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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1198


Senator WALTERS(10.37) —Following Question Time today, I sought leave to make a brief statement to correct an answer given by Senator Gareth Evans in reply to a question by Senator Aulich. Senator Evans has once again misled this chamber. I quote this statement from Mr Neil Robson, Member of the House of Assembly of Tasmania:

In February 1984 I attended the European Management Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

While I was at Davos I collected a large number of conference and other papers.

The conference papers came in a plastic briefcase, as is usual at conferences of this kind. The officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Trade Commission had been most helpful to me and the officials travelling with me during our stay in Davos . . . and had indicated that if they could help in anyway to let them know.

As I was travelling on to other European cities and then to Japan and Hong Kong after leaving Davos, I asked them if they would be kind enough to send some papers and other things back to Australia for me.

I needed more room in my luggage to carry some additional promotional material on Tasmania with me.

This promotional material had been sent direct to Davos from Tasmania. I had not been carrying it with me before I arrived there, so if I was to take it on with me I needed to make room in my luggage.

I then added a few personal items to the conference papers. This was done in the presence of the Commonwealth officers who then sealed it with tape they had brought with them.

As Senator Evans has been kind enough to remind me, these items included some dirty socks, some toilet soap and an old razor.

I had no idea what method the officers would use to send the briefcase back to Australia.

I am aware of the question asked by Senator Aulich today and the answer given by Senator Evans.

It appears that Senator Evans may have misled the Parliament when he claimed: ``Mr Robson visited the Australian Embassy in Berne and handed in a plastic container for return to Australia''.

I did not visit the Australian Embassy in Berne in 1984.

In fact, I did not visit Berne at all in 1984.

The officers at Davos were well aware of the other things in the plastic briefcase....they had been present when I packed it....and had even supplied the tape to seal it up.

I later received a letter from the Australian Customs Service informing me that the briefcase had been detained.

I gather this kind of thing must be common because it was a roneod letter with the appropriate spaces filled in.

A copy of that letter is attached.

Also written on the letter is a note from my Executive Officer at that time which says: ``Spoke to Miss J. Hollins and explained situation that no intention to forward via diplomatic pouch. She advised that she will arrange for papers to be forwarded as soon as possible. The toiletries will follow later after documentation is cleared up''.

The date of that note was March 13.

The Department of Foreign Affairs later wrote to me asking me to reimburse the Department an amount of $60.37.

This amount was duly reimbursed by personal cheque.

This attempt at smear and innuendo is just the latest in a whole series the ALP has launched against me in recent months.

As I said in the House the other day, they are desperate and will do anything, say anything to try to win votes in Bass.

I have topped the poll in the last two elections and all our research shows I will top it again this time.

Senator Aulich could not even win one of the seven Wilmot seats at the last State election....so they pensioned him off to Canberra.

As for Senator Evans....I have yet to hear him offer to reimburse the Australian taxpayers for his outrageous misuse of RAAF aircraft to spy on Tasmania during the dam debate.

If they want to hang dirty linen on the line, let them hang their own.

That is where the statement from Mr Neil Robson ends. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), who is present, to let Senator Evans know that this chamber does not appreciate his misleading the Senate and asks for his apology.