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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1289


Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I look upon my honour and integrity as highly as the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) looks upon his. For that reason I seek the only opportunity available to me which is to speak in the adjournment debate to put the record straight in relation to remarks I made last Wednesday about the behaviour of military personnel at Puckapunyal Army camp. There has been a lot of distortion of what I said, I rise to put the Minister for the Army (Mr Katter) on the correct rails in order to inquire into what I said. It appears that he has been inquiring into something which was not said. The Senate will recall that last Wednesday on the first reading of the Income Tax Bill I made claims about the behaviour of the military at the Puckapunyal Army camp on 10th September which was visitors day.

I can summarise my allegations. The first charge is that on that day obscene language was used on the oval in front of visitors. This was sufficient to raise a protest from visitors who were there that day. The obscene language was used by - according to description - the little chap in the red sash. The second charge was of obscenities to the visitors themselves on an area in front of the camp by a military officer. The third charge is that there was a breaking of soldiers' private property in the huts. The fourth charge is that there was humiliation of the troops in that someone had to stand and repeat over and over again: 'I love my rifle'. The fifth charge is that there was an incident on the previous day when one of the soldiers fainted and - in my words - fell on his bayonet. I think that this is the most important matter which seems to be the centre of present day inquiries.

To make sure of what I said I read from the Hansard report at page 1069 which states:

One young soldier bad sticking plaster under his chin. The story was that the previous day, during rehearsal-

Honourable senators will notice the words: The previous day during rehearsal' - on the parade ground, he had fainted and had cut his chin on his bayonet. The cut needed stitching. As he tay stunned on the ground one of the servicemen, seeing the blood, sought to go to his assistance. The officer in charge, in true Askin style, said: 'Let the bastard die'. That was the effect on the officer of the cut under the lad's chin.

That was my allegation in relation to that incident. The sixth allegation is that there had been 3 suicides at Puckapunyal. On Thursday the Press reported my speech and stated that I complained that offensive language had been used before visitors on the occasion when a lad lay bleeding as a result of striking his chin on a bayonet. Honourable senators will remember that I did not make that claim at all. I reported this as happening the day before.

On the Thursday night I rose during the adjournment debate and asked for a inquiry to be made. I rose mainly to repeat the Minister's denial of my allegation and a denial by Lt-Col. Maizey who said that no such thing happened. On the same night in reply the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) stated:

My understanding of the situation does not conform with that of Senator Cavanagh. When 1 entered the Senate this morning I had a brief on this matter. My understanding is that the lad in question did faint and he did cut his chin. But the medical orderlies were not on the scene quickly enough and the Lieutenant-Colonel used the words which he used not to the recruit who had fainted but to the medical orderlies. In view of what the honourable senator has quoted, I will make a further investigation and let him know the results of that investigation.

I thought I had put the record straight on Thursday night. The Minister promised me a further investigation in relation to what I raised that night. He said that he would let me know the results of the investigation. He said that we should await a reply but in the Adelaide 'News* of Friday, 22nd September, a denial from the Minister was reported. The article stated:

It was a training parade, and not a public parade during which a recruit collapsed,' he said

The Minister is reported to have said:

This was a compassionate demand and the senator has given entirely the opposite impression.

If this were done deliberately, it certainly is not to the senator's credit.

So we have reported in the 'News' on Friday, 2 days after the allegations and after the Minister has promised to inquire into the incident, a statement indicating that I had said that this incident happened before visitors. This indicates that the Minister investigating the matter has never looked at the statement which I made and he went out of his way to say that this was not to the senator's credit.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission programme 'This Day Tonight' seems to feel some inhibitions as a result of accusations that it has given favourable treatment. It went through this camp and having seen the camp concluded that Senator Cavanagh must be ill-advised. While we are awaiting an investigation based not on my charges but on newspaper reports there is this denigration of the one who raised the matter. In answer to a question yesterday the Minister for Air made the bald statement that the allegations had been refuted. Let us see whether they have been. I stated that 3 suicides had occurred at Puckapunyal. This was proved to be wrong and to be a false statement by comments from Lieutenant-Colonel Bennett. In the 'Age' of 22nd September, we find this report:

An Army spokesman said yesterday that 5 national servicemen attempted suicide after the last intake, not 3 as claimed by a Labor senator.

