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Ambassador Burke's Special Leave

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John Hewson Leader of the Opposition M e d i a R e l e a s e

16 April 1991 90/91


The Prime Minister floundered around again in Question Time today trying to justify the special paid leave arrangements which his Government has granted to Mr Burke as he prepares for, and gives evidence at, the WA Inc Royal Commission.

As a result of the inadequacy of the Prime Minister's answers, we will be pursuing the matter in Senate Estimates Committee hearings.

The Prime Minister has raised more questions than he answered in invoking Departmental advice to justify the paid leave for Mr Burke.

Senator Evans made it very clear in the Senate yesterday that

. "there is no obvious precedent to call in aid in this


. the discretion as far as special paid leave for Mr Burke is concerned is vested in him (Senator Evans)

It would be extraordinary if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not advise Senator Evans in writing on Mr Burke's special leave entitlements. Indeed, Senator Evans referred yesterday in the Senate to

"advice tendered to me by my Department which had carefully reviewed the nature of the public and departmental

interests as well as, of course, those of Mr Burke himself coming back to deal with these matters before the


Consistent with the Prime Minister's comments in Question Time today, he should table the document to which Senator Evans referred and any other relevant advice as a matter of urgency.

It would also be extraordinary if the Department had made a clear recommendation to Senator Evans that Mr Burke should not be stood down in current circumstances.


A former senior diplomat and Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (1974-77), Mr Alan Renouf, has made his views clear. When asked in a media interview yesterday whether Senator Evans should "bite the bullet and bring him (Mr Burke) back", he reported "I think he should". A full text of the interview

setting out the reasons for his views is attached.

The Opposition will be pursuing the matter of Mr Burke's

entitlements and the departmental advice concerning them in relevant Senate Estimates Committee hearings over the next few days.

For further information 06/277 4022

Department of the Parliamentary Library Information Storage and Retrieval System Page 1

Comments by former Head of Foreign Affaire regarding the recall of Brian Burke. Daybreak. Friday 12 Apr. 1991: (2p). Reporter: Warwick ADDERLEY Speaker: Alan renodf - former Head of Department of Foreign Affairs Transcript: 82-0111 (ONLINE) Audiotape: 82-0094 (091/0102-1-21 (MlCAH)

This transcript is taken from a tape recording, and freedom from errors, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

WARWICK ADDBRLBYt The Royal Commission into WA Inc and its fallout, and the other issue vexing the Federal Opposition. Should the former Premier of Western Australia, Brian Burke, be recalled from his appointment as Australia's Ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See? The Commission itself has been asked by Mr Burke's legal representation if he could appear before it earlier than

scheduled. But both the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Qareth Evans, have said there's no reason for his recall or suspension. Well, I'm joined now by the former Head of the Department of Foreign Affaire, Alan Renouf. Good morning Alan.

ALA* RKW0CT: Good morning.

WARWICK ADDKRLKXs The presumption of innocence, notwithstanding, should Gareth Evans bits the bullet and bring him back?

ALA* RBHOOFt I think he should. My starting point in considering this question is, simply, what would have happened in similar circumstances had the person involved been a professional diplomat.

WARWICK ADDKRLXT: what would have happened?

ALA* RXMOUFi well, there's no doubt in my mind that that particular person, when these allegations, and as you say, they're only allegations, surfaced, would have been asked to take leave, indefinitely and to come home, had he not .. had he or she nob agreed to that, 1 think the Government would have acted in

bringing him or her home.

WARWICK ABDKRLKFs what precedent is there for that?

ALA* RK*CXnPi There is none that I know of in Australian diplomatic history. There must be some precedence obviously in overseas history but I don't know of them at all.

WARWICK ADDKRLKTs And yet, I mean, we do have to look at the presumption of innocence. Is there any reason why Mr Burke can't handle his duties in Ireland and with the Vatican?

ALA* RKRUUFi Well, I think you have to look at the .. to answer that question, you have to look at the basis of the appointment of an Ambassador. When a government nominates a person to be appointed Ambassador to another government, the first government holds out to the second government, that that person nominated is the person of the highest character, with no blemish on his or her character or reputation. And the particular government who's being .. to whom the nomination is being sent, makes the assumption that that is the ease. Now,

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in thie instance, there are allegations, only allegations, that Mr Burke was not a person of the highest character, integrity, and highest reputation, et cetera et cetera ,y... , the Australian Government, if the allegations were proven correct, is embarrassed. The Irish Government is embarrassed for having

accepted Mr Burke as an Ambassador. The whole basis of the deal, in other words, is undermined.

