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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 469

Senator KNOWLES —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Last week the minister laughed off suggestions that Mr Jones had been offered an inducement and pressured to vacate his seat of Lalor. But according to a report by a senior journalist, who is usually quite well-informed on Australian Labor Party matters, Geoff Kitney in the Sydney Morning Herald, the minister sought and received Mr Keating's approval to offer Mr Jones a diplomatic post. Following that prime ministerial approval, did the minister discuss with Mr Jones the possibility of a diplomatic posting for him?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is not wise, as Senator Knowles's former Senate colleague from Western Australia, Senator Withers, used to say, to always believe everything you read in the papers. And I have to say it was particularly not wise of Senator Knowles to believe everything she read in the papers covering that particular saga over the days that it unfolded. The truth of the matter is that there was no offer of any diplomatic post to Mr Jones. There was no seeking by me of approval from the Prime Minister to do any such thing.

  The possibility of a life after politics was the subject, as one might have expected, of some discussion in an earlier conversation some time before the first conversation in which the question of Bruce was even raised. In that particular context there was some passing reference to the possibility of either of us being interested in that, and Mr Jones made it perfectly clear that that was not something he was particularly interested in doing, so it was in a totally different context on some earlier occasion. I make no apology for that. We have those sorts of conversations all the time. I suspect that opposition senators will be in the business of having a few such conversations on their side of politics over the next few days because the opposition has a few people around the place that I am sure it would be only too delighted to see leaving the scene. The pity of it is, of course, from the opposition's point of view, it will never be in a position to do anything about it.

Senator KNOWLES —Mr President, as the minister actually said that there was no offer and no seeking of approval, I ask a couple of supplementary questions relating to that answer. When was the discussion with Mr Jones? If, as the minister says, this was all false and the allegations made by Mr Kitney in the Sydney Morning Herald are, in fact, untrue, and considering the damage that that creates not only for the minister and his reputation but also the diplomatic corps as it stands, when will the minister take action against Mr Kitney and make a denial?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I took action on Friday afternoon: I sent a letter down to the Sydney Morning Herald which I am instructed is being printed tomorrow.