So, Senator Cavanagh was wrong when he said that there were 3; there were 5. My statement was corrected by LieutenantColonel Bennett, the Army spokesman. The 'Age' report continues:

Asked about suicides, Col Bennett said: 'Of this intake, the third of 1972, there were 5 cases of attempted suicide.

In 2 of these there was a previous history before entering the Army . . . one of them had multiple attempts'.

A better explanation appears in an article in the Adelaide 'News' of Friday last in which Lieutenant-Colonel S. J. Maizey reaffirms that there were 5 attempts in the last intake. He said:

Two of the lads had a long history of attempted suicides before coming into the Army.

One brought his own rat poison and sprinkled it on his cornflakes like sugar'.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was he a national serviceman?


Senator CAVANAGH - They are all national servicemen. The Army has accepted as national servicemen 2 lads who had a long history of attempted suicide. What is wrong with the Army's method of assessing the suitability of a person to serve? What is wrong with its entry examinations when the Army admits to service 2 lads willi records of prior multiple suicide attempts? One lad entered the Army carrying his own ingredients - rat poison - with which to commit suicide. The report in the News' continues:

The third attempt was by a conscript who faced the prospect of repeating some of his training missed because of illness.

The prospect of an extended period in this Army camp was too much for that lad. The report continues:

The fourth was by a conscript of low mental age who could not adjust to Army life.

Here is an example of the induction into the Army of a conscript of low mental age. Surely it must be obvious to any examining officer when someone is of low mental age. I come to the serious point of the question concerning the attempted suicides by people who do not have the necessary physical or mental capabilities to submit to Army life. Their condition should have been detected. They were conscripted into the Army in accordance with the National Service Ace which provides for compulsory military training. As a result, these lads attempted to commit suicide. The report in the 'News' continues:

The fifth, the attempted hanging was by a conscript who had twice gone AWL and had been captured by military police.

I will mention shortly the case of a conscript; it may be the case of the fifth person mentioned in the 'News' report. A multitude of correspondence has reached me on this matter. I will not record in Hansard the names of those who have written to me or the names mentioned in the letters. The letters are available. They were not sent in confidence. The Minister may see them if he wishes. One lad writes: lt has to do with suicides by national servicemen. My young brother was called up to do national service, but earlier this year lie went AWL from Puckapunyal and as a consequence he was posted to Kapooka (it is in NSW just north of Albury) he went AWL from Kapooka - as a result he was to be paraded before his Commanding Officer on a specific day. However (his did not come to pass. The reason explained to my brother, and hence passed on to the family, was that a young man had attempted suicide and the officer concerned was busy. My brother went AWL again and went back to camp a fortnight later and nothing was heard from him, with the result that my father became worried and drove up to the camp - he phoned the camp and was told that the commanding officer was busy elsewhere, my father reportedly asked whether there had been another suicide to which the reply was this is the third this week'.

The reply from the receptionist on the telephone was that this was the third suicide at Kapooka that week.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What was the date?


Senator CAVANAGH - The date of this letter is 21st September 1972. The letter writer said that this occurred some 2 months ago, so these events are commonplace.

I turn to the Adelaide 'News' of Monday, 26th September 1972 which informs us that happenings of this type occur not only at Puckapunyal but also at Kapooka. The article which T will read is a reprint of an item published by the Sydney 'Daily Mirror'. A photograph of the reporter interviewing the 3 conscripts for the purposes of this article, who told of the suicides in the camp, appeared in the 'Daily Mirror'. The article states:

The 3 recruits who tried to lake their lives there, slashed their wrists.

