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Wednesday, 21 October 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - My attention has been drawn to a statement made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) in another place adverting to a statement which I made on a previous occasion in the Senate regarding Mr. Benson's claim to be regarded as an expert in modern naval manoeuvres. I was speaking of the occasion on which H.M.A.S. " Voyager " was engaged as the plane guard for H.M.A.S. "Melbourne " at night while the aircraft carrier was preparing to operate aircraft. I said then, speaking of Mr. Benson -

He has not ever, I think, engaged in an exercise of this particular kind.

In a statement designed to suggest that I was mistaken, Mr. Benson is reported to have said yesterday - i do not want to sound boastful, but less than two years ago 1 was pilot in charge of a ship in plane guard station during an American aircraft exorcise in Australia.

Now, it is possible - but I put it no higher than possible - that Mr. Benson may have been the pilot of a ship travelling from the port of Melbourne to Port Phillip Heads and that that ship may have been vaguely in the position in the trip up Port Phillip Bay that a plane guard destroyer takes up. I do not know that. I do not deny it. But I am prepared to say this: Mr. Benson has never in his life been the pilot in charge, or anything else in charge, of a ship engaged in the particular kind of manoeuvres which " Voyager " was required to engage in when exercising with "Melbourne" on the night of which I spoke. Further, Mr. Benson has never in his life been the pilot in charge, or anything else in charge, of any ship outside Port Phillip Heads stationed in the position of a plane guard destroyer and with the duties of a plane guard destroyer with an aircraft carrier operating aircraft. Mr. Benson, therefore, has no experience of the kind of operation which was being undertaken on that night.

Mr. Benson,if he is able to do so, can prove me wrong. He can state when he engaged in such manoeuvres, where they took place, the name of his ship, the name of the carrier and the date. If he can do this, I will apologise to him here in my place and will pay £50 to any charity he cares to mention. But if he cannot do this, then he stands convicted of having tried to mislead the House of Representatives and the country as to the experience he has had inthese matters and I think it is now up to him. He can put up or shut up.

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