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Thursday, 8 March 1984
Page: 659


Senator PRIMMER(6.30) —On 29 February in a ministerial statement, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) purported to clear Mr John Ryan, the former head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, of the range of allegations I made against him in my speech on 8 December last. The basis for his speech was an internal investigation by the Department of Foreign Affairs. I will not mince words. The investigation upon which the Minister's speech was said to be based was conducted by the very people who fulsomely and, I believe, falsely cleared Mr Ivor Bowden, the ex-Ambassador in Tehran in 1982. They were the very same people who provided Mr Street with a speech containing what I demonstrated was a false alibi for Mr Bowden over the fradulent misappropriation of some $8,000-odd in Hong Kong in 1972, the very people who had Mr Street at that time praise Mr Henderson and Mr Bowden to the skies. As I have said before, members of the public and I, as well as the vast majority of Foreign Affairs staff, regard internal investigations, particularly when they are conducted by friends of the accused, as being farcical, in the extreme.

Mr Hayden's statement, and it is almost as though Mr Ryan helped in its preparation, by no means tackles all my allegations. Where it does so, it raises more questions than it answers. More seriously, in preparing the statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs has failed to reveal to the Parliament, and probably to Mr Hayden himself, a range of extremely adverse and well-known material involving Mr Ryan. It might be said that this is par for the course, an attitude I refuse to accept. What I find remarkable is this: I believe that Mr Hayden was aware of some of this adverse material when I made my speech on 8 December last. What is more remarkable is not that Mr Henderson apparently chose to conceal his and Mr Ryan's knowledge of this material from Mr Hayden, but that Mr Hayden apparently decided not to display the knowledge he had gained from honest Foreign Affairs officers to the Parliament. That may explain why the Minister's statement seemed designed to distance himself from what the Department had provided and what Mr Hayden knew was lacking in at least several aspects.

Figuratively speaking, Mr Hayden held that statement about 40 feet away from himself as he read it. As one senior retired Foreign Affairs officer opined to me only last week: 'Any Minister would be unwise to defend Foreign Affairs'. You will appreciate, Mr Deputy President, that my speech of 8 December last year, followed by Mr Witheford's persecution, has had the effect of bringing other people forward with information on these issues. I am in consultation with these people with a view to making further information available to the Parliament.

Mr Justice Hope has branded Mr Ryan as incompetent in several respects. I intend to demonstrate, as the Bulletin and the National Times have done, that this matter goes much further than mere incompetence. I express the view of many people, including some members of this chamber, when I say that something is very fishy when a man of Mr Ryan's incompetence can be promoted to a very high level on a salary of $60,000-plus and cheerfully accepted back into the Department of Foreign Affairs after the Sheraton fiasco. Rest assured, Mr Deputy President, that the ex-Ambassador in Stockholm of a decade ago, against whom Senator Gareth Evans has chosen not to prepare criminal charges, and in the cover-up of whose case I believe, contrary to Mr Hayden's statement, Mr Ryan was closely in- volved, is again but one of the many skeletons in Mr Ryan's cupboard .

All honourable senators have probably seen what I believe to be a misleading editorial which appeared in the Canberra Times on 5 March which compared me with Mr Sinclair and claimed that I had misused parliamentary privilege in respect of Messrs Bowden and Ryan. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard my letter of reply dated 6 March.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

AUSTRALIAN SENATE

CANBERRA, A.C.T.

6 March 1984

The Editor

The Canberra Times

Mort Street

Braddon, A.C.T. 2601

Sir While less than flattered by the linkage of myself with Mr Sinclair in your editorial of 5 March, my principle concern is with the selective, biased and I believe inaccurate way you have reviewed the handling of some of the allegations I and some other Senators have made about the bureaucratic corruption in Canberra.

My concern is heightened by the fact that the 'Canberra Times' unlike other major newspapers has failed to report some of the more serious allegations about the Department of Foreign Affairs, indeed you have not reported, nor did you mention in your editorial, my question without notice last week concerning Mr Henderson.

In saying this I must add that I have no complaint to make at all about the calibre of your working journalists. They are extremely competent and possessed of social conscience.

What does worry me is an apparent editorial bias which has been commented on by others some of whom express the view that you may well have allowed yourself to become too close to 'City Hall'.

Allow me to state for the record that over recent weeks you have either failed or refused to publish letters from at least two people concerning (a) the Tehran Embassy affair and (b) the more recent diplomatic bag smuggling and security breaches matter.

I maintain the view that my speeches under parliamentary privilege over the past two years concerning the Department of Foreign Affairs have been fully justified by the number of people who have and still are coming forward with contributions on the issue. That so little progress has been made is due in my opinion, to the fears of legal action justifiably held by many, combined with what I see as a lack of zeal on the part of some of those charged with the investigations.

