions on notice relating to Dr Geoffrey Edelsten. The allegations to which the questions referred had already been made public in a magazine article. It was put to me at the time that it was in the general public interest and in the interest of everyone concerned, particularly Dr Edelsten, that the matters raised in the allegations be resolved as quickly as possible. I asked the questions on the basis of that argument. As part of my wish to reach a speedy resolution of the matter, I specially wrote to the Ministers concerned seeking an urgent response to the questions. I want to thank the Ministers for their expeditious responses to my request and I now ask leave to incorporate the Minister's answers in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

Question No. 535

Senator Chipp asked me as Minister representing the Special Minister of State upon notice, on 12 September 1985:

(1) Has the Attorney-General seen what has been described as a scurrilous article in the Journal ``Matilda'' which alleges that Dr. Geoff Edelsten is under investigation by the National Crime Authority.

(2) Can the Government confirm whether Dr. Edelsten is under investigation by that Authority.

(3) Was Dr. Edelsten the subject of an inquiry of the Costigan Royal Commission.

(4) Does the Government know of Federal Police records which purport to link Dr. Edelsten with the import and trafficking of narcotics, pornography, and vice activities and the exportation of fauna; if so,are these documents accurate.

(5) Will the Government carefully scrutinise any application by Dr. Edelsten to establish any medical practice in the A.C.T. in the light of Dr. Edelsten being named as being Mr. X in the Medicare Fraud and Overservicing Joint Committee of Public Accounts Report.

Mr Young, the Special Minister of State, has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes.

(2), (3) and (4) As a general rule, in order not to prejudice the operations of law enforcement agencies or the fair trial of any person, I propose to adopt the practice of neither confirming or denying allegations such as those raised in the question. I emphasise that no inference should be drawn from this practice in any particular case.

The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to part 5 of the honourable senator's question:

(5) The Government does not acknowledge that the Dr X referred to in the Joint Committee of Public Accounts report is Dr Edelsten, and the inference drawn elsewhere has been denied by Dr Edelsen. The responsibility for the registration of medical practitioners to practise medicine in any State or Territory lies with the relevant medical Registration Board in that State or Territory. Any application by Dr Edelsten to practise in the A.C.T. will be considered in accordance with the criteria applied to any application from a medical practitioner seeking registration in the Territory.


Senator CHIPP —I again thank the Senate. I say in passing that, no matter how well intentioned any senator's reasons are for asking any question about any outside individual or individual, once that question is reported in the media, it can, regrettably, have the effect of leaving a question mark against the character of the person or persons named. In this event, Ministers could not or would not give specific answers to the questions raised by the magazine article. After a close examination of the ministerial answers, it must be said that there is no evidence that Dr Edelsten was ever the target of an inquiry by the Costigan Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union or that he is or has ever been under investigation by the National Crime Authority. A fair study of the answers would lead to the conclusion that none of the allegations in the article have been given any credence by any of the Ministers.

Some commentators have criticised the morality or, to use perhaps a more apt word, propriety, of asking questions under the parliamentary umbrella concerning the reported activities of persons in the public domain. However, in fairness to myself and others who ask such questions on a genuine basis, I must point out that recent events with regard to the parliamentary disclosure of the infamous `Age tapes', illegal phone taps and similar activities have resulted in a full, frank and healthy public discussion of matters of enormous public importance. My only concern here was to clarify the matter and I have sought to do so in the shortest possible time. I thank the Senate for giving me the indulgence to make this statement.