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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1284

Mr BEAZLEY (Minister for Aviation and Special Minister of State) —Mr Speaker , I seek your indulgence to add to an answer I gave to a question this afternoon .

Mr SPEAKER —I grant that indulgence to the Minister.

Mr BEAZLEY —I wish to add to an answer I gave this afternoon to a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock). I am now in a position to supply the following information: In the course of a telephone interception related to suspected Commonwealth narcotic offences and made pursuant to judicial warrant under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979, information became available to the Australian Federal Police early in May this year which gave rise to a suspicion in the mind of the Commissioner, Mr Grey, that offences under New South Wales law may have been committed in relation to the early release of prisoners under the then operative State licence scheme. It was also his view then and subsequently that the circumstances disclosed no possible breach of Commonwealth law.

The Commissioner of the AFP communicated his concern to the then Special Minister of State, the Hon. M. J. Young, MP, on 11 May 1983, advising him that he proposed to make the information in question available to the New South Wales Police Commissioner, Mr Abbott, pursuant to the terms of section 7 (5) (i) of the Act. The information in question was passed by the Commissioner to Mr Abbott the following week, on Monday, 16 May 1983. Mr Young advised the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) on 11 May of the information he had received from the Commissioner, and the Prime Minister directed Mr Young contact the appropriate New South Wales Minister and ensure, so far as it was within the Commonwealth's capacity to do so, that all necessary steps were taken to investigate fully the matters in issue. Mr Young then met with the Hon. L. J. Ferguson, who was Acting Premier, in Sydney, on 16 May and informed him of the matters believed by the Commonwealth to require investigation.

A number of communications have occurred between Commissioners Grey and Abbott on this matter since mid-May. Commissioner Grey made it clear both orally and in writing that the Commonwealth was concerned that any investigation of the prisoners question did not jeopardise the Commonwealth's ongoing narcotic investigation which was a major one, but equally he made it clear that provided sources were not compromised there was no reason why the investigation into the prisoners matter by the State police should not proceed. There is no foundation for any suggestion that any request was either made by the New South Wales authorities or acceded to by the Commonwealth authorities for the removal of any Commonwealth telephone interception or that the installation or removal of any particular interception during the period in question occurred for any reasons other than ordinary police operational reasons, having regard to priority narcotics targets and available resources. The Commonwealth is unaware of the results of the investigation by the New South Wales police.

In all the circumstances, particularly given that no question of offences under Commonwealth law is involved, it would not be appropriate for the Commonwealth Government to reveal any further details. The disclosure of any such further information must remain wholly a matter for the New South Wales Government.

Mr Peacock —Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence. I simply wish to-

Mr SPEAKER —It is a difficult area in that I think the Minister is adding to a promise that he had given to you as the Leader of the Opposition. If you wish to make a brief comment, I will grant you that indulgence.

Mr Peacock —I understand the difficulty you are placed in, Mr Speaker, and in view of the matters that are not traversed in the answer, as well as certain matters within the answer, we will follow this matter up tomorrow.