House of Representatives
2 April 1968

26th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.ra.: and read prayers.

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Mr CLYDE CAMERON presented a petition from certain employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in South Australia praying that the Postmaster-General’s Department be permitted to grant permanent status to any temporary employee who has completed twelve months’ satisfactory service.

Petition received and read.

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Prime Minister · Higgins · LP

– 1 wish to inform the House that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) left Australia this morning to lead an Austraiian delegation to the dedication of the Commonwealth war graves cemetery at’ Ambon. Mr Nixon will also visit war graves at Labuan and posts of the Australian News and Information Bureau in Djakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. He expects to return to Australia on 13th April. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) will act as Minister for the Interior, and the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) will represent the Minister for Customs and Excise in this chamber. 1 also wish to inform the House that tomorrow the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) will leave Australia to attend the annual meeting of Governors of the Asian Development Bank in Manila. Mr McMahon expects to be absent for about 8 days. I will act as Treasurer during this period.

The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) will also depart tomorrow for a 3-day visit to New Zealand to attend meetings of South Vietnam force contributors and the Anzus Council. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) will act as Minister for Defence and will represent the Minister for .Supply in this chamber during Mr Fairhall’s absence.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has any consideration been given to an early increase in tobacco quotas? If so, what has been suggested? If not, will the Minister consider this matter and press for an increase annually?

Minister for Primary Industry · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I did announce in this House some 2 weeks ago that an increase would be made in the overall Australian tobacco quota from 26 million lb green weight to 28.S million lb green weight. The increase will be divided between the various States. The State Ministers for Agriculture have accepted that the increase will be divided according to the same formula as existed when the scheme introducing the quota of 26 million lb green weight was brought in 4 years ago.

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– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that the present tax concession for education expenses operates to the prejudice of those who, but for inadequate financial resources of their parents, would have undertaken advanced study on a full time basis, will the Treasurer, when preparing this year’s Budget, give consideration to granting the concession to parents of part time students for expenses incurred by the parents and to the student for expenses incurred by him? Will the Treasurer give consideration also to raising the arbitrary age limit at which the concession cuts out?


– It is usual at Budget time to analyse all the cases where we think the Budget can make the greatest contribution to the intellectual development of the community. So, I will have a look at the three questions raised by the honourable gentleman, that is, the expenses paid by both the parents and the child himself, the expenses of the child receiving a part time education at a university and also the final question relating to age limits. The decision will be announced in the Budget itself.

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- Mr Speaker, I am not as inquisitive as I used to be. But 1 wish to ask the Prime Minister this question: Has his attention been drawn to a news item in the Melbourne Roman Catholic journal Advocate’, which is incomparably and indisputably the best Roman Catholic journal published in Australia, in its edition of 14th March last which stated that the Catholic Relief Organisation in Europe known as Caritas International’ was sending medical aid to both North Vietnam and South Vietnam, and that this was being done in response to an appeal by the Pope to alleviate the sufferings on both the North Vietnam and South Vietnam sides of the Vietnam war? Is the Prime Minister aware that material of various kinds to relieve suffering is being sent to North Vietnamese authorities and South Vietnamese authorities in response to the appeal by the Pope and that the World Council of Churches has sent similar aid in its own name to both sides? If so, what will happen to any Anglican or Roman Catholic archbishop or bishop or to any other church leader m Australia who violates the provisions of the Defence Force Protection Act 1967, which makes it an offence to send money or medical aid to North Vietnam, by sending money to the Pope or to the World Council of Churches that might be spent in North Vietnam to alleviate suffering? Most importantly


-Order! The right honourable member’s question is far too long. I ask him to direct his question.


– I am doing so now. Most importantly, what will happen to me who arn a Papal Knight if I send money to the Pope to support his great humanitarian work of aiding the North Vietnamese civilians and others, who are the victims of the napalm and phosphorous bombs dropped on them by the United States Air Force?


Mr Speaker, the answer to the right honourable member’s question is: No, my attention has’ not been drawn to the article in the newspaper to which he refers. On the quotation which he made from the ‘Advocate’ I would not be prepared to base any answer, but if he cares to bring along the full text to me I will be happy to discuss it with him. It is quite impossible, of course, for me to indicate to him, in answer to a completely speculative question, what would happen to somebody who did something in the future, and especially what would happen to the right honourable gentleman, who is a Papal Knight, because I have no responsibility whatever for his being a Papal

Knight and I would not have any responsibility for anything that happened to him in that capacity.

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– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. I refer to the pamphlet entitled ‘Background to the Pensioner Medical Service’ that was issued in January by the Australian Medical Association. I ask: Have the contents of this pamphlet been assessed? Is the information provided factual? Has the honourable gentleman any additional information to provide to the House?

Minister for Health · BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– I have seen this pamphlet. It is a fairly lengthy pamphlet, as the honourable gentleman knows, and I am sure that he would not expect me, in answer to a question without notice, to discuss it in detail. All I can say in a broad form in respect to it is that it has been studied by me as an indication of the views and opinions held by the Australian Medical Association, but as always there can be a difference of interpretation of particular facts in this situation. I think that is all that I would be prepared to say in a general sense in answer to the question.

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Mr J R Fraser:

– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Can he explain the cause of the delay within his Department in the preparation of strata titles legislation for the Australian Capital Territory? Does the Minister realise that this legislation has been under consideration by experts in his Department and the Department of the Interior for something like 4i years? Does he also realise that within this House his predecessor and he have given assurances from time to time that this legislation will shortly be available? Does the Minister recognise that the lack of strata titles legislation is holding up multistorey housing projects in Canberra? In an endeavour to speed the process would he consider co-opting Kathleen Mavourneen to assist the Committee investigating the matter?


– The subject of preparing an ordinance on unit titles has been under consideration for some considerable period. At one time we were waiting for the New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian legislation covering strata titles to be passed. We now have that. Difficulties have been experienced in the Australian Capital Territory because of, particularly, the leasehold nature of the title. Honourable members will understand that a strata title gives a title up in the air on a particular floor and then above that. If this is based on a head-lease and is a title to a sublease the problems that occur if there is forfeiture of the head-lease, and the obligations to insure and so on, are very considerable. I will not go into them in detail. I have adopted the expedient of appointing a committee consisting of a lecturer from the Australian National University who is experienced in real property law, a representative from the Australian Capital Territory Law Society as well as people from my own Department. They have been meeting once a week and they have made very considerable progress with this difficult subject. I am not going to hold out hope of a very early ordinance on the subject but I am assured that considerable progress has been made.

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– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Last Wednesday the right honourable gentleman heard the Deputy Prime Minister say that a man whose company has a representative in the Parliamentary Press Gallery was himself a paid secret agent of a foreign government. He will have learned that the following day the Treasurer said that having attended overseas conferences at ibc same time as this man, he had no grounds at all for believing him to be an agent. So that such allegations may be promptly and surely substantiated or refuted in tha tut ure, has the right honourable gentleman considered following the American legislation which requires lobbyists to register with and report to the Clerks of the Houses?


– I am not aware of any consideration having been given *o the proposal that lobbyists - that is, people representing particular interests and seeking to persuade a legislature to adopt courses which are in favour of those interests - should be registered; should ia some way have their names put on a list and be known. Before I could say whether the suggestion is good or not I would need to have much more time to consider it and to consider what possible legal implications there might be in it.

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– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. When a school teacher in New South Wales is ballotted for national service and is called up for training, is his loss in pay made good by the New South Wales Department of Education? If so, is there any action open to the Minister to take to have this principle made uniform throughout the States?

Minister for Labour and National Service · WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– My general understanding is that all employees of the New South Wales Government, whether teachers or otherwise, have their pay made up during national service, just as they did when serving during the last war, assuming, of course, that their Public Service pay is higher than their Army pay. As regards employers generally, this matter was considered by my predecessor when the legislation was being drafted. However, it was not considered practical to do anything in the matter having regard to the variety of employers from whom national service trainees are drawn. In many cases these are small employers, probably with very limited means or capacity to make up pay. Also, many young men ballotted for national service have their training deferred for several years, enabling them to earn much more than they would if they were called up immediately. I should point out that it has come to my knowledge that many national servicemen have saved considerable sums of money during their Army careers. I understand that our Army - I have not checked this claim in detail - is the highest paid in the world. We certainly could not place on a multitude of employers the obligation to make up the pay of their employees called up for national service. All national service trainees are doing the same job and to have them receiving different rates of pay while doing the same job might be considered inequitable. National service training is universal. It is an obligation which rests on every individual wherever he comes from.

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– Was the Minister lor the Navy consulted or advised before the President of the United States of America ordered the American Navy to cease shelling North Vietnam? Has the honourable gentleman issued a similar order to the Royal Australian Navy?

Minister for the Navy · WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is no.

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Mr Andrew Jones:

– Will the PostmasterGeneral advise what steps are being taken to ensure that postal employees currently being retrenched due to their temporary positions are given every assistance to find suitable alternative employment? Many employees in this category, being unable to obtain a permanent position due to health, age or qualifications, find themselves, at the age of 50 years or over-


-Order! The honourable member is now giving information. I ask him to complete his question.

Mr Andrew Jones:

– Could the PostmasterGeneral give the House any concrete proposal which will ensure that there is a minimum of family upset and disappointment to the many people who have performed excellent services?

Postmaster-General · PETRIE, QUEENSLAND · LP

– I am sure the honourable member appreciates that under the Public Service Act employees in most spheres of the Commonwealth must be permanent public servants, if such people are available. People who are taken on in a temporary capacity understand quite clearly the temporary nature of their employment. It may last for a short period or it may last for a long period. But if, in fact, a great number of people qualify by the usual examination to become permanent public servants, then they must, under the Act, be appointed to replace temporary public servants. It i:. the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service, through the Commonwealth Employment Service to assist in finding employment for people who are displaced.



– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Will the American decision to ground the Fill following two crashes delay the delivery of the aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force?

Mr Gorton:

– I think it is more appropriate for the Minister for Defence to answer this question.

Minister for Defence · PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– In the first place it is not certain that the aircraft have been grounded. In the second place, these aircraft are on war service evaluation. There is nothing to indicate that it will have any effect on the delivery of our aircraft in July this year.

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– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has seen an article in this morning’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ commenting on the excess of Defence spending over Estimates so far this financial year? Would the Minister care to say anything about the figures quoted in the article?


– I have seen the article published in this morning’s edition of the newspaper. There may be some misunderstanding arising from these figures. It appears that they were taken from the National Accounting Estimates which were prepared by the Statistician’s Branch of the Treasury. In fact, for accounting reasons, these figures are not always on the same basis as those of the Defence Estimates. There are certain items of Defence expenditure which do not appear in the National Accounting Estimates and there is sometimes a different basis used for taking in items of expenditure. The National Accounting Estimates, for instance, are on a delivery basis and deal with equipment whereas those under the Defence Estimates are on a basis of payment. I can tell the honourable member that under normal circumstances there is a review of Defence expenditure about every 3 months. The review carried out most recently, in the last few weeks, in conjunction with Treasury, indicates a probable expenditure this year of $1,1 15m against an estimate of $1,1 18m. Therefore, expenditure is on target.

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– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that couples with capital of up to $4,000 are being refused banc finance of $7,000 for home building, especially by banks with which they bank, has any investigation been undertaken to ascertain the percentage of loans from investment capital that banks are making available for housing as against the amount of money such banks are channeling into finance companies for other forms of borrowing? Are banks which are financially interested in finance companies lending money at flat rates of interest - in many instances much higher than bank interest rates - entitled to register as approved lenders under the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation? If so, why? Further, will the Treasurer say whether the establishment of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation was designed to assist people to buy their own homes? If so, why are they being compelled to seek finance from institutions whose main purpose in business is profit irrespective of how it is gained?


– As to the first part of the honourable member’s question, the only information I can give him is that the trading banks and the savings banks this financial year are making about $600m available for housing purposes. This is an all time record. In addition I made it clear in the House only a few days ago that the number of commencements of homes - that is, unit homes - is now running again at an all time record level and this year should exceed the record rate of 118,000 last year. There is no pressing need to increase the number of commencements and consequently the amount of finance that is being made available. I cannot give the honourable gentleman an immediate answer to the second part of his question, which related to insurance. It was highly technical. I will get an answer and let him know what it is.

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– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that Australia has withdrawn the ban on imports of fancy cheeses made from unpasteurised milk? I inform the House that pasteurisation means heating milk to a temperature between 160 and 180 degrees and holding it at that temperature for 12 seconds. What are the names of the countries involved, and what human and animal diseases that can be eliminated by pasteurisation exist in those countries? Is it a fact that all milk used for Australian cheese making must be pasteurised? Is it a fact that a good deal pf milk is now being diverted from butter making to cheese making and that Australian-made cheese meets competition from cheese made in countries that have an unfair advantage on health grounds?


– I should perhaps say first that the purpose of our quarantine regulations is to protect the Australian people and the Australian animal and plant industries from diseases that could come from overseas. They are not intended to protect Australian industry from foreign competition. That is more appropriately done by means that are under the control of my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry. It is true that the regulations mentioned by the honourable member were withdrawn temporarily when it was discovered that a number of countries would have considerable difficulty in implementing them. In addition, new information had become available since the National Health and Medical Research Council made its recommendation in respect of this matter. It was decided to send the question back to the Council for another view. The Council then expressed the view that the Australian public could be protected against brucellosis militensis in cheese - this was the objective on the first occasion rather than the protection of the animal population - by a process that involved storage at a given temperature for a period. Ever since the Council made that recommendation, discussions have been going on among the Food Standards Committee of the Council, my Department, the Department of Primary Industry and the industry itself to try to find a satisfactory way to define the safeguards in regulations. I have high hopes that this process will be completed in the near future and that once again we will be able to introduce the regulations in a form that will protect the Australian public against the introduction of brucellosis ma.tensis in cheese.

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Dr J F Cairns:

– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Does he consider that his exposure of Japan’s trade policy, considered by many to be an attack on Japan, can help Australia in her trade relations with Japan? Is the Minister able to indicate any positive action that he can take to ensure the development of the Australian motor vehicle industry without endangering Australian export? Has he sought any advice on this matter from the Tariff Board, the motor vehicle industry or perhaps his colleague, the Treasurer, and does he consider that the House may be of any use to him in arriving at a solution to this difficult problem? If the Minister has not sought any such advice, will he do so, particularly that of the House, by making a statement so that the House may assist if it can?

Deputy Prime Minister · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– I have made it clear in regard to what the honourable gentleman has described as my exposures of Japanese trade practices - and I would not accept the description - that I have said nothing in the House that I have not said at high official level in Japan. I have pointed out to successive Japanese Prime Ministers, to the Japanese Ministers for International Trade, and to the minister responsible for international trade policies, that is the Foreign Minister, as well as to senior Japanese officials, the disabilities under which Australian trade labours, not particularly in the case in recent years of motor cars but especially in the case of motor cars some years ago. I have pointed out to the Japanese Prime Ministers the disabilities of our sugar industry. It is true that Japan buys more sugar from us than does any other country. But it is also true that the lower we price our sugar the more profit the Japanese Treasury receives, as I have pointed out to this House previously. This is clearly the case and Mr Sato, the present Prime Minister of Japan, has conceded that it is so. Humourously, he pointed out to me that he was the Finance Minister who introduced the legislation and that if I spoke the Japanese language I would understand that the name Sato means sugar in Japanese. So, he pointed out, he quite clearly understands the case for sugar.

The same situation applies in respect of disabilities encountered by our meat trade. I deferred the reaffirmation of the Australia-Japan Trade Treaty for 6 months while I tried to get Japan to agree to import 7,000 tons of beef, not from Australia, but from the whole of the world. This has been clearly canvassed. The quoting of a sweet potato industry which produces glucose is one of the reasons why there should be a high duty against Australian sugar. There have been the comparative valuations of Australian wheat and wheat from western America and western Canada. The Japanese pointed out over a number of years that our wheat was fit only for stock feed.

They said it was not fit for bread-making. I had to argue about this. Indeed, for years our wheat was used only for stock feed. We had to send experts from Australia to show the Japanese how to make noodles from Australian wheat. Now we have an increased trade.

I have pointed out to the House that we spent 2 years in trying to obtain permission to sell one motor car to Japan. Today there are spokesmen, not for the Japanese Government, but for the Japanese motor car industry, who feel that the export of 36,000 Japanese cars a year to Australia is not enough and that there should not be any inhibitions about even more being sold. These things are completely understood. What has been described as an attack by me on the Japanese trade practices is so well known in Japanese circles, both commercial and political, that there is no need for me to reiterate it. But there is a need to reiterate it to my Australian compatriots who believe that the Japanese will resent it and will take some obstructive action against our exports to Japan if there is not a completely open go for Japanese textiles, motor cars, chemicals and engineering goods to come into Australia. I have pointed out that in some cases the Japanese would be hard put to it to discover any further obstructive action they could conceivably take against our products. On the other hand, I point out quite clearly that the Japanese Trade Agreement is based on two things - an agreement that neither Australia nor Japan should discriminate against the other, and, from Australia’s point of view, an agreement that Japan would not impose a duty on Australian wool unless Japan imposed a similar duty on comparable textile fibres.

The renewed Agreement and the consequences of the Kennedy Round negotiations preserve the element of nondiscrimination. It would be completely impossible for an Australian government to discriminate against Japanese trade alone. If we want to limit the importation of a certain kind of motor car, we’ cannot do so in respect of Japanese vehicles alone, because we have signed a treaty providing that we would not do so; we should have to do it in respect of vehicles of that type imported from any country. So there is a complete misunderstanding on the part of elements of the public, certain industrial organisations, particularly the graziers, and especially the financial writers and the leader writers of some of the great daily newspapers, who are having a heyday. It is beyond the freedom allowed us by the Japanese Trade Agreement to impose restrictions discriminating against Japan alone. But, just as the Japanese reserve to themselves unlimited rights to protect their own industries, so they understand that we have had at all times, and have today, unlimited rights to protect our own industries. If any Australian person, organisation or party believes that we should surrender our right to protect our own industries, I should like that person or the representatives of such an organisation or party to speak up and let us know who it is that takes this view.

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– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. He will be aware of the advocacy for a better deal for rural telephone subscribers and of the urgent need to relieve many of them of the high cost incurred when manual services are converted to the automatic system. I ask: Does the Minister know that the policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department, or perhaps I should say of the Government, relative to this subject is out of date? Can members who represent rural telephone subscribers who are adversely affected depend on the cooperation of the Postmaster-General in overcoming this problem?


– I understood that the honourable member had taken this matter up with the Prime Minister and that the right honourable gentleman had indicated that it was under investigation. If there are members representing rural electorates who would like to come and see me at a time that we can arrange, I shall be pleased to discuss the situation with them.

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– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. Is he aware that there is a growing area of criticism as a result of last Friday’s television programme received via a communications satellite? Is he aware also that this criticism suggests that, in contrast to the Japanese presentation, the Australian production showed up in a very poor light? Does the Minister agree with this view?


– I saw the programme to which the honourable member refers. Members of this House have constantly indicated to me that they believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should have complete autonomy in programming. I should like to know whether the honourable member is now suggesting that that autonomy should be taken away and that such matters should now be put in my hands.

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– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. He recently promised to inquire into the circumstances in which eviction notices were served on three residents of the Vasey Homes, in Hawthorn, Victoria. I ask: Has the Minister made those inquiries? If so, can he inform the House of the result of his investigations?

Minister for Social Services · MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I have made some inquiries into this matter. I promised to look into it, not because the Government wants to interfere in the running of these homes but because it was suggested to me that some legal irregularity was involved. I understand that the matter is at present before the courts and is sub judice. I am, therefore, unable to say anything about this particular case. However, let me say, in general, that in this kind of case, when a home is vacated, or moneys otherwise fall into the hands of the people who are running the homes they can use these moneys in any of various ways: To improve the running of the homes; they can make available, as the Government hopes they will, homes without premium of entry; they can make refunds to the people who vacate the homes or to their estates; or, as it would appear in this case, they can use the moneys for the provision of the capital sums required in addition to the Government subsidy for the total care homes which are being established in conjunction with these homes. This particular case is before the courts. The question of whether or not there is any legal liability is one for the courts to determine and, since the matter is sub judice, I shall not comment further.

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– I address a question to the Prime Minister. On the Japan-Australia television programme he stated that he desired to establish friendly relations and to promote trade with Japan. Will he inform the House what action he proposes to take to correct statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister and to restrain the Deputy Prime Minister from making statements which are damaging to our good relations with Japan and thereby are prejudicing the sale of Australian wool and other primary products?


– This must be one of the most extraordinary questions ever asked in this House of the Parliament, adverting as it does to the Deputy Prime Minister who is the man more responsible than any other Australian for having so greatly expanded the trade between Australia and Japan to our mutual benefit since the signing of the Japanese and Australian trade treaty which honourable members may remember was so much objected to by the Opposition.

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– I direct’ a question to the Treasurer. Is it correct to assume that recent overseas investment in Australia can be attributed to the fact that investors consider our currency as safe, reliable and freely convertible? Does this indicate the growing strength of our economy and put us in the category of a hard currency country? If so, could this affect our economic policies in the future? Is there a tendency for other countries to keep part of their reserves in Australian currency?


– I would not like to use the term ‘hard currency’ in relation to the Australian dollar, because this term is normally reserved for the reserve currencies, such as the United States dollar and the United Kingdom pound. But I believe that the honourable member’s first two comments are correct. Overseas investors, particularly those with money that they wish to deposit in banks, find that Australia is a suitable country and one where they can invest with safety, so much so that in the first 8 months of this financial year there has been a capital inflow of about $700m, compared with probably $300m to $350m in the preceding year. As to the last part of the question, I think, too, that people send their funds here and are prepared to invest here because they realise that under normal circumstances they are able to repatriate their funds without great difficulty. All told, this country is regarded as having one of the most stable currencies and one of the most stable economies. Consequently it is a place where people think that they can invest profitably and without danger of losing their right to repatriate their money.



– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Does he still believe that the Fill aircraft is a super battle bird and the greatest thing with wings since angels? Does he still believe that it is the Cadillac of the air, that it flies high and low, fast and slow, throws a power punch tougher than five World War II heavy bombers and sniffs out targets like a thirsty vampire? Does he still believe that regardless of cost we will be getting our money’s worth with this aircraft or have two things happened in the last 7 days which have caused him to make a reassessment of the situation?


– When the House meets after the Easter recess I will ask for leave to make a statement which will deal with all aspects of the Fill project. 1 am sure the honourable member will be quite surprised. This Government is devoted to the preservation and extension of our great alliance with the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition has been heard to say that this is also an article of Labor Party faith. It is quite beyond my comprehension how the Opposition can become so completely delighted when a partner in a great undertaking of this kind runs into trouble with aircraft.

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– Ah!

Mr Bryant:

– You have admitted it.


– The Labor Party cannot take it. The fact is that the United States has underwritten the safety and security of our land. In the course of preparing itself to undertake that job it spent millions of dollars developing an aircraft which I can assure the honourable gentleman is still vastly superior to anything flying and anything likely to fly in the immediate future. The honourable gentleman simply does not understand the importance of these things, but I do hope that he will wipe the smile off his face when the United States runs into this kind of difficulty.

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– I would like to give some further information in answer to the. question asked me this afternoon by the honourable member for Wills. The Hansard report of his question reads:

Was the Minister for the Navy consulted or advised before the President of the United States of America ordered the American Navy to cease shelling North Vietnam? Has the honourable gentleman issued a similar order to the Royal Australian Navy?

There is room for a little misunderstanding of the question, as it may be thought that the honourable member for Wills was asking whether the President of the United States had issued a similar order to the Royal Australian Navy. The position is, of course, that the Australian naval units operating in the area are under the operational command of the United States Fleet in that area, and the honourable member may rest assured that the Royal Australian Navy will not now move in smartly and shell Haiphong.

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Ministerial Statement

Prime Minister · Higgins · LP

– by leave - Yesterday at noon, Australian eastern time, the President of the United States announced decisions lately taken concerning the war in Vietnam. Those decisions were, firstly, to build up the South Vietnamese armed forces to a planned target of 800,000 men - an increase of 135,000 - and to re-equip those augmented forces with more modern equipment from the United States; secondly, to maintain the United States forces at the level of approximately 525,000 men, which is the level of the United States forces in South Vietnam now, and to dispatch some ancillary troops to service troops which had recently been flown to South Vietnam; thirdly, to renew a resolve to continue the military struggle in South Vietnam until such time as a just and lasting peace could be worked out in that country; and, fourthly, to cease or halt aerial and naval bombardment over a major part of North Vietnam in the hope that such cessation might lead to the beginning of talks designed to secure such a just peace. I made a public statement on that matter, but I feel that I should repeat it here in the House before expanding upon it. The statement that I made is as follows:

The statement-

I am referring, of course, to the statement made by President Johnson:

  1. . re-emphasises two important aspects of the approach of the United Stales.

One is that the United States is firmly resolved to continue the military struggle to the point where it becomes recognised that talks designed to secure a just and lasting peace must take place.

The other is that the United States is prepared now, as it has been prepared in the past, to enter into such talks at once, and is prepared to make concessions in an effort to bring about such talks. The Australian Government has repeatedly indicated that it would support peace negotiations provided they held promise of leading to a just and lasting peace which effectively safeguards the security and freedom of choice of the people of South Vietnam.

The Australian Government regards this initiative by the American President as a further and significant exhibition of willingness on the part of the United States of America to engage in talks aimed at that end. The halting of bombing over most of North Vietnam, without insistence on an indication from Hanoi of a willingness to negotiate or of a reciprocal cessation of military build-up by North Vietnam, will test the willingness of Hanoi to enter into discussions aimed at a peaceful settlement of a genuine kind. We must all hope that this response by Hanoi is forthcoming quickly.

At the same time, the continuation of bombing in the area to the north of the battlefields will continue to hamper the flow of troops and war material from north to south and will not leave allied troops at too great a military disadvantage.

I now propose to expand somewhat upon that statement of the Government’s attitude.

The decision by the President to halt the bombing of the larger part of North Vietnam - a part where 90% of the population lives and works - naturally has attracted world attention. I say ‘naturally’ because of the recent suggestions made in many quarters, and supported, I understand, by U Thant, that if the United States halted its bombing of controlled and selected targets in that area, the North Vietnamese would be prepared to enter into discussions aimed at securing a just, lasting and genuine peace for the South Vietnamese. I say naturally’ also because against that hackground this gesture by the United States, giving up as it does a military advantage, is the most significant and generous gesture yet made in the hope of starting such negotiations.

It is, Mr Speaker, an extension of the offer made by the President of the United States at San Antonio last September when he publicly offered to halt the bombing of North Vietnam as soon as the North Vietnamese had indicated that such a halt would lead promptly to productive discussions. That offer was rejected by Hanoi. Now, the President has gone the second mile. Instead of saying: ‘Give us an indication that you will begin peace talks and we will then halt bombing’, the President is saying: ‘We will now halt the bombing and ask you in return to respond by beginning negotiations’. This will provide, I think, an acid test of whether Hanoi has any genuine wish to enter into peaceful negotiations or not. We all hope >they will and that Britain and the Soviet Union, to whom my Government has sent messages supporting President Johnson’s appeal, will use their best efforts to see that they do.

At the same time it is important to realise that not all bombing has been halted. In those areas contiguous to the battlefields in North and South Vietnam, those areas where North Vietnamese troops and munitions of war gather and flow towards the south, the continuation of bombardment to hamper, hinder and reduce this flow will continue. Reinforcement of men and supplies will not be stopped by this. But if even a quarter of the troops destined for the South are disabled, if even a quarter of the mortar bombs, missiles and artillery shells are destroyed before they can wreak their destruction in the South, if the time taken to transport supplies is doubled, then great assistance will have been given to Allied troops in the South and casualties among Allied troops which otherwise would have been incurred will not be incurred. That is why the President said:

  1. . I cannot ja conscience stop ali bombing so long as to do so would immediately and directly endanger the lives of our men and our allies.

I imagine there would be few Australians who would not agree with him. We for our part have consistently made it clear that we believe that there is a military advantage in the bombing of controlled and selected targets of military significance in North

Vietnam. We have as consistently made it clear that we supported the concept of halting such bombing when the North Vietnamese were prepared to enter into peace talks, subject to the military build-up in the South by the North Vietnamese not continuing because of the bombing halt. These latest proposals which continue to offer protection and support to Allied troops in the northern battlefields but which deliberately forgo the military advantage of more widespread bombing in the hope of securing the beginning of peace talks, also have our support and we hope they will be successful, for we in Australia seek, as was stated in the Governor-General’s Speech at the beginning of this Parliament:

  1. . neither the destruction of North Vietnam, nor the overthrow of the Government of North Vietnam but merely the cessation of aggression against the people of South Vietnam so that those people may, by the exercise of a franchise they have shown they know how to exercise even under the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, choose their own form of Government. We seek a just and lasting peace based on these objectives. We have supported and will support every effort for negotiation of such a peace.

