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Evans finally admits that Burke broke duty-free car rules: Hill



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1 MEDIA RELEASE

SENATOR ROBERT HILL LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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Wednesday, September 16 84/92

EVANS FINAT.T.Y ADMITS THAT BURKE BROKE DUTY-FREE CAR RULES s HIM.

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, today said that the Federal Government had finally admitted that the former Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Brian Burke, broke

Government rules relating to the purchase of duty-free cars during his posting in Dublin.

"After more than a year of questioning, the Foreign Minister, Senator Evans, and his Department have finally conceded that Mr Burke broke Departmental rules on car purchases," Senator Hill said.

"The Minister has produced a Departmental report on Mr Burke's purchases which finds that:

MR BURKE 'contravened Departmental guidelines' by simultaneously owning more duty-free cars than he was entitled to, and by exceeding the number of duty-free vehicles he could purchase at a posting; and

DEPARTMENTAL officers should have done more to ensure Mr Burke complied with the guidelines.

"Appalling administrative lapses in Dublin and Canberra from the start of Mr Burke's posting meant that his purchases of six duty­ free cars went well beyond Departmental guidelines.

"Mr Burke broke the rules as early as January 1989, but it was not until June 1991 - around the time Mr Burke prematurely ended his posting - that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) started to properly scrutinise and investigate his purchases.

"Since questions started to be asked in the Parliament more than a year ago, Senator Evans and DFAT have continued to claim that Mr Burke had not contravened the guidelines and that he had not been given special treatment.

"On April 28 this year, Senator Evans told the Senate that:

...Mr Burke's actions in respect of motor vehicle purchases were in accordance with the same regulations and procedures as apply to all other heads of missions and that there was no ground for regarding this situation as any different.

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C O M M O NW EALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY M ICAH

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"As late as yesterday, Senator Evans told Senate Question Time that 'there was no breach'.

"The Minister's appalling mismanagement of this issue means that it is now too late for action to be taken against Mr Burke.

"Senator Evans should have moved at least two years ago when it became clear that Mr Burke was breaching Departmental rules."

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Enquiries: Senator Hill or Mark Batistich on (06) 277 3170

CONCLUSIONS

On the evidence, I present the following findings for your consideration:-v *

i ) Mr Burke correctly privatised three duty-free vehicles ie. Toyota Starlet, Honda Accord and Mercedes Benz 500SL in accordance with Irish laws and regulations and in so doing, sustained a

financial loss. He did not contravene Departmental Guidelines or Directions.

ii ) Mr Burke contravened Departmental guidelines contained in Administrative Circular 180/87 on Diplomatic and Consular Privilege (specifically paragraph ten) in that he;

. for a short period of his posting to Dublin, simultaneously owned more duty-free motor vehicles than he.was entitled to.

. exceeded the number of duty-free vehicles he could purchase j,n a posting! When told of this, he moved immediately to privatise the vehicles.

iii) Departmental officers involved in the matter acted promptly, correctly and with probity in their handling of the privatisation of Mr Burke's last two duty-free vehicle purchases. However, they should have been much more rigorous in satisfying

themselves that Mr Burke complied with Departmental guidelines contained in Administrative Circular No. 180/87 and in June 1991 in querying Mr Burke's account of the situation. The Post was deficient in not ensuring that ALL officers in Dublin including Mr Burke, were fully briefed on Administrative Circular 180/87 and that the duty-free vehicle register was accurately maintained. Mr Forrester correctly identified deficiencies in the Administrative Circular 180/87 and has moved to have those deficiencies rectified.