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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3439


Senator GILES(11.08) —Following Senator Zakharov's reading of a number of signed sworn statements, I also have some statements regarding incidents which occurred earlier in the week and which, as Senator Zakharov said, also led to some rather inflammatory statements in this place and in the Press. I would like at the outset to modify some statements I made earlier about what I believe to have been some Press provocation. What I believe to have happened-this is as a result of discussing the matter with a number of people who were actually there and who were prepared to act as eye witnesses-is that the Press was not so much provocative as insensitive and that there was some difficulty also with the range of expectations held by the women. These related to the sort of behaviour they had expected from the Press, perhaps naively, perhaps a little unrealistically.

To go to the declarations I have, the first is from a peace worker who lives in the Australian Capital Territory and reads as follows:

I was on duty at the information tent at the entrance to the Women's Peace Camp on Monday 20th October. It was lunchtime and I was eating my lunch looking towards Parliament House. Senator Knowles, Vanstone . . . and Newman . . . accompanied by a male staff member walked very purposefully towards the camp and to the side of the tent. I walked to meet them and asked if I could help them. The reply from Susan Knowles, which was accompanied by a strident gesture was `No we are going through!' I indicated I would be happy to give them any information they required. Amanda Vanstone said `We do not want any information. We are not interested in talking with you'. I then spoke to the male staff member saying: We would prefer men did not enter the camp and suggested he might go round by the park-most men had been willing to do this when requested. He did not reply. The Senators came back to demand that he followed them. Meanwhile the TV crew were advancing having left the steps of Parliament House immediately after the senators. I walked with the party into the camp and gave the call for the other women to come and then returned to the tent. Not long afterwards the party left the camp, making several allegations to the larger group of media which had congregated. Susan Knowles complained that they had wanted to talk with us and we did not apparently wish to talk with them. This is directly contradictory to their stated intention to me on their arrival.

The second statement comes from an unemployed woman from New South Wales. It reads:

On Monday afternoon 20 October David MacGibbon, senator from Queensland barged into the women's peace camp with three women senators and a number of other people, despite being asked not to. Several women had formed a circle around him and were humming. This was happening beside the childcare tent with the children's equipment around it. David MacGibbon became agitated and demanded that we get out of his way. He started walking and we walked with him keeping him encircled but not touching him. He continued that we get out of his way and began trampling on the children's tricycles and plastic containers.


Senator Knowles —Why don't you start telling the truth about what happened?


Senator GILES —This is not my version; it is a statutory declaration. The statement continued:

The childcare women picked up the children that were in the area and began to move away while asking that David MacGibbon be aware that there were children and childrens equipment around. He paid no attention, became very aggressive and took hold of the arms of the women in the circle and pushed them away.

The following statement was made by a social worker from Western Australia:

That in the early afternoon of Monday the 20th of October 1986 I was witnessed to the forced entry of Senator Knowles, Vanstone, Newman and MacGibbon together with a male T.V. camera crew into the Women for Survival camp site on Parliament House Lawns Canberra. I and a large number of other women living in the camp site surrounded the senators and camera crew, linked hands, commenced humming and attempted to draw the encircled group out to the camp boundaries. This was a pre-arranged action aimed at gently removing intruders from the site without laying hands on them or using physical violence. All the Senators appeared to become very afraid and angry but Senator MacGibbon carried these feelings through into physical action. I saw him on four occasions breaking through the encircling women by grabbing their arms and wrenching them apart. I observed him on one occasion hitting a woman in the face and on another occasion hitting a woman in the breast. Senator MacGibbon is a big man and he used extreme violence in breaking out of the circle. I observed some women to shout loudly and angrily and some women who put their hands up to cover the T.V. camera lens. I did not however at any time see any woman touch any of the Senators or the camera crew roughly.

The final declaration that I have here is from a writer from Victoria. She solemnly and sincerely declares:

that on Tuesday 21st October 1986 I was at the Women for Survival Peace Camp on the lawns of Parliament House Canberra where I observed a man approaching from Parliament House steps with an entourage of media. Believing this to be another attempt by hostile politicians to provoke confrontation, I and other women began to warn the camp of his approach. We had agreed to leave the camp en masse in such a situation. Most of the women were in a central circle, where a meeting was in progress when the man, Mr Ian Sinclair, reached the entrance to the camp. I, and a number of other women who were in tents close to the camp entrance, came out to walk with him as far as the centre where the rest of the women were. I was on his immediate right when the woman on my right stumbled and almost fell, spilling her cup of tea. I helped to catch her. At no point did I see her body come into contact with Mr Sinclair. As we reached the circle of women we all left Mr Sinclair to his own devices and went to the steps of Parliament House to sing `Close Pine Gap'.

I will not detain the Senate any longer--


Senator Knowles —That is a good idea.


The PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Knowles!


Senator GILES —I wish to make the point that on the previous occasion the opportunity was given for the proper processes of this Senate to be used to give one version--


Senator Knowles —Oh dear, dear.


The PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Knowles!


Senator GILES —What Senator Zakharov and I have sought to do tonight is simply to give the other side of the story and set the record straight.