In my opinion we will only get to the bottom of these matters through a Parliamentary Committee with full protection for witnesses.

Would it be too much to hope that the Canberra Times will support that goal and , in the meantime provide balanced coverage of what are extremely serious matters.

As I have said before internal investigations by the Department of Foreign Affairs can and are seen as being farcical and it amazes me that this aspect has been completely ignored in your March 5 editorial.

Your sincerely

CYRIL G. PRIMMER

Senator for Victoria


Senator PRIMMER —I remind this chamber again that no answers have yet been given to the many questions I have asked on this issue over the past months. If there is nothing to hide, why have these questions not been answered? At the end of last session the Attorney-General tabled a report from the Ombudsman, Professor Richardson, concerning complaints of public misconduct from the Foreign Affairs people who gave evidence on the earliest set of Tehran Embassy allegations which I first raised in this chamber over two years ago. In my opinion, Senator Evans' s tabling statement was rather misleading, as was the Ombudsman's report to Mr Hayden. To illustrate this I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the letter of response to the Ombudsman dated 30 December 1983 from the leader of the three complainants, Mr D. Witheford, of Foreign Affairs, who now faces charges under the Crimes Act. I also seek leave to incorporate in Hansard Professor Richardson's reply dated 18 January 1984, which in my view does not tackle the very serious points made by Mr Witheford.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Is leave granted for the incorporation in Hansard of these two documents?


Senator Chaney —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I do so to try to simplify the matter. The convention, as endorsed by the Senate Standing Orders Committee is that where incorporation of material in Hansard is sought it should be shown to an honourable senator on the other side of the chamber. It is a little difficult to follow that procedure during an adjournment debate, but because of the contentious nature of Senator Primmer's comments, I ask you to ask him to honour that convention by letting me see the material he is seeking to have incorporated. At the moment I prefer to refuse leave and intend to do so , subject to my being able to see the letter in case it contains matters which I regard as totally inappropriate.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The attendant will take the letters to the Leader of the Opposition. I will raise the question of their incorporation at the end of Senator Primmer's speech.


Senator Chaney — I refuse leave at the moment, for reasons I wish to explain.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I call Senator Primmer.


Senator PRIMMER —I believe that those three people were harshly treated by the police. I say this having had access to most of the tape transcripts and written statements of the police investigations. Last session I informed this chamber that I would be taking up these matters with the Ombudsman. I have done so. At my request he examined the police report of investigations into later allegations made by Messrs Witheford and Henne against Mr Bowden and by other informants, who are senior people and whom I shall not name, against Sir Nicholas Parkinson and a former Ambassador to Germany. Subsequently I had a very useful conversation with Professor Richardson in the course of which it became clear to me that in many areas we agreed about the Department of Foreign Affairs . The only obvious point of disagreement we had was that he was much more relaxed than I on the question of the capacity of the Federal Police to obtain evidence of criminal offences by senior Foreign Affairs staff.

I was therefore somewhat surprised at the much more formal and less concerned tone of the Ombudsman's subsequent letter to me, dated 9 December 1983. This is indicated in my letter of reply dated 24 February 1984. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard both those letters.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I think that in view of Senator Chaney's previous remarks you should pass those letters to him, Senator Primmer. The question of their incorporation will be raised at the end of your speech.


Senator Chaney —Are these all the letters which Senator Primmer is seeking to have incorporated in Hansard? Are they all there?


Senator PRIMMER —If they are not all there, I have neglected to bring them with me.


Senator Chaney —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. I am examining a letter given to me by Senator Primmer dated 6 March from him to the editor of the Canberra Times. I also have a letter addressed to Professor Richardson dated 30 December 1983 from Mr Witheford. I have a letter dated 18 January 1984 to Mr Witheford from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Richardson, and a letter to Senator Primmer dated 9 December 1983 from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Richardson. I am in the process of perusing those. Until I have done so, I would refuse leave to incorporate them in Hansard for the reason I explained earlier.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The question of incorporation can be raised at the end of Senator Primmer's speech, if Senator Chaney has had a chance to read them by then.


Senator PRIMMER —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. During the recess I was shocked to learn of the suspension and subsequent charging under the Crimes Act of Mr Don Witheford, one of the officers involved in the Tehran Embassy allegations. On 26 January I issued a Press release expressing my concern over what had happened to Mr Witheford. It is certainly ironic that he remains suspended from duty, locked out of his office, and frankly treated in other respects like a petty criminal while Messrs Henderson and Bowden and others continue uncontrolled.

