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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1870


Senator PRIMMER(7.00) —The matter I raise again tonight concerns the Department of Foreign Affairs. Concerning the Henderson and Ryan resignations yesterday, I will confine myself to observing that, like the Almighty, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) moves in wondrous ways. In my speech to the Senate on 8 March, concerning Mr J. E. Ryan, ex-head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, I made certain allegations concerning the peculiar handling of that matter by Mr Hayden and the Department of Foreign Affairs. That evening Mr Hayden made a short, sharp and, in my view, somewhat misleading response to my speech. It is my intention to make a full reply to the Minister next month after I have completed a number of consultations on the matter. I note that Mr Ryan had been on special duties in the Department of Foreign Affairs on the rather princely salary of $60,471 per year.

In the meantime, I hope that honourable senators will have carefully noted the words of the Acting Chief Magistrate of the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Kevin Dobson, who on 16 March, on dismissing the first Crimes Act charge against Mr Don Witheford, the suspended Foreign Affairs officer, opined that Mr Witheford's prosecution had been 'conceived in prejudice and born in bias on the part of some officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs'. These officers are the very people against whose corruption I have been campaigning for more than two years. I trust that those honourable senators who have taken little or no interest in what Mr Hayden has termed my campaign, or who, worse still, have criticised me and even praised those who are the subject of my allegations, will pause and take a very careful look at themselves. I welcome the sympathetic interest displayed in this issue by a number of parliamentarians, including the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Chipp, and Senator Tate, who pursued these issues with Mr Henderson in Estimates Committee E last Thursday.

Let me make it abundantly clear. The abortive misuse of the criminal justice system, at a cost to the taxpayer of tens of thousands of dollars, with the aim of destroying Mr Witheford, was basically motivated by Mr Peter Henderson's burning desire to root out one of my main contacts inside what he regards as his personal fiefdom. Mr Witheford remains locked out of his job and is supported by Public Service unions and a growing community campaign, both in Canberra and elsewhere. In my view, time has come for Ministers to blow the whistle on this disgraceful episode. I hope that, seven weeks after Mr Dobson's courageous and perceptive judgment, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Temby, will give the remaining charges the treatment the community generally believes they deserve.

On 8 March, I told honourable senators that Mr Ivor Bowden, the former Ambassador in Tehran about whom I have spoken on many occasions, was to be forced to repay some of the costs of moving a piano and furniture half way round the world in 1978 at taxpayers' expense. This admittedly limited progress constitutes the first occasion that Mr Bowden has been forced to repay since he was detected in 1960 misusing government funds on a nanny's fare from the United Kingdom to Australia. This faint light at the end of the tunnel was due basically to the efforts of Mr Witheford and Mr Karl Henne who, at considerable personal cost, informed the former Foreign Minister, Mr Street, of an earlier attempt by Mr Bowden to dodge payment, which was foiled by an honest junior officer in Canberra, and his subsequent successful attempt to ship the furniture without cost to himself. I disagree with the view adopted by the Ombudsman and the police, who did not even contact Mr Henne or Mr Witheford, that there is no evidence that Mr Bowden and other Tehran Embassy officials behaved criminally in this matter. I ask: Does any honourable senator believe that payment would have finally been demanded had I not interested myself in the matter? I remain puzzled about the question of Mr Bowden's loss of silverware in 1978. My suspicions were first aroused when I was informed that references to Mr Bowden's rank and integrity was the response thrown at the disgruntled businessmen involved.

I doubt that honourable senators need to be reminded by me of the range of questionable moneymaking measures Mr Bowden employed during his four years at the helm of the Tehran Embassy; nor will they have forgotten the widely held view that the subsequent Department of Finance, Australian Federal Police and other enquiries were, to put it crudely, to a greater or lesser degree cover-up jobs masterminded by Mr Peter Henderson, who in my opinion could teach Sir Humphrey Appleby a thing or two. I forbear from drawing any comparison between Mr Hayden and the Hon. James Hacker. I invite any doubting Thomases to consider carefully Acting Chief Magistrate Dobson's savage comments on the senior Foreign Affairs management and their witnesses, against whom there have been suggestions of perjury. I would be pleased to provide the full transcript to any honourable senator who cares to peruse it. I ask: Could anyone now seriously challenge my belief that the prejudice and bias, so clearly depicted by His Worship on 16 March, have been typical of the present ruling clique in Foreign Affairs for many years.

