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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1561

Senator HILL —I address my question to Senator Tate, the Minister for Justice. I refer to the Bungendore 1 and Bungendore 2 illegal marijuana plantations, which were encouraged or at least facilitated by the Australian Federal Police. At what level of the AFP were these projects sanctioned? What indemnities were given by the AFP to informant and subsequent witness Giuseppe Verducci and what was to be his role in these projects? Who else was given indemnity or authorisation to participate in these illegal activities? Is the Minister satisfied that the 18-kilogram package of cannabis which was acknowledged to have been received by the AFP from Verducci was destroyed; and how was it destroyed?

Senator TATE —It is important to make it clear that the marijuana plantations near Bungendore, which Senator Hill seeks to suggest were somehow facilitated by the AFP, were in fact authorised, if `authorised' or `facilitated' is the word, by the New South Wales police. This was an operation within New South Wales territory; it was an operation the lead in which was taken by the New South Wales police; and the possible offences, after all, would be New South Wales offences, not Commonwealth offences. I think that needs to be made very clear.

Senator Hill —Verducci was an AFP informant, wasn't he?

Senator TATE —Senator Hill is lacking in precision. The fact is that the Verducci informant was offered by the AFP to the New South Wales police in relation to that plantation. That is not to say that the plantations themselves were authorised or facilitated by the AFP. That would be an incorrect way of putting the situation.

In regard to any indemnities of which Senator Hill speaks in relation to Verducci, of course any immunities or indemnities are offered by State and Federal Attorneys on the basis of requests by the Directors of Public Prosecutions in the various jurisdictions concerned. In fact, the indemnities were given on the basis that Verducci would answer questions truthfully and frankly in the Queanbeyan hearings. That did not transpire, and it is well known to senators that the magistrate suggested that Mr Verducci's role in relation to this matter be looked at.

The fact is that, so far as the Federal Attorney is concerned, it was on the basis of advice from the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions that an indemnity was offered to Verducci in relation to any criminal proceedings that might transpire under the laws of the ACT. That was done, as I understand it, at the request of the State DPP in New South Wales. Because an indemnity had been given or was in the course of being given by the New South Wales Attorney in similar terms, the Federal Attorney agreed to offer an indemnity to Verducci to bolster that which had been offered by the New South Wales State Attorney.

Senator Hill asked at what level Verducci being run as an informant was sanctioned within the AFP. I believe that it was at a high level. I am unable immediately to say at exactly which rank. I think questions were asked in the Estimates Committee about the procedures. Certainly in relation to current procedures it is quite clear that any such running of an informant in such a situation would be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny by persons much higher up than the officer who was running the informant.

Senator HILL —I ask the Minister a supplementary question. I remind the Minister of that part of my question which asked: Who else was given either indemnity or authorisation to participate in the Bungendore crops; is the Minister satisfied that the 18-kilogram package of marijuana which Verducci gave to the AFP was destroyed; and how was it destroyed?

Senator TATE —In relation to the question whether any other persons were offered indemnities, I can check on that matter immediately. I cannot think of any names that come to mind immediately. In relation to the disposal of marijuana that was said to be transferred from Verducci on behalf of the plantation operators to the AFP, that would fall into the same category as moneys that were transferred from those plantation cultivators to Verducci for further transfer to the AFP.

It has become quite clear that the allegations of corruption and the misgivings surrounding them have been adequately dealt with. The moneys were transferred into Consolidated Revenue, and that has been verified. As to the destruction of the marijuana concerned, I understand that it was subject to scattering on rocks or some such mode of destruction. I am not quite sure of the exact nature of the destruction, but it was undertaken in a way which satisfied the then Commissioner that the destruction had taken place in a proper and adequate manner.

May I say-I think it is important because of the sniggering, the slur and the smearing that is undertaken, usually in whispers, about this particular matter-that on the day after the murder I went to the National Crime Authority in Sydney and asked what it knew of the Bungendore plantation and Mr Winchester's relationship to it. I am not sure that I knew then of the exact nature of his link to it, which was running an informant. I was informed by the National Crime Authority on the day after the murder that it had fully investigated this matter and no criminality was involved. They were the exact words used to me by Mr Peter Clark of the National Crime Authority-`No criminality was involved'. I satisfied myself as to that matter.

Senator Hill —On the part of Winchester?

Senator TATE —On the part of Winchester, who received marijuana by way of payment.

Senator Hill —It is a pity you haven't said that in the past, isn't it?

Senator TATE —This is the first opportunity I have felt able to make that particular matter known to the Parliament because investigations into the question of the integrity of Mr Winchester have been undertaken, for example, by the independent firm of accountants Price Waterhouse. Once again the Commissioner was able to reveal a week or so ago that nothing untoward was found in the examination of those accounts. I want to put that on the record to indicate that, in so far as it is possible, proper lines of inquiry into these allegations of corruption by Mr Winchester have been followed up and that is the result of them.