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Senatory Sibraa's report totally inadequate

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


15 May 1992


It is no excuse to plead that you did not know the gun was


The report which Senator Sibraa has presented to the Prime Minister this afternoon is totally inadequate. Senator Sibraa has failed to give an adequate defence of his actions.

It is absolutely incredible that w'e are expected to accept that Senator Sibraa's report today constitutes his entire explanation for what was an extraordinary action on his part.

His report is deficient in a number of critical areas:

. The fundamental point is that nowhere in Senator Sibraa's explanation, or in the supporting documentation, does he explain on what basis he made the claim in his (undated) letter to the Australian Embassy in Washington that,

"President Kabua has sought the assistance of the Australian Government in expediting discussions in Washington with key US Government officials and

elected representatives on the development of Business Migration/Investment Program in the Marshall Islands."

- not only is there no explanation for the

statement that President Kabua sought such

assistance; there is also no explanation as to why it would be appropriate for the Australian • Government to be involved in such a way.

- there is no explanation why it would be

appropriate for the Australian Government to be interceding in the way it did when the Marshall Islands is in a Compact of Free Association with the United States and has its own Ambassador

resident in Washington.

. The President of the Senate has no proper role in making

such representations in respect of Australian foreign policy interests or those of any other country.

- with regard to the Marshall Islands and its relations with the Australian Government on business migration, Senator Sibraa was mistaken and made no attempt to check his facts.



- by way of an aside, it is not clear why the Marshall

Islands Government hired Australian citizens to negotiate changes in migration status with the United States when it could do so itself more effectively and directly through its own government-to-government


Furthermore, the President of the Senate has no proper role in this particular place when Mr Symons's consultancy work and business interests related exclusively to relations between the United States and the Marshall Islands.

- if it were just a matter of two Australian citizens

seeking advice about contacts in the United States, there is no explanation as to why they would approach Senator Richardson (other than that he was a relation of one of them); there is no explanation as to why

Senator Richardson then referred them to Senator Sibraa rather than, in the normal course of events, to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or his


Senator Sibraa has failed to explain why he accepted Mr Symons's claims on face value without seeking the prior advice of, or referring the matter to, the proper

Government authority, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

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- through subsequent routine processes, Senator Sibraa's letter was referred to our diplomatic post in Pohnpei which expressed the view that it was not aware of the matter raised in the letter. It undertook to follow

up on the matter but appears to have done nothing

about it. The post does not seem to have checked out the situation in the Marshall Islands, nor to have taken the appropriate corrective action, nor to have advised Senator Sibraa of his error.

Senator Sibraa's statement that "in retrospect, and with the benefit of hindsight I believe it may have been worded more carefully" is a sad understatement.

His action was not normal and did not follow due process.

It was not normal for a Member of Parliament to accept personal assurances relating to government authority on face value, as Senator Sibraa did, nor to make specific claims about Australia's relations with another country, as he d i d . It was certainly not normal for a President of the Senate to have acted in that way.

Given the abnormality of what was done and the importance of the position of President of the Senate, it clearly begs the question as to whether more pressure was exerted on Senator Sibraa.

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Perhaps only a NSW Right mate would understand what was really required when they were asked by Senator Richardson to give some "help" to one of his relations!

Senator Sibraa's report, therefore, raises many more questions than it answers.

The hard reality is that he acted without proper authority and without regard to the proper responsibilities of his office.

He has demeaned the office of President of the Senate. The Prime Minister has no option but to demand his resignation.

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