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'Whiting-out' of DFAT notes must be investigated: Hill



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

Sunday, June 14 56/92

' WHITIWG-QDTr OF DFAT MOTES MOST BE IEVKSTIGATEDi HILL

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Robert Hill, today said a cover-up in a literal sense within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of crucial advice relating to the Marshall Islands affair should be investigated by the proposed independent judicial inquiry.

"The Opposition has raised serious concerns about the 'whiting-out' of crucial hand-written notes on DFAT documents," Senator Hill said.

"These notes reveal that there were concerns at high levels of DFAT about the Australian Government's involvement in Mr Gregory Symons's business affairs and the role of the

President of the Senate, Senator Sibraa.

"The Government has now tabled three versions of the documents containing these notes - two of which contain complete or partial 'whiting-out'.

"The first version was released by the Prime Minister on May 15 (and later tabled in the Senate on May 26) as part of

Senator Sibraa's report to Mr Keating on the assistance he provided to Mr Symons (attachment 1 and 2).

"These documents show that hand-written notes in the top right-hand corner of both pages have been 'whited-out'.

"The second version of the documents (attachments 3 and 4) was contained in a statutory declaration by Mr Miles Kupa tabled in the Senate on May 26.

"These documents contain the hand-written notes in full, including*

KO (Kylie Oakes) Have you heard of this proposal. Please copy to Pohnpei and seek their views and further background. Sounds fraught with negative potential to meI CM (Chris Merchant, Director, South Pacific Bilateral

Section, DFAT, Canberra) 26/11 (attachment 3).

Mr Merchant. Apart from the fact that the consultants happen to be Australian, I can't see what business this is of ours. Please advise. DOL (David O'Leary, Head, South Pacific Branch, DFAT, Canberra) 1/12. (attachment 4)

UBRARV

. / 2

2.

I agree. The only reason we have been dragged In le because of Sen. Slbraa's request. The post proposed to be polite and helpful but there was no question of offering accommodate (sic) on anything. I fully concurred. CM (Chris Merchant) 2/12

"The third version of the documents was tabled with hundreds of other DFAT documents by Senator Evans on Thursday, June 4 (attachments 5 and 6).

"These documents appear to be the same as the second version tabled on May 27, but they contain a crucial omission.

"On this third version, Mr O'Leary's Initials, the date and his comments about 'what business this Is of ours' have been 'whited-out'.

"There has clearly been a second stage of 'whltlng-out'.

"The 'whltlng-out' of these notes had significant Implications for the Government's handling of the Marshall Islands affair.

"Senator Evans has now admitted that the notes were 'whlted- out' within DFAT before the documents were provided to Mr Keating on May 8.

"This means that not all the information held in DFAT about the Department's and Senator Slbraa's involvement with Mr Symons was provided to Mr Keating.

"The Prime Minister was not In a position to know that key DFAT officers directly dealing with Australia's relatione with the Marshall Islands were concerned as early as

November/December last year about the nature of Mr Symons's business migration scheme, the level of assistance that should be provided to him by the Australian Government, and the involvement of Senator Slbraa.

"Senator Evans's argument in support of the 'whiting-out' of the hand-written notes is inadequate.

"He should provide a full explanation of the 'whiting-out' - why was it done, when was it done, and by whom.

"The effect of the 'whiting-out' was to remove matters which would prove embarrassing to Senator Evans.

"The only way to get to the bottom of this 'cover-up' is through an investigation by the proposed independent judicial inquiry."

(ends)

enquiries· Mark Batistich on (08) 224 0167

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will be visiting Washington shortly to assist in negotiations with the US Government on the establishment of a Business Migration Program in the Marshall Islands.

We have not yet been able to contact the KMX Embassy in Washington to determine what they might know about.the visit. In the event we are contacted by Messrs Symons and Finch next week, however, and they seek the use of office space or other assistance, we propose >/ suggesting that they approach the KMX Embassy in the first

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