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Monday, 20 May 1957

Mr Webb b asked the Minister for Terri tories, upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that he has no first-hand knowledge of the Warburton Reserve?

2.   Has he asserted that the report of the Western Australian Parliamentary Select Committee was the least trustworthy of the reports submitted?

3.   If so, on what grounds did he base this assertion?

4.   What steps has he taken to establish the trustworthiness of anthropological and medical reports?

5.   Is the select committee's report in error; if so, what are the errors?

6.   Has censorship been established in the reserve in respect of the Commonwealth native welfare officers' reports; if so, why was this necessary?

Mr Hasluck (CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Territories) - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   I have not visited the Warburton Range but have a first-hand knowledge, stretching over the past twenty years, of similar areas and of natives living at a similar stage of development in the remote inland areas of Australia.

2.   Yes. 3. (a) A comparison of the accounts by the authors of the various reports of the nature, extent and method of their inquiry; (b) an evaluation of the evidence produced in each report; (c) the experience, expertness and professional standing in this particular field of knowledge of the persons making the inquiry; (d) a critical examination of the conclusions in the light of the facts on which they claimed to have been based; (e) a comparison of the conclusions with what is known at firsthand of similar areas.

4.   See answer to No. 3.

5.   Most of the errors being errors of exaggeration, incomplete observation, or making generalizations from single instances, will be revealed by a comparison of the three reports. I have never said that the select committee's report was wholly in error.

6.   I have no knowledge of any such censorship.

Capital Punishment in the Territories.

Mr Hasluck k. - On 14th May, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) asked me the following question: -

Will the Minister confirm or deny reports that 24 New Guinea natives who were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court at Wewak yesterday were defended by a patrol officer who had participated in the apprehension of the accused? Are patrol officers generally regarded as legally qualified, and as being sufficiently competent to defend persons accused of murder, and was the defence counsel in this case so qualified to appear for 25 natives on a murder charge? Will the Minister say whether it is usual for sentence of death to be carried out and will he consider tabling the transcript of the court proceedings for the information of the House?

I now wish to inform him that the accused natives in this case were defended by a patrol officer who did not participate in any way in their apprehension. Patrol officers are not qualified legal practitioners, but receive some instruction in legal matters. The patrol officer in this case is a member of the Court for Native Affairs under the Territory of New Guinea Native Administration Ordinance 1921-1951 and a magistrate for native matters under the Native Regulation Ordinance 1908-1952 of Papua. If, in any case, the presiding judge feels that the accused before him should be represented by qualified counsel he may suggest this and his suggestion is invariably acted upon by the Administration. The proceedings were held in open court and it is not customary for the judge's own transcript to be referred to except on appeal. If any substantial question relating to the conduct of the trial could not be verified except by reference to the transcript I would consider requesting the judge to make the transcript available.

Collapse of Hangar at Mascot Aerodrome.

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -

1.   Was the collapse of the Qantas hangar at Mascot due to faults in the specifications, in the materials, or in the supervision?

2.   Were tenders called and received in Australia for supplying mild steel for the hangar?

3.   Was a contract later let, without calling for tenders, to a company owned overseas for the supply and erection of high tensile steel?

4.   Was a girder damaged in the course of erection but repaired and erected?

5.   Was this girder responsible for or involved in the collapse?

6.   Have steps been taken to re-erect or replace the hanger without calling for tenders?

7.   Who will carry out, supervise and pay for the re-erection or replacement?

8.   What was the completion date under the original contract?

9.   When is it now expected that the hangar will be completed?

Mr Townley y. - The following replies have been furnished: -

1.   The reason for the collapse of the Qantas hangar at Mascot has not been finally determined by the several groups of technical consultants who were commissioned to investigate the matter. A group settlement has now been reached amongst al! the parties potentially liable in any degree in respect of the complete re-design and re-erection of the new framework for the hangar. In these circumstances it would not only be fruitless, but contrary to the spirit of the settlement reached, to pursue further the very complex issues which would arise in endeavouring to pin down the actual responsibilities of those who have agreed to shoulder the main financial burden of the collapse.

2.   Tenders for supply of mild structural steel were called from selected major suppliers in accordance with normal practice. One of these tenderers submitted a proposal for the supply of high tensile steel at a much lower cost than would have been involved in using mild steel, and this tender was accepted on the recommendation of the consulting architects. The erection of the steel was included as part of the main building contract, i.e., it was not erected by the contractor who supplied it.

3.   See answer to question 2.

4.   During the course of erection one truss which was dropped and damaged was repaired and, after inspection by Lloyds representatives, was re-erected.

5.   See answer to question 1.

6.   See answer to question 1.

7.   See answer to question 1.

8.   30th June, 1956.

9.   31st December, 1957.

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