This latest initiative is an effort to begin such negotiations for such a peace. We hope, and I think all Australians hope, that this objective will be attained. It is now for Hanoi to respond and to show whether this peace initiative will or will not be rebuffed, whether this significant concession will or will not be ignored, whether the war will continue at its present tempo or whether, if progress is made in peace talks, it may abate. But we should not lose sight in discussing this phase of the President’s statement of that reiteration in it of a firm resolve, should peace initiatives of this kind be rebuffed, to continue the struggle until it is clear to those who are aggressors that there will have to be talks which will lead to a true peace and not to something which the President described as a fake peace. We for our part are ready to stand with our allies, as we have in the war’s prosecution. We are ready to support our allies as we have in actions designed to seek talks to secure a true peace. It is our hope that this latest initiative may be accepted and that those people in South Vietnam may, through it, gain those rights of self determination for the preservation of which this war began and for the restoration and preservation of which the President’s statement indicates that this war will, if necessary, be continued, but which, as a result of the initiative he has taken, offers a hope of peace talks attaining this objective without further loss of life.

I present the following paper:

Vietnam - Statement by President of United States of America-Ministerial Statement, 2 April 1968.

Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

Leader of the Opposition · WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– On the notice paper there is listed for resumption a debate on a ministerial statement made last Tuesday night - a week ago - by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). This debate will never be resumed. The Government’s policy, as enunciated by the Minister for External Affairs, is in ruins. The Minister for External Affairs and the only other Minister who spoke in the debate - the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) - are discredited on all relevant issues.

Let me recall to the House what the Minister for External Affairs said last Tuesday about bombing. He said:

But we believe that the bombing of targets in the North serves important military objectives. It is important for interdiction and for its cumulative effects. The intensity of the world-wide Communist campaign against bombing is evidence that bombing is hurting. North Vietnamese forces are fighting in the South … I ask the House: What impression of resolution and determination would the allies give to the embattled, war-torn suffering people of South Vietnam if the controlled and selective bombing of North Vietnam were to be terminated - and terminated at a time when the other side steps up the level of violence against the people of the south.

In fact the bombing has been very greatly reduced, not only against the areas of population but also against the areas of production. World opinion, including that of America’s staunchest allies in all other parts of the world, has been outraged by the attempts not only to kill the people of North Vietnam but to starve them.

Again I recall to the House what the Minister for Defence said on this matter only last Thursday. He said: we have not added yet another limitation in the form of a cessation of bombing, which is the only thing that prevents the whole of North Vietnam from being added to the demilitarised zone, Laos and Cambodia as complete sanctuaries for North Vietnamese aggressors … the aims of bombing are to bolster the morale of South Vietnam, to slow and impede infiltration from North Vietnam and to emphasise to North Vietnam the big and continuing price to be paid for continued aggression. These were the aims when bombing was instituted; these are the aims now.

No Australian Minister was consulted by the United States before the change of policy was announced. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was told by an Embassy official on Sunday afternoon. How credible is this Government - this Government which had special ties with the United States; this Government whose views were not even sought; whose views enunciated last Tuesday night and again on Thursday afternoon by members of the Cabinet have been ignored. The Prime Minister, of course, has been more prudent. He has confined his statements on bombing to television. He has not volunteered statements; be has answered questions. He has done that on television. He did it most recently at a Press luncheon in Hobart on Monday of last week, when he is reported as follows: if there were great changes in United Slates involvement in Vietnam, Australia would be forced to accept them.

If there were a complete change of policy, I think we would have a decision forced upon us not to try to do things ourselves.’

The Prime Minister’s statement showed his reluctance to follow the American change of policy and his disappointment that there had been a change of policy. Grabbing at straws, he justified a continued bombing of the area just north of the demilitarised zone where troops accumulate and where supplies are stored. He said: If one-quarter of the men are killed and one-quarter of the armaments destroyed . . ‘In fact, the most optimistic estimate which has been made for the destruction of armaments is one-quarter, I have never heard an estimate that one-quarter of the troops are destroyed.

Dr Mackay:

– Why have–


– The man of God can never refrain from his litany: Give us war in our time O Lord.

The Prime Minister clearly wants America to maintain the bombing of this southern one-tenth of North Vietnam. The Prime Minister wants to compromise and commit America to this residual bombing.

The simple fact is that the bombing policy has failed. It has been known to have failed for many months past. When last May the American Government was reassessing the whole of the efficacy and the propriety of bombing, the Australian Prime Minister at that time was instrumental in having it continued for these intervening months.

Mr McEwen:

– That is a disgraceful thing to say.


– It is true, and if you took any interest in the development of this area and its future you would know, but you preserve your scraps for more mundane temporary matters, including with your colleagues.


-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will address the Chair.


– Yesterday afternoon I made a statement, portion of which I will repeat. I said:

For the past year the Labor Party has urged the Australian Government to use its influence to change the course and conduct of the war. The Government refused to use its influence. It denied it had any influence.

The United States has now substantially changed its foreign policy along the lines Labor advocated. Any change at all towards de-escalation was denounced right up to last week by the Australian Government as ‘totally unacceptable’ to the United States.

Another course which Labor had been urging was the proposal advanced by Ambassador Goldberg last September but sabotaged by the Australian Government in the United Nations. I will read further from the statement I made yesterday.

Mr Fairhall:

– Read what I said last Thursday.


– It is as credible as the portion of your speech which I have quoted. Yesterday I said:

At any time in the last year Australia’s influence would have been crucial in bringing about the changes which the United States has now decided to make independently of Australia. Had Australia used her influence then she would have acted as a truly good ally to the United States and a truly good friend to the President.

Many Vietnamese, American and Australian lives would have been saved, needless suffering would have been avoided. We would have helped the United States to retain the diplomatic initiative at a time when the general war situation would have guaranteed greater effectiveness for her diplomacy. We would have shown a genuine policy of our own. We would have acted and not just reacted.

The Government still is reluctant to acknowledge that there has been a change of American policy. It is still reluctant to urge a further development of American policy. Yesterday and again today the Prime Minister has ignored the real nature and purport of the speech made yesterday by the President of the . United States. The President has announced not only a peace overture to Hanoi but a substantial and, one trusts, permanent change in the conduct of the war. His announcement is not merely of a bombing pause to test the possibility of Hanoi coming to the conference table if the bombing stops, lt is that, but it is much more than that. It is, as the President said, the first step to de-escalating the war and to reducing the level of hostilities.

The American decision has a meaning and significance of its own quite apart from any response which may come from Hanoi. This is not just a bombing pause similar to the 37 days pause 2 years ago. This is a definite and profound change of strategy. It is not merely an incident in the war. It takes the war into an entirely new phase. The Prime Minister did not refer to the crowning part of the President’s statement yesterday - that he would not again seek nomination by the Democratic Party; that he would not stand for the presidency of his country again. There have been some great abdications in history - Diocletian and Charles V - but never in such dramatic circumstances as this. This may well be a turning point in the history of the world, particularly in our region. But the future of our region will remain insecure unless one of the great developed countries in this area, one of the countries which can make the biggest contribution to this area, Australia, supports more actively the efforts for peace in this area. As the Pope said to the President just before Christmas: ‘It takes courage to make war; it takes still more to make peace’. The President showed that courage; the Australian Government has not yet shown it.

The Australian people require more initiative here because every argument and every policy which this Government has advanced or supported has been shown to be ill-advised and short-sighted.

This Government is now surprised. It is disappointed that the Americans are changing the course of this war. I hope that people throughout the country will realise that neither the Liberal Party nor, of course, the Labor Party, can afford to attach its foreign policy to the policies of any party or any party leader in the United States. The American alliance is the framework within which both the great political parties in this country devise their foreign policy. To quote the Labor Party’s platform on this matter:

The alliance with the United States is of crucial importance in the foreign policy of Australia and it should be an instrument for justice, peace, political, social and economic advancement.

We cannot just look at this change of policy - not cessation, not hesitation, but change of policy - by the United States solely in the perspective of the war in Vietnam. It is related to a very profound sentiment in both the great American political parties and in the American people about their whole future relationship with this region. The President’s statement expresses the misgivings in the American parties. There is no American who has had a more active role in public life than the present President. There has never been an American President who has had a longer apprenticeship in public life before becoming President. He feels the ground swell in the United States as a whole, not just in the Republican and Democratic Parties.

So significant an announcement raises the whole question of American participation in the work of building the defences, the societies and the economies of the nations of this area - the most deprived and the most turbulent region in the world; as deprived as Latin America and Africa and much more turbulent and populous than Latin America and Africa. This is the region where the most developed of all nations of the world, the richest and most generous nation - the United States - must make a contribution and must be encouraged to make a contribution if there is to be a developing future in our region.

It is now a very serious question indeed for this Government to consider how it intends to keep America permanently and fruitfully involved in the tasks which have to be performed in our region. T applaud the Government for having contacted the Soviet Union as well as Great Britain which are co-chairmen of the Geneva Convention. This was not stated by the Prime Minister yesterday. It had not occurred to him at that stage. But the judgment of U Thant was backed up promptly and quite explicitly by France. France has some knowledge and some involvement in this area. Have we approached France? What other diplomatic initiative is the Government taking? The Prime Minister does not mention that we should be talking to the Government of South Vietnam. President Johnson has asked President Thieu to visit the United States and President Thieu has accepted the invitation. But this Prime Minister has never referred to any negotiations with or in South Vietnam.

The Australian Government should not just be a camp follower. It has a prime part to play in this part of the world. Our wealth, our gross national product, is as great as that of all the nations which lie between us and India and China and Japan. It is quite clear that Australia must take a lead in this area. On our own borders, on our own threshold, in Indonesia America this year has increased her aid; this in a year in which she is spending less on total overseas aid than in any year for 20 years past. The Australian Government is begrudging and sluggish in making a proportionate increase in its commitment to Indonesia. In our part of the world we are a relatively developed country. In our ocean there are the United States, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and portion of the Soviet Union. If Australia, the most developed country in this part of the world, the most technically advanced country in this part of the world, is not prepared to take a lead, militarily, economically, politically, diplomatically and socially, how can we expect the other great countries to make a contribution, to pitch in if we do not? We have the responsibility. Listening to the Prime Minister this afternoon, and reading what he had said last night, we realise the little Australianism of his attitude. How disappointing and inadequate in our region is Australia’s role to be?

Mr Mackay:

Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


-Does the honourable member for Evans claim to have been misrepresented?

Dr Mackay:

– I certainly do.


-I call the honourable member for Evans.

Dr Mackay:

– The Leader of the, Opposition (Mr Whitlam) made a statement and in it, for the second time in this House, he implied that I am a person who seeks war and adopts, as my daily prayer, the words: Give us war in our time, O Lord’. I deny this categorically. I insist that my desire is for peace but peace with honour and security; not peace by avoiding responsibility or by repudiating our pledged word; not peace at the expense of the lives that we have promised to support.


-Order! The honourable member cannot debate his personal explanation. He will conclude it.

Debate (on motion by Mr Freeth) adjourned.

page 646


Assent reported.

page 646


Discission of Matter of Public Importance


-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The failure of the Government to provide equal pay for work of equal value for female employees of the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth instrumentalities and for those females employed under Federal awards.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)


– It is a matter of great public importance that the Government has failed during its repeated terms of office to provide equal pay for work of equal value for female employees of the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth instrumentalities as well as for females employed under Federal awards. It should be a cause of great embarrassment to honourable members on the Government side of the House that, although the Government has been in power for nigh on 20 years and has during that period had as part of its party policy the endorsement of the principle of equal pay for equal work, it has never once taken any initiative in the House to see that that plank of its policy is implemented. Indeed it should be cause for a great sense of moral guilt “by Government supporters that not only is this so but, on those occasions when the Government has had the opportunity to vote for a’ recommendation that this policy be implemented by direction of the House, it has in fact voted against the recommendation. In another place we have witnessed lady senators not only voting against but also speaking against a recommendation that the principle of equal pay for the sexes be implemented. This is ironical in itself, because the lady senators in another place in fact receive pay equal to that received by their male confreres for an equivalent amount of work. Apparently emancipation does not extend beyond the confines of the other place. It is cause for a great deal of concern that the Liberal Party should have had as its policy for so long a plan guaranteeing equal pay for females in the community for equal work and should never once have taken the initiative to see that the plan is implemented for the many thousands of women workers.

The Australian economy will become increasingly dependent on the contribution of females in the work force. The percentage of the work force represented by females will grow; it must grow if we are to maintain our rate of economic advance. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has supplied a White Paper in which certain projections relating to the Australian work force in the period from 1963 to 1976 are made. The projections show that the rate of increase of males in the work force will decline, that the teenage contribution to the overall work force will be static and that the female rate will increase. As I said, it must increase at a rate comparable to the rate of growth of the economy if we are to maintain our living standards. It must do better than that if we are to improve our living standards. This raises an important consideration. There will be a bigger percentage of females in the work force. Will the Government maintain the dogmatic, unfair attitude that it has pursued for so long and refuse to give these people wage justice? Is it the purpose class discrimination against a large section of the community? Is is the purpose of the of the Government to continue a form of

Government to maintain a form of labour exploitation of a very large segment of the work force? Worst’ of all, is it the objective of the Government to perpetuate the denial of a basic human right to the women in the Australian community? These are the important considerations that immediately pose themselves if the Government intends to persist with this attitude.

As I have said, females now form a greater percentage of the work force than they did in the pre-war period. At the 1961 census, they comprised 25% of the work force and it is expected that by 1976 they will comprise 29% of the work force. If the Government persists with its present attitude the Australian community will enjoy improved economic conditions at the expense of the exploitation of the females in the work force. Just what is the Government’s attitude on the principle of equal pay for equal work? It has always said: We are not opposed to equal pay for equal work, but this is a matter for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to settle.’ I want to stress before I depart from this point that honourable members on the Government side of the chamber have had the opportunity to vote for the implementation of the policy of equal pay for equal work. Lady senators on the Government side in another place have also had this opportunity. I must make one exception when I refer to the attitude of the lady senators. Senator Dorothy Tangney from Western Australia has always voted for the principle of equal pay for equal work. But she is a Labor senator. The Government has never taken the opportunity to implement in a practical way this plank of its policy. It refuses to discuss why it has failed to do so. It simply says: ‘The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is the proper place for a decision of this nature to be taken after due and rational consideration has been given to all the issues.’

Let me quote the words of three of the prominent spokesmen from the Government side who have made statements of the type that I have mentioned. The next speaker in this debate will be the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). In 1966 he prepared a speech that he intended to deliver to a conference. It was delivered for him by the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp) and I will read an extract from it. In his paper the Minister said:

The Government does not oppose the principle of equal wages for men and women for work of equal worth.

This is a very clear and precise statement. He went on to imply that if equal pay were introduced overall wage increases would be much less than they should be. I would rather have had him discuss with the community the manner in which equal pay can be introduced, as I believe it can be, gradually over a period, with a target date set for its full implementation.

With the extra work force attracted by equal pay there would be a higher level of productivity, which would be reaped for the benefit of the community. This can be added to the proposals of the Government for improving efficiency in Australian industry at the administrative and production levels. Some production methods show inefficiency sheltering behind excessively high tariffs and behind restrictive trade practices. This all adds to the cost of living in the community and holds back the level of productivity and therefore the level of wealth per head of population. If the Minister had dealt with those aspects he could have gone on to explain how a policy of equal pay for the sexes could be implemented quite reasonably and quite rationally over a phased period, working towards a definite date for the full implementation of the scheme. The Minister for Labour and National Service said:

The Government does not oppose the principle of equal wages for men and women.

Last year the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) had this to say:

The Commonwealth Government does not oppose the principle of equal pay for men and women workers for work of equal value. If was, as I have said, affirmed as far back as 1953.

He went on to say a little later in his speech in this House:

The line that successive Commonwealth Governments have taken to date has been that the complex and far reaching issues involved should be thoroughly canvassed and the proper body to undertake it is, at the Federal level, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

This is a definite undertaking on behalf of the Government by one of its principal spokesmen, the Leader of the Government in this House. It is a definite undertaking that the Commonwealth Conciliation and

Arbitration Commission should decide and will decide when equal pay will be provided for equal work. We are quite at liberty to infer from his statement that the Government will accept the decision of the Commission.

The Treasurer, when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, a portfolio that has a lot of responsibility for wage rates and industrial conditions, said in a speech which is recorded at page 1283 of Hansard for 26th September 1961:

In the case of Australia it is clearly understood that the authority to decide this matter is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

The following year he said in this House: lt is the Government’s view that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is the proper place to make the examination.

Here we have a series of statements from leading spokesmen of the Government, all clearly giving an undertaking on behalf of the Government that it believes that the place where the decision to implement equal pay should be made is not the Cabinet room or this House but the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and that once the decision is taken it will be accepted by the Government because this is the proper procedure. It is surprising - I dare say, to many people who have worked very hard in the community to have the principle of equal pay implemented it is distressing - to find that at the commencement of this year, although the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission granted equal pay to female employees in Commonwealth migrant hostels, at the direction of the Department of Labour and National Service an appeal has been lodged against the decision. I hope that the Minister for Labour and National Service, who will speak next in this debate, will explain this to the satisfaction of the many people who are somewhat perplexed by the change in the Government’s stand. Just what is the policy of the Government at this particular time? Why has it consistently, dogmatically and unfairly refused to introduce equal pay? Why is it that when in the Arbitration Commission the circumstances have arisen in which the Government guaranteed it would accept that equal pay should be provided, it is now taking every step it possibly can to guarantee that equal pay is not granted?

Let us move to another consideration in regard to the granting of equal pay. The Government in fact does have the power in this House to provide for equal pay. There is no need to go to the Arbitration Commission. The Government has established this power by its previous legislative actions of providing for quarterly cost of living adjustments to be automatically applied to the Commonwealth Public Service, for annual leave, for long service leave and for workers compensation. It has passed laws which affect interstate seamen where these people can be brought under the responsibility of the Commonwealth. It has done all these things. Indeed, the Government should do them because, except where it is in conflict with the Constitution, the Government is master of its own legislative destinyThere is absolutely no conflict with the Constitution on the subject of equal pay. Having regard to the undertakings the Government made when it signed the Declaration of Human Rights, it is appropriate that we should raise this matter now. I remind the House that 1968 is Human Rights Year. Since the Government has signed the Declaration, one would expect that it would automatically accept an obligation to introduce equal pay. One of the statements of the Declaration is that there should be no discrimination against people in the community on the basis of a number of criteria, one of which is sex. Yet the Commonwealth Government persists with this present attitude as it has for just on 20 years. It refuses to endorse the International Labour Organisation Conventions in recommendation 100, Article 2 and a section of recommendation 90. I have both of these recommendations with me but unfortunately I do not have the time to discuss them. The Government has refused to endorse the undertaking that member countries should provide equal pay for females in the community.

The policy of equal opportunity for women as it is written into the Liberal Party platform is a great folk-lore myth. The Government has no inteniton of carrying out this policy. When it has an opportunity to adopt the policy as endorsed by the Arbitration Commission, it takes every opportunity to prevent that policy from being adopted. Apparently the Government believes that its policy is a sacred principle which must not be sullied or cheapened by being given effect. This is not good enough. As I mentioned earlier, there are going to be more and more women in the work force. It is grossly unfair as well as morally and totally wrong to allow women to be members of the work force without providing equal remuneration for equal work. Why should the girls who work so efficiently and effectively for us in the Parliamentary Library receive considerably less money each year than do the male librarians? Why should women school teachers receive so much less than do male school teachers? Why should women in the various grades of the Commonwealth Public Service who perform the same kind of work as their male counterparts receive so much less?

In conclusion I would like to quote from a United Nations report on the subject of equal pay. The report states:

Today, women arc no longer a marginal and relatively unstable segment of the non-agricultural labour force. They are an important and permanent part of it, and fully entitled to equal rights with their male partners.

The Government dishonours the title liberal’. Its attitude is completely alien to liberal concepts. 1 ask the next Government speaker to give us a rational explanation of why the Government has suddenly decided to appeal against the decision of the Arbitration Commission to give equal pay to females. Will he say just when we may expect this principle to be introduced to the Australian community as a matter of moral justice?

Minister for Labour and National Service · Wentworth · LP

4.5] - In reply to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the first point I would like to make is that if the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission awards equal pay in whatever case is before it, the Commonwealth has no power to stop this action. We should note, first of all, that this proposal does in fact apply to far more people than female employees of the Commonwealth Public Service and of Commonwealth instrumentalities. The great bulk of people to whom it is intended to apply are, as the honourable member described them, females employed under Federal awards. In initiating this proposal he did not say, of course, that not all

Federal awards are under Commonwealth jurisdiction. This is a favourite line of tha Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Throughout his speeches, the Leader of the Opposition has gained great currency and in many cases popularity because he ignores two fundamental things. Firstly, he ignores the limitations of the constitutional power of the Commonwealth regarding the great plans that he so frequently enunciates and the power of the Commonwealth to put them into effect. Secondly, he ignores the resources to do so.

Every year, I suppose, the Leader of the Opposition gives away the domestic national income about twice over. Just a few minutes ago he also added a very generous portion of the national income to the aid we give abroad. The honourable member for Oxley follows this sentiment. He echoes the approach of his leader. But, in fact, we have no such power. In respect of most female employees we have said frequently we do not oppose equal pay for work of equal value. This in fact can go ahead without our being able to prevent it. But leaving aside Federal awards, and turning to Commonwealth employment, we have always regarded this matter in the light of the importance and significance of the Commonwealth as an employer. This idea has been followed in fact by successive Commonwealth Governments over a very considerable time. The Commonwealth is a very large employer and it is also widely regarded as a model employer, for what it does inevitably sets a pattern likely to become a model for others to follow. It has exercised great care, therefore, as to the pressures it sets up in the rest of the community and it needs to ensure that their impact will nol become a source for widespread dislocation. In taking the initiative in the case of its own employees, therefore, it must pay strict regard to the impact of what it does on the country as a whole.

In a number of ways the Commonwealth has taken the lead in setting standards of female employment as a model for the rest of the country. For many years the Commonwealth has paid male and female employees equal margins for skill above the minimum rate of wages. These are cases, of course, where men and women are carrying out work of equal value. It must be admitted, however, that in the case of margins this example has been followed only fairly slowly by others. In the textile industry, for instance, it applies in some cases, but because of the very competitive nature of this industry the approach necessarily has had to be a cautious one. Otherwise, impossible financial strains might well have been imposed on the firms concerned. We have recently removed the barriers in the Commonwealth service to the continued employment of married women on a permanent basis. Such measures as we have been able to adopt so far have been desirable in themselves but do not embody the far reaching implications of the proposal now before the House.

Fundamentally, this proposal is a challenge and an exhortation to the Commonwealth to supplant the national wage fixing authority in Australia - the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. A major policy issue is at stake and successive governments, whether or not they had the power, have in this House steadfastly refused to do anything to take this function away from the conciliation and arbitration tribunals and make it one for governments. If changes are to be made in this sphere, it is to the Commission, which looks at the entire economy, that we must look for general guidance. It is not the intention of the Government to supplant the authority of the Commission in the determination of national wage cases or in the solution of major matters of wage principles. This would be true at any time, and it is particularly true at the present juncture.

This movement towards equal pay is already going forward. Because it is vital to this question, I should like to read to the House part of the judgment in the 1967 nacional wage case, when the new concept of the total wage for both males and females was introduced. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission made the following statement in relation to wages for females:

Although we refer to the total wage, there will for the present be a different total wage for males and females and a number of total wages for many classifications. These result from existing basic wage differentials and from the quite complex history of basic wages particularly those for females, starting many years ago from a concept of differing needs and responsibilities of men and women.

I stress the word ‘needs’. It is most important not to overlook it in this context. The judgment continued:

Both basic wages have over the years been adjusted in a variety of ways. We are conscious of these apparent anomalies, but consider it is not practicable to attempt to deal with either at this time.

This judgment was delivered only last year -

The community is faced with economic industrial and social challenges arising from the history of female wage fixation. Our adoption of the concept of a total wage has allowed us to take an important step forward in regard to female wages.

This is a step forward that the honourable member for Oxley should note -

We have on this occasion deliberately awarded the same increase to adult females and adult males. The recent clothing trades decision affirmed the concept of equal margins for adult males and females doing equal work. The extension of that concept to the total wage would involve economic and industrial sequels and calls for thorough investigation and debate in which a policy of gradual implementation could be considered.

I direct the attention of the honourable member for Oxley particularly to that passage -

To a lesser extent the same may be said about the abolition of locality differentials. We invite the unions, the employers and the Commonwealth to give careful study to these questions with the knowledge that the Commission is available to assist by conciliation or arbitration in the resolution of these problems.

For any intelligent man, surely this points the way for practical study and movement in this sphere. As before, we shall continue to look to the Commission to move along these lines. This statement of views by the Commission has always seemed to me to be a very good one. I am glad that I can consider it to be a good one. I am able to do so because the Government certainly thinks virtually on parallel lines.

Clearly, it is now open to parties concerned in disputes relating to this matter to move forward. But it is to be noted that this question raises far reaching social as well as economic considerations. Plainly, the approach must be made in stages. What is involved is in fact the transfer of very considerable productive resources to females in the work force. This could be done gradually by waiting for increases in the national income and diverting them to working females or slowing down the rate of additional awards to the male elements by an inflationary process of just awarding women extra income, regardless of economic factors, at a rate that would certainly induce inflation by bringing about higher prices. This would be, in disguise, a transfer of real resources from men to women. This process underlies the whole issue. It is of no use to turn one’s back on it and try to forget it. What is involved in equal pay is a massive movement of purchasing power from working males to working females. The authors of the proposal that we are now discussing are merely attempting to promote goodwill for themselves in an irresponsible fashion by ignoring this underlying fact. This does not mean, however, that we should not continue to make further progress with this movement towards equal pay, which is already well under way. But it does mean that we should see clearly that there are social implications as well as economic ones. Some of these have recently been touched on by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). He has pointed out that in this country it is vitalfor the future to have as many native born children as possible. That is looking at the situation from the standpoint of the Australian community. If this objective is to be taken into account and faced realistically, there must be a limit to the extent to which it becomes a material hardship for younger women with large families to quit the work force to rear their families, at the same time accepting a very much lower standard of living. The overcoming of these difficulties would involve a very large transfer of resources from male wage earners, or from the community generally by means of child endowment, perhaps subject to a means test, or by some other means. Though various suggestions have aften been thrown out, they have never been thoroughly thought through.

This is a problem that is with us in any event. In 1947, females made up 22.4% of our total work force. In 1966, the proportion had risen to 29.5% . The number of females at work just about doubled, from 717,200 to 1,434,600 in the same period. Many trade unionists - the intelligent and far seeing ones - are well aware that the increasing of wages for women relative to those of men involves the forgoing of wage increases that workers would otherwise enjoy. Inevitably, however equitable the process might be from one point of view, this induces in this field a large measure of hypocrisy. An attempt to bring popular pressure to bear by saying things that are soothing to the ears of people who are interested in this subject, which involves what would be an essentially fair and equitable process, obscures this underlying shift of real resources. This is a problem of great complexity and difficulty and the responsibility for resolving it is one for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I have every confidence that it will resolve it in the period ahead. The proposal submitted by the Opposition is largely ultra vires the Constitution so far as it calls for effective Commonwealth action. The Commonwealth will certainly follow the principles that may be enunciated by the Commission, but we cannot force the pace and move ahead of that arbitral tribunal.


– I fully support the comments of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who introduced this matter of public urgency. The arguments advanced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) smack of a philosophy of industrial despair. The main gravamen of his argument in opposition - and opposition it is. and the arguments advanced by him are specious - is that there would be a massive movement of purchasing power from males to females and that there would be a transfer of resources. This comes from the member of a Ministry which is dedicated to the development of Australia and which allegedly, and in fact, is seeking overseas a considerable influx of immigrants to augment the Australian work force. He attempts further to play off the trade union movement, or certain sections of it, against the needs of women. He suggests that in certain cases there are sections of the trade union movement which are, in fact, opposed to the granting of equal wages for equal work. This is fundamentally untrue, and only a man who has never held a trade union ticket in his life would be capable of making such a statement.

The barriers to the continuous employment of married women in the Commonwealth Public Service have been removed. What a remarkable concession. The honourable gentleman’s arguments could be those of a modern Fabius Cunctator, the Roman general who believed in the inevitability of gradualism. Every argument advanced by the honourable gentleman has for its purpose delay and frustration, and if this Government were frank with the people of Australia it would admit that to delay and frustrate is precisely what it wants to do. It is determined, at all costs, to give as little as it can, to give it as slowly as possible, to make it as obnoxious as it can and to place every possible difficulty in the path of those who seek to alter the chronic injustices which have been wrought, throughout history, on women. The honourable gentleman, of all people, says that it is the function of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to do these things. I do not think there has been anyone more vociferous than this Minister in recent weeks in his criticism of the margins case judgment. He has been quite capable of reading curtain lectures to the Commission about what it should do, and of strictly limiting its functions.

