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Wednesday, 5 October 1983
Page: 1366

Mr ALDRED(3.40) —This Government and its Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) are keen on emotive terms and on grabbing headlines but they are ever so weak on delivering the goods. It was the Prime Minister who, on 29 July this year in the Melbourne Herald, described organised crime as 'The cancer of Australian society '. In that newspaper article he said:

Our objective is the protection of Australian society from harmful developments in criminal activities, which recognise no boundaries, state or national.

The Prime Minister went on to pledge that he would eradicate the cancer of organised crime from Australia. That promise was made on the eve of the so- called Summit Conference, already referred to by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall). What happened to that pledge? Have the crime lords of New South Wales got to this Government?

This Government stands condemned for its failure to proceed with a national crimes commission. How much more evidence does this Government need to prove that what is needed is an organisation which can digest and consolidate the findings of both Federal and State inquiries with regard to organised crime; aim to prevent, detect, investigate and possibly prosecute those individuals involved in organised crime; and act as a co-ordinator of information so as to facilitate the work of other instrumentalities, both at the Federal and State level. It was with those objectives in mind that the previous Liberal Government introduced the National Crimes Commission Bill. The previous Government realised that what was needed was a standing body able to accumulate experience and expertise. Within its wide statutory area of inquiry it would not require a reference from government but it could have been given a particular reference by the Government.

The Liberal Government proposed for the Crimes Commission a wide discretion to conduct its hearings in private. This would ensure that civil liberties were preserved and that ultimately a fair trial was possible. The Bill also proposed that self-incrimination would be expressly made a lawful excuse for failure to answer question. The Commission would not have been allowed to name persons in public reports as suspected of committing criminal offences. The Commission would not have been expected to examine under subpoena the principal target of the investigation unless that person wished to give evidence.

The previous Government was very much aware of the need to protect civil liberties. It was also aware that obtaining proof of criminal violation is probably the most difficult task confronting the National Crimes Commission and that it should be vested with broad ranging powers. This approach has been strongly supported by royal commissioners, men such as the Chief Commissioner of the Victoria Police, Mr Miller, and by judges of our courts. But what has this Government done? It has ignored the advice and comments of men who have first hand experience in crime fighting. This Government called together a so-called summit meeting and then promptly announced that it would establish a crime intelligence gathering unit. This Government has really decided to rename the existing Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence as the National Crime Authority. Yet the Bureau's former director has publicly said that the Bureau cannot combat organised crime. But the Federal Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) told the Age newspaper on 30 July this year that he believed what was needed was:

. . . police assisted by special investigators who exercise traditional powers, and further down the track contemplate a Royal Commission Inquiry.

Senator Evans and this Government are not concerned about the proliferation of multimillion dollar royal commissions. 'It is only taxpayers' money', says this Government. The Government ignores comments made by men such as Justice Sir Edward Williams who, in a lengthy interview in the Melbourne Herald of 20 January this year, stated:

Royal Commissions, because of their nature have not been able to present evidence of wrong doing while it was happening. Mostly they have been concerned with inquiries into what has gone on in the past. The police have found it difficult to obtain evidence for successful prosecutions. The formation of a National Crimes Commission with its additional powers is an attempt to accelerate this and to meet the problem head on.

Those comments were made by a Supreme Court judge and a former drugs Royal Commissioner. Why did this mealy-mouthed Government take a toothless tiger proposal from Victoria?

Let us look at the mastermind behind this proposal from Victoria. It is none other than the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Mr Race Mathews. It was Mr Mathews who, in late 1982, made a similar proposal to the Liberal Federal Government. This proposal was rejected for what it was-a weak and toothless alternative. Why would Mr Mathews want such a weak and ineffective body as the National Crime Authority, concerned only with intelligence gathering? It is clear that Mr Mathews and the Labor Government in Victoria have much to hide. Why else would the Premier so quickly prohibit his Ministers from going before the current poker machine inquiry? The Premier has told the Victorian public that he will not allow his Ministers to go before an inquiry set up by his Government. He says it would be improper. Indeed, it would be embarrassing and disastrous for Premier Cain to allow his Ministers to go before any inquiry, least of all a national crimes commission.

On 15 September I told this House of Mr Mathews and his connections with the poker machine lobby. I made serious allegations which one would have expected Mr Mathews to answer. In a very guarded way Mr Mathews addressed the Victorian Parliament on 20 September. But he was not only cautious in not answering my assertion that he had used a speech prepared by the poker machine lobby and that he had pre-empted the inquiry; he even forgot to dob in his colleague the Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation, Mr Trezise. He sure dobbed him in when talking to the media. Mr Mathews said that he had hurriedly taken a copy of Mr Trezise's speech. At least, that is what he said to the Melbourne Sun News Pictorial newspaper. On the same day he told the Age that he had been offered a speech by the pokie lobby but he had refused it and had written his own speech. What could a toothless body such as the proposed National Crime Authority do with such information except record that Mr Mathews may be schizophrenic, or request an explanation from Mr Mathews? In fact, Mr Mathews should appear before the current inquiry and set the record straight.

This Government does not have the courage to establish a national crimes commission because it is scared of skeletons in its cupboards. The Opposition is not scared. When the Liberal Government is returned to office-that will not be long-we will establish the National Crimes Commission. But until that occurs, the only alternative forum in which to attack organised crime and its minions is this House. I have been involved in monitoring organised crime for four years. I assure the Government that until a national crimes commission is established I will use the forms of this Parliament to make my point. Australia needs to take effective action against organised crime before it is too late.