Mr Witheford's suspension and subsequent events, of course, had the effect of bringing another person into the fray-Mrs Van Dartel. Horrified, I believe, at the victimisation of Mr Witheford, Mrs Van Dartel has come out with another set of allegations against Mr Henderson. As a consequence, we have had another internal investigation which has been unable to substantiate the claims made. Frankly, internal investigations into matters such as this do not by any means turn me on. By such means justice is not seen to be done. Meanwhile, Sir Nicholas Parkinson, whose eyesight has been classified as too poor to work, not only plays tennis and runs a walnut farm but also drives around the streets of Canberra as he draws his invalidity pension of $1,000 a week.

I am heartened by the strong support given to Mr Witheford by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association in a situation in which any honest public servant could find himself or herself were he or she to stand up and be counted, as Mr Witheford has had the courage to do. I hope that the Foreign Affairs Association, with whom I have had contact in the past, will do likewise. Witheford today-tomorrow who? It becomes evident to me that this case points up the crying need within the Public Service for whistle-blower legislation, about which I have spoken in the past and which I have taken up with the responsible Minister, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters, Mr Dawkins, and with the Chairman of the Public Service Board, Dr Wilenski.

In my Press statement of 20 January I noted that I had received information that there had been what I believe to have been unauthorised persons in my office in this place during each of the first two weeks in January. My own inquiries tended to confirm that information. What their intent was I know not, but one does smell a rat, and I wonder whether they were after some evidence to try to pin something on me, on Mr Witheford or on some other person. Any such intrusion, as we are all aware, is a flagrant breach of parliamentary privilege, and I am gratified by the concern expressed by other honourable senators about such intrusions.

Finally, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, however faint. Honourable senators may recall that one of the allegations I made in relation to the Tehran affair concerned the movement of furniture, including one piano, from Tehran to Canberra on behalf of the ex-Ambassador, Mr Ivor Bowden. I am now able to report that I have been informed that, as a result of the investigations which ensued, the Department of Administrative Services has been asked to prepare for Mr Bowden an account for the component of the freight that he avoided paying for almost six years. I suppose that, if nothing else, that assurance proves that the wheels of government move slowly, and in this instance only with a bloody lot of prodding. However, I believe it is inevitable that this chamber will be hearing more of both Mr Bowden and Mr Ryan in the future.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Is Senator Chaney ready to make a decision on the incorporation of the material?


Senator Chaney —I have had a very quick look at what is quite a large amount of material. For example, the letter from Mr Witheford is seven pages long and I have had time only to scan it. I notice, however, that there is a letter from Mr Witheford to the Ombudsman which sets out complaints. There is a quite lengthy reply from the Ombudsman to Senator Primmer, not necessarily on all of the same points but answering a number. Therefore, provided that all this material is going in, if Senator Primmer seeks leave to incorporate all this material, I would not deny him leave.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for the incorporation.

The letters read as follows-

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600 30.12.83

Dear Professor Richardson, Please refer to your letter of 20 October concerning the investigations resulting from the assistance sought from your Office by Mr Henne, my wife and myself over the police investigation and other matters concerning the first set of Tehran Embassy allegations. I did not reply to your letter earlier owing to the need to inform the other complainants, one of whom is on a long term overseas posting, and to give them, and others who have been supporting us throughout the various stages of this affair, an opportunity to consider what if any further action should be taken in the light of your report. While this letter takes into account to the maximum extent possible the views of my co-complainants and our various advisers, it has not been cleared point by point with any of them. This is partly due to the clear impression gained that you would see no advantage in further exchanges about the first police investigation. While your view is noted, it is felt that a number of points have to be registered with you and this I will do as briefly as possible.

While your report was a very disappointing one from our point of view-and you will not be surprised to know that we continue to believe that there was police misbehaviour-I wish to place on record our gratitude to you and your staff not only for the amount of time spent on the report but also for the moral support provided at what was a very difficult and stressful time for all three of us.

A general point I will make is that the police attitude in discussion with all three of us was a clear example of what unfortunately remains the automatic reaction of law enforcement authorities towards whistleblowers in the bureaucracy. My motives, my efficiency, and my emotional stability were raised over and over again as was the possibility that I had breached other laws in seeking to bring the Tehran allegations to attention. This was done so vigorously that my wife, who is not normally thus disposed, was driven to tears. A further witness, who was poised to approach the police for an interview, stayed his hand, following my advice to him of what had happened to my wife and myself on 13 August, 1982. None of us, nor any of those whom we have shown the transcripts of interview, believe that these can simply be passed off as ''plain speaking''. It horrifies me to realise that the police would feel quite free to treat others in exactly the same way or, perhaps, in the case of suspects, especially those of lower social-economic status, even more discourteously. In saying this, however, I would register with you that I am aware of and applaud the prompt and effective way you achieved redress for Mr A. T. R. Griffiths from Mr Hayden's office, who had been treated abominably by a group of senior Foreign Affairs and AFP personnel very similar to those that Mr Henne, my wife and I faced.