WARWICK ADDSRLKYi Yes, but the Irish are not unused to controversial appointments to the position. If I recall rightly, wasn't Senator Vincent

ALA* RSHOOFi Yes, he was sent to Ireland under strange circumstances by the Whitlam Government. But there again, Senator Gears was not a person about whom such allegations as this were ever made. So, deapite the way, the fact that he may have gone on rather peculiarly in Ireland, as he did, that doesn't mean that

he wasn't a person of the highest character against whom such an allegation would not have been, could not have been made.

WARWICK ADDKRLSTt Are you aware, through the diplomatic traps, and I suppose your association with Foreign Affaire, of any resentment about what's going on at the moment? .

ALA* RKWOCFt Mo. I'm not aware of that because I'm out of touch with the colony, the diplomatic colony in Canberra. But undoubtedly Mr Burke's appointment to Ireland raised some hackles among the professional diplomats in Foreign Affairs. Just another political appointment to an ambassadorial post, which of course, all diplomats aspire to hold themselves, ^and in my experience, my long experience over the last 50 years with such appointments abroad, I can

vouch rarely, rarely indeed have any of them been successful.

WARWICK ADDKRUtYx The other issue, of course, which you touched on earlier is that this Commission may possibly run for something like two years. There are many issues it has to look at and it would possibly be, at the moment, that the former Premier would have to be recalled again and again from his appointment to

give his version, maybe, of whatever evidence else turns up during the Commission. That doesn't seem to be a good situation for an Ambassador.

ALA* RKROtrrs No, it certainly doesn't and I have some doubt, Hr Burke after all is only human. I have some doubt how he can effectively discharge his duties in Dublin and the Hold See while thie whole thing is dragging on. Naturally, the first thing upon his mind every morning must be, what's going on in Perth today. And it7s not a good sort of atmosphere in which an Ambassador should be able to carry out his duties. -

WARWICK ADDBRLBTt Alright Mr Renouf,we'11 leave it there, thank you very much for joining us on Daybreak thie morning. *

Leader of the Opposition

29 April 1991 REF: TRANSCR\al\002





Brian Burke, key witness at the Royal Commission into WA Inc, is on notice that he may be stood down from his job as

Ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See. The Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, says the Ambassador's future will come under close review in the next few days. Mr Burke is now on special leave from his post and may be required to answer questions on many of the issues before the Royal Commission as it continues

hearings into the financial dealings of his Government. The Ambassador will be called to give evidence this week.

Mr Burke himself has said that his special relationship with the Federal Government has saved his job so far but that claim is denied by the Foreign Minister. The Opposition Leader, John Hewson, has been campaigning for the past month for Mr Burke to stand down, and says Senator Evans is preparing the ground for the dumping of Brian Burke.

Dr Hewson joins AM this morning from our Melbourne studio.


Good morning Dr Hewson.

Good morning, Peter

Hewson x

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 277 4022


Why do you say that the Foreign Minister is preparing the way for Mr Burke to stand down?


Well, I think he's been left in an untenable position - Gareth Evans is in an untenable position right now - because he must be getting advice from his Department to the effect that this is damaging our international reputation. He knows there are plenty of examples of people who, in similar circumstances,

have stood down until their names were cleared and I believe he must act before there is further damage done to our international reputation and the way he handled yesterday's interview shows that he is backing off at about 1000 miles an

hour, isolating the Prime Minister with his mate, Brian Burke.


Isn't this a minor kerfuffle outside Australia, though, I mean who cares if one Ambassador to one country is involved in local issues in Australia?


On the contrary. It goes to the very heart of the significance of the position of Ambassador. It is a very high-level position, it is our chief representation in the country concerned, it's a position that ranks in the protocol list above Ministers, it's one appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Government of the day. And we should be very concerned about it and ex-Ambassadors like Renouf, for

example, have said that he supports basically what I've said.


What does "stand-down" mean to you?


