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Wednesday, 5 October 1983
Page: 1355

Mr STEELE HALL —My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, concerns the early release of prisoners scandal. After Mr Young, the sacked Special Minister of State, spoke to Mr Ferguson on 16 May, what further action was taken by the Commonwealth to ensure that the very serious matters covered in those discussions were effectively pursued? Did it concern the Commonwealth that, although the New South Wales Government had been informed on 16 May, no investigation was initiated by the New South Wales Government until 20 June? Did the Commonwealth take any action in respect of this delay? I ask that particularly in light of the statement by the current Special Minister of State that the Commonwealth had made it clear to the New South Wales Government that:

. . . provided sources were not compromised, there was no reason why the investigation into the prisoners matter by the State police should not proceed.

Mr HAWKE —I repeat: The Commonwealth Government acted with expedition in regard to the information supplied to it, through the Special Minister of State, by the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. There are two matters. Let me repeat them because, as we have had reason to observe on many occasions, we are faced by a bunch of slow learners on the other side of the House. Firstly, I repeat: We, at the government-to-government level took immediate steps to pass on the information provided by the Australian Federal Police. On the same day the Commissioner conveyed the information to the New South Wales Commissioner of Police.

At that point, once we had passed over the information which had become available and which disclosed the possibility of offences under New South Wales law, the question of pursuit of that matter of possible offences under New South Wales law became a matter for handling by the authorities of New South Wales. It ill becomes the people on the other side of the House who, when it suits them, make a clear distinction between Federal and State responsibilities, now to want us, having made the State authorities aware of possible offences under State law , to intervene in the pursuit of that matter by State authorities. We did everything within our power to ensure that they had the information. We said: ' There is a possibility of an offence under your laws. Now it is over to you'.

Mr Ruddock —It didn't matter if there was a cover-up.

Mr HAWKE —This is a nonsense about a cover-up. I have never seen a more desperate Opposition than that in this House. I hope that members of the Opposition in this House continue to pursue this matter in this place because there is nothing in it for them at the Federal level. I hope that every question they ask today, tomorrow and all of the following week is directed to this matter because there is nothing in it for them.

We conveyed to the State of New South Wales the matter concerning possible offences under its law and expressed the hope and the wish that nothing would be done which would in any way inhibit the full pursuit of that matter under the law of New South Wales. We could have done nothing more than we did.

I make the further point that we ensured that there was no offence under Commonwealth law. We were so assured on that point by the Commissioner of the Federal Police. The advice was that there was no offence under the law relevant to us but there was a possibility of offences under the law of New South Wales. We made the information available at the government-to-government level and at the police-to-police level.

I repeat: The Ministers of this Government-a fact attested to by Commissioner Grey-have acted with total propriety in this matter. I hope that these poor people on the other side of the House keep asking questions about this matter today, tomorrow, next week and the week after because they will finish up, if it is possible, with more egg on their collective faces than they have at the moment.