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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 564


Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) (3.04 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans), to a question without notice asked by Senator Hill this day, relating to the member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones).

This is a very serious matter. When a matter of a similar type was raised in the New South Wales parliament not long ago, Senator Gareth Evans's colleague the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Carr, in that instance referring to Mr Greiner, put it in terms of an issue of official corruption and a criminal conspiracy. In other words, that is the way he was describing the issue of a possible inducement being offered to a member of parliament to resign his seat to the advantage of an individual or the government.

  Being raised here is whether Senator Evans offered an inducement—a diplomatic post or some other government benefit—to Mr Barry Jones to resign his seat in order that he, Senator Evans, might take that seat and thus further his ambitions to one day be Prime Minister, succeeding Mr Keating. Of course, the allegation is in some ways even more important because it is said that Senator Evans did that with the knowledge and the support of the Prime Minister, Mr Keating. So the Prime Minister as well as the Leader of the Government in the Senate is involved in this. Few matters of greater seriousness could be brought into the chamber.

  We have found that Senator Evans has changed his position over the last few days. When this matter was first raised with him by me in this place last week I asked him specifically about a diplomatic post being offered in relation to Beirut or whether there was any other inducement and he said no. Now that we know a little more about the matter we can read his words and see that he selected his words very carefully. He said that an ambassadorship in Beirut was not offered and no inducement was offered. We have subsequently learned more about what Senator Evans defines as `no inducement'.

  However, when Senator Knowles came into the chamber after an article by Geoff Kitney appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald Senator Evans changed his position. I remind honourable senators that Geoff Kitney said that he had reason to believe that, with Keating's approval, Senator Evans had in fact offered Mr Jones a diplomatic post. Senator Knowles therefore came into the chamber and asked Senator Evans about it.

  Senator Evans changed his position because, on that occasion, he said that he did not offer Mr Jones a diplomatic post but that the `possibility of a life after politics was the subject, as one might have expected, of some discussion in an earlier conversation, some time before the first conversation in which the question of Bruce was even raised'. On the second question, we find that Senator Evans acknowledges that the issue of a job had been raised with Mr Jones but says that it was on an earlier occasion.

  As more information flows—one suspects that a fair bit of it is flowing from Mr Jones—another article appeared this morning, this one written by Geoffrey Barker in the Australian Financial Review. It refers in some detail to the position of Mr Jones and to the fact that he had kept detailed records of the conversations between Senator Evans and himself and the Prime Minister and himself in relation to their attempt to get Mr Jones out of his seat to provide the vacancy for Senator Evans. Senator Evans knows that Mr Jones has some detailed records of this matter. In fact, there is an implied threat in the article written by Barker—on behalf of Mr Jones one suspects—that, unless the heavies of the Labor Party lay off Mr Jones, those records might come into the public domain.

  With that background we asked Senator Evans today what the story is. Of course, the language changes again. For the first time he said, `Well, there was fleeting, passing reference to a diplomatic post'. So we know that in discussion about this seat the issue of a diplomatic post was raised. We have gone from no inducement to there being mention of it during an earlier conversation—but not in relation to Mr Jones's seat—and from there to now having on the record that reference to a diplomatic post was made in the discussions between Senator Evans and Mr Jones.

  What does that mean? What does a `fleeting, passing reference' mean when Senator Evans is asking Mr Jones to vacate his seat in favour of himself? Everyone knows what that means. It means that Senator Evans said to Mr Jones, `You get out, give me your seat, and I will give you a government post'. That is a very serious matter and one that needs to be explored at much greater length.