I.I.D. Investigation

I would like to record that in discussion about the police tapes of interviews, Dr Preston put it to me firmly that the police were not worried about the contents of the tapes, since, if they had been worried, they could easily have destroyed them. I hardly need to say that that is a remarkable point of view. He also urged me to accept what he said was his view, viz. the Internal Investigations Division was completely trustworthy. I was concerned to receive the impression that the IID report not only ''cleared'' the police officers involved but praised them.

(a) Breach of confidentiality-While you understood what we meant by this phrase , the IID obviously did not. Their canvassing of the code names is irrelevant. Our complaint was that the police officers did not treat as confidential expressions of opinions or facts which had more or less clearly been communicated ''in confidence'' and which in many cases they had revealed for no good reason to the other interviewees. To state the obvious, if police did not hold their sources of information on criminal matters closely, their sources would quickly dry up. Their regard for confidentiality is, however, very strong with respect to the police reports themselves! I have been unable to achieve access to them.

(b) Descriptions of allegations as baseless-Your view on this is noted. However I would draw to your attention two points which would tend to raise a serious questionmark about the baselessness of these allegations and subsequent ones:

(i) a large number of allegations have subsequently been made against this suspect and others; these seem to have substance and there has been a deliberate effort made to avoid tackling or investigating some;

(ii) according to Hansard, Mr Loveday-the target of later allegations of which he was ''cleared''-will not be getting any further overseas postings; there are strong rumours circulating to the effect that a similar decision has been taken in respect of the suspect, who has been back in Canberra for 5 1/2 years.

(c) Police criticism of me-The IID view on this matter is not shared by us (my para 3 refers). Wallace was, with scant subtlety, conveying those assertions to my wife, just as they would have been conveyed to him by the Departmental contact.

(d) False claims that witnesses had changed their evidence-It is rather peculiar if the police questioning elicited different stances from witnesses than they had adopted previously and, in the case of Henne and Johns at least, subsequently as well (including in Hansard). As you know Henne has alleged that there was a transparent ''stage setting'' operation by the police, before the tape recorder was turned on.

(e) Absence of documents-As I informed Dr Preston some time ago, the police had not been shown X/A files relating to me or others; indeed these files were later also concealed from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the President of which rebuked my Department publicly. At the time of the interviews the police betrayed an ignorance of my communications with Mr Street and, subsequently, a lack of interest in those I passed to them.

I disagree with your view of the significance that there was no complaint about my earlier interview with the Police. What is significant is that the first interview covered the ground entirely, thereby tending to prove that the second was purely a bullying exercise.

On the question of criminal intention, the impression I gained was that the suspect had, on several occasions, claimed ignorance of the law/regulation in which he was in breach and the police had accepted this without concern. On the removals matter (which I'll cover later) Dr Preston was informed that separate evidence was held directly relevant to criminal intention. That appears to have been ignored in your report.

While I do not intend to go over each of the allegations again, I would draw to your attention that it is the view of many that the wilful submission of false accounting certificates is a serious matter for which the law provides heavy penalties; it is not just an administrative blemish. Overall our advisers continue to agree with our view that there was not in fact a ''complete lack of any evidence of criminal action''.

You refer in passing to the fact that the allegation had already been investigated by the Department of Finance. Please refer to our frequently stated serious criticism of that investigation. These were also made personally by Mr Henne to Dr Preston. None of them has ever been explained or denied.

Mr Lucas' disavowal of the influence of one or more Foreign Affairs Officers sits oddly with the secrecy being maintained over the details of those contacts, one of which appeared to occur in the course of my interview on 13 August, 1982. My principal concern is with contacts between Lucas/Wallace and a particular senior officer of my department. It remains my understanding that Inspector Whiddett withdrew from the investigation before any witnesses were questioned. In any event Mr Whiddett's attitude as expressed to me was very different to the extravagant and misleading terms of his Minister's letter to Mr Street (quoted in Mr Street's statement (26/8/82).

Our view remains that the investigating officers by whatever means-and note carefully Mr Henne's allegation about their off-tape conduct-achieved results at odds with views separately expressed by a number of interviewees, both before and after the police investigation.

Incidental issues

Number of complaints-Our principal concern remains that those protecting Mr Bowden's interests were at pains to emphasise that the allegations/complaints had been from only one person (''and no-one supports him''). As you know all three of us viewed ourselves as co-complainants and did everything we could to convince you of that. We were, of course, interviewed separately. Concern is felt at the informal contacts between your Office and Mr Street's on this particular point. Our belief is that Street's staff, under pressure from their Foreign Affairs superiors, approached you with the single goal of saying you had endorsed the view that there was ''only one'' complainant.