I return to the matter concerning Mr Bowden. Some months ago I made it clear that I believed Mr Bowden, like a certain Ambassador to Germany, should not be given another ambassadorial assignment. I was, therefore, most disturbed at the announcement by Mr Hayden on 18 March, two days after Mr Dobson's damning judgment, that Mr Bowden, after six years in Canberra, was to be posted as Ambassador to Pakistan, a not inconsiderable country in size and importance. I have recieved one report that Mr Bowden has already left Australia. I am genuinely surprised that the Government of Pakistan, which maintains an Embassy in Canberra, has agreed to accept Mr Bowden. To that end I have sent a message to the President of Pakistan, General Zia, informing him of Mr Bowden's reputation and some of his activities, and inviting his Government to reconsider whether Mr Bowden's appointment should be allowed to proceed. Honourable senators will recall that there is a precedent for action of this sort; that is, Senator Walsh's praiseworthy but fruitless attempt to prevent Sir Victor Garland 's appointment to London. To save the time of the Senate I ask that my message to the President of Pakistan be incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The message read as follows-

Canberra 9 May 1984 His Excellency

General Muhammad Zia

Vi Hag,

CMLA Secretariat,

Rawapindi,

Pakistan

Your Excellency,

I am a Government Senator, representing the State of Victoria and amongst other responsibilities, I serve as Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Australian Senate.

I write to draw your attention to deep concern felt in the Australian Parliament, the Public Service and the wider community, at the assignment of Mr Ivor Gordon Bowden as Australian Ambassador to your country. The relations between Australia and Pakistan are cordial, important and of long standing. Many distinguished figures have contributed to these relations as diplomatic representatives in your capital or in ours.

Mr Bowden has been the subject of a range of serious allegations involving dishonesty since as long ago as 1960. More recently, and commencing in 1982, I have ventilated a number of instances of financial misconduct by Mr Bowden, especially during the period of 1974 to 1978 when he served as Australian Ambassador in Tehran. There has been, and is still continuing to be, an unprincipled campaign by Mr Bowden's supporters in the Department of Foreign Affairs and elsewhere, to cover up his misdeeds. This has included prejudiced and biassed legal and other action against Foreign Affairs officers courageous enough to tell the truth about Mr Bowden's activities. I would have expected that your Embassy in Canberra would have kept your Government informed of some dozen speeches in Parliament and hundreds of questions commencing in February 1982, concerning high level corruption involving Mr Bowden and his colleagues. It concerns me deeply that Mr Bowden's appointment as Ambassador to Pakistan is calculated to lock in Her Majesty the Queen and your Excellency, to the incredible fiction that Mr Bowden has been cleared of all the various allegations of financial misconduct against him and that he is therefore a suitable person to be appointed to an important diplomatic post. I am reliably advised that Mr Bowden's presence will in any event, be required in Australia later this year for further legal proceedings connected with his financial misconduct. It will be a matter for deep concern in both our countries were Mr Bowden's assignment in Islamabad to serve as an excuse for him to avoid legal proceedings in Australia.

I request Your Excellency to carefully consider the ramifications of this matter in the light of the importance of the relations between Pakistan and Australia. I stand ready to provide any assistance that you may need in this regard.


Senator PRIMMER —I handed over my message to His Excellency the Ambassador of Pakistan at 3 o'clock this afternoon for transmission to the President of that country. Let me repeat that I regard Mr Bowden as a singularly unsuitable Ambassador to anywhere, and I say that not just in my capacity as an Australian taxpayer. That Mr Bowden has been able not only to survive but also to prosper in the diplomatic service in my view exemplifies the Acting Chief Magistrate's strong opinions about those who have been running the Department of Foreign Affairs in recent years and particularly since 1976. I invite any honourable senator who is inclined to doubt this to look again at the scores of questions on the issue which have been mouldering on the Notice Paper for the last seven months. The obvious and only reason for this is that the questions, if answered honestly, could reveal a range of malpractice by senior officials that would result in a public outcry for urgent action.

Let me say that I will not be giving up my efforts to focus attention on the disgraceful state of affairs in Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, to the extent that I am able, I will be assisting any honest citizens with information to offer to be heard. The most recent instance of such a person was Ms Carmel van Dartel. She recently spoke out, despite frenzied efforts to muzzle her by people who should know better. Her allegations have been swept under the carpet in the usual manner. Lest there be any doubt about the shamelessness of the people running the Department at this time, let me conclude with a recent example concerning Sir Nicholas Parkinson, the former head of the Department, about whose peculiar and lucrative retirement I have raised many questions and received precious few answers. I share the belief of my informants and people in the Department that, with Mr Henderson's assistance, Sir Nicholas has, or will in due course, have mulcted the taxpayer to the extent of at least $250,000. The Department's reaction to my efforts has been to omit Sir Nicholas's curriculum vitae from the latest edition of a departmental publication entitled 'Statement of Service', which hitherto has included all serving, retired and deceased staff . Therefore, so far as the Department is concerned, Sir Nicholas has ceased to exist. I ask: Is this the action of people who have nothing to hide?