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Thursday, 4 May 1989
Page: 1868

Senator BISHOP(11.08) —On Tuesday of this week I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Gareth Evans, whether or not he or his Department has taken any action in response to alleged requests by Senator Graham Richardson to terminate the employment of a former research assistant and speech writer to the Australian Ambassador in Washington, a Mr Michael Davis. The Minister replied at that stage that he had no knowledge of Mr Michael Davis, but yesterday he replied in the following terms:

My Department has told me that Mr Michael Davis commenced employment with the Embassy in Washington in the locally engaged staff position of research officer to the Ambassador on 25 October 1988.

The Minister continued:

It has no record of any request or requests by Senator Graham Richardson to terminate the employment of Mr Davis. Senator Richardson has assured me-and he is an honourable man-that he made no such request. The services of Mr Davis were not terminated by the Embassy but he submitted his resignation on 21 February 1989 and left the employment of the Embassy on 29 March 1989.

The answer given by the Minister is somewhat at odds with information that has come into my possession by way of a fax which was sent by Mr Michael Davis from the Australian Embassy on 16 March 1989 on Embassy of Australia, Washington, DC, letterhead, wherein Mr Davis said that on Wednesday, 8 February 1989 the Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Max Hughes, had told him that he would have to finish up at the Embassy by the end of March 1989. Mr Davis was told that no other job at the Embassy or any of the Australian Consulates-General was available to him. The reason given was that the new Ambassador would want a new speech writer whose style was different from that of Mr Davis. Mr Davis was given to understand that his dismissal was due to inadequacy of work performance, however no indication of this was given at any stage between 26 October and 8 February. The fax continued:

The real reason is that Senator Graham Richardson, in pursuing an internal ALP struggle associated with the Kingsford-Smith preselection, has prevailed upon senior officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to effect the dismissal of Mr Davis because he is in support of the candidacy of Mr Ron Hoenig, Mayor of Botany, against Mr Laurie Brereton, the member for Heffron.

The officers in the Embassy with whom I have dealt on this matter, Mr Max Hughes and Mr Bill Rowe, the Consul-General, have been decent about this. They can tell the name of the Canberra official who gave their instruction.

Mr Peter Fitzgerald, the Mayor of Drummoyne, was told by Senator Richardson personally, `. . . and as for Davis, I'll get him'. Mr Fitzgerald, a support of Mayor Hoenig, was discussing with Senator Richardson the inappropriateness of Laurie Brereton as a Federal Labor candidate at the time of the threat.

Mr Davis then arrived back in Sydney. The concern I have is that the Minister has stated that Mr Davis did not have his employment terminated, but in fact resigned. The dates are relevant. Mr Davis asserts in his written statement, which is signed by him, that he was told on 8 February that he would have to finish up, that there was no more work for him. The Minister says that he allegedly resigned on 21 February, yet Mr Davis faxed this statement to Australia from Washington on 16 March. The dates very simply do not add up. If the situation is that either there is no letter of resignation or the letter of resignation was coerced and Mr Davis was, in fact, sacked, the Minister has indeed misled the Parliament. The determination of the right wing of the Labor Party in New South Wales to see Mr Laurie Brereton come into the Parliament and have Mr Hoenig defeated on Saturday next, 6 May, may have meant that the Department has been used as part of a faction fight, which is quite unacceptable. The matter is very serious. I have chosen to raise it in the adjournment debate tonight because I feel it is in the public interest that the matter be aired before the preselection is held on Saturday next, 6 May.