Objectionable material off the record-Your dismissal of the most serious implications of the sort of conduct off-tape alleged by Mr Henne is unacceptable . This sort of prompting, particularly when applied to junior officers, such as Mr Sergi, already under pressure in the workplace, will inevitably result in many giving the answers they think the police want. Your glib dismissal of the veracity of Mr Henne's claims in this regard is unacceptable, even offensive. It seems that neither you nor the I.I.D. have bothered to consider the importance of putting Mr Henne's allegation to the detectives. Are you assuming that both would deny it completely?

Retrieval of the R-file-It must have been crystal clear to your Office that there had been a considerable breach of faith in the timing and nature of the transmittal of the ''R''-file to you. We were likewise amazed to learn much later that you had let it out of your hands. As advised earlier, Dr Preston was told that evidence relating to criminal intention in this matter was held separately, as were photocopies of the relevant papers on the file. I understand that you are now examining the second police report. These particular allegations have obviously not been properly investigated, especially since neither Mr Henne nor I have been questioned about them.

Orchestration-Continuing secretiveness both by the Department and the AFP about their contacts on this matter would suggest to almost anybody that there is something to hide under this heading.

Nobbling of the IID investigation-At the time Dr Preston agreed IID had done the wrong thing. We persist in our belief that the Department's reaction-viz. to deal with the IID approach as if Mr Smith had authority to release Mr Henne-was also improper.

Variants of our complaints-I see no point repeating our views on items (i) to ( v) other than to say that those who have seen the transcripts share our view that the tapes speak for themselves.

Questions raised on transcripts

A1

It seems that neither the Ombudsman nor the AFP has seen the evidence which I raised with Dr Preston. Your view on the importance of Mr Lindeman is at odds with that put to me by Dr Preston-obviously Mr Lindeman's assertion would constitute evidence against Mr Bowden.

A2-5

The problem is that they seem to have accepted claims of ignorance of laws/ regulations by the suspect without quibble.

A11

I disagree entirely on this point. Isn't ''a bit improper'' roughly equivalent to ''underhanded''? Bear in mind that most would believe that Henne was, as he has stated, dealing with police who had ''programmed'' the interview before turning on the tape.

A12

Johns' advice is incomplete, Sergi's incorrect. Henne had collaborated and later continued to do so e.g. see Hansard of 16 November, 1982.

A13

Johns' views on the nanny affair have remained constant for twenty years and up to this very day-except for the time he spent with the detectives. I can only think that they succeeded in (temporarily) moving his long-established stance on this particular issue. Subsequently he was sufficiently moved to write to Senator Primmer on this issue, as Hansard records.

B1

The X/A files were concealed from the police, the Ombudsman, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Public Service Board. My X/A file contains material relevant to the allegations against Bowden.

B3

I'd contest this on the basis of my knowledge of the X file. In my view Wallace demonstrates bias and a sort of amateur psychiatry that police sometimes engage in.

B4

I do. Was the suspect's wife questioned about her husband in these terms?

B5

My views and Mr Henne's on the Finance Report are comprehensive, firmly held and have been totally ignored.

B6

But it proves programming by a Foreign Affairs officer working to ''clear'' the suspect.

C2

It strains credulity to portray Wallace as aggressively seeking evidence against the suspect-if he'd been on that tack, the suspect would have been charged with uttering a false certificate, to give one example.

C3

Our suspicion is that Wallace may have been seeking a name to pass to the Department.

C5

Our concern is that the police were trying to close the whole thing down i.e. that by whatever means they were trying to prevent officers in Foreign Affairs coming forward with allegations against senior officers, as in fact happened subsequently. I would submit that this is both improper and illegal.

I wish to record our very serious concern, which was expressed orally to Dr Preston-that your Office had provided information, last May, to Mr Hayden or to others, which had been employed in the Minister's speech, which was unfairly critical of me, amongst others. In my view that represented an inexcusable breach of confidentiality. A further recent example was your letter of 14 December to Mr Hayden which was tabled on the following day, to our complete surprise. Your letter does not provide any clue to the timing or nature of the process of consultation leading up to the preparation of that letter. We don't regard your statutory right to talk to Ministers as constituting an adequate excuse for what was apparently done. I would also mention that I have become aware that another departmental officer learned of the contents of your report to us several weeks ago and has since used a distorted account of it to further a private legal action.

To cap if off I became aware on 23 December that you had some time previously conveyed some sort of information about the handling of our complaints to Mr F. C. Pryor of the Public Service Board. These various breaches of confidentiality on your part have shocked us.

