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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2450

Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) (Minister for the Army) (12:13 PM) - I make no comment on the threat made at the end of the speech of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Frankly, I am more interested in trying to reach a conclusion to the matter. The honourable member is aware that it is neither my responsibility nor that of my Department to fix the dates of inquests. It is entirely and utterly misleading to make a statement branding my Department as being at fault in this matter, then to point to other factors and to come back to the point and say that we are the ones who should be determining the date of the inquest. This is not within our power. The honourable member knows it is not within our power.

Dr Patterson - He was in the Army, was he not?

Mr PEACOCK - It is not within our power to fix the date of a coronial inquiry or inquest. The honourable member also knows that I have been liaising with the respective departments in Victoria in an endeavour to have a date fixed for the inquest. I share the same feeling with the honourable member that it gives one no pleasure to have to go into the details of this matter. I do not want to go into the earlier details. What information could be conveyed was conveyed both to the honourable member and to the parents' solicitors and to other parties interested in the matter. I will be pleased to see the matter dealt with because I can imagine the relief that it will bring to the family when there is some finality.

The Director of Legal Services in my Department is examining the matter again as a matter of urgency. I trust that the negotiations that I am trying to finalise with the State department and the negotiations that are proceeding merely on the basis of asking that this matter please be expedited will soon come to an end. I cannot direct that they be finalised. It is not within my power to do so. I trust that we will be able to ensure that the matter is brought to finality, not because of any threats that have been made but because I can well understand the feelings of the parents and, indeed, the concern that the honourable member feels. It is not the threat that motivates me but rather the sympathy that I feel for the parents. For this reason I hope to have the matter finalised.

Dr Patterson - Why have the police not made a report?

Mr PEACOCK - I am not answerable to the police.

Dr Patterson - The Minister must have asked them.

Mr PEACOCK - Yes. I have asked. But I am not prepared to go into that matter in any further detail, nor do I have to. But, as the honourable member is aware, I have asked the police and I have been informed that the matter can shortly be dealt with. I trust that the person who advised my staff of that opinion is giving an accurate assessment of the matter, but I cannot direct finality; I can only hope for it and encourage it.

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