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Monday, 7 February 1994
Page: 436


Senator VANSTONE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Justice. Is it normal for the AFP to discuss with one subject of an investigation or that subjects's solicitors the propriety or otherwise of that subject issuing civil proceedings against another subject of investigation? Why did the AFP have such discussions with Mr Griffiths or his solicitors? On what basis did the AFP advise Mr Griffiths's solicitors that the issue of proceedings against Mrs Harrison and the consequent private investigation would not impede in any way its own investigation? In view of the government's claim that a separate investigation should not be allowed to prejudice the police investigation, why then did the AFP sanction civil proceedings and the consequent investigations and media coverage that would result from that?


Senator SCHACHT —This week I am representing Senator Bolkus, who is enjoying himself. I just want to say—and it has been said before in this chamber by a number of ministers—that while there is an independent investigation going on by the AFP and so on it is not appropriate to comment on the details which Senator Vanstone alluded to. However, to give every opportunity, I will refer the matter to the minister and come back with a report later in the week.


Senator VANSTONE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note from the minister's answer that he is representing Senator Bolkus. One would only hope that during the week he will do a better job than he has done thus far with that pathetic effort. I would remind the minister that the question has nothing to do with the facts of the particular matter, and it does not go at all to anything that would interfere with the police investigation. The question that the minister is to take away and come back with an answer to relates to why the AFP can condone a civil action against Mrs Harrison but cannot condone an independent investigation into Mr Griffiths. Since he has given an undertaking to go to the minister and come back with an answer—


Senator Knowles —He doesn't have a clue.


Senator VANSTONE —I realise that he does not have a clue about what I am talking about, but he can check the Hansard. I ask whether he will show the minister the press release from Mr Griffiths's solicitors saying that:

These proceedings have only been issued after consultation with the AFP.

Will the minister also inquire as to whether any facts ascertained during the investigation have been passed on to Mr Griffiths but not to Mrs Harrison?


Senator SCHACHT —I just repeat what I said in answer to the first question—that I am not going to comment in here because as soon as I did honourable senators opposite would be jumping all over me saying that I am interfering with an investigation or prejudging. I have been around this place long enough to know that Senator Vanstone may be chancing her arm commenting about the Liberal leadership at the moment, but I am not going to comment about the details that she has raised. I will refer it to the minister and come back with a report later in the week, which is the considered and most appropriate thing to do.