As indicated earlier these are our reactions to your report. But in the interests of saving your time and ours we have not prepared a comprehensive response to you, drawing on the tapes etc etc. Since so much time has passed, and so many new allegations have been voiced against the original suspect and his colleagues, we are prepared, with reluctance, to desist from pursuing our complaints against these police officers through your Office. I would hereby note that the nature and scope of the subsequent allegations is such that many are now suggesting that the first group of allegations should be re-examined by a parliamentary committee. Let me make it clear that you cannot properly say that your Office has fully or adequately re-investigated the allegations I put to Mr Street.

Had it been agreed between your Office and ourselves that you would do so, we would have insisted on the involvement of further witnesses and documentary evidence, not to mention Mr Henne and my wife. Let me also assert that the view being put publicly that you have cleared a number of senior officers of a number of allegations is both false and misleading.

Yours sincerely, (D. W. Witheford)

Professor J. Richardson,

Ombudsman,

Prudential Building,

CANBERRA CITY A.C.T. 2601

COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN

Prudential Building, Cnr London Circuit and University Avenue, Canberra CityG.P. O. Box 442, Canberra A.C.T. 2601Telephone (062) 47 5833

REF CP83/28 18 Jan 1984 Dear Mr Witheford Thank you for your letter of 30 December 1983 about my findings in relation to your complaint against the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and related matters.

In your letter you have disputed facts and disagree with my conclusions. All I can say is that I reached those conclusions after a thorough investigation and I do not consider that there is any more I can or should do in relation to your complaint. My investigation was, of course, into your complaint against the AFP not into the allegations you originally made to the Hon. A. A. Street, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs. I made it clear in my letter to you and subsequently to the present Minister, the Hon. Bill Hayden, that I did not receive a complaint from Mr Street about those allegations and that I have not investigated them. As you know, I have reached some conclusions about actions of officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the basis of my review of the investigations by the AFP and by the Department of Finance. It is on this basis that I commented that your primary allegations were in essence allegations of defective administration. This is still my view.

You have alleged that I conveyed information about the handling of your complaint to Mr Pryor of the Public Service Board. This is not correct. An officer of the Public Service Board did seek clarification of what I was investigating. One of my officers advised him, without giving any details, that we were investigating your complaint against the AFP but not other allegations you had made. We did not provide any further comments or information.

I should point out that in writing recently to Mr Hayden I was not acting pursuant to s25 (10) of the Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981 which permits me to discuss any matter relevant to an investigation with a Minister concerned. Rather, I had decided that it was in the interests of the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as in the public interest to provide the Minister with a statement setting out the results of my consideration of your complaint. Under a new section-s41A-of the Complaints Act, I have the power to make a statement where:

''in the opinion of the Ombudsman, it is in the interests of the Australian Federal Police or any Department, prescribed authority or person (including a member), or is otherwise in the public interest, so to disclose that information or to make that statement.''

I am sorry that you are so dissatisfied with the outcome of my investigation. I note, however, that you do not propose to pursue your complaint against members of the AFP. Accordingly, I have now closed my file.

Yours sincerely, J. E. Richardson Commonwealth Ombudsman

Mr D. W. Witheford

12 Coleman Street,

Pearce, A.C.T. 2607

COMMONWEALTH OMBUDSMAN

Prudential Building, Cnr London Circuit and University Avenue, Canberra CityG.P. O. Box 442, Canberra A.C.T. 2601Telephone (062) 47 5833

REF: CP83/207 9 Dec. 1983

Dear Senator Primmer, At the close of our meeting on 25 November 1983 I told you that I would confirm in writing my conclusions with respect to your complaints about the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and related matters. In this letter I will deal first with your complaint about the AFP's second investigation and then comment on other matters we discussed at that meeting.

The AFP's second investigation covered your allegations about Mr Loveday, Sir Nicholas Parkinson's retirement, Mr Bowden's piano and his missing silverware. Ms Pidgeon of my office has examined the investigation report and all the relevant documents and concluded that the investigation was as thorough as possible in the absence of more specific leads or sources of information.

Mr Loveday

Mr Loveday's trip across the German border into Austria took place in November 1979 (not, as you believed, November 1980). The AFP investigating officers interviewed several officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs including Mr Loveday. They also examined relevant departmental files, the hotel account and the log of the car Mr Loveday used for that trip.