The Government has, in recent years, and particularly under the regime of this Minister, abandoned all pretence of impartiality and quite openly has appeared before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission when applications have been made for increases in the basic wage and in other major industrial disputes. If it can appear in these cases, and if it has even the elements of sincerity, it can appear in support of the applications that undoubtedly will be made to the Commission -by major unions for proper wage justice to be done to the women of the community. As the honourable member for Oxley has said, next month we will be sending to Teheran a delegation to the International Human Rights Conference. Might I read a statement by a former President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, a great Australian, Dr H. V. Evatt. He said:

Millions of people - men, women and children - all over the world will turn for help, guidance and inspiration to this document.

He was, of course, referring to the Declaration of Human Rights. He said that it applied to all states or territories regardless of their political economy or international status and whether or not they were members of the United Nations. He said it applied to individuals without distinctions of any kind, such as race, colour, sex - and I repeat, sex - language, religion and economic or social status. This Government is quite archaic in its approach to these matters. It is quite feudal in its outlook. What is to be the reaction of our delegates when they go to Teheran? The avowed purpose of the Conference is to review progress in various spheres since the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How will they react to the criticism of delegates from other parts of the world? How will they react to the criticism of delegates from nations with which we claim to be comparable in our development and in our affluence? Are they to hold their heads up high?

Earlier today my Leader (Mr Whitlam) referred to the fact that Australia, in gross national product, more than equals the whole of South East Asia up to the limits of India and China. The Minister for Labour and National Service would have us believe that the economy of this country cannot afford equal pay for equal work. We have not yet got away from the feudal taint and the feudal outlook. To us there is some covert stigma attaching to women. They are not granted equality even today. They have political equality of a kind, subject, of course, to the manipulations of gerrymandering and to the obmutescence or the obfuscations of the anti-Labor and antitrade union members here. Political democracy we have, but economic democracy we lack. In Australia today, women are literally in a state of economic purdah. As in some Moslem countries women have considerable restrictions of movement, even restrictions on dress. Today we have precisely the same thing in Australian female wages.

In World War II we had to depend very heavily upon the labours of women to augment the efforts of our work force. They took their part in the armed services. They are capable of playing exactly the same part today in Australia’s development. If there is any country in the world which needs to use the whole of its manpower and its woman power it is Australia, but implicit in what the Minister said in his concluding remarks was: ‘I frankly doubt that there will be enough jobs to go around, and for that reason the jobs will go to the men’. I draw attention to the situation in my district. I have the greatest problem of female employment of any part of Australia. When a survey was made about 2 years ago. 6,000 women were concerned. I have repeatedly invited the Minister to come down to look at the problem. It is a real problem, and it is associated with the underpayment of men in heavy industry. We have, because of our immigration problem, allowed the steel industry to choose to bring in men who would serve its purpose - men who would be prepared to accept relatively low wage scales. Within my constituency the average wage paid to the unskilled man in industry is between $8 and $10 a week lower than the wage that is paid in any other comparable part of Australia. It is a hard fact, and it is associated with the economic problems that exist there. Unless and until an adequate wage is paid to the men in my area it will be quite impossible for women there to secure employment. The heavy industry - the steel works - reputedly phased out over a period of 12 months as many as 1,000 women who were in their employment. Progressively over that period out they went, and men had to take their places. In the process there was created the hard core of female unemployment which exists within my constituency today.

Until there is an augmented cash flow or, in more simple terms, until there is a decent increase in wages, and justice is done to the men, money will not be flowing into the shops and it will not be flowing into the offices so that the women of my constituency can secure adequate and decent employment. Today there is a general degrading of the status of women within my constituency, but this Government is prepared to do nothing about it. This is a matter quite apart perhaps from the rights of women to secure equal pay for work of equal value. They cannot even get work within my constituency much less equal pay for work of equal value. This is a serious matter and it is further aggravated by the predilection of heavy industry to bring in certain men from overseas - quite good, decent men whom I do not criticise. The census of 1961 showed a disparity of 10,000 in numbers of men and women. The population at that time consisted of about 75,000 men and 64,500 women. This is typical of the distortion that exists in the district, to which this Government remains quite indifferent.


Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), in the midst of some very sloppy advocacy, referred to the unsatisfactory situation in his electorate with regard to female employment. He has the temerity - I would venture to say the hide - to criticise the Government for doing nothing about it. I would like to set the record straight. The honourable member for Cunningham, I suggest, knows as well as I do that the Government has done something about his electorate. Confronted with a situation in which, because of union conservatism and employer timidity, there is a shortage of jobs for women in the Wollongong-Port Kembla district, the Government acted, as the honourable member knows it acted, through the agency of the women’s bureau in the Department of Labour and National Service. Steps were taken to seek out jobs in light industry some distance from Wollongong, in the Caringbah area, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) arranged bus services to take women from the Wollongong area to the jobs that were offering around Caringbah. The honourable member for Cunningham has paid rather scant regard to the truth, and this is some indication of the thinness and sincerity of the case being put forward by the Opposition. There has been some very sloppy advocacy this afternoon from the thin ranks of the Opposition. [Quorum formed.]

The temperate remarks which caused the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) to call for a quorum were these: I said that the Opposition has been guilty of some very sloppy advocacy this afternoon. None of the honourable members who have spoken on behalf of the Opposition has bothered to tell us exactly what they mean by this magic phrase ‘equal pay for equal work’. The cost of implementing a system of equal pay for equal work varies enormously according to the definition one gives to the term. I thought there might have been some recognition of this obvious fact by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), but there was none. If when it urges a policy of equal pay for equal work the Opposition means that where we find men and women performing work of the same or substantially the same value we should pay the same rate, whether the work be done by a man or a woman, then

I agree that the principle of equal pay tol equal work is essentially sound. But like many principles, this is a principle that cannot be implemented overnight. I cheerfully accept the charge levelled against members on the Government side by the honourable member for Cunningham that in this matter we are gradualists. The only sensible way to introduce a system of equal pay for equal work in the sense I have mentioned is gradually. If we do not introduce it gradually we will bid fair to cause very severe strain and dislocation of the economy. The Opposition, of course, cheerfully ignores this truism.

If by equal pay for equal work Opposition speakers mean - if they mean anything on this subject - that the same rate should be paid to women as to men irrespective of whether the work women are doing is or is not work usually performed, or even performed, by men, then the cost of putting that wild theory into practice is astronomical. It has been carefully but tentatively estimated by the people in the Department of Labour and National Service that to introduce a system of equal pay for equal work in that broad sense, across the board, to all people in private and government employment in Australia would be of the order of $500m a year. If this is the sort of nonsense - equal pay for equal work in that sense - that the Opposition is advocating, I do not think this House will have any pact of it, and I do not think the Australian people, in their common sense, will have any part of it.

I accept readily the statement that we are gradualists in this field. We believe in the principle, but we believe that in the true interests of the Australian economy a system of equal pay for equal work is the first of the ways in which I have defined it must be introduced carefully and slowly. This is the view of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The honourable member for Oxley sought to make much of the fact that in the Commonwealth hostels case the Commonwealth has appealed against the decision of the Conciliation Commissioner, Mr Clarkson, who awarded equal pay for women and men in an application for an award by the Liquor and Allied Trades Federation. The Commonwealth was perfectly justified in doing so in the circumstances of that case. Let me tell the House of those circumstances.

The union in 1965 made an application for an award and claimed for women employees covered by the award 75% of the male basic wage. There was no move there for equal pay. When the log of claims was presented in October 1965 a long adjournment followed. After a short hearing in 1965 or 1966 the case was adjourned for a year. When it came back into the list for further argument in October 1967 the union advocate took a new point, if I may so describe it without disrespect to him. on the wing, or in the running. He said: ‘The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had something to say about equal pay in the recent national wage case. I claim equal pay, on behalf of my union, for women employees.’

I emphasise that there was no argument, there was no discussion. The whole matter was dealt with in a very few words. They account for just a few lines of a transcript running to 250-odd pages. To say the Commonwealth is betraying any principle of equal pay for work of equal value in appealing against a decision of that character is to disregard the realities of the situation. The Commonwealth Government took the view - in my view quire correctly - that to grant equal pay in that context and in that situation where there had been no real argument was to disregard completely the timely warning and the timely advice of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case of 1967 to the effect that any further moves towards the introduction of equal pay for women should proceed on the basis of careful deliberation, careful argument and full debate. Those factors were completely missing when the Conciliation Commissioner made his decision in the case concerning Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. Hence, quite justifiably, the Commonwealth Government appealed.


-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


- Mr Deputy Speaker, the cost of the Liberal Party of Australia is eternal humbug. The honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) is a member of a profession in’ which, I presume, the people of the opposite sex who practise that profession charge the same rates as do the male members of the profession and produce the same direful results, I have no doubt, as the honourable member would if he produced in court the same kind of argument as he put forward here this afternoon.

The honourable member for Parkes, the Liberal Party and the Country Party part company with the Opposition on this matter. I believe that we are basing our arguments principally on the question of human values and basic democratic attitudes while honourable members opposite base their argument on economics. The honourable member for Parkes said that we could not grant to females equal pay for work of equal value and that if it was introduced it would cost $500m per year. This is about the same amount as the Government has raised the Defence vote in the last 2 or 3 years and it is also about the price of 24 Fill swing-wing bombers, allowing for the quota of losses in each week. On the one hand we have this consistent and continuing argument about cost and on the other hand we have a government which does not give a dam about costs. In my view, cost is incidental. I believe that there are fundamental equalities which ought to be basic to the social and political values in this community. These are the ones which we ought to be endeavouring to extend throughout the community. I suggest that the question of debate and argument through the courts is invalid and irrelevant. But I think that even this question could be finally defeated and shown as invalid.

One of the difficulties that we face in this matter is a difficulty with the Australian women themselves. Our women are their own worst enemies in this matter. Why is there astonishing silence on the part of the honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill)? Why has she not risen to her feet to give support to the discussion of this matter? She sits’ in this House and receives the same pay and the same allowances as do male members. Is this not the case in the Senate? Is it not the case in large areas of the community also? Why is it that women continually return to this place people such as the honourable member for Parkes who deny to them the wage equality to which they are entitled?

As I say, I believe that on this side of the House this matter is regarded as a question of values. The Australian Government is notable for the way it drags its feet in other instances. The Australian Government is falling behind in lots of things, including the matter of equal pay for the sexes. Even in the Australian government community the Commonwealth Government is the odd man out. Our newspapers reported on 26th October that there was a move for equal pay in Western Australia. The Western Australian Government committed itself to the principle of equal pay for women who do work equal to work performed by men. Our newspapers reported also that the Methodist Church was to pay its women ministers remuneration equal to that received by male ministers. Another news heading in September last year stated that equal pay would be provided for women in South Australia. In that same month last year we read of the principle of equal pay for the sexes to operate in Queensland schools. So, the Government is the odd man out in so many ways in this field as it is in other fields.

This afternoon, I wish to address myself to part of the reasons for this inequality and to part of the reasons why the community has perpetuated this continual and tragic wastage regarding the work of women. No doubt exists as to inequality of opportunity. Nothing exemplifies this fact more than the situation in the field of education. If we turn to the figures for women in the higher echelons of education we find that in 1966 - that is the year for which the last figures are available - there were 66,303 male students and 24,969 female students at universities. So, 26.6% of university students were females and 73.4% were males. Anybody who has studied the question and who has had any association with education knows that throughout the area of education no doubt exists that the female element in the community has intellectual capacity equal to the male. This is Australia’s most tragic wastage. It is one of Australia’s most serious social deficiencies. This afternoon we are not only debating this matter with a government that drags its feet on other social issues but also challenging and facing the challenge of some of the social values of our community.

As the honourable member for Parkes has said, some areas of conservatism are to be found in the trade union movement. But this situation is changing rapidly. I understand that at the recent conference of the Labor Party in Queensland, there was unanimous acceptance of the view that women ought to have equal pay for work of equal value, that married women ought to have equal rights in respect of work and that women generally should not be discriminated against in the work force either because of their sex or because of their marital status and age. Their capacity to do the job concerned should be the only matter considered. There are large areas of employment, particularly as a result of technical change, where a great deal of the physical effort required has gone from the work. These are areas where women should be judged on their capacity to do the job. It is tragic that such a large area of capacity - and, in particular, intellectual capacity - as is latent in the female element in the Australian community is wasted.

As a matter of interest for honourable members I point out that in 1966 in Australian universities there were 773 male professors and only sixteen female professors. Large areas of Australian industry and enterprise are dependent on female skills, particularly in the field of education. Two years ago, 36,124 teachers were male but 39,819 teachers were female. Who is to say that in the classroom the female is not as competent and is not doing the same job as the male? We find on one side of a school a female teacher teaching history at matriculation level while on the other side of the school a male teacher is teaching matriculation geography and is receiving in most States a larger payment than the female teacher is for doing so. I believe that this situation is indefensible. It has neither an economic basis nor any social justice. This is what the Opposition is challenging this afternoon.

It is disappointing to see this state of affairs in a community such as ours. Australia was one of the first countries in the world to grant women the right to vote. This was regarded 45 years ago as one of the basic democracies of the world. Yet we still hear these disappointing arguments from Ministers of the Crown who fly the banner of Liberalism. No word in this language has been prostituted so much as Liberalism and the term Liberal in its strict sense in this place and in the last 20 years by the Liberal Party of Australia. In support of my argument, I think, anyone has only to examine some of the basic qualities of women.

I refer to a paper which was prepared by the World Health Organisation which points out different fields in which women are better than men. The report states that women are better than men in verbal and linguistic ability, writing speed, finger dexterity, speed of observation and immediate memory. Men are better than women in visualisation ability, logical deduction, numerical ability and technical ability, i do not get very far in our home when I put forward the argument concerning logical deduction! But there are large areas in which women are better than men and this applies particularly concerning clerical and administrative skills.

What do we find in the Commonwealth sphere? There are thousands of women in the Commonwealth Public Service. We do not give them pay equal to that received by their male counterparts for equal work and we do not give them equal opportunities. According to the latest report of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, in the higher echelons of the Public Service there are twenty-six heads of departments in Division 1. They are all men. No women held those positions. In the Second Division there were 605 positions and - my figure is open to correction because it is difficult to find this matter among the innumerable documents that I have scattered across my desk - only one woman filled one of those positions.

What is wrong with the Australian community that it is so far behind? We are dragging our feet in so many other areas in social enterprise and social policies. We do not offer the same opportunities to women; we do not get the same results. We incur a greater and more tragic wastage. A recent paper published on ‘The Female Work Force in Australia’ stated:

Despite the increase, of female participation in economic activity, it should not be thought that Australia is in the vanguard of the nations of the world with regard to female employment. For instance, in 1964 every third worker was a woman in the United States, the United Kingdom,

France, the Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark, and the proportion of women in the labour force was also higher in Canada, Sweden and Switzerland than it was in Australia,

The paper goes on to deal with a similar situation in the countries of eastern Europe. The case before the Parliament this afternoon is for the Parliament to take action on its own behalf in this matter. This Parliament has the overriding decision as to the rights of employment of women in the Commonwealth Public Service. We do not need to surrender our rights or our duties to the Common weal, h Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That Commission is the creation of this Parliament. The challenge lies here. It is an abdication of our responsibilities to say that this is a job for the Commission, lt is a job for this Parliament to lay down the kind of social principles that we want the nation to adopt and the rest of the world to espouse and which every honourable member is likely to talk about when he goes to speech nights at secondary schools for girls.

Minister for Shipping and Transport · New England · CP

– I do not think the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has really taken much account of the motion that the Opposition has moved. The question is not whether women are entitled to an improved status in our community, not whether we think that women as individuals are capable of performing a competent role, not as to the relative capacities of men as against women but as to whether or not the Commonwealth Government should take the initiative in changing the pay status of female employees in the Commonwealth Public Service and Commonwealth instrumentalities and of other females employed under Federal awards. In other words, the subject is not as to just who and what are females nor as to the task they might pursue but whether or not the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament should usurp what is accepted in Australia as the principal responsibility of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. By virtue of our Constitution we have in Australia a well established practice and principle which enables us to judge issues not just on their political merits but on the actual facts and circumstances as they are presented by all persons interested, through the dispassionate atmosphere of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the arbitration courts or the appropriate conciliation and arbitration machinery which is available in the States.

There are many problems relative to the implementation of equal pay. I do not know whether the honourable member for Wills and honourable members opposite would be prepared to present the case that they have presented tonight and on previous occasions in this Parliament, in the proper place, which is before the arbitration courts or in the Commission, where the procedural opportunities are available. In fact, this seems to have developed rather into a debate as to opportunities for women in our community. I think each and every one of us is very concerned that there should continue to be increasing opportunities for females in the work force. For many years those of us in country areas have been greatly appreciative of the tremendous effort that has been put into the development of our primary production sources and also the maintenance of our rural estates. Indeed, the worth of women on the . land has been recognised by an increasing sharing of the enterprise by farmers and people in rural areas. But one of the difficulties in our community is to ensure that there is adequate recognition by both workers and employers. I think this is one of the real difficulties that we must be prepared to face in our community before there is an agreed acceptance by all sections that there is an opportunity for what the Opposition is asking tonight. Professor J. E. Isaac, in a recent book entitled ‘Wage and Productivity’, said:

The choice before the community is whether to apply the policy of equal pay for the sexes directly by wage policy; or to create the circumstances in which equal pay will be achieved through the forces of the market by the progressive disappearance of social barriers in the employment of women.

I contend that in our community there is a need for us to remove these social barriers progressively. In an area of ministerial responsibility in which I have had some connection during the last 3 years I have found that one of the main areas of difficulty has been in respect of opportunities for the employment of civilian widows. Unfortunately there are very few jobs available in the work force in which a married woman is able to work from 9.30 a.m. until 4 p.m., or for the hours during which her child or children are at school. This is an area in which there is a greater need for recognition by all sections of the Australian community before there will be a complete opportunity for recognition by the courts that there is a need for equal pay. At the same time there has been a considerable move in relation to employment of married and single women

It is interesting to note that these work opportunities exist principally in New South Wales and Victoria. The 1961 census tabulations are the latest figures that I have available, and they show that 69.3% of the female work force lived in New South Wales and Victoria compared with 65.7% of the male work force. Largely as a result of the concentration of those categories of industry within which work opportunities exist for females, this tendency has been inclined to be accelerated. Beyond this, there is also the problem of the age distribution of females in the work force. In 1961 about one quarter of all working women were under the age of 20 years, about 40% were under the age of 25 years. The substantial withdrawals from the work force occur between the ages of 25 and 35 years. There is a need in our community for greater recognition of the difficulties facing women 35 years of age who come back into the work force after their families have grown up. It is not sufficient that employers create opportunities. It is necessary for those who are unionists - those who are workers in the various factories and other enterprises - to recognise that if they create the opportunities then there will be greater employment in the future. I regard this as one of the major necessities if there is to be an achievement of equal pay in the work force.

There are consequences to male employees, as members of the trade union movement are only too well aware. There is the difficulty of the substantial impact that equal pay might have on the wages of males; there is the difficulty of the possible effect on the employment of women and opportunities for women in the work force; and there is the difficulty that if the position is established where women and men get equal pay, whenever there is a wage increase it must cost so much more according to the number of women in the work force. I contend that all of those things should properly not be argued in this arena but in the arena of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is interesting to note that in the national wage case in 1967, although equal pay in the sense that we are discussing it now was not considered, a statement was made in relation to female wages which I suggest indicates to those who are genuinely interested in equal pay that the Commissioners are quite prepared to look at the concept and to have it argued before the Commission. The Commission stated:

We have on this occasion deliberately awarded the same increase to adult females and adult males. The recent Clothing Trades decision affirmed the concept of equal margins for adult males and females doing equal work. The extension of that concept to the total wage would involve economic and industrial sequels and calls for thorough investigation and debate in which a policy of gradual implementation could be considered. To a lesser extent the same may be said about the abolition of locality differentials. We invite the unions, the employers and the Commonwealth to give careful study to these questions with the knowledge that the Commission is available to assist by conciliation or arbitration in the resolution of these problems.

Therefore there is already not only the procedure available ito those who would wish to put the argument for equal pay, but there is also an expressed intention by the Commission that it is prepared to examine the case and to listen to the arguments. Accordingly, I contend that the Opposition should create more of an adequate opportunity for the implementation of the principles which it says it supports, by presenting with the full force that it has at its command a similar argument to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission as it has presented here tonight. Then one might see how genuine the Opposition is in its endeavour to secure equal pay for women for work of equal value.


– I support the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who initiated this debate, and other Opposition speakers, who have advocated the Government’s adoption of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. For many centuries woman suffered social, economic and political inferiority. She now has equality of civil rights, political rights and educational opportunities. She has equality of entry into most occupations, yet in most of them she is paid at a rate lower than is applicable to men doing the same work. In fact, woman has social and political equality but not economic equality.

In the interests of social justice women should be paid the same rate for a job as is paid to men. Many women workers have dependants to support or assist. Single women often help aged parents. Divorced, widowed or deserted wives may have children to rear. Why should a woman school teacher or public servant receive less than her male counterpart? A government that allows this situation to continue is guilty of treating women as socially inferior to men. The receipt of unequal pay creates a feeling of inferiority and a rankling sense of injustice. The payment of equal pay to women would remove these feelings.

Last October the Western Australian Government decided to give to its female employees equal pay for work of equal value. The decision was put into effect from 1st January this year and will be implemented fully by January 1972. The Western Australian Government employs about 12,000 women. It is not known exactly how many of these will qualify for male rates but if is estimated that this year the payment of equal pay will cost the State Government $300,000 and, in 1972, $1.7m. The State Government has also said that it will clarify the powers of the Industrial Commission to write the principle into State awards. The Government of Western Australia is giving a lead in the matter of equal pay for work of equal value. Unfortunately the Commonwealth Government is not giving a lead in this matter. The decision of the Western Australian Government means that five of the six States have granted equal pay to women. Only Victoria and the Commonwealth have yet to come into line.

It is necessary to have national uniformity on the issue of equal pay for work of equal value. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) always argues, as his predecessors did, that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has power to grant equal pay to women. Equal pay for women is a social reform. The Commonwealth should give a lead to its own industrial tribunal, as has been done in five of the six States. When equal pay was awarded to women by a Conciliation Commissioner in the Commonwealth hostels case, the Commonwealth appealed against the decision. Under trie headline ‘Lastminute Appeal Delays Equal Pay’ the ‘Australian’, on 2nd February this year, reported:

But the decision to appeal was made by the Department of Labour and National Service which is responsible for hostel policy issues.

That is the Department for which the Minister for Labour and National Service is responsible. Now be says that that matter should be taken to arbitration. A few minutes ago the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) said that the Labor Party was trying to usurp what is accepted in Australia as the function of the Arbitration Commission. Does he suggest that the Western Australian Government usurped that function or that five of the six State Governments have usurped that function? They have already made preparations or are in the process of making preparations to pay their female public servants the same rates as are paid to male public servants. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is at the table, wants a source of cheap female labour.

Government supporters often pay lip service to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. They adopt a two-faced attitude. In a section of its platform the Liberal Party states as one of its objectives:

Acceptance of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value.

But that is as far as it goes. Government supporters talk about this principle but when it comes to voting on the implementation of their policy they do nothing. I watched Government supporters with interest when Mr Speaker called upon honourable members to support the request of the honourable member for Oxley that this matter he debated. Not one gentleman opposite rose to support the honourable member. Even the honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill) did not support the debate on an issue which affects her sex, although she herself receives equal pay. We have heard today that lady senators, with the exception of Senator Tangney, who is a member of the Labor Party, are opposed to the payment of equal pay. Senator Tangney has always supported the principle of equal pay for women. I am afraid that the women of today do not have the fight of the women of more than 50 years ago. The ladies of those days showed great courage when they were fighting for another form of equality - the right to vote. The suffragettes chained themselves to the railings of the House of Commons. Any politician not in favour of a franchise for women was fair game for a lashing - not just a tongue lashing but in fact a horsewhipping. Sir Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary, was lashed by a suffragette at Bristol railway station for his opposition to the principle of the right to vote. 1 do not believe in corporal punishment, but I think that the women of today lack some of the sting that was possessed toy women of days gone by. Some honourable members opposite are fortunate that Sir William Yeo. New South Wales President of the Returned Services League, is not a member of the opposite sex.

Regulations made under the Public Service Act discriminate against female officers in the Public Service. Regulations 104, 105 and 106 made under section 30 of the Public Service Act pinpoint the inequality that exists between rates paid to male and female workers, notwithstanding that many female workers do the same type of work as is done by their male counterparts and have the same qualifications as are possessed by male officers. Regulation 104 (1) sets out the salaries payable to officers in the Second and Third Divisions but paragraphs (2) and (3) of regulation 104 provide that where a female officer occupies an office in the Second or Third Division the rate of salary per annum payable to her shall be $308 less than the male rate applicable to that office. Regulations 105 and 106 also reveal how women are regarded as being of inferior status to men doing the same work. This discrimination should be removed. The Government has power to remove it. The Government rejects all claims by white collar unions for the granting of equal pay to women employees in the Public Service. A headline in the ‘Australian’ of 19th May 1967 is pertinent. It reads: ‘Bury Rejects Claim for Equal Pay’.

The Government has failed to honour its obligations under the 1951 International Labour Organisation conventions and recommendations concerning equal remuneration for the sexes for work of equal value. It has failed to ratify Convention 1 1 1 and Recommendation 111 which relate to discrimination between the sexes. The

Government has failed to implement the provisions of the vocational training recommendation of 1962 with respect to girls and women. The Government has not ratified Convention 100, which provides for equal pay for men and women doing work of equal value. The Convention states:

Each member shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration, promote and, in so far as is consistent with such methods, ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.

Neither has the Government seriously tried to implement Recommendation 90, which provides:

Appropriate action should be taken, after consultation with the workers’ organisations concerned or, where such organisations do not exist, with the workers concerned -

to ensure the application of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value to all employees of central Government departments or agencies;

This is where the Government has fallen down on the job. When the Government has been challenged on its attitude towards the decisions of the International Labour Organisation it has made the excuse that some States will not agree to the ratification of Convention 100 or the implementation of Recommendation 90, but that excuse is not now valid because five of the six States have already adopted the principle of equal pay for women and, as far as their government employees are concerned, they are giving effect to the principle. I say emphatically that this Government is not seriously supporting the ILO decisions. It is the responsibility of the Government to apply to its own employees the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, but it does not do so. For this it stands condemned.


– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– I want to refer to two things mentioned by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb). I do not know whether he is notorious for the gallantry which he shows towards members of the fair sex but honourable members on this side of the House thought it was quite ungallant of him to refer to the charming, attractive honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill) in the way that he did.

Mr Webb:

– What did I say? The honourable member for Kingston is equal to us.


– The honourable member said that she did not support the principle before the Chair. She did not do so because no person with any sense of parliamentary responsibility or any other type of responsibility could possibly support such a ridiculous contention as the honourable member has put forward. We have a debate each year on this subject as a result of a move by the Labor Party. But the proposal today is that this Government legislate to give equal pay for work of equal value not only for female Commonwealth public servants and females employed in Commonwealth instrumentalities but for all females listed under Federal awards. The astonishing thing is that of the four members of the Labor Party who have spoken in support of this proposal, not one has seen fit to refer to the slight constitutional hurdle of how this might be achieved.

I come now to the second matter mentioned by the honourable member for Stirling and to which I want to refer. He said that we on the Government side showed a two-faced attitude towards the question of equal pay. He said that this principle was in the constitution of the Liberal Party, yet we did nothing to implement it. Let us look at how many faces the honourable member for Stirling has exhibited. We do not blame members of the Labor Party for having their annual romp in this House about equal pay for the sexes. The wording of the proposal changes a little each year but the speeches are usually the same. Honourable members opposite come into this House and make powerful speeches about equal pay for work of equal value. But I should like to ask a question of the honourable member for Stirling, and indeed, all members of the Labor Party who are, presumably, reasonably close to the members of their trade unions: When was the last time that he had a discussion with Mr Hawke, the advocate of the trade unions, and implored him to present a case for equal pay to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? The honourable member for Stirling sits on the front bench of the Labor Party and is the shadow Minister for Labour and National Service. I suggest, with due respect, that the honourable member has never in his life had such a conversation with Mr Hawke. I suggest that no member of the Labor Party, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the eloquent honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), has ever said any such thing to Mr Hawke or to any other similar advocate before he has made submissions to a wages tribunal. The charge of being two-faced can be looked at in two ways.

Let us now look at some of the facts that members of the Labour Party did not choose to put before the House. Thirty per cent of the work force in Australia is made up of women. If equal pay for work of equal value were introduced immediately what would it cost? No honourable member suggested that it should be introduced immediately. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) mumbled something about it being introduced over a period. I made a courteous inquiry of him as to the length of the period over which it ought to be introduced but of course he was silent. If this principle were introduced according to the International Labour Organisation definition - and one would presume that members of the Labor Party would be advocating this - it would immediately cost the Commonwealth Government $20m a year and the State governments over $50m a year, and it would mean an addition of $500m to the yearly wage bill of Australian industry. It would throw one particular industry into utter chaos. I refer to the textile industry. It would add $40m overnight to the textile industry’s wage bill. It would have a consequential effect on tariff policy and a host of other matters.