One was found in the toilet, nearly dead from loss of blood. He recovered, and with the other 2, was discharged from the Army.

The incidents, were revealed by other national servicemen in the battalion who completed their 10-week basic training this week.

They said other trainees made bids to escape what they described as a bastardisation process.

The conscripts, who gave details of incidents at Kapooka asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

The article, quoting one national serviceman, states:

He said punishments also included gaoling, fines, and confinement to barracks. But back-squadding was feared the most.

It's so bad some recruits bash others who they think aren't pulling their weight and who could gel the whole platoon into trouble,' he said.

One recruit was dropped out of a second storey barracks window and broke his leg'.

The fear exists among these servicemen that if the standard of training is not maintained those responsible must stay longer at these camps which provide initial training. The question of the suicides that have occurred is a serious one. The information that I have received and these Press reports indicate that what has been happening is worse than the incidents of which I had knowledge at the time I raised my complaint. The question about swearing in front of visitors has never been answered and possibly was never looked at. Some answer came from LieutenantColonel Bennett who denied that this could happen. The question of swearing at visitors has not been answered; nor has the question of the breaking of personal property.

I have found among my papers a letter that I received from a new Australian who states:

The Colonel of No. 2 Base Workshop, Moorebank, NSW, ordered a formal gathering of all personnel, Civilians and Military personnel, pleaded that no-one (actually directed) to keep all of, quiet, the suicide of an Army Captain with (please) keep such from newspaper etc.

Furthermore, may we speak of other, the Regular Army fellow, committing suicide, by taking a cup-full of 'steel hardening compound', viz. 'HARDITE not sp very long ago (buried, 1 may add, with full military honours) perhaps to keep the peace'.

This matter needs investigation. I leave the suicides and the questions which have not been answered and turn to the questions that the newspapers have taken up and which have become of public interest today. I refer to the matter of the injured soldiers I said that he fainted and fell on his bayonet and cut his chin. LieutenantColonel Maizey said he fainted and fell but did not fall of his bayonet but fell on the gravel and cut his chin. I do not suppose how he cut his chin is important. He cut it. One would expect that when he fainted on parade he would have fallen on the back of his head or on the side of his head or on his face, and unless he is some sort of a contortionist how gravel could cut underneath his chin is hard to explain. Nevertheless Lieutenant-Colonel Maizey said that ls what happened and when it happened there was blood around.

My report says that when someone went to his assistance the Colonel said: 'Let the bastard die'. It has since been shown that this soldier who fainted has been identified as Sapper Douglas Smart, I believe of Hobart. He has 5 stitches inserted in the wound. He has given his report of the incident, which would show again that I am somewhat incorrect in what I said the Colonel stated. This is what the victim Sapper Smart said as reported to a news reporter and published in the 'Australian' of Saturday, 23rd September:

Sapper Smart, who came out of hospital yesterday after recovering from mumps, claimed Colonel Maizey shouted: 'If the bastard is going to faint on parade, let him die'.

That is the variation between 'Let the bastard die' and 'If the bastard is going to faint on parade, let him die'. But it says Sapper Smart was not questioned.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - He should be court martialled.


Senator CAVANAGH - He should be court martialled to give him the right of trial. But, of course, Colonel Maizey says this is not the case, and what Colonel Maizey says has been accepted by the Minister in his report to the news media. He said that, when the soldier fainted and the medical orderlies were not prompt with attention, he said: 'Take him off the bloody oval before the bastard bleeds to death'. This does not appear to me to be a term of endearment but an indication that he did not want a corpse on his oval. He was not concerned with loss of life of someone who had the audacity to faint on parade. He was not concerned with that; but he did not want a corpse on his oval, and that is his explanation of this particular question.