It is clear from those documents that the Department's Canberra office had approved Mr Loveday's proposal for a two day trip to visit the Frankfurt Book Fair, accompanied by his wife. Mr and Mrs Loveday travelled from Bonn to Frankfurt on the morning of 12 October 1979, driven by an official driver. He attended the Book Fair and gave a speech. During the afternoon he travelled to Ulm where he inspected the local university. He then travelled to Lindau for the night. The next day he visited another university in the city of Frieburg and also went over the border into Austria to the city of Feldkirch for a short time . Mr Loveday described this as a minor side visit. They then returned to Lindau for the night and travelled to Bonn the following day.

We are satisfied that Mr Loveday was entitled, as Ambassador, to decide to visit the universities in Ulm and Frieburg as part of his official duties. While there may be a question as to whether Mrs Loveday should have accompanied him on the visits to those towns, I doubt that there would have been a great saving (if any) of public money if he had driven back to Bonn immediately after the Book Fair and then set out on the trip to the universities without Mrs Loveday.

With regard to his trip over the border, I do not consider that he acted improperly in making a short private trip while in the area in the course of his official duties. the AFP believes that it was not a formal requirement for an ambassador to notify the German Government of proposed absences from the country . The Foreign Ministry did expect ambassadors to notify it of absences so that they would know who would be in charge of a mission but such notification was not warranted for a trip of only a few hours during a weekend (as in this case). Moreover, travel over the border is not unusual in Germany-for example to make use of better roads when travelling from one part of Germany to another.

I do not consider that there is any further action that the AFP or this office should take on this complaint.

Sir Nicholas Parkinson

The AFP examined medical and other records relating to Sir Nicholas' retirement and interviewed his doctor, several officers of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Health (including senior medical officers) and Sir Nicholas. They also verified the signatures on medical reports and related documents. After a thorough investigation, the AFP found no evidence of the retirement racket you believe is going on.

From our examination of the AFP's report and the relevant documents, we are satisfied that Sir Nicholas Parkinson's retirement was bona fide. We are also satisfied that the fact that he may still be capable of undertaking some employment does not imply that he should not have been retired from the Public Service as medically unfit-he was certainly unfit to continue in employment appropriate to his level and experience within the Public Service.

If there is a retirement racket going on in the Department of Foreign Affairs, the AFP found no evidence of it when investigating Sir Nicholas' retirement. Without further specific leads or sources of information neither the AFP nor my office is able to take any further action. I appreciate the difficulties you have in disclosing your sources of information but if you are able to assist the AFP any further, I strongly recommend that you do so. As I told you at our meeting, I am happy to make members of my staff available to be present at any interviews between the AFP and your informants.

Mr Bowden's silverware

As you know, I have already investigated Mr Wilson's complaint against the Department of Administrative Services concerning Mr Bowden's silverware. Mr Bowden claimed that Wilson Removals failed to deliver to him a box containing silverware valued at $1100.00 and Mr Wilson complained to me about the Department's decision that he was liable for the loss. I concluded that the complaint was unsubstantiated.

My investigation focussed in particular on the nature of the agreement between Wilson Removals and the Department but I also considered the question of whether or not the box had been included with those delivered to Mr Bowden. Wilson Removals had stored 30 boxes belonging to Mr Bowden and Mr Bowden claimed that the company delivered only 29 to him. There is no evidence of how many were delivered-the company's employees had failed to note this on the receipt signed by Mr Bowden. Mr Bowden, on the other hand, did note on his copy of the receipt that 29 boxes had been delivered. He also told the Department that he had seen the company's records which showed that four of his boxes had been stored on one pallet in the company's warehouse, but, when the time came for the boxes to be delivered, the company had taken only three from that pallet. An assessor from the Department had tried to investigate this point but the company had refused to allow him to see its records.

When the AFP interviewed Mr Wilson concerning your allegation he had been adament that his grievance was about the Department's decision, not about Mr Bowden. He also told the AFP that he did not wish to make any complaint about any of the circumstances to which you referred as he intended to take civil action against the Department. The AFP did not make any further inquiries, therefore, into the matter. In the circumstances, I consider the AFP acted reasonably in discontinuing its investigation. I have reviewed my own investigation of the complaint and have had to conclude that there is no further action I could usefully take to investigate it further.

Piano

The AFP also investigated, as part of its second investigation, the movement of Mr Bowden's piano from Tehran to Canberra. After a lengthy investigation which included interviews of officers from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Administrative Services and from the Australian National Gallery, and an examination of files and relevant documents from all three organisations, the AFP concluded that no-one had committed an offence. From our examination of the report and of the relevant documents we agree with the AFP's conclusion.