Although I am quoting these statistics I want it to be quite clear that I am not opposing the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Indeed, I have supported this principle on many occasions. But should we do it by abrogating the authority of the arbitration system that we have in Australia? Many members of the Labor Party want things each way. Some of them will take what they can get from arbitration and conciliation but will reject this system when it hands down a decision against its wishes. Mr Slater, that notorious unionist representing the Amalgamated

Postal Workers Union, appeared on television a week or two ago and said that he believed that the arbitration and conciliation machinery should be scrapped altogether. At least that was an honest point of view, lt would be refreshing to hear in this House a statement of policy by the Leader of the Opposition, on behalf of his Party, as to whether he wants the system of arbitration and conciliation that we have in Australia continued or whether he wants it scrapped. At least honourable members on this side of the House could then assess the views of the Opposition on this vital question.

In conclusion I want to refer to my own particular sympathy with the philosophy behind this proposal, although certainly I have no sympathy with it as it is worded today. I have a great deal of sympathy for a certain section of the community made up of female breadwinners. 1 believe this is a section of the community upon which great injustice and great inequity are being perpetuated, not by the Government or by anyone in particular but by society generally. For the life of me, in the 20th century situation in which we live, I cannot see the justice or the equity of why a spinster, for example, perhaps in her middle age - a spinster probably because she has nursed an aged parent for years, and is still nursing an aged parent, and with little or no opportunity of marriage because of her years - has to incur the penalty imposed by society of a 25% reduction of the base wage. She takes home a wage to support herself and her aged parent or parents. To me this does not smack of justice at all. It smacks of a great inequity towards this class of person in the community.

Spinsters are not the only female breadwinners who are affected. All honourable members of this Parliament, notwithstanding their political persuasion, almost weekly come across the deserted wife whose husband does not meet his legal commitments, or the widow who has to support a number of young children, usually during the most expensive years of their lives. Such a woman, who is the breadwinner for her family because of the situation perpetuated by all of us, is under this penalty of taking home for herself and for her children a wage less than that of her male counterpart notwithstanding the fact that she is doing precisely the same work as he does. Of all the social welfare problems facing this nation - and I know there are some - I choose to give this problem a much higher priority than do many members on both sides of the House. There is a tremendous and urgent need for research into the needs of the female breadwinner who is being paid less than the male for work of equal value.

I cannot support the proposal before the Chair but I request honourable members and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) to give the problems of the female breadwinners the consideration that they justly deserve.


-Order! This discussion has concluded.

page 662


Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Labour and National Service · Wentworth · LP

– I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time. The Bill does three things. Firstly, occasions arise where national servicemen are anxious to continue their full-time service for short periods beyond the 2 years for which they are liable to serve and this is in the interests of the Army. As the legislation now stands, such men would not be entitled to reestablishment benefits. It is proposed to correct this position. However, since the reestablishment benefits were formulated having in mind interruption of a civil career - in general men are entitled to return to their former employment and the employer is required to permit them to resume - clearly some time limit must be placed on the period of additional voluntary service. Three months is proposed.

Secondly, the reinstatement in civil employment provisions of the Defence (Re-establishment) Act do not apply to casual workers engaged under recognised arrangements as full-time workers in an industry, such as casual waterside workers and allied waterfront workers. The Bill remedies this. Thirdly, section 15 of the Act provides that where an employer is convicted of an offence in respect of the civil employment provisions, the court may order the payment of such compensation as it thinks reasonable. The court may also order that the fine imposed on the employer be paid to the serviceman. The Government’s view is that any fines imposed should be paid to the Crown and the legislation is being amended accordingly. Provision is also being included to facilitate the enforcement of an order for compensation. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) adjourned.

page 663


Minister for Air · Forrest · LP

– I move:

Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 8) (1968)

Mr Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relates to a proposed amendment of the Customs Tariff 1966-1967 relating to New Zealand timber. In September 1967, the New Zealand Government requested either the elimination or accelerated reduction of Australian import duties on undressed New Zealand timbers in sizes less than 7 in x21/2 in. These timbers are included in Schedule A to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the duties are being phased out in five stages over an 8-year period.

Originally the rates on these timbers were bound free under the 1933 Agreement with New Zealand. However, in 1963 following the Tariff Board’s report on timber it became necessary to apply duties to New Zealand so that the general rate could be increased, as recommended by the Board, while still maintaining the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade commitment not to increase preferences. The New Zealand Government was extremely co-operative on that occasion in agreeing to waive without compensation her rights to duty free entry to enable Australia to maintain the GATT commitment. The request of September last therefore represents a seeking of the restoration of the duty free position New Zealand had prior to 1963. Australia approved a similar request last year concerning New Zealand undressed Douglas fir.

In accordance with the undertaking given by the late Prime Minister on requests of this kind, State Forestry Ministers have been consulted on this latest approach from New Zealand. New Zealand estimates that the availability of undressed indigenous timbers for export to Australia will not exceed 8 to 12 million super feet a year. Australian production of sawn timber in 1966-67 was approximately 1,300 million super feet. Imports amounted to 215 million super feet. The Prime Minister announced in New Zealand on 28th March that Australia had agreed to New Zealand’s request and the concession operates from that date. The Australian decision will materially assist our trading relations with New Zealand. Such a decision is only possible under the operation of the Free Trade Agreement. I commend the Proposals to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Charles Jones) adjourned.

page 663


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 27 March (vide page 540), on motion by Mr Freeth:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr Charles Jones:

– The Bill that the House is now debating amends section 5 of the New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Act 1964- 1966 and proposes to continue the grants by the Commonwealth to the New South Wales Government to enable it to carry out flood mitigation work on the coastal rivers. It is proposed to increase the non-repayable grants from $5. 5m to $8m and to extend the period to 6 years ending in June 1969. The previous Act operated for a 4 year period ending in June 1967. The Commonwealth then made available $4.2m to be spent in the ratio of 3 to 1 on the Hunter River and 2 to 1 on the Macleay, Richmond, Clarence, Tweed and Shoalhaven Rivers. Every dollar contributed by a local authority will be matched by grants from the Commonwealth and State Governments in the ratios I have just mentioned. For every dollar contributed by people on the Hunter River, who are associated with the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust, there will be three Commonwealth Government dollars and three New South Wales Government dollars.

The scheme on the Hunter River was originally introduced by the New South Wales Government in July 1955. The

Government of that day said it was willing to contribute £1,020,000. This was the estimated cost of certain flood mitigation works. At a later date the State Government contributed to the cost of flood mitigation works on other rivers - the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay and Shoalhaven Rivers. These works followed programmes that had been submitted to the Government by various county councils, which had been formed to carry out this type of flood mitigation. I and other members of the National Development Committee of the Australian Labor Party at the time visited the rivers and met the people who suffered the damage that was caused by flooding. We saw the way that the river banks, drainage and so on had deteriorated and we had some idea of the work that had to be done. On 11th October 1963 the then Leader of the Labor Opposition in the Federal Parliament, Mr Calwell, stated, according to a Press report:

The next Labor Government will match the expenditure of the New South Wales State Government on flood mitigation on the coastal rivers of the State.

The Press report went on to state:

Mr Calwell said that the New South Wales Government was paying £2 for every £1 expended by local authorities on the work. It is imperative that the Federal Government should now play its part. At present it is failing to measure up to its responsibilities.

It did not take very long after that for the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, to come out and make a statement in reply to a Dorothy Dix question asked by the honourable member for Richmond, who is now the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). On 17th October 1963 the then Prime Minister made a statement to the effect that the Government was prepared to make available grants to match those already being made by the State government. He said that the Federal Government would make available matching grants to the extent of S4.2m. One would think that at that time the Federal Government had made some mammoth contribution to the States. But when one takes into consideration the cost of floods to this country and what they have cost on previous occasions, this amount is not so large. We have only to take into account the flooding which took place in the Hunter Valley in 1955. It was stated in a newspaper report at the time:

The Federal Government had estimated ils total direct and indirect contribution to New South Wales flood relief would exceed £10m, a Government spokesman said today.

So, in respect of just one flood the Commonwealth Government made a total contribution of about £10m. Yet, on this occasion, over a period of 6 years, the Federal Government is going to make a contribution of $8m. I am not complaining about this amount. But I believe it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to do something positive about national development. It should assist the State governments and local government authorities where assistance is necessary. There is a need in this country for co-operation at local government, State government and Federal Government level. I believe that floods provide an excellent exercise for this to be achieved. 1 will deal with this point later in my speech. I think this is an excellent example of what can be done to bring about development in Australia.

I feel that at this stage the Federal Government should be playing an even greater role in the control of our rivers. Let us face up to the facts of life. As a result of our geographical position the east coast of Australia, not only in New South Wales but also in Queensland, will continue to be subjected to heavy rains and storms. All honourable members know that cyclones come down the east coast of Queensland and at certain times extend into New South Wales. If it were not for this fact New South Wales would suffer much more extensive droughts than it has in previous years. Therefore it is fortunate that we have these cyclonic storms. But why should we allow this water to be carried away into the sea? The principal objective of the flood mitigation programme is to deepen and widen our rivers, to consolidate our river banks, and to install drainage systems, flood gates and so on. But what is the principal objective of all the flood mitigation work envisaged in this scheme? There is one principal objective and that is to get as much water as quickly as possible into the Pacific Ocean. No consideration whatsoever has been given to the best means of storing, diverting and using this water for other purposes.

Why is il that the Snowy Mountains Authority is not brought in to do this work? Instead of talking of disbanding this excellent organisation or of minimising its influence and responsibilities, the Government should be examining ways and means whereby it can extend the activities of the Authority. The Snowy Mountains Authority should be operating in the region of the coastal rivers of New South Wales and Queensland. The purpose of the scheme should be not only to control rivers so far as flood mitigation is concerned but also to harness the water and divert it for other uses. Those concerned should be considering how best to build dams if need be. I am not going to say that dams are the solution or that the proposal put forward by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation which was set up in Newcastle some years ago is the be-all and end-all of water conservation or the uses of water. I believe that such groups as the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, the Snowy Mountains Authority and the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust should get together and plan the best means of controlling rivers and diverting them so that the water can be used for irrigation and other purposes and for developing cities. We should put these organisations to this work. We should not be doing what flood mitigation committees and county councils are doing at the moment - letting as much water as they can, and as quickly as possible, flow into the Pacific Ocean.

I hope to see in the not too distant future the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) using his influence to have the activities of the Snowy Mountains Authority diverted into the field to which I have just referred. In this way we would be guaranteed a national work of major importance. As I have said, too much water is going into the Pacific Ocean. So I look to the Minister in the very near future to carry out some positive programme of cooperation with local government and State governments whereby something of major consequence can be introduced in the national interest. Co-operation between Federal, State and local government authorities has been achieved in regard to flooding. Admittedly, this co-operation was introduced as an election gimmick by the then Prime

Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, lt was introduced at that time because he thought he was going to be in trouble and there was a possibility that the Government would be defeated. Sir Robert Menzies wanted to get rid of, if I can use that term, the then honourable member for Cowper, Mr Frank McGuren. u ho was one of the men who brought great pressure on the Government. He did this by urgency proposals and by moving for the reduction of the Estimates by £1. He moved appropriate resolutions which were opposed by the Australian Country Party. They were opposed by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) and the present Minister for Primary Industry. I do not want to go into the details of their statements at that time. The point is that they opposed the motions but now come into this place and support the proposition we are discussing. I fully support the proposal that local government authorities and State and Federal governments should co-operate in development work of this kind in the interests of the nation.

On the eve of the 1962 elections the Federal Government once again made a small contribution to the New South Wales Government for coal loading plant at Port Kembla, Balmain and Newcastle, lt made a contribution for harbour improvements in the port of Newcastle. Why is not the Government continuing this type of assistance to the States? The port of Newcastle is subject to flooding by the Hunter River from time to time? Why cannot the Federal Government make additional moneys available in co-operation with the State Government to develop the port of Newcastle? When the last grant for coal loading facilities was made in 1962, it was estimated that a harbour depth of some 36 feet would be adequate to meet the foreseeable requirements of the port of Newcastle. Unfortunately for the New South Wales Government, the shipping industry as a whole has decided that it is more economical to carry goods in ships of not less than 50,000 tons weight. I am not thinking now of oil tankers, of which several of some 276,000 tons have recently been completed in Japan. I am talking of bulk carriers. Newcastle is one of the two major steel centres in Australia, and if the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is to be able to compete on the world’s markets and build up an export trade in steel, every possible economy must be introduced. Iron ore is at present being transported from the west coast of Australia to the east coast by ships of a maximum of some 50,000 tons. In the near future, our ports must be able to handle vessels of about 100,000 tons, because it is obvious that ore will have to be carried in ships of that size. Similar considerations apply to our coal trade. We must provide port facilities for ships of 70,000, 80,000 or 100,000 tons engaged in that trade. Unless we ensure that our ports are capable of meeting the needs of large vessels such as I have mentioned, we shall be denied an export trade not only in steel but also in coal, of which at present we have prospects for the export of reasonably large quantities.

I believe that the principle on which this measure is based should be extended to other fields of activity such as I have just described. There is considerable need for such an extended application of this principle. The port of Newcastle could stagnate in the near future, particularly if heavy flooding occurs in the Hunter River, with consequent heavy siltation of the port. This would require not only State but also Federal assistance for the clearing and deepening of the harbour. I believe that this Parliament is moving in the right direction in dealing with a measure to make funds available to the New South Wales Government to undertake flood mitigation work. I have only one regret concerning the recent political decision by members of the Australian Country Party in the New South Wales Parliament as a result of which the city of Newcastle was included in the area that is rated for the financing of the Hunter Valley Conservation Trust. This decision is costing the ratepayers of Newcastle about $89,800 a year in additional rates. Not one cent of this money will be spent within the Newcastle City Council area in the current financial year. I believe that the sort of scheme for which the Conservation Trust is responsible is rural in nature and that those who derive benefit from it should contribute to meet the cost. If this principle were applied, the people of Newcastle would not be burdened with the additional rating that has been imposed on them by a political decision made by the Country Party. That decision, as I have said, is costing the ratepayers of Newcastle some $89,800 a year. There is no indication that this figure will diminish. Indeed, we can only expect that it will rise to something more than $90,000 a year. This Country Party decision is costing the Federal Government something like $270,000 a year, because it matches dollar for dollar contributions made by the State Government, which contributes $3 for every $1 spent by the local authority.

I should like to have said much more about this Bill, but, in view of the short time left for this debate, I shall limit my remarks. In conclusion, I appeal to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to consider further the plan that was submitted to him in November 1966 by a deputation from the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. That was a plan for the development of water resources in the Hunter Valley. I believe that if the Federal Government were to provide financial assistance, not by means of non-repayable grants but by making loan moneys available, the proposed scheme would do much to assist in the flood mitigation plan that has been adopted for the Hunter River. Similar assistance would be of great benefit in relation to flood mitigation schemes on other rivers along the New South Wales coast. I support the Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker. I trust that the Government will extend the principle enunciated in this measure to other fields of activity such as port development by means of harbour deepening works and the provision of additional wharfage, and to the provision of other facilities that are necessary for national development.


- Mr Deputy Speaker, first of all I should like to express my appreciation to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) for his co-operation making it possible for me to discuss this measure before it is passed prior to the suspension of the sitting. I do not propose to cover a great deal of the ground that has already been traversed by my colleagues on the Government side of the chamber, particularly the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson). In the consideration of this measure, there has been a concentration on and appreciation of the work that has been done and the success that has been achieved in flood mitigation on the rivers along the New South Wales coast, particularly in the north. I pay my own personal tribute to those concerned in this work in the local government sphere, particularly Mr Des. O’Dell and Mr Clyde Cavanagh, two of the executive officers of the county council concerned with flood mitigation works on the Macleay River. Both of those gentlemen hi-ve served as chairman of that count/ council and Mr O’Dell is at present president of the Macleay Shire Council. I pay tribute also to other members of that Shire Council who have contributed in no small way to the success of the flood mitigation venture and also to the various local government bodies that have assisted, as well as to executive officers such as the county engineer and the county clerk, and to al) others who have played their part.

Two objectives enter into this flood mitigation work. The first is the lessening of damage due to floods and the second is the removal of flood waters from properties after the peak of the flooding has passed and the returning of the flooded areas to production in the quickest possible time. Those of us who have had any experience of flooded areas and who have seen how much has bien achieved on the north coast of New South Wales know exactly how successful flood mitigation projects have been. Some Opposition members, particularly the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), have said a great deal about the attitude of myself and some of my colleagues to flood mitigation proposals and t’o the presentation of the case submitted by Mr McGuren when he was member for Cowper. Assistance is needed for flood mitigation works also on the Manning and Hastings Rivers. I am confident that when the State Government, at some later date, has prepared a case and submits it to the Commonwealth Government again with all the associated facts and figures, the Commonwealth will step in and give assistance.

The point that 1 wish to make is that my colleagues and. I did not oppose the giving of Commonwealth assistance for flood mitigation works. What we always opposed was the literally direct Commonwealth control that would have resulted from proposals made in the early days by Mr McGuren and others who wished the Commonwealth to contribute to the maximum possible degree. That would have meant direct Commonwealth control. My colleagues and I have always said that’ when proposals were made to the Commonwealth through the State Government in the correct form we would support the principle of Commonwealth assistance. Proper proposals were eventually put forward and, when presented in the correct manner with the full authority of the State Government, my colleagues and 1 supported them. We have continued our support since and shall continue to support the principle of Commonwealth co-operation and participation in flood mitigation work. This is a tremendously important activity. The farming districts on our coastal rivers play a vital part in Australia’s economy. We have a full appreciation of the Commonwealth’s responsibility in this area and in respect of a much wider sphere. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) recently spoke of the squandering of money. This is one matter to which we have given much attention. During my speech in the AddressinReply debate 1 referred to other spheres where the Commonwealth has given financial assistance. This brings me to a matter that I regret having to raise, but it has been brought to my notice - and I informed the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) that I would be discussing this - that in the Portland Observer’, in which is incorporated the ‘Guardian’, and I am led to believe the ‘Guardian’ is the second oldest newspaper that is published in Victoria, is a report of a statement by the honourable member for Corio. ( am rather disturbed at the report, which reads:

Mr Gordon Scholes, MHR for Corio, said at Hamilton that the present drought conditions pose a continuing threat to the livelihood of all sections of the Australian community . . .

In total the Liberal-Country Party Government in Canberra is committed to spending only .S50m over a period of 10 years on water conservation throughout Australia.

I will comment further on this later, but that statement can be linked to what is attributed to the honourable member later in the same article He said, according lo the report:

The Country Parly member following me in the debate criticised the Labor Party for asking the Government lo do more for the rural community than is already being done.

Both these statements are completely and absolutely wrong in all respects. In support Of my contention I quote what I said during the Address-in- Reply debate, since I was the member who followed the honourable member for Corio. I said:

After listening to speeches made by members of the Opposition, I would like to make one comment at this stage. Most of those speeches stressed the point that this Government had done nothing about the drought. The drought problem of course is a complex one but members of the Opposition have shown a complete lack of appreciation of what the Government has done. Apparently, they have not listened to any of the statements made in this House by Ministers and by honourable members. They have not even taken note of what was contained in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. If honourable members read through that Speech they will find numerous references to the primary producers and the problems that confront them. At one point in his Speech His Excellency said:

My Government will introduce legislation during this Session to authorise expenditure on water conservation projects already agreed upon with the States. These will be financed from the $50m being made available by the Commonwealth over 5 years for these purposes.’

There have been other references to this particular problem by Ministers and by honourable members.

WhatI said is completely and absolutely true. Honourable members opposite do not pay any attention to what happens in the House, nor did they pay attention to the statement by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral which I have quoted. Mention was made of the provision of $50m over a 5 year period. The honourable member for Corio referred to a 10 year period. This shows that he did not listen. He misquoted the Country Party member who followed him - me - and obviously he had not listened to what I said.

Mr Luchetti:

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I take the point that the honourable member for Lyne is not dealing with the Bill that is before the House. He is reviving the debate that took place on the Address-in-Reply, and the matters that he is discussing have no relationship to the Bill before us.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! I ask the honourable member for Lyne to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the Bill.


– I point out to the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) that while he does not appreciate my drawing attention to the fact that what his colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said was incorrect, the

Bill relates to the expenditure of Commonwealth money on drought relief work. I thought that the honourable member for Macquarie knew a little about country conditions and problems, and flood mitigation surely is related to water conservation. An amount of $50m is to be expended over a 5 year period, not a 10 year period as stated by the honourable member for Corio. It is money additional to that which is being expended by the Commonwealth Government in other spheres of similar activity. The Government is assisting primary producers in the complex problems that confront them. Nowhere in my speech did I say that the Commonwealth has done enough, and I would be interested if the honourable member for Corio could show me where I did say that.

Mr Turnbull:

– Why did he make that statement?


– The answer is obvious when we read his final comments in the Press article to which I have referred. He said:

Anything other than a Labor victory will be interpreted as a vindication of the Government.

He was referring to the forthcoming byelection for Western Province in the Victorian Upper House. This was the reason why the honourable member gave a completely wrong impression of my remarks on the Address-in-Reply.

The money that is to be expended on the Nogoa Dam is included in the $50m expenditure proposed during the next 5 years, but the money to be spent on the Ord River scheme is additional money. I sincerely hope that when the State Government submits a case in respect of the Hastings and Manning Rivers consideration will be given by the Commonwealth Government to providing additional money for those schemes.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Lynch) read a third time.

Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.

page 669


Debate resumed from 13 March (vide page 32), on the following paper presented by Mr Gorton:

Statement of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban and matters incidental thereto - Report of Royal Commissioners - and on the motion by Mr Snedden:

That the House take note of the paper.

Suspension of Standing Orders

Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking without limitation of time.

Leader of the Opposition · Werriwa

– On 22nd August last, the late Prime Minister said in this place:

There will be ample opportunity to discuss all aspects when we have the report of the Royal Commissioners before us and debate on it can then ensue.

The House now has the opportunity to accept the late Prime Minister’s offer. It has the duty to do so. I trust that this debate and comments outside about it will not be marred by accusations about harming the morale of the Navy. If this Parliament is to do its duty, its members will not be frightened off from a searching debate on this report. The device of synthetic patriotism has been used too much. It has been used to condone and continue failure in Vietnam, lt has been used to condone breaches of the Geneva Conventions and our own Geneva Conventions Act. It has been used to inhibit free debates on the loss of the ‘Voyager’. If it had been used successfully in the Liberal Party room and in this House last May, if the members for La Trobe (Mr Jess) and Warringah (Mr St John) had not called the Government’s bluff, there would never have been a second inquiry into the ‘Voyager’ disaster. We would have been no nearer the truth about its cause. We would have been in no better position to take remedial measures to prevent other disasters from the same cause. We would have perpetuated injustices and imposed stigmas on three naval officers, the rumours about Captain Stevens would have been multiplied to grotesque proportions and the morale of the Navy would have been destroyed in an atmosphere of scandal and deceit. Last May the Parliament forced the Government to do its duty. The honourable member for La Trobe on 10th May gave notice of a motion and in another place Senator Wright gave notice of a similar motion. After that the matter could no longer be stifled. The Parliament tonight will not be deterred by this Government from doing its duty.

Shortly after the publication of the Royal Commission’s report, two rear-admirals took it upon themselves to warn us off. RearAdmiral Crabb, Flag Officer Commanding the Fleet, said that the Navy had ‘absorbed and taken enough kicking around’, and Rear-Admiral Peek, the Second Naval Member, said the Navy had ‘suffered over the last 6 months from press headlines and a lot of stupid questions from legal people at the Royal Commission’. This was reminiscent of the remarks by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in a debate in the Senate when he was just one of the series of failed Navy Ministers, that - and I quote him - ‘the only thing in this whole affair for which I will accept blame’ was the appointment as counsel assisting the first Voyager’ Royal Commission of Mr Smyth QC who had - and I quote him again - improperly damaged the Navy throughout the whole course of the inquiry’.

Mr Gorton:

– Hear, hear!


– The right honourable gentleman is not repentant. The transcript of proceedings and the report of the Royal Commission raise some plain questions which require plain answers. Was Captain Stevens unfit to retain command of the Voyager’? Did the Naval Board know of his unfitness? Should it have known? Did responsible officers of the Navy know of the condition which made him unfit to retain command? Was Lieutenant-Commander Cabban corroborated? Did corroboration exist for all or any of his statements at the time of the parliamentary debate last May? If so, was it known to the Department of the Navy? Was it known to the Naval Board? Was it known to Ministers? Did the Naval Board mislead Ministers? Did Ministers mislead the Parliament? Did Ministers or officers of the Department of the Navy or the members of the Naval Board try to suppress relevant information which should have been made available to this Parliament?

First, then, was Captain Stevens unfit to retain command of the ‘Voyager’? The central finding of the Commission is that - the late Captain Stevens was unfit to retain command of ‘Voyager’ because his physical condition did not conform to the very high standard of physical fitness (with its concomitant mental alertness) required of a captain holding that command.

This appears at page 224 of the report. The significance of this remarkable finding has been partly obscured because so much of the debate in the House, the proceedings of the Commission and the contents of its report turned on the question whether Captain Stevens was unfit because of drink. It has to be emphasised that this is a farreaching finding. It has far-reaching implications. The Commission finds, in effect, that for over a year, from January 1963 to 10th February 1964, the night of the disaster, the captain of one of the four destroyers Australia possessed at that time, in a fleet of only five ships above the. frigate class, was physically unfit to hold his command. This seems to me an infinitely more serious finding than if the Commission had found, for instance, that drink had contributed directly to the disaster. That would have been tragic and horrible indeed, but the responsibility and blame would have been Captain Stevens’ alone. But in the light of the Commission’s finding, we are confronted with the fact that for as much as a year an unfit captain was allowed to remain in command. The system designed to prevent this happening clearly broke down. Whether Captain Stevens was alone responsible for this by hiding his disability, or whether other officers were culpable in assisting him to hide it, the fact remains that the system failed.

Next I ask: Did the Naval Board know of his unfitness? Should it have known? The Commission make it particularly plain, as did the members of the Naval Board, that if Captain Stevens’ actual condition had been officially known, he would have been removed from his command. Many did in fact know it and more suspected it. During the hearings, witness after witness referred to Captain Stevens’ ulcer condition. In fact, if one accepts the non-contested evidentiary material transferred to the ‘ file marked Exhibit 60 (A), it would seem that practically the whole fleet knew of it. It will be seen that those who were most anxious to rebut suggestions of excessive drinking were the most eager to emphasise Stevens’ ulcer condition. The Commission was charged to inquire and report ‘whether any of the Naval medical officers or other officers serving in the Navy failed to report knowledge of any of the Cabban allegations’. It examined the position of three medical officers and five other officers. The Commission points out that Navy rules provide for medical reports entered on a form known as 209Z to be sent on Monday of each week by the fastest certified mail to the. Medical Director-General of the Department of the Navy in Melbourne. At page 165 of its report the Commission said:

The purpose of form 209Z is to provide a record of every occasion on which a medical officer examines a member of the fleet and a new form is made out for each attendance, whether it is for the same complaint or not.

The Medical Director-General, Surgeon Rear-Admiral Coplans, stated that ‘if an officer complained to the medical officer of pains in the stomach and vomiting and was prescribed medicine that should be so recorded.’ This appears at 1 page 1081 of the transcript. The report says that if a 209Z form had been sent to Melbourne, Captain Stevens should have been removed from his command.

Then, did responsible officers of the Navy know of the condition which made him unfit to command? The Commissioners are, to say the least, extremely sympathetic to officers who fail to perform their duty, who break the rules. Of Surgeon Commander McNeill, the Fleet medical officer, the Commissioners say at page 166 of their report:

His close friendship with Captain Stevens placed him in an awkward position where by doing his duty he may have detrimentally affected his friend’s career. . . . The hard fact remains that McNeill did not do what- his position as Fleet medical officer obliged him to do.

Of Surgeon Lieutenant Tiller, the Voyager’s’ medical officer, the Commission finds that: ‘At least as early as 12th February 1963 he had become aware of the captain’s long history of trouble … he knew of regular supplies of amphojel going to the captain’s cabin and he must have had this knowledge prior to 23rd March 1963’, and, in reference to incidents in Tokyo in June, they say: ‘We have no doubt that Tiller should have completed 209Z forms’. This appears at page 1 68 of the report. The

Commission then goes on to say - at page 169: ‘What may well have motivated Tiller, however, is understandable enough. He had been consulted on what he considered to be a confidential basis by a naval officer of senior rank about the captain of bis own ship and he was a new boy in the service’. Of Captain Willis, it records that he knew Captain Stevens had a ‘fairly sensitive stomach’ and that he had told Stevens that ‘he would have to take great care of himself otherwise he was likely to have a recurrence of his ulcer’, but finds that ‘having regard to the knowledge then possessed by Captain Willis and his own position in relation to Captain Stevens, we find that he did not fail in any duty reposed in him’. This is quoted from page 172 of the report.

