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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 221

Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to speculation that Mr Barry Jones MP is about to be appointed Australia's Ambassador to Beirut—the just re-opened post. Is there any truth in that speculation? If not, what other inducements are being offered or pressure applied to Mr Jones to vacate his seat for the minister—a seat he says the minister has never visited? Why will the minister and his campaign manager, Mr Keating, not concentrate on national issues rather than the grubby factional power plays that are designed to further the minister's personal ambitions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is not the case that Mr Jones has been offered the ambassadorship in Beirut—but now that you mention it! It is the case that no inducements or pressure, particularly the crude kind of pressure that has been widely reported in the press through another feat of journalistic imagination, have been applied in this particular matter. It has been a matter of routine internal exploration of options within a party political framework. As such, I do not propose to answer any further questions on this matter. These alarums and diversions are quite familiar within parties, even the best run parties, not to mention the worst ones, like those opposite. It does not bear in any way upon my ministerial responsibilities and I do not propose to have anything more to say.

Senator HILL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the minister of the comments by the Labor legal spokesman in the Victorian parliament, who, in referring this morning to his deep respect and affection for Mr Jones—a respect that most of us have—said:

I am not going to see him treated badly by a bunch of carpetbaggers who have no sense of right or wrong, just of themselves.

Is it not time that the minister started concentrating on the national interest rather than his personal ambitions?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is well known that I live, breathe and sleep the national interest. I will continue to do so.