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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 951

(Question No. 777)

Senator Chipp asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 2 April 1984:

(1) What action does the Attorney-General intend to take in light of growing community concern at the Crimes Act prosecution of the suspended Foreign Affairs officer, Don Witheford, which was described by the Australian Capital Territory, Acting Chief Magistrate Dobson on 16 March 1984 as being 'conceived in prejudice and born in bias on the part of some officers in Foreign Affairs'.

(2) Is the Attorney-General aware of the very strong views held by unions and staff associations on this issue.

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The question of any further prosecution against Mr Witheford was a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. On 17 April 1984 the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that charge No. 635/84 in regard to the Tehran File should proceed and that charge No. 636/84 in regard to the Henderson personnel file should not be pursued.

As honourable senators are undoubtedly aware, charge No. 636/84 was subsequently heard and dismissed, and the Director of Public Prosecutions announced there would be no appeal. I also understand that Mr Witheford has re- commenced duties with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

(2) I am aware of the views on the issue of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Foreign Affairs Association, as the union and staff association most closely concerned with Mr Witheford's situation.