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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1654


Mr UREN (Reid) - I rise to protest against the action of the Government in continuing to gaol young men who defy the Government's efforts to conscript them to serve in the war in Vietnam. In particular, I want to express my attitude in regard to the case of one young man. I refer to Geoffrey Mullen, a science graduate of the University of New, South Wales who is at present in Cooma gaol. I relate some aspects of the attitude of the Government and its organisations towards Geoffrey Mullen. After spending a short period in Long Bay gaol Geoffrey Mullen was transferred to Berrima gaol. I visited him at Berrima gaol on Easter Saturday last. On that occasion the superintendent of the gaol, in my presence, threatened that if there were any demonstrations in front of Berrima gaol against the war in Vietnam or conscription Geoffrey Mullen would be removed from that gaol and certain action would be taken against him. It was later brought to my notice that 2 prison warders threatened Geoffrey Mullen that if certain demonstrations occurred outside the gaol the privileges of prisoners in Berrima gaol would be restricted. This led to prison inmates threatening Geoffrey Mullen.

As a result of the revelation of this matter in this Parliament, Geoffrey Mullen was transferred from Berrima gaol to Newnes, which is probably the best of the New South Wales prisons - if one can describe a prison in such terms. It is more of a prison farm. My information is that during his period at Newnes Geoffrey Mullen was treated well and had good relations with his fellow prisoners. However, several weeks ago he was transferred from this prison to Silverwater and later from Silverwater to Cooma. I made representations to the Commissioner of Corrective Services in New South Wales, Mr McGeechin, about this matter. I asked him why Geoffrey Mullen had been transferred to Cooma. Mr McGeechin said that the transfer was in fact in Mr Mullen's best interests. Following that I sent a telegram to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in the following words:

Geoffrey Mullen was transferred from Berrima gaol to Newnes Farm. In my speech Hansard 239? May 3rd I gave details on why he was transferred to Newnes. He has now been transferred from Newnes to Cooma. I made representations to Commissioner of Corrective Services Mr W. McGeechin seeking details on reason for transfer from Newnes at the request of his mother who believed it was not in the best interest of her son to be at Cooma. In reply to my representation to the Commissioner all I can describe the reply is one of arrogance. As Geoffrey Mullen is a prisoner in the New South Wales prison due to a Commonwealth Act I request through you the details on why he was transferred from Newnes to Cooma and I further request that he be transferred from Cooma back to Newnes. I should appreciate your sympathy and consideration in this case.

Although I specifically asked the Minister to give consideration to this case no consideration was given to it because the Government has no feelings in this regard. One would think that, as it is now bringing troops back from Vietnam because of public opinion and world pressure, the Government would release the 3 young men who were gaoled because they had the moral courage to stand up against the Government's policy of conscription. The Department of Labour and National Service knows that at least 43,000 young men in this country have failed to comply with all the details of the National Service Act, but only a handful of them have been prosecuted. One would think that these young men would be released from gaol now that we are withdrawing from Vietnam. But that is not the case. The Government apparently wants to act according to what is called the letter of the law.

The Government is a government of hypocrisy. Was its heart bleeding for the young men who were killed in Vietnam last week? An indication that the Government is a government of hypocrisy is that it could not care less that the lives of 500 of our young men were lost in Vietnam because the Government wanted a cheap insurance policy. What did the AttorneyGeneral say in reply to my representation? In a letter to me dated 28th September 1971, he said:

I refer to your recent telegram regarding Mr Geoffrey Mullen, in which you request details of the reasons for his transfer from Newnes to Cooma. You further request that he be transferred back to Newnes.

Mr Mullenis undergoing imprisonment in a State prison as the States are required by section 120 of the' Constitution to make provision for detention in their prisons of persons convicted of offences against the laws of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth prisoners are subject to the same terms and conditions as apply to State prisoners. 1 am satisfied from information I have received from the New South Wales Minister of Justice that the decision to move Mr Mullen to Cooma was made in Mr Mullen's own interest. The question as to the prison in which Mr Mullen should be held is one for decision by the New South Wales prison authorities.

Let us examine the Attorney-General's claim that the transfer was in the best interest of Geoffrey Mullen. At Newnes he had access to all library facilities. He is a student. Geoffrey Mullen is trying to do a postgraduate course through the University of New England. At Newnes he had complete access to all daily newspapers without having to seek any special permission. Immediately he was transferred to Cooma he came under prison discipline and had to seek permission even if he wanted a newspaper. Under prison conditions they are difficult to obtain. He also had to seek permission to get certain books from the library. This is supposed to be in his best interests. The Government wants to keep this young man in gaol. I can say with the direct authority of his mother that Geoffrey Mullen did not want to leave Newnes. He did not come into conflict with anybody there and no threats were made against him. In fact, he enjoyed good relationships there. I do not think that the boy should be there at all. He should be out of gaol. But no, this Government wants to make sure that somebody pays.

I am sick to death of the hypocritical attitude of this Government which is putting young men in prison. In fact, it is snooping around looking for other young men to put into gaol. I understand that for 3 days it was chasing young men in melbournetotry toputthem ingaol. It must have cost the Government thousands of dollars in attempting to apprehend just a few men. Why does the Government persecute just a few young men? Why does it want to persecute these young men who have had the moral courage to stand up against the authorities and the establishment? These young men have been treated by this Government in a way which is contrary to the way in which they should be treated. There should be some dignity in the matter. The Government should show some sympathy and understanding because of the blunders it has made. What has the Government done? It has committed crimes on 500 young men. It has their blood on its hands.

One would think that Government supporters at least would examine their guilt, as members of Congress in the United States, both Republicans and Democrats, did. Those members were critical of the Administration - whether it was a Democrat Administration or a Republican Administration. But not one Government supporter in either House of this Parliament - with the exception, of course, of the late Senator Hannaford, who left the Liberal Party - has had the decency to look at the mistakes and blunders which have been made in Vietnam. Instead the Government snoops around to make sure that it puts into gaol all the boys who have had the audacity to stand up against this corrupt, rotten law which was passed through this Parliament by the use of the Government's numbers.

The Leader of the Australian Labor Party has committed an incoming Labor government to wipe from the statute books of this Parliament the National Service Act and also the convictions which have been recorded tinder it. In fact, the Labor Party has stated that it will compensate those who have been persecuted by this Government. Even now I ask honourable members opposite to show some sense of decency and to treat this young man, Geoffrey Mullen, with some human compassion and transfer him from Cooma gaol to Newnes, as requested by his mother. I also ask honourable members opposite to examine his case with a view to ending his' service in prison and letting him return to serve society. He is a science graduate and he can make a contribution to this country. I ask the Government to forget its fears and its dogma under which it must keep htm in gaol.

As the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has done, I ask the Government now to release Charles Martin who has served a gaol term of 18 months. Why does the Government keep him in gaol? The Government says: 'No, we must keep to the letter of the law'. We know how much it keeps to the letter of the law. It does so when it suits it. Let us re-examine this case. Let us examine our mistakes. Let us examine our guilt, because every Australian has guilt for the crimes that have been committed in Vietnam. There have been 500 young men sacrificed and the maiming of another 2,500 young men. This has happened because of the blunders and stupidity of this Government. After all these long years of pleading, making requests and issuing challenges to the Government to look at its guilt, I am asking it now to stop persecuting a few men. I ask it to do the decent thing and release these young men from gaol.







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