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Commonwealth police action at Melbourne University



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•- A T T O R N E Y - G E N E R A L ’S D E P A R T M E N T

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COMMONWEALTH POLICE ACTION

AT MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY

Statement by the Commonwealth Attorney-General,

. Senator Ivor J „ Greenwood, Q.C.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General,

Senator Ivor J . Greenwood, Q.C, , said that this afternoon,

he had personally conferred with Deputy Commissioner Davies

of the Commonwealth Police Force and had discussed further

with him the events that occurred this week at the Union '

building of the University of Melbourne. ■

■ The Attorney-General said he had earlier '

received a full report from, the Commissioner of Commonwealth

Police, Mr J.M. Davis. Senator Greenwood said he was

completely satisfied that the Commonwealth Police acted

with propriety and restraint in exceptionally provocative

circumstances and caused no more damage than was necessary

to"enter the premises to ascertain whether persons for whom

warrants had been issued were there.

He said that having regard to the allegations

that had been made that the Commonwealth Police had refused

the offer of keys, he considered that he should give a

factual, account of the sequence of events relevant to this

question. .

In the early hours of last'Monday morning,

Deputy Commissioner Davies and a constable entered Union

House through an open rear door and believed they just

missed apprehending one or more of the persons that they

were seeking. ; '

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later.that day, Mr Davies informed the

Registrar of the University of Melbourne, Brigadier Bell

of what had happened. The Registrar informed him that' he was

aware of the incident.and that a university paper had been

prepared and distributed in which it was alleged that the

Registrar had given a key to. the police.

Last Wednesday, a conference, took place

between officers of my Department, Commonwealth Police,

officers of the Postmaster-General's Department, the

Registrar of the University and the University solicitor.

The conference had been called chiefly for

the purpose of ascertaining whether the university

authorities were giving consideration to taking civil

or disciplinary action in respect of matters occurring in

Union House, The University representatives present at .

the conference made it plain that the University did not

consider it appropriate to take any such action, '

At the conclusion of this conference,

Mr Davies reminded Brigadier Bell that he had told

him on Monday that he had been accused of giving the

police a key to Union House. Mr Davies then asked '

the Registrar whether,in the event of the Commonwealth

Police proposing to go into the Union House at any time

in the future if it should be necessary, he would provide

a key. Brigadier Bell said that he would look into the

matter and later the same day, he telephoned Superintendent

Canney of the Commonwealth Police and said that he could

not help him and that he could not supply a key. i

When Commonwealth Police under Mr Davies

arrived at Union House at about 5 a.m. on Wednesday

morning, th<=yfound the doors of Union House locked and

through glass doors they could see that chains had been

put across stairways and that tables and chairs had been

stacked on stairways to provide barricades.

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There was no official of the Union or the

University present. An attempt was made to jemmy the . ■

door open so as to minimj.se damage. This was not effective ·

and the glass doors were broken in order to gain entry.

There was no mention of a key to Mr Davies , Superintendent

Canney or any other responsible police officer until

' about 45 minutes after the search had commenced. By that

time it was almost completed, as the police were searching

the fourth floor and only about eight offices remained.

' ' Three students .who declinedxto supply their

names approached the police ana said they would provide a key

if police would delay forcible' entry for five minutes.

Mr Davies directed that their request be complied with and

he then left that floor to go downstairs on other business.

About two or three minutes later, a man now believed to

be Mr Field, the secretary-manager·of the Union, produced

some keys and the remaining rooms were opened for the

police.

It is not true that Mr Field was brushed aside

at any time. Apart from the belated approach by the three

students, no one approached Mr Davies, Superintendent Canney

or any other senior police officer with any offer of

assistance or provision of keys. '

It is regrettable that damage to the Union

premises occurred; but in the light of the fact that the

University was harbouring persons for whom warrants had -

been issued and these persons were challenging the police

to.arrest them, the police had no alternative other than

to.take the action they did. T '

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Canberra.

October 1, 1971.

54/71 ' ' .