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Wednesday, 19 March 1980
Page: 795

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) -by leave- On 22 November 1979, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence tabled its report entitled 'Australian Defence Procurement'. During the course of the investigations of the Sub-Committee on Defence Matters, allegations were made to the Sub-Committee that there had been intimidation by the Department of Defence of a prospective witness and a witness. The nature of the allegations was the subject of a separate hearing of the Sub-Committee on Defence Matters. Subsequently the Department of Defence was given an opportunity for those of its officers involved to reply to these allegations. The replies were forwarded by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on 19 November 1979.

The Sub-Committee received conflicting views on whether intimidation of the prospective witness and the witness actually took place. It understands the apprehension of these public servants in regard to what they believe to have been intimidation; it also appreciates the sensitivity of the Department of Defence to unfortunate Press publicity arising out of submissions placed before the Sub-Committee. On the evidence available the Sub-Committee cannot establish that such intimidation took place in relation to its investigation. Therefore the Committee and the Sub-Committee believe that further pursuit of the matter is unlikely to lead to a definite conclusion. The Committee and the Sub-Committee consider that it is essential that parliamentary committees should at all times have full access to all relevant evidence and that witnesses should have free access to give evidence, within the accepted rules relating to the disclosure of classified or other restricted information.

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