Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 5 October 1983
Page: 1368

Mr DUFFY (Minister for Communications)(3.47) —The hypocrisy of honourable members opposite knows no bounds. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall), who one would have hoped could have been taken seriously-a view which I may have had until today-said that he would prove that the actions of honourable members on this side of the House encouraged organised crime. Not one piece of evidence came forward from him. We then heard the honourable member for Bruce ( Mr Aldred) who came here as a sort of modern day lone ranger, haranguing us about the fact that the Victorian Government has too much to hide. When the Victorian Government is disturbed about the sort of problems that he talked about, he will have something about which he can parade and make accusations. The Victorian Government has nothing to worry about and that is not the reason why it was not prepared to do what he suggested.

In relation to the matters raised, the first point I make is that, in listening to the sanctimonious utterances from the Opposition, one would have thought that organised crime started in this country in the last six months. I will deal briefly with two matters to indicate that organised crime flourished during the term of the previous Government which is now so sanctimonious and wise about what ought to be done. Let us look at one issue-the question of medifraud. I will deal with that later in more detail. The previous Government-that is, the Fraser Government-starved the Australian Federal Police of funds and denied that the problem existed. That was the way it dealt with organised crime. It decided to starve the Australian Federal Police of funds and resources, denied that the problem existed and hoped that it would go away. It failed to deal with the developing tax problem during the late 1970s when the explosion occurred.

The fact of the matter is that the previous Government presided over the worst period of tax avoidance and tax evasion that this country has seen, or is ever likely to see unless, by remote chance, the Opposition is ultimately returned to office and goes back to its old habits. The McCabe-La Franchi report was tabled in the Victorian Parliament by the Labor Government. Admittedly, it was commissioned by the previous Liberal Government, but nevertheless it was tabled at the time that John Cain had become Premier of Victoria. The reaction of the Treasurer of the Fraser Government to the McCabe-La Franchi report was to label it as a political stunt. That is what the previous Government said about the McCabe-La Franchi report. It had to be dragged by the then Opposition-members of the present Government-into taking seriously the Costigan allegations.

One of the most sanctimonious performances that one has had to listen to from the Opposition is the business of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union which was set up by the previous Government in an attempt to discredit a union. If honourable members opposite think that any honourable member on this side of the House believes that if Opposition members had known what was going to come out of the Costigan Royal Commission they would have established it, they are engaging in the ultimate in self-delusion. The Costigan Royal Commission was an entirely different exercise from what the Opposition had expected it to be. Had it not been for the Costigan Royal Commission the previous Government would have gone to an election in November last year. Instead of that it was faced with the most horrendous problems because the Costigan Royal Commission exposed the Fraser Government for what it was, a government which had sat back and watched tax evasion, tax avoidance and white collar crime escalate to a stage previously unknown in this country.

The former Government proposed a crimes commission, as the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) indicated so clearly. It is all very well to say that a crimes commission ought to be established in the climate in which the Opposition said that it ought to be established. The former Government said it it in a moment of desperation, and in an attempt to fight off the criticism that it was getting as a result of its inaction over the years it was in government. We, on this side of the House, regard the suppression and eradication of organised crime as the highest priority. Through the expansion of the Australian Federal Police and the establishment of a national crimes authority we will deal with it . As the Special Minister of State indicated quite clearly there are matters which have to be looked at in establishing a crimes commission, and one of the most important matters is the involvement of the States. If we do not involve the States, if we do not involve the law enforcement authorities in the States, we will not have a successful crimes commission. We do not propose to rush into it on the basis of some political gimmick as the former Government did in a state of absolute desperation: It fooled nobody.

The Australian Federal Police were not provided with proper resources to deal with white collar crime. I will deal with that matter specifically with the problem of medifraud. It was the responsibility of the Fraser Government that there had been a massive ripoff of public funds. The Australian Federal Police was treated in the way in which it was because it was left with inadequate resources. That is what happened under the former Government. The Australian Federal Police stated in paragraph 19 of its submission dated September 1982 to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts-this is in the dying days of the Fraser Government and honourable members had better listen to this because it shows what the Australian Federal Police said about the Fraser Government:

At present, however, the unavailability of skilled resources in AFP divisions is a significant factor when determining the effectiveness of any concerted action taken to suppress medical fraud, or for that matter any form of criminal activity.

I repeat: 'Any form of criminal activity'. The interim report of The Joint Committee of Public Accounts-a joint with honourable members opposite on it-at paragraph 118 of chapter 5 states:

The Committee is concerned that the AFP have been unable to provide adequate trained police for the investigation of medical fraud, and wishes to discuss this matter with the Minister for Administrative Services. If necessary we will make further observations in the final report.

No doubt there will be further observations on that matter in the final report. I will look at what we have done. We are the people who today have been accused without any substance and without any evidence. There has been an increase of $6 .2m in the Budget over that allocated in the previous year for the Australian Federal Police. The bulk of this money will be used to recruit a further 250 police, thus releasing resources to work on investigation into organised crime. That is what we have done as an immediate step. A management review of the AFP staff will be initiated to examine the utilisation and employment of present staff as well as AFP recruitment. It will be the first externally based review of AFP staffing and should begin in about a month. A second deputy commissioner, to allow closer co-ordination of AFP operations throughout Australia, has been appointed. Honourable members opposite have failed in the administration of legislation relating to criminal and civil offences which have resulted in multibillion dollar frauds against the Commonwealth during their term in office, both in the area of medifraud and, more particularly, in the area of tax avoidance. After years of inactivity and total incompetence the day of reckoning came with the revelations of the McCabe-Lafranchi report and the Costigan Royal Commission which disclosed the appalling record of the former Government. It is a matter of record that honourable members opposite filled this place with hot air, adopting an air of posturing, by legislating for the sake of it with no real result. Page 27 of Mr Costigan's report states that what became known as bottom of the harbour schemes were first detected in 1973. That is an indictment and an indication of the total hypocrisy of the matter of public importance which has been raised today.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The Minister's time has expired. The discussion is concluded.