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Commonwealth government denies liability to survivors of the HMAS voyager disaster

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AG 14/85

20 November 1985


I t is a national disgrace th at the Commonwealth Government should now

deny l i a b i l i t y to survivors of the HMAS Voyager disaster and to do

so on the basis o f the Statute of L im itations. .

This kind o f behavior is tantamount to a defaulting debtor seeking to

Two cases on behalf of Voyager survivors have already gone to t r i a l .

The Commonwealth admitted l i a b i l i t y ; damages were awarded.

Mr Jim Taylor, the S o lic ito r fo r the Voyager Survivors Association

has informed me th a t in another 17 or so cases the Commonwealth has

delivered its defences, and th a t another 4 cases are set down fo r t r i a l .

Fie t e lls me th at in none of these cases has l i a b i l i t y been put an issue;

the only question is how much compensation the survivors should get.

A short time ago, in the case o f Mr Douglas Jones, the Head of the Voyager

Survivors Association, the Commonwealth denied l i a b i l i t y both on the

basis of Statute o f Lim itatio n s, and on the basis th at rules o f public

policy denied any duty of care to the Voyager survivors. This fa c t has

been confirmed to me by the Attorney^General's Department who, advise th a t

the whole question of where the Commonwealth is going with the Voyager

survivors has been sent to the Attorney-General fo r consideration.

I t should take the Attorney-General no more than 30 seconds, to

reach some very simple decisions. F ir s t, th at i t was contemptable

to deny l i a b i l i t y to these men. Second, th at i t was the Commonwealth's

duty to act as a model li t ig a n t , rather than to behave lik e an absconding

debtor. Th ird, that the survivors should be compensated fo r the in ju rie s

and d is a b ilitie s suffered by them as a re su lt of the Voyager d isa s te r.

J. M. Spender, QC S h a d o w

062 7 2 - 7 0 6 1

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escape l i a b i l i t y because his cred ito r hasn't pressed him fo r payment.