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Thursday, 17 March 1966


Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) . - I wish to refer briefly to a question I asked in Parliament on 9th March regarding a film on the Changi prisoner of war camp. The question was replied to in many newspapers - I saw it in three - by a letter from Mr. Colin H. C. Jones, Managing Director, Columbia Pictures Pty. Ltd.,

Sydney. Mr. Jones, in his letter to the Press began by saying -

As the importer and distributor of the film " King Rat " in Australia, we are rather surprised at the question raised in the Federal House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 9, by Mr. W. G. Turnbull, M.P.

I am rather surprised at the letter written by Mr. Jones which appeared in these newspapers and it is to that letter that I wish to refer. First, I do not want anything I say to cut across investigations that I have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) to make. I have also asked him to make his findings known in a public statement in this House. I would not have spoken on this subject while the Prime Minister is making investigations but for the fact that I must do so while the subject is in the minds of the people who are reading these newspapers. On 9th March, in this House, I said -

I address a question to the Prime Minister because I regard this matter as one of great national importance. Will the right honorable gentleman make investigations with a view to making known whether the film " King Rat ", currently being screened in Australia, is a true record of events in Changi prison camp, Singapore, or a money making project to the detriment of the reputation of many Australians and others who served in Malaya and who were imprisoned in Changi? If the Prime Minister will make the investigations as requested, will he make his findings the subject of a statement in this House?

Mr. Jonescovers himself by saying: "He is reported . . ." There he is referring to me. I wish Mr. Jones would get his reports a bit more accurate. He says -

He is reported as asking the Prime Minister for an investigation to make known to the public whether the film is a true record of events in Changi Prisoner of War Camp during World War

II   . . .

I said that. He goes on to say - . . and if the film purported to be factual. Of course, I did not mention that in any way at all. No mention was made of it whatever. I just simply asked a straight question. Some newspapers made the comment that I had said certain things but " Hansard " is the record that proves this is wrong. Mr. Jones goes on to say -

When we received the print of the film we immediately showed it to Brigadier F. C. Galleghan, who was in supreme command of Changi;

That would be the joke of the century, that Brigadier Galleghan was in supreme command of Changi. Why, it was a Japanese prisoner of war camp. If he had been in supreme command, why did we stay there? This is absolutely ridiculous, but some people, reading it, might believe it. The Japanese were in supreme command. Brigadier Galleghan had some authority, or authority over the Australians, but only the authority that was allowed to him by the Japanese, and it was fairly limited. Going on with this matter quickly, I want to say that Mr. Jones went on to state that they had put the film before certain other people and apparently they had agreed that it should be screened. 1 do not care whether Brigadier Galleghan or anybody else agreed to it. I think it is in very bad taste. The letter continues - . . we agreed to recommend to the producer that each print of the picture in Australia should carry a foreword. This foreword was created by Brigadier Galleghan, the Producers' Representatives in New York and ourselves.

Mr. Joneswent on to set out the foreword, which states, inter alia - " King Rat " is pure fiction ... 1 particularly want to stress that it was the discipline, mateship and splendid morale of the men of all nations and all ranks in Changi that alone allowed them to survive three and a half years of deprivation and brutality.

This is a little bit put in to break down the real effect of the film. The passage is shown at the start of the film, but by the time the people see what is purported to be happening in Changi they forget altogether about the foreword. The whole point that I want to make is that I asked the Prime Minister so that he would be able in the Commonwealth Parliament to make the announcement that this is fictional. It is not enough to have something just at the start of the picture. Many people do not see the foreword at all. Many have asked me whether such and such a thing really happened. They have forgotten all about what was written at the start. Why should the name Changi have been used? I believe that it was used only because this picture is trading on the suffering of the men in that camp. There is not the slightest doubt in the world about that. The makers of the film could have used some other name, some fictional name. They could have said: "These are events that happened in the prison camp at Bologa " - a name that people do not know about at all. Would people rush along to see a film with that title? Certainly they would not. The name

Changi was used as a money making proposition, and no man can deny this.

Let me give the House an example. If we had a caricature of a parliament, with members sitting around, and said, " This is the Parliament of Mudjimo ", no-one could take much offence at it, because after all it would be some fictional parliament. But if you said, " This is a film of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia", having said at an earlier stage, "But what is happening is only fictional ", you would be quickly summoned to appear before the Privileges Committee and you might spend six months in gaol. Because the men who were at Changi have not a privileges committee to deal with matters such as this, many people are gaining a view of what happened in that camp different from the one they had before seeing the film " King Rat". I am sorry that Mr. Jones had to write this letter because the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) is investigating the matter. I bring this up today to give a little more publicity to the facts. Even the producers of the film have stated in their letter that the film was based entirely on fiction. An assurance to this effect appears at the beginning of the film. But this is not enough. I believe that the name " Changi " should never have been used in a film of this nature, and for my part, and on behalf of many men whom I knew in that camp, I condemn the use of the name Changi in "King Rat".







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