I think he should stand aside from his official duties as Ambassador until such time as his name is cleared. And that's been the format that has been followed, for example, by people like Phillip Lynch, or Neville Wran or Mick Young and a number

of others.... They've done the right thing, separated themselves from the job until such time as their name is cleared.


Should Mr Burke continue to be paid if he's stood down or stands aside?


Well, those arrangements need to be negotiated again on a case-by-case basis.

REF: TRANSCR\al\002 3.


What about the formal?


The formal thing I think is that he should stand down and forego his duties until such time as his name is cleared and I think the precise nature of the situation depends on the cas e . I don't think ... (interjection) ...


Sounds like you're saying he should continue to be paid then?


There might be some arrangement. I'm not sure what arrangements have applied in other cases and I'm not sure what should apply here. I personally think that if I was in his position, I would be happy to stand down and forego my salary until such time as my name was cleared.


Because this is such a hot political issue, is there a great of danger that these issues about Brian Burke are going to be pre-judged - even his standing down implies some judgement possibly?


No, I don't think that's been our history Peter. I think that people have stood down and made a genuine effort on their part, then of course, to clear their name. It is a question of putting in a lot of time I imagine, to do that which is

another reason presumably why he can't perform the full duties as Ambassador to Ireland and the Holy S ee.


Let's change subjects. You've just returned from a week in New Zealand where, of course, there's a hugh public backlash to the labour market reform there being introduced by the Conservative Government. Are you reconsidering your own policy

ideas in light of reaction there, because I believe your policies are very similar to the New Zealand policies?


Well, on the contrary. We wouldn't reconsider on the basis of that experience and I think to be fair, that has been exaggerated. I think that what they are doing will prove to be a very successful exercise. Some of the elements of their

REF: TRANSCR\al\002 4.

policy are, of course, very much the same as ours, that is, workplace agreements, voluntary unionism and so on. You can't actually graft the New Zealand model to Australia but there are a large number of similarities and I put it to you that

this will prove to be probably the single most important change made in New Zealand policy in several years and it will change the face of their industrial relations and wage determination process and get them back to being international competitive. The resistance I don't think, is anywhere near as

great as has been foreshadowed here or been ... (interjection) ...


It's been getting tonnes of public turnouts?


Well, public turnouts to some extent, but the union movement that I met seemed to have accepted the inevitability of this change -employers, again while they've had some reservations, have accepted it - and look, its a very real opportunity to

fix one of the fundamental things that has been wrong with the New Zealand economy and to their credit, instead of playing around at the fringes, they're just making an across-the-board substantial change which is the way we've got to do it - both our countries are so far short of best international practise. We haven't got a lot of time, we've got to make a substantial

amount of change and we've got to do it very quickly.


Let's come back here to efforts to change our system and the waterfront. The involvement of the Government in the past week on the waterfront reform deal, is that the sort of enterprise bargaining which you'd be advocating?


That's got nothing to do with enterprise bargaining. As I see it, it's an attempt to get a wage increase in the field that they couldn't get in the Commission and they've got a selective concept of enterprise bargaining that they're using to dress that up. The fact is, that our wage determination process is inappropriate. The accord is inappropriate, it's

given us uncompetitive wage outcomes, it has cut the real wages of worker and it's elevated people like Bill Kelty to defacto Cabinet status where they've been allowed to block a substantial amount of reform. It's time we addressed that

issue directly and the only way to solve our industrial relations problem is to go to the workplace level - the only place at which you can get a reasonable interpretation of productivity and performance and a reasonable link between wages and that.

REF: TRANSCR\al\002 5.


Isn't that precisely what will be negotiated between employers and employees and the waterfront union under this deal?


Now look, this deal is being dressed up. It's a very expensive arrangement - the country, quite frankly, can't afford to give $12 now, 4% in July and two unspecified wage increases next year in the circumstances where our waterfront

is well short of best international practice. Even if the Government were to achieve its objectives, which it won't, it's way off its objectives, but even if it did, it would

still only be about 30% as competitive as a comparable port like Yokohama. Now the issue is being dressed up, it's a wage increases that's being institutionalised, if you like, it's being sought in the field, it's being used as a model to spread across other industries. And, quite frankly, the country cannot afford wage increases of that size, unrelated to productivity in the midst of the worst recession in 60 years.


Thanks for joining us on AM.


Thank you, Peter.