Of Captain Dollard, Australian Services Attache in Tokyo in 1963, the Commission says: ‘Captain Dollard says that he had a discussion with Captain Willis concerning Stevens. Captain Dollard had known for some time of the ulcer history of Captain Stevens. In speaking of his view of the condition of Captain Stevens, he said “It was quite apparent to me. … I believed his ulcer was troubling him. … I think having the drinks also reacted badly on him . . . with something troubling him like this he was unwise to be drinking at all”.’ The Commission at page 174 says that Captain Dollard spoke only of an ulcer condition in the layman’s sense and did not believe that Stevens had an actual recurrence or reactivation of a duodenal ulcer in the strict medical sense. Of Stevens himself, the Commission says:

It is understandable that Captain Stevens was anxious that neither the Naval Medical DirectorGeneral nor the Naval Board should be informed of his periodic recurrences of stomach disorder. But as a captain in the Royal Australian Navy with the grave responsibility of the safety of his ship, officers and crew, the late Captain Stevens cannot altogether escape moral censure for failing to disclose what he must have known was a recurring condition of some seriousness’.

I refer to page 175.

One wonders whether a Commission would simply find ‘moral censure’ for, say, an airline pilot who had hidden a heart condition because discovery would wreck his career. If Captain Stevens had disclosed his condition, his naval career would not have ended. According to Naval Board evidence, he would have been posted to shore duty for 12 months, kept under observation, and, if be had recovered, been in line for a sea posting again. He chose to hide a condition which the Commission says rendered him unfit to command the Voyager’, not because discovery would have ruined him, ended his career or cut off his livelihood, but because he preferred a sea command. And for the same reason he was helped to hide the facts by a number of officers who preferred to break the clearest regulations rather than jeopardise not his career but his command. Were these officers the only ones who had any knowledge of Captain Stevens’ condition?

The Commission identifies ten specific separate occasions between 1st February and 10th June on which Captain Stevens was ill - ten times in 4 months. He was confined to his cabin on at least five occasions for periods from 1 to 3 days and for a period totalling in all at least 8 days. The Commission says: ‘His unwise and undisciplined drinking of alcohol contributed to his condition of health’. I quote from page 129 of the report This is the picture of a very sick man. As all this sickness occurred during a 4 months’ cruise, it would have been pretty well known to a great number of the ship’s company and particularly the officers. Now the fact is that a great many senior officers in Australia knew that, and on his own admission the man who knew it best of all was none other than the Medical Director-General of the Navy, Surgeon Rear-Admiral Coplans. During the debate last year, the late Prime Minister quoted a letter which Rear-Admiral Coplans had sent the Minister for the Navy. In it he said:

I knew Captain Stevens both professionally and socially. I have stayed with Captain and Mrs Stevens in their own home, and both were visitors to my house. I have never, at any time, seen Captain Stevens under the influence of alcohol. Indeed, he was so meticulous in observing his dietary restrictions that it became somewhat of a joke that when offered a drink he would invariably ask for a glass of milk. . . .

I do not believe that Captain Stevens, with his history of dyspepsia and peptic ulceration, would knowingly suffer the pain, and risk the possible complications, of aggravation by over-indulgence in alcohol.

The Medical Director-General therefore knew very well the medical history of Captain Stevens. Presumably he knew, as a medical man, the likelihood of a reactivation of Captain Stevens’ ulcer.

Apparently he did not consider it any part of his responsibility, either as the Medical Director-General or as Captain Stevens’ great friend, to pay any special attention to Stevens’ health while he was in command of ‘Voyager’. After all, the Medical Director-General is a very busy and important man and we had at that time no fewer than four destroyers with captains.

My next question is: Was Cabban corroborated? It must not be obscured that the findings of the Commission amount to a very substantial vindication for LieutenantCommander Cabban. Again because of preoccupation with the question of drink, there is a danger that this may be overlooked. Nor should it be forgotten that nowhere in his statement did LieutenantCommander Cabban make the claim that Captain Stevens was a chronic alcoholic or a chronic drunkard. The Commission is at great pains to refute a claim never made directly by Cabban. The term was used not by Cabban but by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John). The general tenor of the Cabban statement is that Captain Stevens may have been unfit to command by reason of his drinking habits. The Commission finds that he was unfit to command by reason of his ulcer condition aggravated by his ‘unwise and undisciplined drinking’. It would appear that symptoms which were the manifestation of his unfitness to command were to some extent misinterpreted by Cabban as symptoms of drinking.

In the light of its basic vindication of Cabban, I find it very difficult to understand why the Commission should have taken such great pains to denigrate Cabban. I should say there that I refer to the two members of the Commission who prepared this report. I exempt from this stricture Mr Justice Lucas. We can be grateful that this commissioner considered the evidence and was able to sit until the conclusion of the evidence. The Commission - the two survivors - declares Cabban ‘an unreliable witness’, and yet says that ‘in many instances indeed he emerged as an entirely reliable witness on detailed objective facts’. Actually, the overwhelming majority of statements of fact contained in the Cabban statement were proved correct. Nobody who gave evidence before this Commission required corroboration less.

Mr McMahon:

– Will the honourable gentleman repeat that?


– The Commission further finds that the general purport of his statement - Captain Stevens’ unfitness to command - was true.

Mr McMahon:

– Will the honourable gentleman repeat his earlier remark?


– The Treasurer is lucky that he was not called to give evidence before the Commission.

The Commission devotes three pages of the report to what it describes as a histrionic metaphor about Cabban’s vision of himself. In a thoroughly distasteful manner it seizes on a remark that he made about a ‘Caine mutiny type situation’ to pillory Cabban. It criticises him for seeing himself as the instrument of achieving justice for Captain Robertson whom he believed to have been unfairly treated. The fact is that Cabban was the instrument of justice for Captain Robertson. Captain Robertson had been unfairly treated. If it had not been for the Cabban statement, justice would never have been done to Captain Robertson. If Cabban did in fact see himself in the role ascribed to him by the Commission, then he was right, for that is precisely the role he has filled. This Parliament and this nation is deeply in Cabban’s debt. He acted impeccably throughout; he proved his intense loyalty to the Navy; he was inhibited by that loyalty and at all times acted with complete propriety. He did not publish his statement; he tried to work through the Naval Board; through two Prime Ministers and through members of this Parliament to set an injustice right. He has succeeded. All credit to him and to those to whom he spoke and who were convinced by him.

Dr Mackay:

– You did not speak up. You had all the facts on the affair.


– And you were silenced.

Dr Mackay:

– I was not.


– I will come later to the honourable, gallant and reverend gentleman. The first question asked about the Voyager’ after the first inquiry concluded was by me. I repeated it and I got a different answer from the late Prime Minister from the one that I got from the then Minister for the Navy. Discrediting Cabban was an essential part of the Government’s attempt and the Naval Board’s determination to cover up the whole affair and to refuse a further inquiry. It is disappointing indeed that the Commission, which in essence has thoroughly vindicated him, should have seen fit itself to co-operate or to participate in this cowardly effort.

Did corroboration exist for all or any of his statements at the time of the debate? There was plenty of corroboration for Cabban, and the Government had the means of knowing that there was corroboration before the debate last May. The AttorneyGeneral should or could have known it, yet he said on 16 May:

In fact no new evidence whatever bearing on these findings of the Commission has been brought forward . . . indeed from information in my possession the correctness of the author’s account of a number of incidents referred to in the statement is denied by the very man who according to the author is in a position to corroborate it.

The then Minister for the Navy should or could have known that there was corroboration, yet he said on 16 May:

On the one hand we have this unsupported, uncorroborated, unsworn statement containing serious allegations and naming specific incidents. On the other hand we have before us direct refutations of these allegations by the people concerned and named in the statement.

The Treasurer should or could have known it. But he said on 17 May:

In the paper presented by Lieutenant Commander Cabban, which was uncorroborated, he stated that he would rely on the corroboration of another naval officer. That officer has in fact denied the accuracy of the statement and he was not prepared to give evidence in support of LieutenantCommander Cabban.

All three Ministers whose words I have recalled well knew or ought to have known that their statements were false. By 16th and 17th May there was in fact ample corroboration for Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s allegations. For some weeks before the debate Mr Landau, the Secretary of the Navy and as such a member of the Naval Board, had been checking on the allegations. The two key officers in this exercise were Lieutenant-Commander Griffith, whom Cabban named ‘as being able to substantiate the main facts outlined’ and Dr Tiller, medical officer of the ‘Voyager’ during her Far East cruise.

Griffith made a witnessed statement in Canberra on 15th May. In one part of it he stated: my understanding is that Captain Stevens had a reputation of being a heavy rather than a moderate drinker. I know of no occasion on which I have seen him intoxicated subject to the qualification that on the night of the mess dinner the Captain was obviously unwell but whether this was due to alcohol 1 cannot say.

In another part he said: 1 have, however, seen him early in the mornings when his facial appearance was consistent with heavy drinking the night before but this was only a general impression and should not be treated as anything else.

Of this statement Mr Justice Lucas was later to say:

Surely it must appear from the statement, as a matter of inference, that it contains substantial corroboration?

Landau gave evidence on 21st August. He swore that during the debate on 16th M’ay an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department had handed him a statement by Griffith concerning Cabban’s claims, lt was at this juncture that Mr Justice Lucas stated:

Surely it must appear from the statement, as a matter of inference, that it contains substantial corroboration?

On 30th August 1 asked the AttorneyGeneral whether he saw Griffith’s statement on 16th May or on subsequent days of the debate. If not, could he say when he first saw it. The 16th May was the date on which the learned gentleman opened the debate. In his reply he stated that he thought he had seen it the day before, which was the 15th, and that it had been prepared by the Solicitor-General. He said that he was aware of what was in it and that the Solicitor-General and he had later compared his own statement in the House and Griffith’s statement, and his statement was not only literally true but also true in substance and in spirit.

On 5th September 1 placed on the notice paper a question for the Minister for the Navy asking him when he first saw Lieutenant-Commander Griffith’s statement, which was handed to the Secretary of his Department by an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in the House on 16th May? On 19th September the Minister replied:

I was aware of the existence of the statement at the time I spoke in the debate on 16th May and of its general effect but 1 did not in fact see it until afterwards.

Thereupon on 21st September I placed a further question on the notice paper for the Minister and asked whether in view of his answer, which I have just quoted, he would say when and by whom he was acquainted with the general effect of the statement? On 12th October, before the Minister gave me a written reply, senior counsel for the Naval Board felt prompted to make a statement from the bar table at the Commission that Mr Landau had made a mistake and that in fact he had heard about the statement the previous day, 15th May, and had got the statement later. A week later the Minister for the Navy gave me a statement in accord with what the Commission had been more correctly informed in the meantime. And then at last, on 27th October, poor Landau had to traipse back to the witness box and clean up another of his lapses by swearing to what had been said by the Naval Board counsel on his behalf between my asking the question and being given an answer which would be in accordance with the facts. Honourable gentlemen will wonder how much confidence they can have in the administration of the Navy with a creature like this in charge.

Mr Gorton:

– To whom are you referring?


Mr Landau. Two Ministers are in disagreement as to the date on which they hear about material and the gist of what was given to them was inaccurate. Does any honourable member believe that the Attorney-General was careful or factual on 16th May in saying that Cabban’s account had been denied by Griffith and in reporting on 30th August that what he had said on 16th May was not only literally true but also true in substance and in spirit? Does any honourable member believe that the former Minister for the Navy was careful or factual on 16th May in saying that Cabban’s statement was unsupported, uncorroborated and directly refuted. This Minister went further in his deception. He not only failed to refer to Griffith’s statement of 15th May but used an earlier statement of 1st May to give a totally false impression of the type of evidence Griffith was prepared to give. He said: ‘Statements have been obtained. They have been witnessed but not sworn. Lieutenant-Commander S. Griffith, RAN, Navigation Officer of the ‘Voyager’ at the time, has said: “I do not consider this to be a true statement.” This is the officer whom Cabban suggests would substantiate everything he said ‘. In fact the quotation used by the Minister was from Griffith’s first statement and referred specifically to only one of Cabban’s allegations, namely that Griffith had told Mr Smyth, Q.C., at the first inquiry that he would substantiate Cabban. The Minister used a single sentence from Griffith’s statement referring to a single specific charge to imply that Griffith had stated that the whole of the Cabban statement was untrue. The Minister misled the House in a negative way by withholding Griffith’s subsequent statement. He misled the House in a positive way by using a statement by Griffith utterly out of context.

The history of the Tiller statement is even more intriguing. Dr Tiller was in London and Mr Landau had written on 21st April to Commodore Smythe, the Australian Naval Representative at Australia House, asking him to obtain Tiller’s comments. This was done and Tiller’s comments were such as to give qualified corroboration to Cabban. He was asked to comment on this statement by Cabban:

During the period in the Far East the situation became more than trying, it was quite desperate and he drank for very long periods in harbour until he became violently ill and then would spend days in bed being treated by a doctor and his steward until he was fit to start drinking again.

Tiller wrote:

I agree with the first part of the statement but disagree with the inference contained in the second part that he was continually drinking.

On Cabban’s account of the birthday party in the ‘Voyager’ mess room at Singapore, Tiller wrote:

I agree with this but disagree with the statement got on his bands and knees and crawled across to the mess table’.

On Cabban’s statement relating to the fourth day in Tokyo, he wrote: ‘I agree with above’ and then proceeded to make several qualifications about the accuracy of some details mentioned by Cabban. These statements were available in Canberra at least the week before the debate.

On 9th May Mr Landau telephoned Dr Tiller in London, pointed out to Tiller that a debate was likely to occur, and asked him if he were prepared to permit his written comments to be made public. Both Dr Tiller and Mr Landau agree that Tiller was unwilling for this to be done but they then disagree substantially about the history of Tiller’s first statements. Mr Landau says that he got the ‘distinct impression’ that Dr Tiller wanted his statement to be destroyed. However, Dr Tiller said in his prepared statement for the Commission:

Later I received a telephone call which I think was from Mr Landau in Canberra. He asked if I would like to withdraw my comments. I agreed and he asked further if I would mind if my comments were destroyed. I also agreed to this as 1 felt that I did not wish to be involved in this matter in any way. I got the feeling at the time that Mr Landau was keen for me to consent to destruction of my answers. It was quite a long conversation.

Mr Landau said in evidence that his reason for contacting Tiller was that he found his comments ‘incomprehensible’. On the face of it, their purport is quite clear. They contain qualified corroboration for Cabban. The question of whether Dr Tiller wished his statements to be quoted in the debate or otherwise made public is irrelevant in this context. What is relevant is that one of the key witnesses had made a statement well in advance of the debate which contained corroboration for Cabban. The Navy Secretary knew it and Ministers must, or to put it at its lowest, should, have known of it.

The whole purport of the May debate as far as Ministers were concerned was to suggest that Cabban, who was an irresponsible, disillusioned and malicious man, had made a number of wild allegations for which, after searching inquiries, absolutely no corroboration could be found, either in fact or in substance. Yet factual and substantial corroboration was in their possession all through the debate. The whole object of the exercise was to kill calls for an inquiry by discrediting Cabban. This was the intention of the Naval Board. The Board saw Cabban as a threat and he had to be discredited. One has only to compare two statements on Cabban made by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral McNicoll. He wrote a memorandum on 23rd August 1964, when the Cabban threat did not loom very large.

Sir Robert Menzies was clearly determined that there would be no reopening. In 1965 the Board relied on Sir Robert

Menzies to quash calls for a reopening. In 1965 Vice-Admiral McNicoll had this to say about Cabban:

Now a lieutenant-commander, he received in all four ‘immediate’ recommendations for promotion to commander. It should be noted that many officers fail to achieve selection with as many or more recommends. He was, however, recommended by at least two sound judges who mention, in addition to his professional qualities, his devotion to duty and his high moral standards. His last report which came from Captain Stevens included in the text the record: ‘He is above all intensely loyal’. Captain Stevens recommended him for immediate promotion. Lieutenant-Commander Cabban gave no reasons for his resignation which is not unusual.

By May 1967 Cabban had become a very great nuisance - a threat - to the Board. On 15th May 1967 Vice-Admiral McNicoll wrote in a memorandum to Cabinet entitled The Character of Cabban’:

I knew him personally only as a very young officer and I found him immature and foolish . . The ‘high moral character’, ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘awareness’ all of which are mentioned by Dr Mackay-

This was in reference to a letter to the late Prime Minister from the honourable member for Evans: probably add up to what might be less charitably described as a self-righteous monomania. It is baffling that Dr Mackay and his associates are prepared to accept the unsworn testimony of a man who failed to make the grade in the Navy against the word of serving officers however senior.

Between 23rd August 1965 and 15th May 1967, Vice-Admiral McNicoll’s opinion of Cabban had clearly undergone a revolution. The ‘devotion to duty and high moral standards’ of 1965 had become ‘selfrighteous monomania’ by 1967. The real change which had occurred in those 2 years was not in Cabban’s character or the Board’s assessment of it but in his significance and the Board’s assessment of his significance in relation to itself. Vice-Admiral McNicoll succeeded in his purpose. He set Ministers against Cabban. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) relied in his speech on the comments which Vice-Admiral McNicoll had made in this document on Cabban.

Mr McMahon:

– Not relied; I quoted him exactly.


– Vice-Admiral McNicoll set Ministers against Cabban. They still are not repentant for having blackguarded this man for having tried to stifle their own rank and file. Vice-Admiral McNicoll silenced the honourable member for Evans.

Even after the Government had accepted the need for the second Commission, the Board still tried to discourage corroboration. What else was . the purpose of the letter dated 26th June 1967 from the Deputy Commonwealth Crown Solicitor to potential witnesses? This letter was drafted by senior counsel for the Navy. The letter in all cases contained the sentence: T might add that I have not been able to obtain corroboration of these allegations from other witnesses already in Australia’. This statement was untrue and improper. The Board already had the statements of Griffiths and Tiller, therefore it was untrue. But even if it had been true, what was the purpose of its insertion? It was clearly meant to discourage witnesses - to signal to them that if they corroborated Cabban they would be alone; that they would be left out on a limb; that they would let the side down; that they would rock the boat.

Lieutenant-Commander Ian Holmes told counsel assisting the Commission:

I was surprised. Reading the next two pages of extracts from Cabban’s report, I felt I had knowledge, be it hearsay or my own observations, of quite a deal of the material contained in the letter and I was surprised to hear no corroboration of any of the allegations had been forthcoming at the time this letter was written to me.

Holmes himself went on in evidence very similar to that of Cabban’s to give an account of the mess room birthday party.

The Government even used the forms and facilities of this Parliament to deny and discourage corroboration. On 17th May the Minister for the Navy presented statements obtained from relevant officers and on the following day the House ordered them to be printed. They are Parliamentary Paper No. 50 of last year. The statements were carefully chosen. Those that would corroborate Cabban were excluded. For instance, five statements are used from Captain Willis of the ‘Vampire’. They all refute Cabban. But two statements by Willis which would tend to corroborate Cabban are excluded. They are not contained in the main file containing all the statements sought before the May debate. They are in a completely different file, now in Exhibit 81 of the Commission’s proceedings. The Secretary for the Navy could give no reasons how the two corroborating statements had become separated from the rest. He was given ample opportunity, over pages of interrogation. I spare honourable members the tergiversations and prevarications of this departmental head on that occasion. The best he could do was to say that he ‘must have overlooked it’. Landau has the Nelson touch. He turned a blind eye.

The whole story can be summed up in this way. Everything which would go to Cabban’^ credit was suppressed, and everything which went to his discredit was publicised. This characterises the whole conduct of the debate by Ministers and the whole conduct of the Board, both before and during the second Royal Commission. There was deception. The Government made the Parliament party to this deception.

We are now in a position to answer the questions I posed at the beginning of my speech. Was Captain Stevens unfit to retain command of the ‘Voyager’? The Commission says that he was. Did the Naval Board know of his unfitness? We know at least that the chief medical officer of the Navy was aware of it. Should the Board have known? In the light of Stevens’ known past history and his conduct while in command of the ‘Voyager’, it is plain that there was a gross malfunctioning of the system of check and control of naval commanders. Did responsible officers of the Navy know of the condition which made him unfit to retain command? There is evidence that many more officers beyond those criticised in the report were in fact aware of it. Was Lieutenant-Commander Cabban corroborated? Amply. Did corroboration exist for all or any of his statements at the time of the parliamentary debate last May? A great deal of corroboration was available.

Mr McMahon:

– None.


– Does the Treasurer still say that?

Mr McMahon:

– Yes. I will read out to you the report of the Commission.


– If so, was that corroboration known to the Navy Department? It was, because the Navy Department had obtained it. Was it known to the Naval Board? The Minister and the Secretary for the Navy, a member of the Naval Board, at the very least knew of it. Was it known to Ministers? Apart from the

Minister for the Navy, it was known to the Attorney-General, the then Prime Minister and the Treasurer.

Did the Naval Board mislead Ministers? Vice-Admiral McNicoll at least gave Ministers a totally misleading and unfair picture of the character of Cabban completely contradicting the character he had drawn two years previously. Did Ministers mislead the Parliament? The Ministers who knew that corroboration for Cabban existed at the time of the debate and who spoke on the debate did mislead this House, and must have known they were misleading it.

Did Ministers or officers of the Navy Department or the members of the Naval Board try to suppress relevant information which should have been made available to this Parliament? They suppressed it during the debate; they suppressed it in a Blue Paper published under the authority of this Parliament; and they continued to try to suppress it by writing discouraging letters to potential witnesses.

The second Royal Commission makes two recommendations for the reform of the Navy. One deals with the social obligations of naval officers during operational cruises, and the other aims at a more stringent form of medical check-ups for officers. As a result of the first Royal Commission, eight steps were taken to tighten up efficiency in the administration of the Navy. Thus, out of this disaster ten reforms have been made necessary in the administration of the Navy. During the period leading up to the Voyager’ disaster there was a serious decline in the efficiency, morale and performance of the Royal Australian Navy. The present Prime Minister was Minister for the Navy for that period. He held the office for the record term from 1958 to the end of 1963. In September 1960 HMAS ‘Anzac’ holed HMAS ‘Tobruk’ during gunnery exercises. On 11th September 1960 two sailors died when the ammunition carrier HMAS ‘Woomera’ exploded 20 miles off Sydney while dumping obsolete ammunition. In May 1963 the frigate HMAS ‘Queenborough’ and the British submarine ‘Tabard’ collided off Jervis Bay. In October 1963 five young naval officers from HMAS ‘Sydney’ lost their lives when a whaleboat tried to sail round Hook and Hayman Islands off the Queensland coast. In January 1964 HMAS

Supply’ almost sank stern first off Garden Island. And in February 1964 ‘Voyager’ and ‘Melbourne’ collided. The Prime Minister left the Navy Ministry in December 1963. It is perhaps significant that since February 1964 there have been no major mishaps in the Navy - whatever misfortunes may have occurred to the Ministers who held the portfolio.

The tragedy of the ‘Voyager’ has left a trail of tarnished reputations behind. The list of blameworthy men is long. The present Prime Minister cannot escape responsibility for the state of the Navy during his period of administration. He has inherited a dossier of the Hansard and Commission references to the matters on which I have reflected on his colleagues. Sir Robert Menzies needlessly censured Captain Robertson in terms far harsher than any used by Sir John Spicer. Sir Robert Menzies almost expressed regret that there was not sufficient evidence to place Captain Robertson on trial by court martial. For a year he quashed demands for a reopening of the inquiry and justice for Captain Robertson. It has cost the people tens of thousands of dollars - in fact, $60,000 - to rectify that particular injustice.

The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), as Minister, abetted the injustice done to Captain Robertson. The honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), as Minister, misled the House. The AttorneyGeneral misled the House. The Treasurer misled the House. The Secretary for the Navy inadequately fulfilled his responsibilities in the collection and distribution to Cabinet of relevant information. The Chief of the Naval Staff grossly distorted his knowledge of the character of LieutenantCommander Cabban in order to quash furthur inquiry. The Medical DirectorGeneral of the Navy failed to pursue his knowledge of Captain Stevens’ true condition. Naval officers failed to perform their duty in notifying the Board of Captain Stevens’ unfitness. The Naval Board attempted to discourage witnesses.

In all this sorry story, out of all this terrible tragedy, only one thing emerged for which this nation can be proud. And it is a great thing. In all the days and days of evidence given to two Royal Commissions, in all the days and days of debate in this

House, in all the allegations and counterallegations, charges and counter-charges, there has never been any suggestion that on that night off Jervis Bay the men’ on the ships failed to fulfil their duty. In countless cases they fulfilled it heroically and nobly. It is this, despite all the maladministrations, all the operations of the old-boy network, all the lies, all the vindictiveness. all the attempts to conceal and evade, which gives us a Navy of which we can still be proud.

Prime Minister · Higgins · LP

Mr Speaker, we have heard tonight from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) an exposition which appears to attack and to seek to attack not only the Naval Board, the Government and myself but also and in particular the findings of the Royal Commissioners who were set up to conduct an examination and who, being, 1 imagine the honourable member would agree, completely impartial,’ should not be subjected to this kind of attack and to this kind of denigration for the findings they made on the evidence presented to them over such a period of lime. But of course the attack was not confined to the Commissioners and their findings. It was also extended in a way in which no politician ought to extend an attack in this place to a public servant to the extent of describing the Secretary of the Department of the Navy as ‘this creature’. This is a shameful way for the Leader of the Opposition to carry on. If there is to be some opposition to a course that is taken by a senior public servant, if there is to be some claim thai that course was wrong, let it at least be made in a reasonable way and let it not. be attached to this kind of childish denigration of a man who cannot support himself in this place.

It has been pointed out to me by a member of the Opposition that I have 18 minutes left; but there are a number of other honourable members on this side who have a lot more than 18 minutes left and who will be well able to defend themselves against the improper attacks made upon them. Let me just indicate to the House tm approach that the Government makes on this matter. A second Royal Commission was set up as a result of allegations made :by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, who brought into question the drinking habits and the seamanship of the late Captain Stevens. Because the allegations in the statement were so serious and because if they had been proved to be accurate :hey could have had such a serious effect, it was decided that the question would be reopened and that there would be a second Royal Commission. Mr Speaker, the Royal Commissioners, who I know are not exempt from attack by the Leader of the Opposition but whom most people would regard as being completely impartial, have slated that any reasonable man reading the Cabban statement as it was made some 6 months after the completion of the first Royal Commission could not fail to reach a conclusion that Captain Stevens was a chronic drunkard, that he spent his time in port drinking until he became ill, recovering from that and then embarking upon another drinking bout and that his qualifications as to seamanship were such that he should not have been in charge of one of Her Majesty’s vessels. This was what the Commissioners said a reasonable man reading the Cabban statement would conclude, and this was what the Commissioners specifically and completely rejected as being a true history of the facts.

We in this House should now take this opportunity to point out that the Commissioners reached this conclusion after examining all the relevant evidence and they expressed their findings in these words:

This is not merely a case where allegations of frequent drunkenness are not proved. Not only is there no evidence to support frequent drunkenness, but the evidence positively establishes that this was not the fact.

If it is true, as the Commissioners claim it was true, that this officer of the Royal Australian Navy, who perished in the per’formance of his duty, has been held up whether with malice or not, and the Commissioners claim no malice, before the public as somebody who was in such a state of drunkenness, it is essential to establish here that the Commissioners have completely refuted in the words I have just stated any accuracy in this accusation. Indeed. I can go further and state, as I believe I should state, that LieutenantCommander Cabban himself in his evidence before the Commissioners disclaimed any attempt to have drawn from his evidence a conclusion that the late Captain Stevens was in fact so affected by drink. It is essential that this should now be stated in this House.

Similarly it is necessary to state that on the question of the competence as a seaman of the late Captain Stevens the Commissioners found that he was not in any way incompetent as a seaman to command one of Her Majesty’s ships and indeed again Lieutenant-Commander Cabban in his statements and evidence before the Commission disclaimed any intention in what was in his statement to suggest that the late Captain Stevens was in any way lacking as a seaman. These two points should be made clear, because this officer has been subjected to these accusations and these accusations have been found by a judicial commission to be not founded in fact. I wish to make that point in justice to an officer who is no longer with us.

Now I move on to some of the strange and inaccurate statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in his address to us tonight. One of the first and most inaccurate statements, if there is a degree of inaccuracy in these matters, was that the Commission found that from January 1963 to February 1964 Captain Stevens was unfit to retain his command. This is what the Leader of the Opposition told us 10 minutes ago. Yet when we read the report of the Commissioners, from which I presume the Leader of the Opposition was pretending to quote, we find that they say:

We must answer this question as from 31st December 1963.

They did not say as from 1st January but as from a year later. Here we have been told that the Commissioners have found something to be true that the Commissioners did not find to be true. What sort of creditability can we give to this kind of accusation?

