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Transcript of interview between Matthew Abraham and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, on 2CN (ABC) at 8.50am on Friday, April 19, 1991.



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PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA ยท T H E SENATE

SENATOR ROBERT HILL

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA. A.C.T 2600

PHONE (06) 277 3170 FACSIMILE (06) 277 3177

Friday April 19 Canberra

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH THE SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, SENATOR ROBERT HILL, BY MATTHEW ABRAHAM OF 2CN (ABC) AT 8.50AM ON FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 1991.

MA GOOD MORNING.

RH HELLO, MATTHEW.

MA SENATOR HILL, A BIT OF A BIG WEEK IN THE HOUSE ON THE HILL

WITH WA INC. DO YOU THINK THE OPPOSITION BLEW IT?

RH I DON'T THINK SO. I DON'T THINK WE LOOK TO CALCULATE THE

WEEK'S GAINS OR LOSSES IN THAT WAY. THERE ARE CLEAR

PROBLEMS FLOWING FROM WESTERN AUSTRALIA THAT NOW ARE INCLUDING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND, IN PARTICULAR, FROM THE SENATE'S POINT OF VIEW, WE BELIEVE SENATOR EVANS SHOULD MOVE AND STAND DOWN MR BURKE AND PASSED A RESOLUTION TO

THAT EFFECT YESTERDAY.

MA SHOULD HE GO FURTHER THAN THAT? I MEAN IN YOUR VIEW WOULD

ANOTHER AMBASSADOR SURVIVE EVEN THE INNUENDO AND THE

ALLEGATIONS?

RH WELL ANY PROFESSIONAL AMBASSADOR WOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED BACK MONTHS AGO, THERE'S NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT. MR BURKE IS CLEARLY BEING PROTECTED AND THAT'S AN ABDICATION OF THE MINISTER'S RESPONSIBILITY TO THE NATIONAL INTEREST IN OUR VIEW. AND EVENTUALLY HE WILL HAVE TO MOVE, BUT THE FACT

THAT HE HAS BEEN PREPARED TO LOCK HIMSELF INTO MR BURKE FOR SO LONG IS ACTUALLY, IN MY VIEW, GOING TO BE A MARK AGAINST SENATOR EVANS'S RECORD. I SUSPECT IT'S NOT SENATOR EVANS - I SUSPECT IT'S SOME ABOVE HIM THAT ARE PUTTING THIS

PRESSURE ON, THE NEED TO PROTECT MR BURKE. BUT IT IS NOT

IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST, AND THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT HE'S BEEN FOUND GUILTY BEFORE CHARGED. IT MEANS THAT THE OFFICE IS SUCH THAT IT MUST BE PUT FIRST. AND THE NATIONAL

INTEREST MUST BE PUT AHEAD OF THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES.

MA CAN MR BURKE FUNCTION AS AN AMBASSADOR, EVEN IF CLEARED BY

THE WA INC ROYAL COMMISSION?

RH WELL THE INQUIRY LOOKS AS IF IT'LL GO FOR ANOTHER YEAR OR

TWO, BY WHICH TIME HIS TERM'S EXPIRED. BUT ALREADY THERE ARE ASPECTS THAT HE'S ADMITTED THAT I WOULD REGARD AS

TOTALLY UNDESIRABLE AND DEMONSTRATING THAT HE IS NOT A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TO HOLD THAT OFFICE. AND IN PARTICULAR I REFER TO THIS EMPLOYMENT OF PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS TO SPY ON POLITICAL OPPONENTS. I DON'T THINK ANY REASONABLE AUSTRALIAN WOULD THINK THAT'S PROPER BEHAVIOUR WITHIN OUR

POLITICAL PROCESS AND IT TELLS US A LOT ABOUT MR BURKE THE MAN. AND WE SHOULD EXPECT THE HIGHEST STANDARDS FROM THOSE WE ENGAGE TO BE AUSTRALIA'S PRINCIPAL REPRESENTATIVES OVERSEAS, AND I DON'T SEE IN THAT BEHAVIOUR A DEMONSTRATION OF THE LEVEL OF STANDARD THAT I WOULD EXPECT FROM AN

AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR.

