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Monday, 2 December 1985
Page: 2650

Senator DURACK(3.20) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Activities of the Nugan Hand Group, as we have come to expect from Mr Justice Stewart, is a massive one. He has made inquiries into the Clark syndicate and its ramifications. In dealing with the report I do not propose to go into any detail. Indeed, in the five minutes alotted to me for discussion of the report this afternoon I do not have the time to do so. The interesting aspect of the report of the Royal Commission is the way in which the Royal Commission rejects the allegations of the connection between the Nugan Hand Bank and the Central Intelligence Agency, of the bank's connection with arms running, gun running, and of the claim that it was a major drug trafficker, although some of its activities may have involved the laundering of funds for drug syndicates.

The interesting aspect of this matter is that these charges were made by the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, when he was Leader of the Opposition at another time. In fact, he made these very dramatic allegations about Nugan Hand in April 1982. I think it is fair to say that if those allegations had not been made by Mr Hayden there would not have been the extension of the terms of reference of Mr Justice Stewart to include the activities of Nugan Hand. The findings of the Royal Commission on Nugan Hand reveal an organisation which was totally inept and dishonest. People with very little ability took part in criminal activities. Unfortunately, it has become a familiar picture where people such as that want to big-note themselves and become involved in setting up a merchant bank and in other commercial activities of a highly dubious, if not criminal, kind. There was a lot of publicity about this bank and the criminal activities of those who led it.

The matters could have been dealt with quite satisfactorily by a police task force-there were ones in existence at the time-a law enforcement body, a police force itself or by inquiries from corporate affairs commissions. There were perfectly adequate bodies available to investigate an organisation of this kind. The organisation received a lot of publicity. The present Minister for Foreign Affairs, the then Leader of the Opposition, tried to get in on the act. He made extravagant accusations and claims which got him some headlines and created such a hullabaloo that the then Government decided the best thing to do was to refer the matter to Mr Justice Stewart who was already very heavily and deeply engaged in a major inquiry into the Clark syndicate.

The reality is-this is evident from the report which has just been tabled and the study of which will certainly repay such consideration-that there is really no objective evidence concerning these allegations. The evidence by various witnesses concerning the allegations to the effect that there was CIA involvement was, in fact, backed up by the objective evidence that there was no such involvement. There was a vast increase in the expenditure of public money by extending the terms of reference of Mr Justice Stewart to deal with allegations which, as I said, were made by the present Minister for Foreign Affairs, all of which could have been perfectly and properly dealt with-or at least the allegations concerning the dealings of this company could have-by an ordinary law enforcement agency, of which there were many involved in similar activities and inquiries at the time. I think that this represents a very good example of how politicians should be very careful about coming into this chamber or the other place and making wild allegations and forcing special inquiries to be made into them when, as we have found in this case, the royal commission finds that there is no substance at all in the allegations.

Question resolved in the affirmative.