Mr Donald Cameron:

– None.


– I agree. I thank the honourable member for the answer. I prefer to rely on the findings of the Royal Commissioners. Then we have the Leader of the Opposition suggesting to this House that the Naval Board did know of the allegations against Captain Stevens. Yet the findings of the Royal Commissioners are perfectly clear on this point. They are:

We find-

We’ are the Royal Commissioners - that the Naval Board did not know of the allegations . . and there was nothing that came to their knowledge which ought to have put them on inquiry.

This is a different presentation from the one we have received tonight from the Leader of the Opposition. Again, one must make one’s own judgment on the relative credibility of the Leader of the Opposition and of the Royal Commissioners sitting in impartial findings on these facts. We are told, and it is true, that officers such as McNeill and Tiller did not complete the forms which naval regulations required them to complete. This is admitted. Both these officers were out of the Navy by the time the inquiry was set in train. But all that this proves is that the regulations laid down by the Navy will, if they are followed by the officers in it, bring to the attention of the Board facts which the Board ought to know. There is no military, Air Force, Naval Board or other administrative authority which can do more than lay down regulations which, if they are carried out, will fulfil the requirements sought to be attained by that administrative authority.

I think one of the most serious derogations of the Leader of the Opposition was his attempt to suggest that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen), the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp), the former Minister for the Navy, have in some way misled this House during the last debate upon this matter. It is claimed by the Leader of the Opposition that there was corroboration at the time of the statements made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban and that these Ministers knew of that corroboration and that in saying there was not such corroboration Ministers deliberately misled this House. I do not believe there is any scintilla - I use that word advisedly - of evidence to support this statement. Let us look at what in fact was said by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban and what in fact was said by the relevant Ministers in this place and what was said by those officers whom LieutenantCommander Cabban said would corroborate him. In his statement Lieutenant-Commander Cabban said:

During the period in the Far East the situation became more than trying, it was quite desperate, as he drank for very long periods in harbour until he became violently ill and then would spend days in bed being treated by the doctor and his steward until he was fit to again start drinking.

Lieutenant-Commander Griffith, the officer who Cabban said would corroborate him-, stated: 1 hud never seen Captain Stevens under the influence of drink.

Mr Kevin Cairns:

– A bit different.


– Well, it is not corroboration, although at the mess dinner to which Cabban refers in his statement, Captain Stevens obviously did not look well. Lieutenant-Commander Griffith said:

The general remarks made on or after the dinner was that the Captain had drunk too much but when Captain Stevens left the mess he was not held up. I do not remember any signs of slurred speech or of actions to indicate drunkenness such as mentioned by Mr Cabban.

Can the Leader of the Opposition truly claim that this statement by LieutenantCommander Griffith is corroboration of the statement by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban? Later Lieutenant-Commander Griffith - this is the officer who was supposed to corroborate Cabban, whom the Leader of the Opposition said did corroborate Cabban, whom the Leader of the Opposition said the Minister knew corroborated Cabban, and in respect of whom the Leader of the Opposition therefore said, the Minister misled the House - said:

My understanding is that Captain Stevens had the reputation of being a heavy rather than a moderate drinker. I know of no occasion on which I have seen him intoxicated.

Is that corroboration of a charge of drunkenness? Lieutenant-Commander Griffith went on to say:

Subject to the qualification on the night of the mess dinner, the Captain was obviously unwell but whether this was due to alcohol I cannot say. I have never seen Captain Stevens drink at sea and although I have been in his cabin I have never seen him drink there other than the ordinary issue of lime powder and water.

Is this corroboration of a statement which the Royal Commissioners claimed would, to any reasonable man, indicate that the late Captain Stevens was a drunkard? What is this claim of corroboration tied to?

Let me move to the question of seamanship. In the statement made by LieutenantCommander Cabban a number of incidents are mentioned. There is the alleged collision between two destroyers. This was the time when one destroyer was berthing alongside another destroyer which was static, not moving. There was the incident when a towline parted. There was the incident mentioned when a ship drove in - I think that was the term - between two other ships. These incidents took place. LieutenantCommander Cabban in his evidence before the Commission said that he did not advance these incidents as indications of bad seamanship at all or of bad ship handling at all. This was not in his mind and he did not advance them in that way. But nevertheless the Commission found that a reasonable man reading the documents would have thought they did tend to indicate some lack of seamanship or some lack of ship handling, and they did take place. But on all the evidence, including the evidence of LieutenantCommander Cabban himself, they were not either evidence of bad seamanship or advanced as evidence of bad seamanship. According to his evidence they were merely advanced as an indication of the temperament of Captain Stevens.

It is no corroboration of an incident to say that that incident took place. If I were to say here tonight - and of course I would not - that yesterday I saw the Leader of the Opposition walk through the door of his office and he had had so much to drink that he tripped on the carpet and fell flat on the floor, and if later someone were to say, ‘Yes, he was walking through the door of his office and he did trip on the carpet and fall over, but I know he had nothing to drink the whole day; he tripped because the carpet was loose’, then this second statement would not be a corroboration of the first. It would be quite different in content and in the implications to be drawn from it. Yet, it is that kind of suggestion which the Leader of the Opposition claims to be a corroboration. It is just not a corroboration at all. These matters will be developed by the Ministers who have been attacked. They cannot be developed by the Royal Commissioners who have been attacked, but they will be attacked by those who can speak for themselves in this House.

Let me refer to the questions which the Leader of the Opposition asked in his statement and to the answers which he has given. The Leader of the Opposition asked: Was Captain Stevens unfit to retain command of ‘Voyager’? The Commission said he was. The Commission said he was as from December 1963, not as from the date which the Leader of the Opposition advanced in this chamber as the time from which he was unfit to retain command. The Leader of the Opposition also asked: Did the Naval Board know of his unfitness? The Leader of the Opposition answered his own question by saying: ‘We know at least that the Chief Medical Officer of the Navy was aware of it.’ Mr Speaker, what a misleading statement that is. What an inaccurate statement that is. Let us look at the Leader of the Opposition’s statement that the chief medical officer of the Navy was aware of Captain Stevens’s unfitness to retain command of ‘Voyager*. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its courtesy in granting me an extension of time. I shall endeavour not to extend my time too far. The basis of this claim by the Leader of the Opposition that the chief medical officer of the Navy was aware of Captain Stevens’s unfitness to retain command of ‘Voyager’ is that the chief medical officer of the Navy knew that on one occasion Captain Stevens had had a duodenal ulcer, and that he knew that Captain Stevens was taking care of that ulcer and was drinking milk when he went out to see the chief medical officer in his own home. In other words, Mr Speaker, all that that means is that the chief medical officer of the Navy knew that there had been a medical history, knew that there had been treatment for an ulcer, knew that the condition had healed, and knew that the officer was taking care of that condition. This >s now advanced in this House and is twisted round to a suggestion that, because of that, the chief medical officer knew that some years later the late Captain Stevens was unfit to retain command of ‘Voyager’. What credibility can we give to arguments of this kind?

Then the Leader of the Opposition asks: Should the Naval Board have known? He answers his question - and he answers all his questions, naturally, in a way that suits himself, as I suppose we all do with our own questions - in this way: In the light of Stevens’s known past history and his conduct while in command of ‘Voyager’, it is plain that there was a gross malfunctioning of the system of check and control of naval commanders. So the Leader of the Opposition has decided that the royal commissioners were wrong in their findings, because what they found was that the Naval Board did not know; that there was nothing which came to its knowledge which should have put it on inquiry, that the two naval medical officers referred to in the report had in fact not filled in the forms which the regulations required them to fill in; and therefore there could have been no possibility of the Board, or responsible members of it, knowing.

Did responsible officers of the Navy know of the condition which made him unfit to retain command?’, asks the Leader of the Opposition. And he answers: There is evidence that many more officers beyond those criticised ‘.n the report were in fact aware of it. Aware of what, Mr Speaker? aware of the fact that he had a duodenal ulcer? Of course there were a number of officers aware of that. There were also - and the Leader of the Opposition did not care to tell us this - a number of other naval officers, members of the Royal Navy as well as members of the Royal Australian Navy, commanding and responsible for Captain Stevens and other captains in charge of ships, who were so satisfied with the way in which he performed his duties as commanding officer of ‘Voyager’ that they reported on him as having properly and thoroughly carried out his duties in command. Those were not just officers of the Royal Australian Navy, but also officers of the Royal Navy. Then we are asked by the Leader of the Opposition: Did corroboration exist for all or any of his statements at the time of the parliamentary debate last May? That is a reference to Cabban’s statements. What corroboration was available, if any, Mr Speaker? I suggest that there was none. Oh, yes, there was corroboration by incidents occurring when ships went close to each other and when tow lines parted. But, as 1 pointed out, this was not corroboration of the underlying suggestion that this was due to bad seamanship. Oh, yes, there was corroboration that on 3 days, as the royal commission found, out of the 180-odd days of the cruise Captain Stevens was affected by alcohol - slightly on one occasion, more than slightly on another. Is that corroboration, Mr Speaker? Would this House think that that was corroboration of the kind of impression that one would gain from a first reading of the statements that the late Captain Stevens was drunk all the time in port, that he spent his time drinking, then getting better so that he could drink again?

Could that be called corroboration? For it was not called corroboration by the royal commissioners.

Then we are asked: If there was corroboration, was it known to the Navy Department? It was, the Leader of the Opposition tells us, because the Department had obtained it. What the Department obtained, Mr Speaker, was statements by LieutenantCommander Griffith refuting completely the claims made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. What the Department obtained which did to some extent support the claims made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban was a statement made by the medical officer who had since left the Navy - SurgeonLieutenant Tiller. The Leader of the Opposition has attempted to make great play with the suggestion that because Surgeon-Lieutenant. Tiller had made a statement which tended to corroborate - as it did - some of the statements by LieutenantCommander Cabban, therefore Ministers in this House were wrong because they suppressed this statement, because they did not let it come to the light of the day. What is the truth of this, Mr Speaker? The truth of this is that Surgeon-Lieutenant Tiller made a statement long before there was any question of a royal commission being appointed and long before there was any chance of his ever being held in the witness box to sustain the evidence and the truth of whatever he might put in the statement that he then made. Subsequently, this question of the royal commission arose, and there also arose the question of sustaining the truth and accuracy of the statement previously made. And in those circumstances, Surgeon-Lieutenant Tiller - not the Government - said that he did not wish his statement to be used; it was a statement which was his personal property, and he did not want it to be used. The royal commissioners, in their judgment and in their findings, found that this was a perfectly reasonable attitude for Tiller to take and that it was a perfectly reasonable attitude for Mr Landau, the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, who was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition as ‘this creature’, to respect the privacy of what was in effect a private communication and to get another statement, which was subsequently made.

Mr Speaker, I do not wish to trespass too long on the courtesy that the House has done me in extending my time. I shall complete what I have to say in these words: The second royal commission was set up by the Government as a result of statements made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. Those statements, on the royal commissioners’ own findings, were found to be untrue, though not untrue as a result of malice. On the findings of the royal commission, the implications inherent in what the Leader of the Opposition has said this evening about the drinking habits of the late Captain Stevens were fully rejected by the royal commissioners. In their view, on the evidence of Cabban himself, the allegations as to bad seamanship were fully rejected. In the view of the royal commissioners, examining the matter as a whole, the previous findings of the first royal commission in relation to Captain Robertson were rejected. And the Government has already taken action to do what was considered to be the just thing in that case.

Mr Bryant:

– It would never have happened without Cabban.


– I would not contest that.

Mr Bryant:

– Then why do you not say so?


– I am saying so, am I not? How can I do more than say that I would not contest that?

Dr J F Cairns:

– Give credit where credit is due.


– Order! The honourable member for Yarra will cease interjecting.

Dr J F Cairns:

– The Prime Minister needs a lot of help, Mr Speaker.


– If I needed a lot of help I would not get it from the honourable member for Yarra, Mr Speaker, and I certainly would not seek it.


– Order! I have already asked the honourable member for Yarra to cease interjecting. If he continues in this vein I will have to deal with him.


– It is quite evident that the findings regarding the causes of the collision would not have been made if there had not been a second Royal Commission. I would imagine that this was evident to a 2-year old child. There would not have been a second Royal Commission if it’ had not been for what were found to be misleading accusations by LieutenantCommander Cabban. This, again, I think would be evident to the honourable member for Yarra.


-Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.


– The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has made a speech which might very well have been made in May last year during a previous debate on the ‘Voyager’ disaster. He has been at great pains to point out that there is no corroboration for LieutenantCommander Cabban’s statements. What he overlooks it that the second Royal Commission completely overturned the findings of the first Royal Commission on the possible cause of the accident and Captain Robertson’s responsibility for it. If the Prime Minister had been in the House in May and had made then the speech that he made tonight, and if his speech had succeeded with members of his own party, there would have been no second ‘ Royal Commission. Does the Prime Minister deny that the second Royal Commission was justified? Does he believe that his predecessor, Mr Harold Holt, made a wrong decision in reopening the inquiry? The Prime Minister, during his speech, dismissed the basic finding of the Commission as being of no importance, and the basic finding was that Captain Stevens was unfit to be in command of a vessel. This was not a statement by Cabban. This was hot a statement by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John). This was not a statement by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). This was noi a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). It was a finding by the second Royal Commission.

The debate tonight is the culmination of an extraordinary sequence of events. There is no parallel in either Australian military history or legal history for this incredible reversal of the findings of a Royal Commission by a second Royal Commission. There are very many serious implications to be drawn from the report of the Royal Commissioners on the statement of LieutenantCommander Cabban and matters incidental thereto. There has been a complete revision of the findings of Sir John Spicer.

Captain Robertson, Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant Bate have been absolved from even the slightest responsibility for the disaster. Overwhelming emphasis is laid on the probability that the reason for the collision lay in a mistaken tactical picture on the bridge of ‘Voyager’. Most importantly of all, although it is not spelt out in detail, the Commission lays heavy emphasis on the grave ill health of Captain Stevens, the commander of the Voyager. The report of the Commission does not say so in as many words, but there is an overwhelming implication that Captain Stevens’s ill health was a probable cause of the failure of the bridge of ‘Voyager’ to appreciate the tactical position. There is a plain inference that Captain Stevens’s ill health was a cause of this collision. It is unfortunate that this should have to be said. But the dominant emphasis of this report is that the ‘Voyager’ was captained by a very ill man who never should have been in tactical command of a naval vessel at sea.

What has led to this extraordinary reversal of the findings of the first inquiry? The answer is the persistence of a former naval officer and a small group of Government backbenchers in this House. It is to the great credit of the honourable member for La Trobe, who rarely finds approval for any of his views from the Opposition, that he persevered with this matter at considerable personal and political risk. It is to the credit of the honourable member for Warringah and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) that they supported the honourable member for La Trobe both in this House and in the Party room. Outside this Parliament it is to the great credit of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban that despite great pressure and considerable personal criticism he affirmed repeatedly the truth of his statement and his assessment of Captain Stevens.

It should never be forgotten that the new findings of the Royal Commission, which will bring us as close to the truth of the Voyager’ as we will ever get, derive solely from the courage and the persistence of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. It is worth recalling the treatment accorded LieutenantCommander Cabban in this House by senior members of the Government. I refer to the debate in this House on 17th May last year. In the light of the findings of the Royal Commission the attack by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the credibility of LieutenantCommander Cabban was shameful. I quote from the honourable gentleman who said: 1 say that the credibility of these witnesses has first to be decided. When it is tested against the facts the evidence is found to be wanting and should be forgotten by this House. 1 believe that my remarks will assist in this matter.

The honourable gentleman certainly did his utmost to prevent the reopening of the inquiry as did the former Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp), the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and other Government members.

The whole refrain of senior Ministers in this debate was that Cabban’s evidence could not be corroborated. The Leader of the Opposition has proved conclusively that this was untrue and that substantial corroboration existed before the debate and that there was deliberate deception of the House by the Government. Quite clearly there was a blatant attempt by senior Government Ministers to play down the significance of the Cabban statement and the implications that it raised. Every effort was made to thwart attempts to re-open the inquiry and to glean as much of the truth as possible about the loss of the Voyager’.

I turn now to examine briefly the conclusions of the Royal Commissioners. These gentlemen were asked to examine allegations about Captain Stevens’ drinking habits and their effect on the findings of the Spicer Royal Commission.

They found that on the evidence Captain Stevens was not a drunkard nor an alcoholic nor was he often intoxicated when the Voyager’ was in port. The Commissioners make great play of refuting Cabban’s allegations about Captain Stevens’ drinking habits, but to a large extent they have missed the point. Cabban’s allegations pointed to a pattern of behaviour by Captain Stevens that in his opinion was due to excessive drinking.

There is substantial corroboration in the report of Cabban’s assertions that Captain Stevens was frequently unwell and confined to his bed on several occasions during the Voyager’ cruise to South East Asia in 1963. Cabban attributed Captain Stevens’ disability to alcohol because he knew the Captain was drinking alcohol in indeterminate quantities. The Commission found there was no consistent pattern of excessive drinking by Captain Stevens and we must accept this finding. However the conclusion is inescapable that Cabban was right for the wrong reason. He observed a continued pattern of personal distress and ill health in the behaviour of Captain Stevens and on the evidence available to him he could only attribute this to alcohol.

He did not know Captain Stevens’ long history of severe ulcers nor did he know, as the Commissioners have since found, that the Captain took alcohol only to relieve pain. There are frequent examples of the Captain’s indisposition and grave distress during this cruise, both at sea and in port.

Cabban was rightly concerned at what he saw as the deterioration of his Captain and there was consistent evidence that the Captain often was incapable of the peak performance expected of a destroyer commander. Cabban was gravely concerned at this evidence of distress and lack of fitness in his Captain. There is considerable evidence that he expressed this concern to naval officers and members of the Australian diplomatic service while he was in port.

The Commissioners made great play of Cabban’s tendency to dramatise and to colour his evidence. They put rather less emphasis on Cabban’s complete lack of malice towards Captain Stevens and his obvious motivation as a man seeking to do his duty by the highest standards.

After very detailed examination the Commissioners found that there was no evidence of excessive drinking by Captain Stevens; rather they found that he was a moderate drinker. But these gentlemen emphasised repeatedly that Captain Stevens’ drinking was undisciplined and unwise. This refrain sounds throughout the Commissioners’ report - admittedly in a minor key, but still persistent. It is extremely unjust to accuse Cabban of dramatising and colouring because he was wrong about Captain Stevens’ drinking. On the evidence available to him Cabban had no alternative but to attribute Captain Stevens’ frequent physical distress to alcohol. If he had known about Captain Stevens history of serious illness he would have made the correct diagnosis. If he had known it is almost certain that he would have felt it his duty to report Captain Stevens’ condition to his senior officers and in particular to senior medical officers. Without this medical information Cabban was forced to the conclusion that the Captain was often distressed and disabled by the overindulgence in alcohol. He was gravely concerned because he knew there was something seriously wrong with the Captain and that this jeopardised the operation of the ‘Voyager’.

It grave ill health is substituted for excessive drinking in Cabban’s allegations, Cabban is completely vindicated and it cannot be emphasised too much that he had not the evidence to make the assumption of serious physical indisposition. After lengthy consideration of Captain Stevens’ medical health and the evidence adduced from Cabban and other witnesses of the Asian cruise in 1963, the Commissioners have had no such inhibitions. They have found that although Captain Stevens was not an excessive drinker he was an unwise and undisciplined drinker, bearing in mind his serious record of ulcer disturbance. They have found further that Captain Stevens’ condition had deteriorated to such an extent that he was unfit to command a destroyer at sea. Would this very grave finding have ever come to light if Lieutenant-Commander Cabban had not made the allegations of heavy drinking, even if his assumption that the Captain was an excessive drinker is shown to be wrong?

There is another disturbing side of the Commissioners’ findings. The Commissioners go to very great length to throw doubt on the possibility that Captain Stevens had taken alcoholic drink on the night of the tragedy. There was a considerable amount of pathological discussion on the way alcohol builds up in the bloodstream after death. The Commissioners took this pathological evidence and linked it with doubts raised on the evidence of the steward, Hyland, who told the Spicer Commission he had served Captain Stevens with a triple brandy before the collision. The Commissioners decided that there were very serious doubts about Hyland’s evidence and that it was highly probable that he had mistaken the night on which he had served Captain Stevens a triple brandy. It was even suggested by the Commissioners that Hyland might have served the brandy while the ‘Voyager’ was in port.

The fact remains that Hyland told the Spicer Commission without hesitation that he had served the captain a triple brandy on the night of the collision. This evidence was given when the recollection of the collision was much fresher in his mind. It is not credible that Hyland could have been mistaken about the night on which he served Captain Stevens the brandy. It is unlikely that Steward Hyland would forget a night in which his destroyer was cut in half and he spent some time in the ocean.

The Commissioners have not satisfactorily proved that Captain Stevens did not drink alcohol on the night of the collision. I do not suggest that Captain Stevens was in any way affected by alcohol on the night of the collision, but the Commissioners frequently make the point that the Captain drank brandy to relieve the pain of his ulcer: The obvious inference is that Captain Stevens had a quantity of brandy shortly before the collision because he was suffering pain from his ulcer and was distressed. This is immensely significant in the light of the Commissioners’ finding that the bridge of the ‘Voyager’ lost the tactical picture just before the collision and this could have been caused by some circumstances peculiar to Captain Stevens. I emphasise the Commissioners’ words: ‘some circumstances peculiar to Captain Stevens’.

It should be remembered that before the Spicer Royal Commission Captain Robertson put forward two theories on the cause of the collision. One was that ‘Voyager’ continually turned to port in the mistaken belief held by its bridge until about 20 seconds before the impact that she was on the port side of ‘Melbourne’. This is the explanation accepted as the basic reason for the collision by the Cabban Commission and this alone is substantial vindication of Captain Robertson.

There are many other issues raised by this report which I would like to examine but I have time to make only a brief reference to them. It is incredible that with his history of ulcers Captain Stevens did not receive a medical examination for almost 3 years. The Leader of the Opposition has already dealt with this aspect in his speech earlier tonight. Captain Stevens was given a routine examination in England on 7th July 1960, when it was noted ‘duodenal ulcer now resolved . . .’ Despite the responsibilities of his command and its stress, and the social pressures involved, he was not examined again until 12th February 1963, by Surgeon Lieutenant Tiller. It is incomprehensible why a man with a serious ulcer history was not examined for almost 3 years despite the stresses his duties placed on his health. The reasons given by the Commissioners for this failure and for the failure of the Naval Board to learn of Captain Stevens’ deterioration of health are most unsatisfactory. These are aspects of naval procedure which I hope are revised in the light of the findings of this Commission.

I would like to conclude by emphasising the drastic revision of the findings of the Spicer Royal Commission contained in this report. We must accept now as the final truth that Captain Stevens was a gravely ill man who should never have been retained in command of a destroyer. It has not been satisfactorily explained why his ill health was not made known to the Naval Board. On the report of the Commissioners the collision was due to a loss of the tactical picture by the bridge of the ‘Voyager’; on the balance of evidence there is a very strong possibility that this was due to Captain Stevens’s ill health.

These sweeping revisions in the Spicer report are due to the Cabban statement’ and the persistence with which its allegations were pressed by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. The Commissioners were unjust in their treatment of Cabban in that while they found a great part of his evidence could be corroborated, they refused to accept uncorroborated evidence from him. Even so, the allegations made by Cabban have led to this complete reappraisal of the findings of the original Royal Commission. This reappraisal alone justifies Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, if it is considered that he needs any justification.

The Commissioners have also exonerated Captain Robertson, Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant Bate from blame for the collision and this remedies the extremely churlish assertions made against them in the Spicer report and by Sir Robert Menzies and other Ministers in this House.

Finally, the attempts of senior Ministers of the Government’ to prevent a reopening of the investigation on the basis of the Cabban statement were shameful and misleading. They constitute a grave attempt to mislead and deceive this Parliament’. 1 therefore move the following amendment:

At end of motion add: ‘but deplores the efforts of Ministers to stifle debate on LieutenantCommander Cabban’s statement and to suppress documents substantially corroborating it’.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Costa)Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Connor:

– I second the amendment.

Treasurer · Lowe · LP

-Mr Deputy Speaker, what a contrast we have heard tonight between the speeches of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). From the Leader of the Opposition, who was the first speaker when this debate resumed, we heard a vicious speech in which he was willing to be highly critical and derogatory of anyone who disagreed with him. In the other case we heard from a man who was sticking to the facts as strictly as he possibly could and who was not being critical unless he found adequate reasons for being critical.

The Leader of the Opposition raised four questions that I think have to be answered tonight. The first one concerned the character of a gentleman whom he described in this way: ‘How could we expect the Navy to be successful with a creature like this in charge?’ In other words, he was referring to the Permanent Head of the Department of the Navy, Mr Sam Landau.

Mr McLeay:

– Disgraceful.


– Disgraceful is the correct word to use. The Leader of the Opposition raised three other questions which must be discussed tonight also. The first one was: Was Captain Stevens fit to command HMAS ‘Voyager’ on the night in question when the collision with HMAS Melbourne’ occurred or was he fit to command ‘Voyager’ for some years previously? Associated with that was the complementary question of whether or not the Naval Board knew that Captain Stevens suffered from a duodenal ulcer. The second question related to the credibility of LieutenantCommander Cabban. The third question was this: Was there suppression of any evidence by Ministers or by people who gave evidence before the first royal commission?

Let me point out to the House first of all what I think happened in the case of the Leader of the Opposition. If I may make this contrast, I wish to stick to the evidence that was given and to the findings of the royal commission itself. I do not wish to interpose my personal judgment, to take over the task of the royal commission and to establish whether or not I think its finding was wrong. In the case of the first royal commission, we on this side of the House accepted its findings. But when it was made obvious to us by members on this side of the House, and particularly by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), that grave doubts existed as to whether or not certain additional evidence ought to be introduced, we agreed to a second royal commission. The findings of that second royal commission are before us now. I hope to deal with this report a little more later.

What the Leader of the Opposition is doing is to introduce star chamber methods here. He is acting both as prosecutor and as judge in the case that he is espousing politically before the House now. He does so not caring what the consequences might be. But I again repeat - and I repeat this with emphasis - that I will stick tonight to the findings of the second royal commission. You will see, Mr Deputy Speaker, that every finding of that royal commission contradicts much in the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition himself. So, there we find opened up again a credibility gap in the case of this man. I ask the Australian people always to be aware of anything that he says, and to ask themselves this question: Can he be believed? I leave it to the public to judge.

May I turn first of all to the statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition about the Permanent Head of the Department of the Navy? I do this out of justice not only because I feel that it is wrong to attack anyone who cannot come into this House and defend himself but also because if honourable members look at the findings of the second royal commission they will see at page 120 of the report this statement concerning the evidence given by Mr Landau:

We think it proper to add that no sinister motive can possibly be attributed to Mr Landau in destroying Dr Tiller’s original sketchy comments.

In other words, the horrible comments made by this gentleman were shown by the second royal commission to be totally wrong and totally unjustified.

Mr McLeay:

– Which gentleman is that?


– Well, we are compelled to call them gentlemen. But you, sir, can go out of the House and give him his correct title. May I come now to what we have attempted to achieve? The first royal commission was held and presented its report. Various members from both sides of this House indicated quite clearly that they were dissatisfied with the findings of the first royal commission, mainly on the ground that they felt that there had been a misunderstanding of the evidence. So, the Government appointed a second royal commission. We did it for two purposes. The first purpose was that we had to make sure that there was no injustice against four men. The second reason, which I believe was just as important, was that we had to make certain that no attempt whatsoever had been made to conceal evidence and that no attempt whatsoever had been made to suppress documents which should have gone forward to the first royal commission.

So, what did happen? When the second royal commission considered the health of Captain Stevens, it found that he had suffered from a chronic duodenal ulcer. The first royal commissioner had held that, because he believed that Captain Stevens was in a good state of health at the time of the collision, Captain Stevens therefore could not have been guilty of not carrying out this manoeuvre in an effective fashion. The second royal commission held that Captain Stevens was not fit at the time of the collision and . held further that the assumption on which the first royal commission had based its findings was in fact in its opinion incorrect. I will not argue about this matter because I do not know whether that was the proper assumption to draw. But I do abide by the principle that we should observe the findings that were made by the second royal commission, and I do not wish to argue this case at all.

But upon that assumption, the second royal commission found this: In the case of the first royal commission, the royal commissioner thought that the primary cause of the collision was due to failure on the part of ‘Voyager’. But he could not distinctly say and definitely state who was responsible because none of those involved on ‘Voyager’ was alive to tell the story. The first royal commissioner was not able to make a proper analysis of the facts and come to a proper conclusion on them. But the second royal commission did find that the whole blame was on ‘Voyager’ and that there was no blame directly attributable to the captain of ‘Melbourne’. Consequently, it followed that the captain of ‘Melbourne’ was completely absolved from responsibility and so too, for that matter, were the two officers who were on the bridge with him.