MA SO IN YOUR VIEW ALREADY ON THAT QUESTION HE ISN'T FIT TO BE AMBASSADOR?

RH NO I DON'T THINK HE IS. I THINK WHEN HE CAME BACK TO

AUSTRALIA A MONTH OR SO AGO AND ACKNOWLEDGED TO THE MEDIA THE ENGAGEMENT OF THIS PERSON SMITH, WHO HAS SINCE BEEN CONVICTED OF TELEPHONE INTERCEPTIONS, TO SPY ON LIBERAL POLITICIANS. AND YOU MAY HAVE SEEN THE LIBERAL POLITICIAN, LIGHTFOOT, ON FOUR CORNERS LAST WEEK SAYING THAT THE

INVESTIGATIONS OF HIM HAVE GONE RIGHT BACK TO HIS

CHILDHOOD. WELL I JUST FIND THAT QUITE APPALLING

BEHAVIOUR. AND IT JUST DEMONSTRATES TO ME THAT MR BURKE IS NOT, IN MY VIEW - AND I STRESS THAT THIS IS A PERSONAL VIEW - IS NOT A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TO REPRESENT AUSTRALIA OVERSEAS.

MA SENATOR HILL, THIS DOES RAISE THE WHOLE QUESTION OF

POLITICAL APPOINTEES TO FOREIGN POSTS, WHICH IS A BIT OF A CHESTNUT. BUT ARE YOU SAYING THAT THERE IS NO ROOM FOR

POLITICAL APPOINTEES TO OVERSEAS POSTS, AND AS A FOREIGN MINISTER IN A COALITION GOVERNMENT YOU WOULD NOT DO THAT?

RH NO, WHAT I'VE SAID IS THAT THE BEHAVIOUR AS ACKNOWLEDGED BY MR BURKE DEMONSTRATES THAT HE'S NOT A FIT AND PROPER

PERSON. I'VE ALWAYS SAID THE BEST PERSON FOR THE JOB

SHOULD BE APPOINTED. AND I WOULDN'T EXCLUDE POLITICAL EXPERIENCE IN MAKING THAT ASSESSMENT. I CAN THINK OF BOTH LIBERAL AND LABOR POLITICIANS WHO'VE GONE ON TO BE VERY FINE REPRESENTATIVES. SIR ROBERT COTTON WAS ONE IN THE

UNITED STATES. SO IT ACTUALLY, IN SOME WAYS, CAN BE A VERY USEFUL ADJUNCT TO EXPERIENCE. BUT I THINK YOU'VE GOT TO JUDGE EACH CASE, APPRAISE THE TYPE OF POST, THE TYPE OF WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE THERE, AGAINST THE QUALITIES OF

THOSE WHO ARE AVAILABLE.

MA YOU DON'T FEEL YOUR FORMER SENATE COLLEAGUE, NOW MR FRED CHANEY, DILUTED YOUR CASE DURING THE WEEK?

RH I'M SORRY, I MISSED THAT.

DO YOU FEEL YOUR FORMER SENATE COLLEAGUE, NOW MR CHANEY, MA

FRED CHANEY, DILUTED THE BRUNT OF THE WA INC ATTACK DURING THE WEEK?

RH NO I SAID THAT, SIMILARLY, DONATIONS HAVE GOT TO BE JUDGED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CIRCUMSTANCE OF THE DONATION, AND WHETHER OR NOT THE PARTY ACTED PROPERLY. AND I HAVE NO

DOUBT THAT SOME OF THESE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN BUSINESSES MADE DONATIONS TO THE LIBERAL PARTY. WHAT I'M PARTICULARLY UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT IS THIS NOTION OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, WHERE HUGE SUMS OF MONEY WERE FUNNELLED THROUGH A SECRET ACCOUNT, OR SECRET ACCOUNTS, RUN BY MR BURKE, AND THEN

FILTERED OUT. IT'S THAT ASPECT THAT I THINK RAISES FURTHER QUESTIONS PARTICULARLY WHEN THEY'RE NOW PUT IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS SEEMINGLY SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS.

MA SENATOR ROBERT HILL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME.