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The Foreign Minister's extraordinary attack on Dr Cumes



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MEDIA RELEASE JOHN SPENDER QC MP PHONE 062 727061 / 02 9292969

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY

C. I. s.

THE FOREIGN MINISTER'S EXTRAORDINARY ATTACK ON DR. CIJMES

THE FOREIGN MINISTER'S PROLONGED AND VICIOUS PARLIAMENTARY ATTACK YESTERDAY ON DR. CUMES, A FORMER OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, WAS A RANK ABUSE OF PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE AND THE MINISTER'S POSITION.

THE MINISTER'S ATTACK WAS BASED ON CONFIDENTIAL DEPARTMENTAL ASSESSMENTS CONCERNING DR. C'JMES.

IT WAS A UNIQUE EXERCISE IN MINISTERIAL SPITE AND IN THE MISUSE OF HIS MINISTERIAL POWERS, FOR MR. HAYDEN TO GET AND TO PUBLICLY USE COMMENTS IN THESE FILES CONCERNING DR. CUMES. DR. CUMES, OF COURSE, HAD NO OPPORTUNITY OF ANSWERING THE SELECTIVE QUOTATIONS CULLED BY MR. HAYDEN FROM THESE FILES - WHICH WENT BACK AS FAR AS

1 9 5 7 .

ACCESS TO THIS KIND OF INFORMATION CONCERNING PRESENT OR PAST DEPARTMENTAL OFFICERS SHOULD BE DENIED TO MINISTERS SAVE FOR PURPOSES DIRECTLY RELATED TO THEIR WORK. IT SHOULD BE DOUBLY DENIED WHEN THE MINISTER WISHES TO USE FILES FOR THE PURPOSES OF A PUBLIC ATTACK IN PARLIAMENT ON A PRESENT OR FORMER DEPARTMENTAL

OFFICER. .

THIS SORDID EPISODE RAISES AN IMPORTANT QUESTION OF P RI NC IP L E: FOR WHAT PURPOSES ARE MINISTERS TO HAVE ACCESS TO PERSONNEL ASSESSMENTS, COMMENTS AND CRITICISMS CONCERNING PRESENT OR PAST DEPARTMENTAL OFFICERS?

ACCESS TO SUCH FILES SHOULD BE RIGIDLY LIMITED. IF IT BECOMES THE RULE THAT MINISTERS ARE TO HAVE ACCESS TO PERSONNEL FILES OF THIS KIND FOR THEIR OWN POLITICAL PURPOSES DEPARTMENTAL MORALE WILL SUFFER AND THE WHOLE SYSTEM OF INTERNAL ASSESSMENTS WILL Ρ,Π

COMPROMISED. '

24 MARCH 19S8

CONTACT: -J E 2 72 7 0 7 1 / 7 2 7543