Honourable senators will see how this affects some people. Someone who will not accept that there would be any untruth in what I said wrote to me about this matter. This writer's name, too, is available to the Minister if he wants it. In his letter he said:

If your case is suspect, I will give you these facts that you can use if required, my son was called up, at 21, he has worked in' a factory, so one feels has beard a few swear words, but he has never been permitted to use these at home, he was brought up to attend Church, but is a normal person ... on leave he complained, to his friends, and after I had asked, to me, that all the recruits were subject to the most foul abuse from instructors, in fact from these gutter dregs he was a Bastard and his Mother a whore, this was my interpretation, and as the CO. used the words Bloody Bastard, it can be assumed correct.

I wrote my MP Hon. Phillip Lynch as he in effect was partly responsible, being Minister for National Service, Mr Peacock, Minister for the Army, Leaders of Churches, C of E and Catholic, plus the Army chaplain, Hon. E. G. Whitlam, MP, plus phone contact with Col Bennet, Public Relations Officer, Victoria. Net result,no action, with the suggestion that it did not happen.

Here was a man brought up with the religious education who resented the way in which his lad was spoken to and who tried to make a complaint to every officer he could contact. He fought to bring pressure to bear somewhere, but no action was taken.

Senator McClellandsaid that LieutenantColonel Maizey should be court martialled. Let me check what the responsibilities of Lieutenant-Colonel Maizey are under the regulations. Australian Military Regulation 207 states:

Any member of the Military Forces who, when on duly within the meaning of A.M.R.197 or in uniform-

Firstly, we have to see whether LieutenantColonel Maizey was on duty in accordance with regulation 197. That regulation says: 197. - (1.) In the circumstances mentioned in this regulation, when not subject to the A.A., the persons mentioned in this regulation shall be subject to military law within the meaning of these Regulations:

(a)   Every member of the Permanent Forces, at all times;

(b)   Every member of the Citizen Forces, when on duty or in uniform;

The regulation goes on to speak of a member being under arrest. Therefore, accepting Lieutenant-Colonel Maizey as a member of the regular forces, he is subject to military control at all times as a result of this regulation whether he is on duty or not. Regulation 207 prescribes that any member of the military forces who when on duty within the meaning of the regulation or in uniform - and Colonel Maizey fills both requirements - and who uses blasphemous or obscene language or who speaks or acts indecently or who engages in immoral conversation shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable to penalties as prescribed by regulation 215.

Before looking at the regulation further, since we have heard so much of law and order in this chamber, I ask where are the supporters of law and order. I ask the Minister whether this man who on his own statement, not my statement, used blasphemous language and obscenities to a kid is to be charged before a court martial. Is he free to make public statements to the effect that Senator Cavanagh should get his facts right? This is a man who is in direct breach of the regulations on his own statement and who states, as exoneration from any charge made: 'I have no concern for the regulation; I am a law unto myself.' Where is the Minister who has not looked at the charge, who has to investigate this, but has done nothing about it at this stage? Regulation 215 provides certain penalties. I read an extract from the regulation:

(a)   In the case of an officer or a personsubject to the D.A.. as if he were an officer, according to the scale following, that is to say:

(i)   Imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a term not exceeding 3 months.

(ii)   Dismissal from the Defence Force.

Lads who are treated to such an extent that they seek to escape by attempting suicide are still in the forces one week after the charge was made while the Minister is dilly-dallying trying to exonerate his officers, his guilty officers, and trying to exonerate himself and trying to exonerate his organisation. This lad is still there and is suffering as a result of this administration which is going on.

I asked a question yesterday - and I repeated it - to see whether we cannot move the Minister faster, to see whether we can force the Minister, and as the lads are still in there whether he will see that there are no more subject to this campaign of terror, that no more are brought to the verge of suicide until there is an inquiry into these allegations and a rectification of any injustice or any other rectification that is necessary in the camp. Let us not have another intake until these things are investigated and rectified. That is my plea. Let us have a hurried investigation for the purpose of some rectification.







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