Cabinet met shortly after the Government heard of this decision. It came to the conclusion that compensation should be paid to Captain Robertson for what he had suffered. I personally believe that Captain Robertson, a man of very great distinction in the Navy, did suffer a great deal because of the fact that he felt that he in some way might have been blamed for what happened in the case of ‘Voyager’. After considering the findings of the second royal commission, the Government decided to pay Captain Robertson $60,000, free of tax. Captain Robertson himself has written since to Mr Landau, previously referred to, saying this: 1 am most appreciative of the action which has been taken by the Government to recognise the reasons which prompted my resignation. I would be grateful, therefore, if you would arrange for my gratitude and thanks for this act of grace to the Prime Minister and to the Federal Cabinet.

In the case of the other officers on the bridge with Captain Robertson, I inform the House that they have been promoted and that no impediment will be placed in the way of their future promotion. Their promotion in fact will be based upon their capacity in the years to come.

Therefore, I think the House can find that the first thing that we wanted to do was to achieve justice for these three officers and that in fact justice has been achieved for them. The second point, and it is equally as important as the first matter, concerns the feelings of the family of Captain Stevens himself. The Government has never wished that discussion of this matter be prevented or inhibited in any way. But we have had good reasons to think of the reputation of Captain Stevens and of the feelings of his family. What I am glad to be able to repeat here tonight, following the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is that the Royal Commission found in clear and accurate terms that Captain Stevens was not a heavy drinker, that he never drank at sea and consequently that no part of the responsibility could have rested on the fact that on the night in question Captain Stevens could, in any sense of the expression, have been under the influence of alcohol.

I now turn to the various statements that were made by the Leader of the Opposition. He asked whether Captain Stevens was fit to command the ‘Voyager*. The finding of the Commission appears on page 224 of the report. It found that the late Captain Stevens was then unfit to retain command of the ‘Voyager’ because his physical condition did not conform to the very high standard of physical fitness required of a captain holding that command. Following that, we come to two other points that must be raised and must be raised quickly. The Leader of the Opposition made the accusations that the Naval Board should have known or did in fact know, and that many officers did in fact know, that Captain Stevens drank heavily and therefore should not have been placed in command.

Mr Clyde Cameron:

– So they should have.


– Well, perhaps the honourable gentleman would say that. But again I draw attention to the fact that 1 am sticking to the findings of the Royal Commission and I am not attempting to establish myself as a court of justice in a House of Parliament. In reply to Question 2(a) of the term of reference the Commission reported:

We find that the Naval Board did not know of any of the allegations in the ‘Cabban Statement’ or of any unfitness of Captain Stevens to retain command of ‘Voyager’ and there was nothing that came to their knowledge which ought to have put them on inquiry.

In other words, this is a direct contradiction of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. Once again we are entitled to ask the question: Can we accept the credibility of the Leader of the Opposition? Can we give a ‘yes’ answer to the question as to his credibility? I believe that again this is an occasion where he has differed from the Commission and that it is his credibility which is in fact in doubt.

The next point I want to refer to is the credibility of Cabban. My own statement to the House has been questioned tonight. It has been said that I have cast aspersions on Lieutenant-Commander Cabban and that my statement should not be believed by the House. What I did say about him was that in the paper presented by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, which was uncorroborated, he stated he would rely on the corroboration of another naval officer. Actually, the information given by this other officer, Commander Griffith, was:

I do not consider this–

The statement made by LieutenantCommander Cabban relating to him - to be a true statement. Many of the comments of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban are not familiar to me and therefore I was not in a position to substantiate them to Mr Smythe.

Here again we find that when the question of the accuracy of the information is tested, what was stated by the Leader of the Opposition is completely different from that which was stated by the Royal Commission. I go a little further, not in any wish to be critical of LieutenantCommander Cabban but merely to show how the Leader of the Opposition has completely exaggerated his case and has failed to recognise what has been said by the Commission. 1 think the following statement is a clear indication of the kind of man that Lieutenant-Commander Cabban was. The Commission said that: to cast Captain Stevens and himself in the roles of Captain Queeg and his executive officer, the dramatis personae of Herman Wouk’s novel The Caine Mutiny’ amounts, of course, to a complete flight from reality on the part of Cabban. Those who see drama too readily, in many things lend to overact their own parts and to exaggerate their lines accordingly. This, we think, was Cabban.

It went on to say:

Our assessment of Cabban is that although he did not deliberately fabricate evidence and his evidence as to the objective facts of many incidents is amply corroborated he was in retrospect led to reconstruct some events which occurred during the operational cruise in 1963 to fit in with a general impression he had formed of a pattern of behaviour of Captain Stevens. … We therefore regard him in many instances as an unreliable witness, particularly as to the matters involving any exercise of judgment or the interpretation of a situation - not because he did not tell the truth as he saw it, but because his vision of the truth was obscured by unreliability of judgment.

Consequently, therefore, the Commission could not treat him as a credible and reliable witness. I come now to the last matter I want to raise here tonight and that is whether or not there was suppression of evidence by any of the Ministers or by any other people involved.

MrDevine - Of course there was.


– Maybe the honourable gentleman wants to put himself up as a court martial. I have no wish whatever to do that’. I want to make it perfectly clear to the House that there is a strong difference between what was said by the Commission and what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. In answer to the question whether the allegations in the document disclosed evidence which was available to counsel assisting the Royal Commission and was improperly withheld from the Royal Commission, the Commission - and I hope these words will sink in because it shows how trivial the extra evidence was that was produced - said:

The only evidence of matters later appearing in the ‘Cabban Statement’ which was available to Counsel assisting the first ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission consisted of allegations that -

there were two isolated drinking bouts by Captain Stevens months before the collision . . .

the late Captain Stevens never drank at sea;

in carrying out manoeuvres between a destroyer and an aircraft carrier ‘near misses’ sometimes inevitably occurred.

The Commission went on to say - and this is the relevant passage:

Counsel assisting the first ‘Voyager’ Commission made an honest and bona fide decision (with the concurrence of Sir John Spicer) that none of this evidence was relevant in the circumstances as then known, and should not be called. The decision was made only upon a proper professional consideration of the relevance of the evidence to the issues in the Inquiry and was not influenced by any other factor or by any other persons. . . . Indeed, as it was made known to Sir John Spicer, it is not true to say it was withheld at all from the Royal Commission.

Again we find this discrepancy between the Royal Commission and the Leader of the Opposition. Again I draw the attention of the House to this growing credibility gap in the Leader of the Opposition’s case. Immediately I stood up to speak I asked whether or not justice had been done to the four officers concerned in this case. I believe that it has been. Justice has been done to the three officers on the bridge of the Melbourne’ and Robertson has been amply rewarded and accepts the reward graciously. In the case of Captain Stevens it has been proved that he was not a man addicted to drink, so that I believe that justice has been done in his case. When the previous Commission was being debated in the House we saw democracy at its best, because the Government was determined to see that no injustice continued. But equally too I should say it is determined to see that no injustice is perpetrated by the Leader of the Opposition or by people who will succeed him in the debate. I believe that successive speakers for the Opposition will demonstrate that the argument so far produced has been totally wrong and has been misconceived, and that instead of seeking a spirit of tolerance and decency, instead of feeling that those who have suffered in the ‘Voyager* should be forgiven any further suffering, the Opposition has set out to play politics and to try to divide some members of our Party. But 1 believe the Leader of the Opposition has hopelessly and ignominiously failed in this.


– The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) criticised the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). After having heard the devastating submissions put forward tonight by the Leader of the Opposition it seems pointless for anyone on this side of the House to advance further argument. One may ask, therefore, why I am speaking. I have one matter that I wish to raise. The submissions advanced by the Leader of the Opposition tonight were, in my opinion, unanswerable. He had every Government supporter searching his conscience for an answer.

Coming, as I do, from the electorate of Hunter, the major metropolis of which is Newcastle, I think I am safe in saying that I have known Lieutenant-Commander Cabban for longer than has any other member of this Parliament. LieutenantCommander Cabban was a Newcastle boy. I knew him before he joined the Royal Australian Navy. I enjoyed the richness of his company after he joined the Navy. I know what a lover of the Navy he was. He lived for the Navy. I am sure that he had a great fight with his conscience when be had to. decide whether be should make known to his friends in the Navy the habits of the unfortunate late Captain Stevens.

We on this side of the chamber regret very much the necessity to have this debate. We all would wish that the collision between the ‘Voyager’ and the ‘Melbourne* had never occurred. We all would wish that the eighty-two young Australians who lost their lives in that tragic accident were with us today. But we are prepared to meet our obligations to the community. We think that the Australian taxpayers should know the true facts of this tragic disaster. Those facts have been placed before the Parliament and the nation tonight by the Leader of the Opposition.

Lieutenant-Commander Cabban was a fine Australian. He was a man who, in my opinion, told the truth. I refer now to a matter that has not yet been touched upon in the debate. When Lieutenant-Commander Cabban offered to give evidence Mr J. W. Smyth, Q.C., one of the most astute crossexaminers in the country, in his desire to achieve the goal which most eminent lawyers seek to achieve - appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court, such appointments being made by governments - tried to extricate the Naval Board and the Government from the tragic predicament into which they had got themselves through their incompetency in not recognising the human failures of the late Captain Duncan Stevens. Mr Smyth withheld evidence from the first ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission - deliberately - because it would have exposed the incompetence of the Naval Board and the Government. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) is seeking to interject. He is a legal man. I applaud his defence of his clan. Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s evidence was withheld from the first ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission. If it had not been withheld the widow and relatives of the late Captain Stevens might have been spared the mental torture of reading what happened in the course of the second Royal Commission.

The second Royal Commission sat for 85 days, at a cost to the taxpayer of $650,000- all due to the actions of one of the most eminent and formerly one of the most respected Queen’s Counsel in the land, Mr J. W. Smyth. He withheld evidence from the first Royal Commission because he claims that there was no corroboration for that evidence, and he knew how damaging Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s evidence would be. In the second Royal Commission be found himself in the position of having to testify in the witness box. Naturally, in order to extricate himself from the position in which he found himself as a result of not calling Peter Cabban to give evidence at the first Royal Commission, he had to rubbish Peter Cabban. What an astute cross-examiner Mr Smyth is. I never suffered the rigours of his cross-examination in my former calling, but f know that he is good. I have been crossexamined by the best counsel. But when Mr Smyth’ was under cross-examination he did not respond too well. I have been reading in the Library the transcript of his cross-examination and I regret that I left my homework on this subject until ton late; otherwise 1 could have made a greater contribution.

Mr Smyth stated that Peter Cabban was unreliable. He said that he was a man suffering from ambition and other things; that he had a grudge against the late Captain Duncan Stevens. Captain Stevens has been referred to as a chronic drunkard. I do not accept these allegations. I believe that Captain Stevens, like many people holding high positions in society, had succumbed to the powerful influence of alcohol. He had allowed drink to become his master instead of his servant. This is o tragic affair. Alcohol was found in Captain Stevens’s body. The drink waiter states that he served Captain Stevens with a triple brandy on the fateful night. Nobody will ever convince the Australian community that the cause of this tragic disaster was other than the incompetence of the commanding officer of ‘Voyager’.

Let me refer now to the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, Mr Landau, who, I understand, has suffered no demotion, no dismissal, no embarrassment other than that which he suffered in the witness box under cross-examination of counsel appearing for the interests of LieutenantCommander Cabban.

Mr Curtin:

– He is a brass hat.


– I prefer to say that he likes to stay with the strong. There is an old saying, which I do not believe. :h:ii :f you stay with the strong you will be all right because the weak die in hospital. Unfortunately many members of this Parliament, particularly honourable members opposite, believe in staying with the strong. They have done this in going all the way, until yesterday, with LBJ. LB J is going down the drain, and so is the Liberal Party. It has taken members of the Opposition a long time to convince the electorate of the falsity of this Government’s policies.

Let me refer to the cross-examination of Mr Landau, who, I believe, still enjoys his privileged position and high salary as a result of staying with the strong. Apparently be is a man devoid of all principle. I would sooner have principle and sleep soundly at night than stay with the strong against my principles and twist and turn in bed, knowing that ultimately my children would read that I was a traitor to he people to whom I should have remained true. We find from the cross-examination of Mr Landau that he deliberately withheld information from the former Minister for the Navy. I suppose it wa* because she Minister did not get this evidence before speaking to this House that he lost his position as Minister for the Navy.

I will now read to the House portion of the transcript of evidence given by Mr Landau, the man I referred to as having withheld evidence from the Minister; the man who withheld documents substantiating or corroborating the evidence or the information that was supplied to Mr J. W. Smyth, Q.C., by Lieutenant-Commander Peter Cabban, formerly of Newcastle. Under cross-examination Mr Landau was asked this:

Were you aware at the time of the parliamentary debate that an extract, so far as it then appeared, was in process of formal completion by Dr Tiller which, as to the birthday party, would provide complete corroboration for Cabban of that instant, except as to the captain moving across the floor an his hands and knees?

Landau said:

Yes I was aware of that.

The next question put to Landau was:

Did you tell the minister that before he spoke in the debate?

And Landau hedged, as most witnesses do when they cannot answer a curly question; a question which, to use a cricketing phrase, is nipping off the pitch and is likely to get you leg before wicket. Landau said:

I beg your pardon?

That is a stall. He stalled until he was able to concoct an answer that could be covered under cross-examination. He said:

I beg your pardon?

The Queen’s Counsel then said:

Did you tell the Minister that before he spoke In the debate?

Landau said:

I would not like there to be any misconception here at all. The primary purpose of making these extracts out at the minister’s instigation and sending them to various people named in the document was just to seek to find the truth about it and see whether there was any corroboration from the officers mentioned of the allegations made, or not.

Then the Chairman, Mr Justice Spicer, whom time will not permit me to comment on, said:

Just a moment; you have not answered the question?

Landau said:

The question being?

The Chairman said:

As to whether you told this to the minister. That was the question?

Landau said:

Yes, the minister was aware of that.

I ask the former Minister to stand up in the House and say whether this was true or false. I believe it to be false. There is another question that I want to read from this transcript. It was put to Mr Landau during cross-examination by counsel for Peter Cabban. The question was:

Would it be fair to say that this accident, by some mischance, retains on the file the only replies to the extracts which corroborate Cabban?

Landau replied:

It is an aspect that I have not thought about previously and I prefer to study that very much before I give an answer.

This man Landau is the Secretary to the Department of the Navy. He is a man in a highly responsible and trusted position. I say that he was misleading the royal commission, that he was not frank with the royal commission and was virtually committing perjury. When he was called to give evidence the Bible was handed to him and he was asked this question: ‘The evidence you now give before the royal commission will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?’ He went on to disregard that oath and mislead the royal commission in order to protect the strong; to protect the Naval Board; to protect Mr J. W. Smyth, who came out and attacked this great Australian, Peter Cabban.

I do not know whether Peter Cabban was compensated by the Government for the mental strain and torture he was subjected to as an Australian who wanted to appear before the royal commission to tell the truth and the whole truth. I am informed by an honourable member on this side of the House that a relative of one of the boys who unfortunately lost his life was compensated. One of the relatives was paid $40,000 rather than the Government or the Navy having to go to court in connection with this case. Captain Robertson has been compensated for the great injustice and embarrassment that he suffered in connection with the incident. But Cabban, the man who sought to tell the truth for the benefit of the Navy, for the love of his land, and for the benefit of the community and the Parliament, was rubbished - unjustifiably rubbished - by the powerful because they had to stick together.

I tried to make notes of what was said by the previous speaker, the Treasurer. I tried to take a note of what the Treasurer said as to the remarks of the commission about Peter Cabban. He said that the commission reported that it could see trauma and that Cabban was over acting. I repeat that this comment of the royal commissioners was purposely written into this document, the report of the second royal commission, to protect Mr J. W. Smyth Q.C. We remember that one honourable member who sat on this side of the House and who has now passed on was very wrongly treated by an eminent counsel in New South Wales, a man who is now a Justice of the Supreme Court of that State. I refer to a former honourable member for East Sydney, the late E. J. Ward, who was alleged to have been involved in a corrupt activity in the timber industry in New Guinea. A royal commission was held-

Mr Gibson:

– What has this to do with the ‘Voyager’?


– It is something to do with the legal profession to which the honourable member for Denison belongs. It is akin to that. It would do the honourable member good to read in Hansard about the very unfair attack made by counsel against the late honourable member for East Sydney, who completely vindicated himself at a royal commission. The counsel who made the frightful, shocking and unfounded allegation against the late honourable member for East Sydney would not forego his right, as between counsel and client, in respect of the giving of evidence from the witness box when the other party’s client did so. His client exposed his lawyer for asking questions which were not in accordance with instructions. 1 believe that the privileged position enjoyed by members of the legal profession in Australia should be lived up to and that members of that profession should be more honourable. It is a tragic thing that Mr J. W. Smyth, Q.C., a man held in such high respect, should have withheld the evidence of Peter Cabban and brought about the great physical and mental torture that has been imposed on the near and dear ones of Duncan Stevens through the holding of a second royal commission. The evidence of Peter Cabban should have been tendered in the first case. Then there would have been no need for the taxpayers to be subjected to the exorbitant costs of a second royal commission in order ultimately to achieve justice for Captain Robertson.

In conclusion I want to pay tribute to the honourable members for La Trobe (Mr Jess), Bradfield (Mr Turner) and Warringah (Mr St John). The latter honourable member, in his maiden speech to this Parliament, protested to the House and asked for a reopening of the ‘Voyager’ royal commission. Otherwise, this injustice would never have been corrected.


– It is obvious to anybody who has just listened to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) that he has a traumatic hatred of the legal profession and of Mr J. W.

Smyth, Q.C., in particular. 1 do not know and I do not care why he has this trauma about the profession but I do care about his tortuous line of reasoning and the way in which he vented his spleen on Mr Smyth because in its wake he said contemptible things about Mr Landau, the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, and other honourable people. The honourable member for Hunter, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker - and I do not denigrate a man lightly - is regarded as somewhat of a joke in this place. The unhappy fact is that thousands of people who are listening-

Mr James:

– You are the joke. You were the Minister for the Navy and now you are a backbench member.


– Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.


– Perhaps the listening public, after hearing that outburst, will be able to judge the honourable member for Hunter for themselves and I do not need to explain to them what he is like. One could possibly excuse the honourable member for Hunter for saying what he did about Mr Landau; he is more to be pitied than blamed. But nobody in this House and nobody, I suggest, on the Labor side of the House could possibly excuse the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) for what he said about Mr Landau. This was one of the most cowardly and contemptible attacks ever made on a public servant or, for. that matter, ever made on anybody by a member of this honourable chamber. It has shamed the chamber, shamed the Australian Labor Party and shamed the Leader of the Opposition. What the Leader of the Opposition did not do was to read from the report of the Royal Commissioners who, after all, were the final arbiters of the standards of behaviour of many people. At page 120 of their report they say:

We think it proper to add that no sinister motive can possibly be attributed to Mr Landau in destroying Dr Tiller’s original sketchy comments. It would not be the first time that the author of an ill-considered letter or document has arranged with its recipient to destroy it and substitute another letter or document, lt must be remembered that no Royal Commission was in contemplation at that time and it was an entirely proper action for the Minister to take to obtain the approval of Tiller and others to a wide! publication of their written comments than the] had initially understood would be the case.

That is what the Royal Commissioners said after 85 days of sitting. I do not mind the Leader of the Opposition muddying up the waters for political purposes by making an attack on myself, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) or the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). That is why we are here. But when a man who devotes his life to the service of this country and becomes the permanent head of a department, as Mr Landau has done, and who cannot defend himself is subject to an attack such as we have heard tonight, I believe that the attacker is beneath the contempt of this House. In all my human experience - I say this with deep sincerity - I have never met a man of more integrity or more honesty than Mr Landau.

The terms of reference of the Royal Commission required the Commissioners to make two kinds of judgment. Firstly they were asked to bring down findings of fact and secondly they were asked to form opinions on the basis of those facts. 1 should like to remind the House of the exhaustive nature of the inquiry. Evidence was heard by three of Australia’s leading judges over a period of 85 sitting days; 142 witnesses were called; 203 exhibits and more than 150 statements were either tendered or studied; 5,933 pages of transcript were taken of the evidence; and I should imagine the total cost of the exercise would be close to $750,000. While it is open and probably desirable for honourable members to challenge or query the opinions of the Commissioners on matters arising from the findings of fact, it would take a man of some courage or perhaps foolishness to challenge the findings of fact, but the Leader of the Opposition did so tonight.

J should like to concentrate my remarks on a list of some of the findings of fact, if for no other reason than to try to compensate by way of inclusion in this parliamentary record the many people who suffered grievously from this inquiry and whose position, notwithstanding the clear and lucid conclusions in the report, is still shadowed by the miasma of the allegations contained in the Cabban document. I refer to the late Captain Stevens, his widow, his children and his distinguished father and mother. I also refer to the fathers and mothers and the wares and loved ones of those who died in the ‘Voyager’ collision, all of whom were told during the previous parliamentary debate on this matter that their loved ones served under a drunken captain, that this was the reason for the collision and that this was the reason why these men lost their lives. I refer also to the Navy itself, its senior officers, both Service and civil, and the other officers and men whose service has been subjected to an extraordinary depth of inquisition, accusation and inquiry.

I mentioned the enormous amount of evidence thatw as given and studied during the conduct of the Commission. Because of the sheer limitations of space, the Press and other public media did not report the proceedings fully or give a complete summary of the 231 pages of the report of the Commission. The report was not covered completely by the Press or read and absorbed by the public generally. Because of the protracted nature of the proceedings, many people ceased reading the daily reports of the Commission while it was sitting. It is fair to say that on the presentation of the report the predominant headline was: ‘Captain Robertson cleared’. This, I believe, is the overwhelming conclusion, a telescoped precis though it may be, left in people’s minds. It is a perfectly accurate and true statement that this Royal Commission believed that any blame attached to Captain Robertson, Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant Bate by the first Royal Commission should be removed. But this Commission was obliged to do much more than inquire into the blameworthiness or otherwise of Captain Robertson and his fellow officers, though it certainly did this. It was charged with the responsibility of inquiring into the truthfulness or otherwise of allegations contained in a document that resulted from a tape recording made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, a tape recording that was made to give background material concerning his late captain to a man who was preparing to write a book about the ‘Voyager’ tragedy. This document contained allegations of consistent drunkenness, compulsive drinking, revolting social behaviour and bad and reckless seamanship by the dead man, the late Captain Stevens.

I have been deeply concerned that many well meaning people who have not availed themselves of the opportunity to read the report in full have reached a conclusion by some process of dubious deduction that, because Robertson was cleared, the allegations of Cabban are therefore correct. If this impression is left on anyone, I say in deep sincerity that the grievious wound already inflicted on the many people I have mentioned will not only be re-opened but its pain and agony will be compounded and exacerbated. For the sake of the record then, I shall try to relate the Commissioners’ findings of fact to the Cabban allegations against Captain Stevens. With some reluctance I will repeat some of the extracts of the Cabban allegations. I do so for only one reason and that is to put them beside the actual words of the Commissioners in their findings.

Cabban related several incidents, implying faulty or reckless seamanship on the part of his late captain. In general terms the Commissioners had this to say at page 33: . . a reader of the ‘Cabban Statement’ (unassisted by any explanation from the author) would no doubt think that the purpose of recounting at least some of the navigational incidents was to suggest incompetent, if not reckless, seamanship on the part of Captain Stevens … At the hearing before us Cabban asserted the truth of his statements about Captain Stevens’ ship handling and about the several navigational incidents but disavowed any intention to suggest thereby that Captain Stevens was an incompetent or inefficient ship handler.

From the mouth of the so-called accuser himself is a denial that he ever meant to convey to anybody that Captain Stevens was an incompetent ship handler. Referring to the allegations about drinking habits contained in the document, the Commissioners had this to say at page 35:

A reader of the ‘Cabban Statement’ would unquestionably get a picture of Captain Stevens as a chronic drunkard during the periods the ship was in harbour in the Far East, at Sydney after her return and for a short period at Williamstown. The picture of Captain Stevens painted by the document when read through from beginning to end is that of a man who continually drank himself sick whenever ‘Voyager’ was in harbour, stopped drinking only when he was incapable of drinking more, and who started drinking again as soon as he was lit enough to do so.

Indeed, the Commissioners were not alone in commenting on the document in this way. A member of this Parliament is reported to have said at page 2174 of Hansard of 16th May 1967:

I refer to the administration ot justice, pure and unsullied, and the assurance that this kind of thing, the command of an Australian ship by a man who was intoxicated, can never happen again.

Another honourable member is reported at page 2171 of Hansard of the same date to have said simply:

This man was a chronic drunkard.

In fairness to that honourable member he made a personal explanation the following day.

I now turn to the findings of fact of the Commissioners and quote directly from their report. Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, in speaking about his late captain, said at paragraph 13 of his allegations:

During the period in the Far East the situation became more than trying, it was quite desperate, as he drank for very long periods in harbour until he became violently ill and then would spend days in bed being treated by the doctor and his steward until he was fit to again start drinking.

The Commissioners said at page 72 of their report:

In the sense in which we have said this Paragraph must be interpreted the statement is untrue, ft is not merely that the evidence does not support it. The evidence positively establishes that it was not the fact.

At paragraph 20 of his statement Lieutenant-Commander Cabban said:

Following the return to Sydney Captain Stevens arrived on board every morning that I was there at approximately 0800 very heavily under the influence of alcohol. … He was wakened by his steward at 1600, he commenced drinking again and carried on ashore as soon as he had sufficient to get going.

At page 113 of the report the Commissioners state:

  1. . so far as paragraph 20 gave a picture of the Captain for most of the week in Sydney being drunk and incapable day by day, it was simply not true, and gave a false impression of the Captain’s behaviour during that week.

At page 115 of the report the Commissioners state:

  1. . establishes to our complete satisfaction that any suggestion that Captain Stevens was continuously drunk, or, indeed, drunk on any occasion during this period in Sydney, can have no foundation.

At paragraph 23 of his statement LieutenantCommander Cabban makes possibly the most disgraceful allegation of all concerning the alleged drinking at Williamstown. In this paragraph he has alleged that he went into the Captain’s cabin and saw him ‘in the usual condition’ with a very vomit-soaked towel under his head, looking dreadful’. At page 125 the Commissioners said:

In answer to the question ‘A picture has been painted of the Captain being intoxicated day by day, day in and day out. You saw him from time to lime in harbour, so what do you say about that?’ Irvine said, ‘Rubbish, Sir’.

The question had been asked of Captain Stevens’ cabin hand, Able Seaman Irvine. The Commissioners then went on to say:

This is put in colloquial language but as the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates the implication in the ‘Cabban Statement’ that this was the fact is completely untrue.

At page 127 of their report, the Commissioners stated:

This is not merely a case where allegations of frequent drunkenness are not proved; not only is there no evidence to support frequent drunkenness, but the evidence positively establishes that this was not the fact.

Also at page 127 the Commissioners state:

It is sufficient to say that the evidence enables us lo make a clear affirmative finding that at all times other than the few occasions to which we have referred, Captain Stevens conducted himself with complete propriety and sobriety and carried out his manifold duties (both at sea and in harbour) with considerable credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of those having administrative and operational command over him. He showed high qualities of leadership and the morale of the ship was good.

On only three occasions in the whole of his service which had been under microscopic examination was he found to be moderately affected by alcohol. On the first occasion illness was a substantially contributing factor; on the second, he was mildly intoxicated and on the third was slightly intoxicated. Perhaps one of the most devastating tributes to Captain Stevens came from Mr Burt. Q.C., who for 6 months ruthlessly and comprehensively probed every act of this man for the last 13 months of his life. He was addressing a Commission on which sat two distinguished judges, and in the presence of senior counsel and many eminent and well-respected citizens of this country, Mr Burt said:

In this room now, who could have had his life subjected to the microscopic examination that has been directed to Captain Stevens, and come out of it as well.

This perhaps is the most eloquent tribute paid by anybody to the late Captain Stevens. If in the time available to me tonight I have done nothing more than place on the record of this Parliament the truth about Captain Stevens, not only for his sake but for the sake of his wife, children, mother and father and other relatives and of the personnel who served on the ‘Voyager’ then I would feel my time has not been in vain. Time doj not permit me to discuss in detail the opinions of :he Commissioners concerning the blameworthiness or otherwise of Captain Robertson, Commander Kelly or Sub-Lieutenant Bate. I simply say this: The professional view of the Naval Board concerning the responsibilities of the officer in tactical command, the Fleet Navigation Officer and the officer of the watch, were put clearly before the Royal Commissioners at their request by the counsel for the Naval Board of which I then had the honour to be chairman. I sincerely hope that for the future guidance of Her Majesty’s Australian ships, the Naval Board will reaffirm to the Fleet the responsibilities of such officers in Her Majesty’s Royal Australian Navy.

