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Wednesday, 12 February 1986
Page: 221

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(7.00) —I wish to raise a political stunt. Today, four Labor members of parliament in the House of Representatives joined the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) in a stunt to try to recover some political ground that they had lost over the Government's decision to remove Commonwealth Police representation from Wollongong. These four MPs saw Mr Young to ask him to review this decision. As I understand it, he did no more than tell them that he would agree to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police. Of course, as a result of that, nonsensical public statements were made in the Wollongong media this evening about the great success of this political stunt and how there was now a chance that perhaps the Government will reverse this decision.

The fact that this is a token attempt by Illawarra's Federal Labor members of Parliament is evident from the history of this little affair. These Labor MPs had in fact refused my request yesterday and the request of Mr John Sharp, the Federal MP for Gilmore whose area is also affected by this decision, to include us in the delegation, which would of course have added considerable weight to such a deputation. It would have indicated that there was bipartisan support for the proposal not to close the Commonwealth Police office. It would have been clear evidence of the strength of feeling in the Illawarra region, crossing all party bounds, including Labor, Liberal and National Party representation. Had those people wished it, it could have been supported by the independent position of the Lord Mayor who has also complained about this decision.

This bipartisan approach could have been followed. It was not followed and there is a very sensible political reason why it was not followed; that is, when I first publicly protested about this closure almost four weeks ago, not one local member of Parliament raised his voice in support. The only local MP who did so was the State member and Lord Mayor, who is an independent, Mr Frank Arkell. It was only after widespread expressions of public concern over the planned removal of Commonwealth police from Wollongong that local Labor MPs eventually and belatedly climbed on to this bandwagon, having shown no interest or concern over the downgrading of this essential service to the Illawarra region until it obviously became a political issue. They were dragged screaming into the arena, having been either indolent because they decided to do nothing or incompetent because they did not know that everything was happening-they have a choice. I should point out that at the time, back on 19 January, I issued a Press release which stated:

The Federal Government should reverse its decision to close down the Commonwealth Police office in Wollongong. . .

I've requested the Federal Government to maintain this eight year old Commonwealth presence in Wollongong which is planned by the Government for closure on Friday, February 14th, 1986.

Friday, 14 February is, of course, this week. The Press release continued:

It's regrettable that the Hawke Government is downgrading Wollongong by withdrawing our Commonwealth Police representation, particularly when there has been no reduction in demand for services provided by the four police officers on duty.

Offences relating-

I stress this-

to drug importation, social security fraud, sales tax fraud, illegal immigrants and family law matters in the region, Helensburg to Ulladulla, have been handled by the Wollongong office.

I want a guarantee from the government that there will be no reduction whatsoever in Commonwealth Police attention to these matters in our region as a result of the transfer of the four local officers to Sydney.

Apart from the continuing drug problem, every tax payer suffers when people get away with cheating on pensions, unemployment benefits and sales tax.

It would be directly the fault of the Hawke Government if the withdrawal of the Commonwealth Police resulted in an increase in these problems in the Illawarra region.

This is only the lastest example of the low priority the Hawke Government gives to Wollongong and follows the government's failure to respond to my request three months ago to open a branch of the Taxation Department in Wollongong now that one's been opened in Newcastle, where by the way the local Commonwealth Police office is being retained.

I concluded by saying:

It's about time that the Government stopped regarding Wollongong as some sort of poor relation that it can ignore!

Well, today's Illawarra Mercury has as its major story `Drug Squad chief fears for life'. It states:

The head of Wollongong's Drug Squad had gone into hiding after discovering a $10,000 contract had been taken out on his life, police told Wollongong Local Court yesterday.

Prosecutor Sgt Peter Morgan told Magistrate Mr John Seberry police learned of the contract on drug squad chief-

this is the State drug squad chief-

Detective Sgt Henry Karpik after five men were arrested this month on drugs charges.

However, Sgt Morgan stressed he had no evidence to link the five with the threat.

. . . .

Charges against them allege that between November 25, 1985 and January 30, 1986, at Wollongong and other places they conspired to supply heroin, and each faces other drugs charges . . .

Sgt Morgan alleged the arrest of the five men followed a heroin trafficking operation at Cringila in which bribe offers were made to police for protection.

He said police worked in `agreement' with the five in an operation based at a coffee lounge in Cringila from where it was alleged heroin was sold.

It was alleged the operation was uncovered when . . . the ring-leader offered Det Karpik $23,000, estimated to be 10 per cent of the ring's profits.

Sgt Morgan said the prosecution had eight hours of recorded conversations between the ring members and police.

Opposing bail, Sgt Morgan said he feared for the safety of not only the witnesses involved in the case but also `other innocent people as well.' He alleged on the day of . . . arrest a shotgun had been found in his car.

Sgt Morgan said the case not only involved the sale of heroin but also other facets that would `shake the foundations of the judicial system.'

The magistrate said that the allegations of fears for the safety of some witnesses had to be taken into account and refused bail to all five. Is it not remarkable that there we have clear evidence of the massive need for Commonwealth police who are concerned with drug matters in the Wollongong area coinciding with the positive, dynamic procedures of the Commonwealth Government in assisting this matter by removing Commonwealth police from the area! It may be just a `fortunate' coincidence that we have this clear evidence of the need to maintain Commonwealth police in the area. As I have said, Mr John Sharp, the National Party member for Gilmore, which electorate includes Nowra which was covered by the operations of the Wollongong office of the Commonwealth Police, joins me in protesting strongly at the closure of this police office. As I stressed earlier, there has been no diminution in demand for the services of the Commonwealth Police in the region. On the contrary, there is clear evidence of continuing increase in the need for them to be there.

As this coincides with a report today from the United States of America that Australia is expected to be a trafficking point for massive amounts of cocaine and other drugs which are in surplus in the United States, it dramatises the absolute need for there to be no reduction whatsoever in the efforts of the Commonwealth Police, along with Customs officers, to try to block this sordid traffic. In fact, senior representatives of the Customs Officers Association have protested strongly to the Government about the closure of this Commonwealth Police office.

All I can do is to plead with those Government Ministers in the Senate now to approach this properly, sensibly and rationally. At this late stage, having been spurned on a bipartisan approach, the Government Ministers should at least recognise that maybe when I and my colleague John Sharp raised this we had a strong point. I would be happy to see the four Labor members who ran this political stunt claim a victory if only the Labor Government would ensure that this reduction in this essential service did not take place.