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Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1335

Senator KNOWLES (3.19 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Evans) in response to a question without notice asked by Senator Knowles this day, relating to allegations of misconduct by an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I wish to place on the record my further concern about Senator Evans's answer this afternoon to the alteration of documents by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I want to make it quite clear that the former ambassador to Chile had actually written to Senator Evans on 13 April and the former ambassador's solicitor had already written to the Minister on 11 March this year, and yet the Minister is saying that he was advised only a week or so ago.

  I am concerned that the Minister's answer related to an internal inquiry which Senator Evans has said he is quite satisfied is adequate to cover what could possibly mean criminal offences having taken place. If they are criminal offences, why on earth is it adequate for Caesar to sit in judgment on Caesar and not have the Australian Federal Police investigate such a serious allegation?

  I have a considerable amount of evidence before me to indicate that there has been an alteration in the documents. I have copies of the documents on which the alterations have quite clearly been made. I have affidavits from people who have been involved which say that the alterations have been made. The affidavit from the person who was involved in making an annotation on a document which was subsequently deleted has put in his affidavit the following statement:

In this context I should record that when the Ambassador at my request first completed OPG Form 4 "Purchase of House: Details required for evaluation", he wrote the word `Nil' against Q37: "List any repairs, renovations or additions with an estimate of costs and likely duration of work involved". When he answered this question on 16 January 1991, that was the correct answer because no additional work was then anticipated. The initial items totalling $US19,000 (over and above the price of the basic house costing $US140,300) were not extras or additions in the ordinary meaning of those terms. They were integral parts of the original house and neither I nor the Ambassador would have been associated with this proposal were that not the case. It was for that reason that I myself wrote `No' against Q37 (as I worked through the completed OPG Form 4), thus confirming what the Ambassador had written.

The Minister has now said that the deletion of the word `no' does not constitute the alteration of a document.

Senator Gareth Evans —What are you basing that on? When am I supposed to have said that?

Senator KNOWLES —The Minister said that it was going to be an internal investigation—that it was not appropriate to have the AFP investigate this—and that he was quite satisfied that the current internal investigation was adequate. I cannot believe that the Minister would yet again condone his department's setting the dogs on one individual while he has let Mr Burke and other people off scot free; yet through his departmental officers he has persecuted the former ambassador to Chile. Section 72 of the Crimes Act 1914, which is included in the DFAT security instructions manual, states:

  Any person who, being a Commonwealth officer, fraudulently and in breach of his duty:

  (a) makes any false entry in any book, record or document . . .

  (c) by act or omission falsifies any book, record or document . . .

shall be guilty of an indictable offence.

  Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.

Today the Minister has clearly shown that this is not an important issue. Why is he getting his department to constantly fabricate evidence against the former ambassador? Why is he constantly ignoring the facts that have been put before him and his department? Why is he now saying that Caesar sitting in judgment on Caesar is an adequate response? It clearly is not. The Minister has been negligent in his responsibilities in not taking heed of the evidence that has been placed before him, initiating the investigation by the AFP and making sure that it was the AFP investigating what these departmental officers had done, because quite clearly these documents have been changed.