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The Burkey "Termination" : Conspiracy or Stuff-up?

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

1 Z / / 3 1

13 May 1991


The Prime Minister's embarrassment over the Burke Affair continues unabated.

For weeks the Prime Minister has been embarrassed by his stubborn refusal to face up to his responsibilities and to show some leadership instead of mateship.

Now he is further embarrassed by his Government's inability to understand how the processes of terminating Mr Burke's

appointment should have been handled.

Along with the Attorney-General and the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister has tried today to explain the circumstances surrounding the termination of Brian Burke's Ambassadorship.

We are none the wiser for their attempts.

The key question which all three had to answer was why the advice which came to light on Thursday afternoon from the Attorney- General 's Department was not made available to, nor sought by, the Government at a much earlier date.

The Prime Minister's response was to avoid any responsibility and was to pass the buck to Senator Evans.

The Attorney-General's tactic was to ignore the question.

And Senator Evans issued "clarifying" statements on the matter that added to the confusion.

For all their attempts today, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Attorney-General have failed to explain :

. why the Prime Minister, who tried to hide behind the

advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in order to justify his inactivity, took no steps to inform himself of the proper legal basis of Mr Burke's "resignation" on 29 April

. why, when justifying the Burke termination payment to the Senate Estimates Committee on 1 May, Senator Evans failed to raise any of the considerations about the formal role of the Governor-General in any such




. why the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did

not apparently consult with the Attorney-General's Department concerning the legal basis for the

termination payout. Indeed, it was not until 9 May - when Mr Burke sought to bring forward his resignation - that it appears anybody in the

Government thought to check the legal basis on which his resignation could take effect.

It is about time the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Attorney-General gave some straight answers on these matters and assured us that what has occurred is no more than administrative confusion.