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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1880


Senator BOSWELL —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer the Minister to the continuing widespread public concern over the Chamberlain case and the long delay by the Northern Territory Government in releasing the report investigating new evidence in the Chamberlain case which will determine whether there will be an inquiry into the conviction of Mr and Mrs Chamberlain. In view of the Federal Government's residual powers in this matter, has the Federal Government knowledge of when the report will be released and, if not, will the Minister ask the Attorney-General to contact the Northern Territory Government-


Senator Robert Ray —That is like interfering in States' rights. Have you gone mad?


Senator BOSWELL —So that he can advise the Senate of the anticipated release date of the report?


Senator GARETH EVANS —As stated by me on 14 June last year when Senator Mason first introduced a legislative response to this issue, the Government's view has been, and I suspect would remain, for the sorts of reasons referred to by Senator Ray in his interjection, that the matter is one to be resolved by the Northern Territory Government, which since 1978 has exercised full self-government powers in relation to matters of criminal justice arising within the Northern Territory.


Senator Chipp —Do you reckon they have done them well?


Senator GARETH EVANS —There are very obvious difficulties of principle involved in selective interference on a case by case basis.


Senator Chipp —That is a reason why we should not have statehood here.


Senator GARETH EVANS —That may be a conclusion that many of us would wish to draw, Senator Chipp, but I do draw the Senate's attention to that long standing government policy, the implications of that policy and the principles behind it in their application to this particular matter. As to the question of the consideration by the Northern Territory Government of the material that was put before it, I am not in a position to advise the Senate of the anticipated release date of the Northern Territory Solicitor-General's report, but I will certainly see what can be done to obtain information on this matter. What is clear is that the report of the Solicitor-General appears to be taking a long time. I understand work was done on it as long ago as early June, if not earlier, and against that background it would seem an unhappy state of affairs for the matter to drag on very much longer. I will see what can be done in conjunction with the Attorney-General to expedite that and see what further information can be passed on to the Senate as soon as possible.