The stand taken by the Naval Board and by myself as Minister and the Government concerning the truth of the Cabban allegations I suggest has been completely vindicated notwithstanding the findings of the Commission of unfitness to retain command because of a physical condition which did not meet the abnormally high standards set by the Navy. The Naval Board could not and did not post a man with a severe drinking problem or a reckless seaman to command one of its ships. In conclusion, I say this: Our Navy is presently engaged in a war. Our ships’ officers and men are being fired upon in anger. Our clearance divers and pilots are risking their lives daily in Vietnam. None of the armed Services in Australian history - indeed few, if any, armed Services in any country in the world - has ever been subjected to the microscopic examinations of two royal commissions in 4 years. I say, after having served as Minister for the Navy for a short period, that Australia should be proud of its Navy; not only of its ships and equipment which are equal to the world’s best, but of the calibre, character and courage of its officers and men. I know I can still speak for those men in saying that as far as this unhappy and tragic matter of the ‘Voyager’ collision is concerned, after the conclusion of this debate, whenever that might be, in God’s name leave them alone, give them a fair go to serve Australia as they have volunteered to do.


– The honourable member for Higinbotham (Mr Chipp) accused the Opposition of attacking someone who was unable to reply. I do not agree with that practice and I do not propose to follow it. But I think it ill becomes the honourable member because on a previous occasion he participated in a similar debate and it was shown that his credibility was severely damaged. Secondly, he is not above attacking trade union leaders in this House. He stands up here time after time and names them. I recall only a few days ago that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) named a person in the Press Gallery as being a Japanese spy. On that occasion not one member of the Government had the decency to dissociate himself from the charge. So, tonight, 1 am not at all impressed by the approach of honourable members opposite to criticism of people who are not in a position to answer. I think it has to be taken into account that the person in question is the head of a department. He has figured very prominently in the report and in the deliberations of the Royal Commission. Consequently it was inevitable that he should come in for some kind of criticism.

I want to devote myself to some aspects of the findings of the Royal Commission. First I want to deal with the third term of reference, regarding the question of whether information was withheld from the first Royal Commission. 1 think that the members of the second Royal Commission were very generous in their attitude to Mr Justice Spicer and Mr Smyth in relation to this issue. The commissioners did not find that Cabban had no credibility at all. In fact they stated that his credibility could be accepted on some occasions. If honourable members read his statement which figured very prominently in the second Royal Commission, they will see that he went to Mr Smyth at the beginning of the first Royal Commission and practically laid before him the information that was available to the second Royal Commission. Mr Smyth and Mr Justice Spicer decided that they would not use that information. I submit that their failure to use it was responsible in some measure for the need to have a second 14418/68- R-m

Royal Commission. They did not agree to permit this matter to be ventilated and they passed it over as of no consequence. I submit that to say that they were merely guilty of an error of judgment is to treat them very leniently. In my opinion, they erred seriously and were deserving of some censure.

I direct the attention of the House to an affidavit that was submitted at the second Royal Commission, though no mention of it is made in the report. That affidavit, which was Exhibit 172, was made by a gentleman who is now Judge Hicks and who appeared for Captain Robertson at the first Royal Commission. In the affidavit he claimed that during the hearing of the first Royal Commission the legal representatives of the Stevens interests approached him during one luncheon adjournment and tried to make an arrangement under which, if Hicks did not attack the Stevens family, those representing that family would reciprocate by launching no attack on Robertson. Another person who is a judge was implicated in this affidavit of Judge Hicks. I think it is fair to place on record the fact that this judge denied the implications in the affidavit. I submit to the House that these circumstances give rise to certain conflicts and that the issue is not as clear cut as some members of the Government would have the House believe. Frankly, I consider that the two Commissioners in the recent Royal Commission relied too generously on the evidence of Sir William Morrow, and their readiness to give credibility to his evidence is not shared by many doctors. If honourable members read the evidence of Dr Birrell, who is the police surgeon in Victoria, they will find that he disagrees with certain conclusions reached by Sir William Morrow. I have spoken to other doctors who have read Sir William Morrow’s evidence and who laughed on reading it. Incidentally, I attended the Royal Commission on about six occasions and, during the last sessional period of the Parliament, spent 1± hours each day reading the transcript. From my own experience and what 1 have read of the inquiry. 1 submit that the Commissioners relied too much on the evidence of Sir William Morrow. Furthermore, they completely discounted the evidence of Dr Birrell, saying: ‘The premises which you adopt and from which you argue are completely wrong. We do nol accept them.’ The Commissioners were referring to the alleged drinking habits of the late Captain Stevens. They have gone to great pains to point out that the allegations that were made concerning his drinking habits were not true.

The Commissioners’ treatment of the evidence in arriving at this conclusion does not impress me. Their treatment of the evidence concerning Captain Stevens’ birthday party leaves me completely confused. If I have read the report correctly, they seem to think that one can drink and get moderately drunk, or that one can drink moderately. 1 do not deny the fact that one can drink in moderation. But how one can get moderately drunk is beyond my comprehension. As I have said, the Commissioners went to extraordinary pains to demonstrate that the allegations against the late Captain Stevens were groundless. They questioned the evidence of Steward Hyland. Let me recall to honourable members that this was the man who, before the first Royal Commission, stated: ‘I think it was at dinner, about 3 hours before the collision, that Captain Stevens had a triple brandy’. The Royal Commissioners at the second inquiry went to great pains to throw doubt on Hyland’s evidence. They stated that because of possible contradictions in it, his evidence about the triple brandy could not be accepted. Whether or not one accepts the statement that, even if Captain Stevens did drink a triple brandy 3 hours before the collision, the drinking of it would have had no effect on his capability to command, in my opinion, the Commissioners went to extreme lengths to cast doubts on the evidence of Steward Hyland.

I cannot for the life of me understand the attitude of the Commissioners towards Cabban. At one moment they say that he is a credible witness, and at the next they say that no credibility can be attached to his evidence. Honourable members who read the references to Cabban in the report of the recent Royal Commission will be struck by the number of times that the word ‘dramatic’ is used. I have counted up to seven times that it was used in passages of the report dealing with Cabban. It is obvious that the Commissioners seized on certain, aspects of his evidence and tried to discredit him completely. Honourable members will recall that, under cross examination, he likened himself to a central figure in ‘The Caine Mutiny’. Because of his likening himself to that character, he immediately became the subject of some kind of ridicule or scorn on the part of the Commissioners.

I think it is obvious that many people are most reluctant to involve themselves in the allegations concerning the late Captain Stevens. The man is dead; he cannot defend himself. Consequently, it is embarrassing to talk about things relating to him. But the fact is that, no matter how embarrassing this may be, justice has to be served. And justice demands that honourable members speak their minds in this House fearlessly and without any inhibitions whatsoever. Moreover, it is not merely a question of one man involved in this episode. As a result of the collision, more than eighty-two persons are no longer with us. This country and the Navy have lost their services. As a consequence, it is of the utmost importance that one approach this subject without inhibition or embarrassment and that one try to do one’s duty fearlessly in the interests of justice. I state that it is in the interests of justice and of posterity that all honourable members express their opinions on the issue no matter how embarrassed they may feel. The Commissioners have said that they have received letters from members of the community making allegations about the late Captain Stevens’ drinking habits. The Commissioners are not peculiar in this respect. I have received similar letters. I have travelled around Australia and have heard similar allegations. There will be people who will not accept the decisions of the Commission.

Mr Katter:

– Does the honourable member want another Royal Commission?


– I do not want another Commission. I am just stating the facts. The Commissioners have brought down a finding which exonerates the late Captain Stevens in respect of drinking. They have said that he was medically unfit and that because of his medical condition he was not fit to carry on his command. I think it is quite obvious, irrespective of what the Commissioners might contend, that it is idle for them to try to maintain that his ulcer condition was not exacerbated by his drinking habits, no matter how moderate they might have been and no matter how mildly the Commissioners might describe them. The Commission has brought down a report that removes from Captain Stevens any stigma of drinking. It has imposed a responsibility upon the Naval Board to do something, but what the Naval Board will do, I do not know, nor do I know how *i** will face up to the question of how a junior officer is to deal with a senior officer. How will a lieutenant deal with a captain, for example? I understand that the Naval Board has decided that henceforth captains shall be medically examined by doctors of a similar rank. How many medical officers hold the rank of captain in the Navy? How can a medical man be free of some of the inhibitions associated with naval officers? The responsibility of a medical man in the Navy is completely different from the responsibility of a career officer. He is not expected to have the same knowledge as an officer in the Navy, Army or Air Force. While there can be a situation in which a junior officer can be subjected to intimidation or influence, I am certain that the type of situation that prevailed in Stevens’ case will continue.

The Commission stated that it was not in favour of dry ships; nor am I. I do not think this situation, or any other situation, will be cured by prohibition, but the Navy has some responsibility in facing up to what is involved. I feel that it was because of Cabban’s attitude that he incurred the enmity of a number of people. One has only to read the background of witnesses to know exactly what line they were going to take in giving evidence. It was obvious that on a number of occasions Cabban ran into trouble not simply because he was failing in his duties or that his naval capabilities were inadequate but because of his attitude to drink. He had ideas about how a ship should be run in this respect. Others had different ideas. The Navy attitude is that the person to determine this matter on board ship is the captain himself. If it is going to be left to the captain, varying conditions will prevail on different shins. The Navy should try to straighten out this situation. If it is left to individuals, of necessity different conditions will prevail in different ships.

It is well worth reading the opinion of the Commissioners of the two principal characters in the recent hearing. At page 143 of their report the Commissioners state:

Stevens was the bluff, outgoing naval captain, impatient of formality and unwilling to stand on ceremony. Cabban was almost his complete opposite, quietly efficient but reserved and inclined to be self-centred and uncompromising, a near perfectionist to whom any departure by his Captain or fellow naval officer from the rigid standards of propriety he set for himself was abhorrent and inexcusable.

If that was the approach of Cabban and the House accepts it as such, is that to the detriment of Cabban? Have we reached the stage in society or in life where people who hold such ideals - ideals which may be a nuisance to some people - are to be castigated and thrown out because of their attitude? Quite frankly I say that it would be far better for all if there were more Cabbans around than there are at present.

La Trobe

– This is the third time that I have spoken in a debate on the ‘Voyager’-‘Melbourne’ collision, and 1 hope to God it is the last time. I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and to the former Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp), and a kind heart who sits near me suggested that I should be kind and should not say things that I otherwise would not say. 1 can say only that when I heard the Government’s case any possibility of that was shattered. I refer to the remarks of the former Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp), particularly his reference to Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. He stated that anybody who supported Cabban had not read the Commissioners’ report. I would suggest to him that anybody who made such a statement as he did had not read the transcript in detail. When he talks of the people who have been harmed and who have suffered he, and others who support him, should contemplate how that suffering could have been spared if those in authority in this country had listened, had investigated and had not been just plain stubborn and arrogant.

No matter what the Commissioners have said in their report I retain the right to disagree with their decisions. If honourable members read through the small print in the report - not the findings - they will see many matters that should cause us concern. Studying the list of witnesses and the persons under examination is rather like reading the cast of a play. The main principals in this case are the Government, the Naval Board, Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, Captain Robertson, the late Captain Stevens, Mr Smyth, Q.C., Sir John Spicer and Sir William Morrow. Perhaps we should look closely at each of the principals, but I intend to take only some of the main stars of this epic.

Let me say of Captain Robertson, and this I hope will be the last word I say on him, that it is interesting to read a letter which was sent to the late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, about Captain Robertson. It contained the following:

Captain Robertson had the alternative of talcing the safe and easy way of accepting both the appointment to HMAS ‘Watson’ and the tacit assumption of an unspoken verdict of some share of blame, or of taking the only other course open to him and resigning. lt may be, and no doubt has been, argued that (o accept the appointment was the commonsense course, for who would throw away security and a considerable pension entitlement to maintain a principle or to assert innocence. Here again we believe that Captain Robertson was the product of his training, as his training since boyhood had been that of a naval officer of whom are expected the highest standards of integrity and a willingness to make, if necessary, any sacrifice to do what must be done and not count the cost.

I hope there are some naval officers at this moment who can say that they see their role in this very light. Let me now spend a little time on the Naval Board. The Commissioners say that the Naval Board knew nothing about the assertions that were being made. I know directors of companies in the capital cities at this very moment who have been told that ignorance of what goes on is not an excuse if an offence is committed, and that in fact it is their duty to know what is going on. From my experience in the Army and from what I know otherwise of the Army, if a commanding officer gave the excuse that he did not know what was going on, he would go for the long jump fairly quickly.

Let me now come to some of the individuals. First I want to say a few words about Admiral McNicoll. I have been involved with this matter for 3 years or more and I can say that there is much that has not come out, much that has not yet been said. In all the time during which I have put these matters, first to Sir Robert Menzies in 1964 and early in 1965, then to Mr Harold Holt and to former Ministers for the Navy, not one of those persons has seen fit to interview Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. If one reads the exhibits which are now available to us in the Library one finds that the only persons who were ever asked to answer my question as to why Lieutenant-Commander Cabban was not called were Mr Landau, the Secretary of the Navy and the First Naval Member. I have asked repeatedly why it is that the Navy is asked to investigate why a witness was not called in a royal commisison. It seems to me that this is beyond the responsibilities of the First Naval Member and Secretary of the Navy. However, let us move on to what some of the individuals have said. Exhibit 151 was a document headed ‘Some Aspects of “Voyager “ Debate’. This was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In this document Admiral McNicoll made an attack on Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. He said, amongst other things:

But the ‘high moral character’, ‘idealism’ and awareness’, all of which are mentioned by Dr Mackay, probably add up to what might be less charitably described as a self-righteous egomania.

That may be Admiral McNicoll’s idea; it is not mine. On page 2 of that same document, in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 Admiral McNicoll spoke of the triple brandy, which now, to my surprise, Their Honours say may never even have existed, so that the poor steward is now a liar. Even though nobody has proved that the triple brandy did not exist the evidence of the steward is treated as being beneath contempt. In paragraph 4 of this document Admiral McNicoll said:

This would certainly be a stiff brandy, although not more than many a sober and respected citizen might drink after a formal dinner. . . .

The only difference in this case was that the ship was manoeuvring in close proximity to another, and in darkness, and as the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) himself said when he led the debate last year, this was at all times a dangerous manoeuvre. However, Admiral McNicoll tells us that the triple brandy is simply a drink that any man might take in a Melbourne club.

Then we come to the evidence of Admiral McNicoll at page 3889 of the transcript. This is what he said:

MR HIATT; You first saw what we call the Cabban statement in August 1965?


And never at any time since then have you sought to see Cabban to question him on the statement? - Never.

To see what, if any, of it was true so that the Navy might put its house in order? - We have become so accustomed to the document that one forgets what a cruel and pitiless document it is. One knows it is not the production of a wicked man, but it seems a purposeless document. And insofar as the Navy putting its house in order, the first tiling, and the step which is lacking, is to convince anyone to whom this document is shown that it is a true document

I hope that, now that the Commissioners have shown that there was a certain amount of truth in it, Admiral McNicoll may revise his views. Exhibit 85 was a report on Captain Duncan Stevens signed by Admiral McNicoll and dated 23rd August 1965. In the third last paragraph he said: I agreed to Mr Osborne’s request - - Mr Osborne was the solicitor for the Stevens interest - to speak for Captain Stevens’ character and competence, though 1 asked not to be pressed, as 1 could not describe him as m any way outstanding.

We should keep in mind what Admiral McNicoll said before the first Royal Commission and then before the second Royal Commission. I will just read to the House what the first Commissioner said in his report on page 3, referring to Captain Stevens:

A perusal of his ‘flimsies’ indicates a long, satisfactory and indeed distinguished service in the various capacities in which he served from time to time-

This is a fair indication of the kinds of flimsies’ that are written: the last of which was from Admiral McNicoll re service in ‘Voyager’ from January 1963 to January 1964: ‘has conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. A keen and enthusiastic captain of HMAS “Voyager”’.

If Admiral McNicoll had not allowed himself to be pressed by Mr Osborne, and if Admiral McNicoll had told the full story that this man could not in his opinion be described as in any way outstanding, we might not have had to take the step of appointing a second Royal Commission.

The next person about whom I wish to say something is Mr Smyth. I cannot understand - and the Commissioners have not helped me in any way to understand - why certain matters were not brought out. Mr Smyth knew that there was evidence that a triple brandy had been served. He also knew that three bodies had been recovered from the water. He knew that there was an executive officer who had told him certain things - whether they were true or not - about the drinking habits of the Captain. He also knew that on ‘Voyager’ that night there had been an alcohol ration, even though such a ration was against the orders of the Naval Board at that time. I understand that since then the orders have been amended by the addition of the words during night flying’. But at that time this represented a contravention. These were four matters that he knew about. Whether the suggestions were right or wrong was not for him or for Cabban or anybody else to say, but the fact is that he never thought to introduce them and test them. This I find quite astounding.

Then I come to a letter which the Leader of the Opposition read. It concerns Lieutenant Tiller’s statements, and I am concerned as to who was responsible for having the original statements of Lieutenant Tiller destroyed. The Commisioner’s report said that no criticism of Mr Landau can be made. Let me say that I do not agree with the words used by the Leader of the Opposition on this aspect of the matter. I found them objectionable and I thought the honourable member was quite wrong in using them. But let roe refer tq this letter and particularly in the context of the destruction of documents. Exhibit 81 is a letter dated 11th May 1967 from Mr Landau to Commodore Smythe, the Australian naval representative in London. It concerned the obtaining of evidence from Lieutenant Tiller. The third last paragraph read:

It is probable that there may be approaches to both Captain Willis and Surgeon-Lieutenant Tiller from other quarters on these matters. (I understand that Mr Jess MP will be visiting London next month.)

He was quite correct, and I can assure him that Lieutenant Tiller acted according to naval standards. The letter continues:

I think you should inform them accordingly, particularly in view of the possibility of the Parliamentary Committee of inquiry mentioned above.

The last paragraph, I think, is the one which gives me concern. It reads:

I should be glad if you would please destroy this letter, as well as die Cabban statement, as soon as you have finished with it.

The letter is signed ‘Yours sincerely, S. Landau, Secretary’. I thought that all naval records were kept. 1 thought that when letters were sent to attaches abroad, records were kept of those letters. Already in this case files for a rather important month and reports from ‘Voyager’ have seemingly been lost from the Commander of the Fleet, from the Navy Office and from four distinct areas, lt just so happens that the termites have got them. I find this quite extraordinary in view of the Tiller statement, in view of this letter and in view of other factors in this case. 1 ask: How many other papers may have been destroyed when it is inconvenient, whether for Ministers, secretaries of departments or concerning the liberties of individuals?

Let me go further to some of the other suggestions which have been made in this case. It has been suggested that LieutenantCommander Cabban felt that he was espousing a cause and that he was the great white hope. I can assure this House that Lieutenant-Commander Cabban at no time ever wanted this second Royal Commission to take place. He at all times said that he was prepared to speak to anybody in the Ministry or in the Department of the Navy, or to anybody who would listen to him.. It was only when the Ministers of this Government refused or endeavoured to prevent a second Royal Commission coming about that I had to go to LieutenantCommander Cabban. I said to him: ‘You are the one on whom this case rests. Are you prepared to take the slander, the libel and what will be thrown at you, and go on?’ He hesitated. He said that he was. I agree with somebody else who said that he hoped that there are men in this country who are prepared to stand out against the establishment and who are prepared to make this sacrifice when the establishment or the people in power say: ‘This man is too dangerous. Let us roll him early*. This Royal Commission report is headed in part’ . . . Royal Commission on the statement of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban . . .’. It was the trial of Cabban more than anybody else. The debate tonight from the Government’s side has been reduced in my opinion to the trial of Cabban again.

I will say that he is an honourable man. I do not think that some of those who have made statements tonight could match him for his fearlessness or his courage in this deal. As a member of the Liberal Party, I do not think that it is any good talking about Communism, corruption or collusion in others if we are not prepared to watch that it does not happen in our own area. I am not saying that it did. I am saying that we need to be vigilant. We need to see at times like these that the little man is not victimised. I take now the statements that the judges made about LieutenantCommander Cabban. They said that he was unreliable. 1 regard this statement as one thing and one thing only. It is this: Never let any junior officer, never let any young man or anybody who may think that he can attack those in power believe that he can win - because, indeed, he cannot. 1 wish to conclude by saying this: 1 have the greatest sympathy for everybody concerned in this matter including the former Ministers for the Navy who have lost their portfolios. I never wanted this. The Commission was never necessary. It only needed one person to hear one man and perhaps to check what he had to say and not leave the matter to two men who were concerned and who in fact I think even recommended compensation for the man who was victimised, Captain Robertson. 1 think that this is something that has been tragic. I do not know whether I can say anything that will mean much to the family of the captain of the ship that went down. The only thing I will say is this: Throughout this case, I have felt that Captain Stevens was a man of honour and a man of great courage. Who knows why any man does anything, what his sickness is or what caused it? I have felt all the time that if the Navy was what I thought it was this man would have been the first to say: ‘I do not want any other man blamed for a mistake that may have been mine’. I feel that more than anything this is what I would wish to say particularly to the young son of this man: It is not his father who has been attacked. It is not his father who has been under observation. It is the question of justice in this country, what justice means in this country and whether justice is based on fact and whether fair and open inquiries are worth fighting for.

Debate (on motion by Mr Benson) adjourned.

House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.

page 703


The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:

Social Services (Question No. 13)

Mr Stewart:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

Is a mother’s allowance paid to a widow who is providing a’ home for a State ward? If not, why not?

Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

No distinction is made between children who are State wards and children who are not State wards in relation to the grant to a widow pensioner of a mother’s allowance. However, to qualify a widow for the allowance, a child must be a child of the widow and her husband or a child who was in her care at the time she became a widow.

Motor Vehicles (Question No. 16)

Mr Webb:

asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

Will he, in accordance with the wishes of the Australian Automobile Association, expedite formulation of a complete set of specifications regarding safety features in vehicle design?

Mr Sinclair:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The Australian Motor Vehicle Design Advisory Panel, a committee of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, is currently investigating the general question of safety features in vehicle design, and is engaged in formulating a set of rules incorporating specifications for safety features. Every effort is being made to expedite this important work. ne panel has a comprehensive programme for the neat 18 months and is watching closely the development of safety standards in the United States and other countries. Rules concerning door latches and hinges, seat anchorages, seat belts and seat belt anchorages have already been endorsed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which has recommended that the Rules be incorporated into Stale and Territorial legislation. It is expected that further rules will be included in a report to be presented at the July meeting of the Council.

Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Question- No. 17)

Mr Webb:

asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:

  1. Has a request been received from the Australian Automobile Association that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act 1964 be amended to provide that the Bureau report to the Commonwealth Parliament at least once annually?
  2. If so, what action is proposed to meet this request?
Mr Sinclair:

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. Yes. A verbal request lias been made to me.
  2. The main function of the Bureau of Roads is to conduct investigations and provide reports for the information and advice of the Government. Accordingly it is not appropriate for it to report directly to the Parliament. As my predecessor has previously informed the House, Parliament will be advised of the work of the Bureau when it is deemed appropriate. Already certain technical reports have been released and are available in the Parliamentary Library.

Social Services (Question No. 18)

Mr Webb:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

  1. How many widows were there at 31st December 1967 in each of the three classes of widow in (a) Australia and (b) each of the States?
  2. How many in each of the three classes of widow were classed as deserted wives?
  3. Of those classed as deserted wives (a) how many had children and (b) how many were without children in (i) Australia and (ii) each of the States?
  4. How much would it cost to abolish the means test as it affects each class of widow?
Mr Wentworth:

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. Statistics relating to widow pensioners are compiled at 4-weekly intervals. The last date on which they were compiled in 1967 was 11th December when the number of pensioners in each State and Territory by class was as shown in the following table:
  1. The number of widows classed as deserted wives in receipt of widow’s pension as at 11th December 1967 was- Class A 12,087; Class B 3,105. Widow’s pension in Class C is not payable to deserted wives.
  2. The number of deserted wives in receipt of widows’ pensions by class in each State and Territory on11th December 1967, was as follows:
  1. Under the provisions of the Social Services Act the term ‘widow’ includes, in addition to a de jure widow, a deserted wife, a divorcee, a woman whose husband is a mental hospital patient, a woman whose husband has been convicted of an offence and is imprisoned and has been imprisoned for a period of not less than 6 months, and a dependent female.

Information as to the number of ‘widows’ in the community who would be eligible for a widow’s pension if the means test were abolished is not available, consequently it is not possible to estimate the cost of such a proposal.

Papua and New Guinea (Question No. 34)

Mr Benson:

asked the Minister for Exter nal Territories, upon notice:

  1. Is Papua Australian Territory?
  2. Are the people of Papua British subjects with Australian nationality?
  3. Were the number of points on the stars of the Australian flag altered by the Commonwealth

Government in 1908 from six to seven so as to include Papua and any other Australian Territory?

  1. Does section 122 of the Constitution apply to Papua?
  2. Before independence could be granted to Papua would it be necessary to hold a referendum in Australia and/or Papua; if not, on what authority can independence be granted?
Mr Barnes:
Minister for External Territories · MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND · CP

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1.Yes. The Territory of Papua is a Territory that has been placed by the Queen under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia.

  1. People born in the Territory of Papua are Australian citizens and British subjects by virtue of the Nationality and Citizenship Act.
  2. Yes. In 1908 a seventh point was added to represent territories under Australian control.
  3. Yes.
  4. This is a constitutional question involving legal opinion which it is not appropriate to answer in reply to a parliamentary question.

Means Test (Question No. 48)

Mr Whitlam:

asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice

What is the estimated additional annual cost of abolishing the means test and providing a full age pension for all those who are otherwise qualified and who are aged (a) 75 years or over, (b) 74 years or over, (c) 73 years or over, (d) 72 years or over, (e) 71 years or over and (f) 70 years or over?

Mr Wentworth:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The additional annual cost of paying age pensions to all persons who are qualified by residence and who fall within the nominated age groups is

Offsets could be allowed against these costs in respect of people of pensionable age who are already in receipt of service pensions from the Repatriation Department or widows’ pensions from the Social Services Department or who are mental hospital patients. Data permitting reliable estimates of the amounts by which these factors would reduce the costs are not available but at their upper limit they could range from $8 million per annum for persons aged 75 years and over to $15 million per annum for persons aged 70 years and over.

Papua and New Guinea (Question No. 103)

Mr Hayden:

asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:

  1. Did the House of Assembly for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea on 7th March 1966 adopt a resolution calling for an examination of the possibility of translating into Pidgin and Motu written materials made available to Members of the House?
  2. Has a report been issued on this subject?
  3. Will he give the maximum support to making available such written material in Pidgin and Motu for the assistance of Members of the House of Assembly and the better working of that legislature?
Mr Barnes:

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. Yes. The resolution requested the Clerk of the House of Assembly to investigate and report on the possibility of producing in Pidgin and Motu written materials issued in connection with proceedings of the House of Assembly.
  2. The Clerk has not reported.
  3. Yes. In addition the Territory Administra tion conducts training programmes for translators, and also arranges special courses designed to give Members a better understanding of English.

Waterfront Employment (Question No. 122)

Mr Devine:

asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

  1. Now that permanent employment has been introduced on the waterfront has the democratic right of the waterside worker to transfer from one stevedoring company to another been taken away from him?
  2. What procedure is now to be followed by the waterside worker in order to obtain such a transfer?
  3. Has the stevedoring company of Patrick and Co. consistently breached regulations on this matter and opposed the transfer of waterside workers to other stevedoring companies?
Mr Bury:

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. The General Report of the National Stevedoring Industry Conference sets out the agreed arrangements for allocating operational employees to individual employers on a permanent basis. These are based on initial choice by the employees and balloting where necessary. These arrangements were endorsed by the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia and its branches.
  2. The procedures under which a waterside worker may terminate his employment with an employer are set out in Clause 40 of the Waterside Workers’ Award.
  3. No.

Army Interrogation in Vietnam (Question No. 83)

Mr Daly:

asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:

  1. What is the name of the warrant officer who was involved in the ‘water treatment’ interrogation incident in Vietnam?
  2. Was the warrant officer charged wilh any offence by the Army?
  3. If so, what was (a) the nature of the charge, (b) the date and place of the court martial or inquiry and (c) the name of the presiding officer?
  4. What was the decision of the court martial or inquiry?
  5. What action, if any, was taken against the soldier concerned?
  6. What is the soldier’s present rank and location?
Mr Lynch:
Minister for the Army · FLINDERS, VICTORIA · LP

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. lt would not be proper for me to release the name of the Warrant Officer concerned. The matter was dealt wilh to finality by proper authority tit the time. As there is no question of court martial or trial at this stage, the Warrant Officer would have no opportunity to defend himself against any adverse comments which might now be invoked by the release of Ins name. 2. No. 3 and 4. Not applicable.

    1. The warrant officer was paraded to the Commander of the First Australian Task Force, censured and removed from interrogation duties.
    2. The soldier’s rank is still warrant officer class 2. I am unable to disclose his present location for the same reason as stated in the answer to question 1.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 April 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.