In brief, Mr Bowden included his piano in his inventory of possessions to be shipped back to Australia at the end of his Tehran posting. The Department of Foreign Affairs decided that he should pay for the transport of the piano, a piano stool and some other items as they had not been among the possessions Mr Bowden had taken to Tehran when he was appointed. At the same time the Department decided to use a container to ship his possessions to Australia, along with some paintings and other objects belonging to the Australian National Gallery. This was the cheapest method. The container was a standard size and the piano and other extra items took up space which would otherwise have remained empty. The cost to the Department was the same whether or not the piano and other extra items were included. The Department decided, therefore, to charge Mr Bowden only for the cost of packing his piano and extra items in Tehran and for the overland freight from Geelong to Canberra.

The Department billed Mr Bowden (and he paid) for the extra packing in Tehran. Once in Australia, the Department of Administrative Services transported the shipment to Canberra and billed the National Gallery for its share of the freight cost. It failed to bill either Mr Bowden or the Department of Foreign Affairs for Mr Bowden's share. The normal practice was for the Department of Administrative Services to charge the Department of Foreign Affairs who in turn would recover the money from Mr Bowden. There is no record of why the Department of Administrative Services failed to do so and we have had to conclude that it was an oversight. The Department of Foreign Affairs now regards the amount as irrecoverable as the Department did not bring it to Mr Bowden's attention within twelve months. I am currently examining this point to see whether, in fact, the amount is recoverable.

Mr Bowden did not take the initiative to pay the Department but this did not constitute an offence or a misdemeanour. He may have simply overlooked the matter. Even if he did remember the debt but decided not to do anything about it , this is not a matter I can criticise as Ombudsman.

First police investigation

The first police investigation was into allegations made by Mr Witheford about Mr Bowden. As you know we have thoroughly investigated the AFP's actions in following up those allegations. We have also investigated a number of related issues. After this substantial effort by my office, I am satisfied that Mr Witheford's allegations were without substance. I did have some reservations about a few minor aspects of the police investigation, which I mentioned to you at our meeting and which I have explained to Mr Witheford. I do not consider that these in any way reflect, however, on the impartiality or thoroughness of the police investigation.

With regard to your concern that witnesses may have been bullied by police into changing their evidence, I am satisfied that this did not occur. My staff listened to the tapes of all interviews of witnesses and confirmed that the investigation officers acted fairly and gave them full opportunity to support Mr Witheford's allegations. The witnesses did not support them.

Other matters

I have considered whether there is any action I should take to investigate other matters you have raised with me or in Parliament. As I explained to you, these are generally outside my jurisdiction as they relate to the employment of officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Section 5 (2) (d) of the Ombudsman Act 1976 provides that the Ombudsman is not authorised to investigate:

'action taken by any body or person with respect to persons employed in the Australian Public Service or the service of a prescribed authority, being action taken in relation to that employment, including action taken with respect to the promotion, termination of appointment or discipline of a person so employed or the payment of remuneration to such a person'.

In addition, I understand that a Public Service Board inquiry is looking into issues relating to the Department of Foreign Affairs' treatment of Mr Witheford and Mr Henne. In the circumstances I do not consider there is any action I can or should take on these matters.

Conclusion

Subject to any further comments you may wish to make, I propose to advise the Commissioner of the AFP that I do not intend to take any further action on these allegations. You are, of course, welcome to contact me again at any time if you obtain further information on any of these matters or are able to assist the AFP with leads or sources of information. As I have mentioned, I am following up the question of whether Mr Bowden is still liable for his share of the cost of transporting his piano and other items from Geelong to Canberra. I will write to you again on this issue.

Yours sincerely, J. E. RICHARDSON Commonwealth Ombudsman

Senator C. G. Primmer,

Parliament House,

Canberra, A.C.T. 2600

February 24, 1984 Mr J. E. Richardson,

Commonwealth Ombudsman,

G.P.O. Box 442,

Canberra, A.C.T. 2601

Dear Sir, Thank you for your letter of December 9, 1983 and my apologies for the delay in answering same.

Whilst at our meeting on November 25, 1983 you went some way towards alleviating my doubts about the matters we discussed, your letter has to some extent, served to refuel my long held suspicions that all is not well.

As one example, no account seems to have been taken of the fact that neither Mr Henne or Mr Witheford were not interviewed by the police about the removals irregularities which they had brought to Minister Street's notice in November 1982.

As you will recall, I told you of my previous experience about the meat industry scandal which left me somewhat suspicious of expressions such as 'no evidence was found by the police'.

Events have now moved on and Mr Witheford stands charged under the Crimes Act for having in his possession, certain documents. Quite frankly, it is my assessment that any public servant in Canberra worthy of his or her salt, could find themselves in the same boat. People do take work home and in all honesty, I find the charges ludicrous but that will be for the Court to decide.

Other happenings over recent weeks have tended to confirm my suspicions and these I shall hopefully, be able to follow up in the Parliament.

Yours faithfully, C. G. PRIMMER Senator for Victoria

Debate interrupted.