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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3499

Senator McKIERNAN —I refer the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to the editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, 3 December, regarding the Australian War Memorial. The editorial states that the current dispute is due to a personality difference between the Minister and the Memorial Director. Is this a factual analysis of the situation?

Senator GIETZELT —Yes, I have seen the editorial. I have written to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, who has promised to publish a rebuttal of the very simplistic and superficial approach taken by the editorial writer on the matter. I know of only one occasion when the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Mr Flemming, went public and that was on the day on which the Council of the Australian War Memorial decided to carry unanimously a motion of no confidence in the Director. Of course, the three services chiefs and a number of other prominent members of the Memorial Council participated.

When the matter was canvassed on a radio station in Victoria on that day the compere of the program asked the Director about his relationships with me, the Minister. Air Vice-Marshal Flemming replied: `Oh well, very good. The current Minister has been very helpful to the Australian War Memorial'. Of course, that indicated the nature of our personal relationships.

The issues that are involved in the difficulties that exist between the Government and the Director are about maladministration and not about policy. The Minister has no authority within the Act and neither he nor the Government has any intention of changing the policy for the Australian War Memorial. Consequently, there is very little substance in a number of the matters that have been raised.

I particularly want to indicate that, as far as I am concerned, there is no personality problem and I am sure that that is the case with respect to Mr Flemming. Of course, that puts in relief the incorrect attitude that has been taken by a number of editorial writers. I was asked about the editorial in the Australian several days ago. That was found to be factually wrong. In respect of a number of assumptions that were made in the Sydney Morning Herald editorial, they are equally based on a lack of information, a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding of the problems that exist. But the management of the Sydney Morning Herald has promised to print my rebuttal of those statements and I trust that it will do so in tomorrow's edition.