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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2606

Senator DEVLIN —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. At page 29 of the Jones report into the Australian War Memorial it was argued that a request from the Minister's office could be taken as a ministerial direction. Further, the Director stated that he abides by that principle. In circumstances where the Minister and the Council have expressed no confidence in the Director and asked that he vacate his position, can the Director's action in continuing to turn up for work be justified?

Senator GIETZELT —I think the score card is slightly in favour of the Opposition with respect to questions without notice on the Australian War Memorial. I think we are getting pretty close to a score of them. It is a matter of some concern to me that the Director has taken a position in respect of `direction' and `request' which is at variance, depending on the particular circumstances. For example, Mr Flemming admits that-and here it might be of some interest to Senator Chaney because I have checked on some of the matters that, quite properly, he has raised with me-there are written submissions from him to Mr Jones. I have a copy of one page here relating to the staff issue with the Director's signature on it which indicates that it is his considered reply. So any suggestion that he has not had an opportunity to present evidence properly to the Jones inquiry can be rebutted. In his response to the staff bulletin issue he said:

Until my meeting with the Minister and his staff on 31 July 1986, I firmly believed that the Minister had directed that the function be held at the Memorial.

At the meeting the Minister explained that he had asked his department to find a venue and he made no direction as to where the function was to be held. I accepted this and offered the Minister my apologies but I repeat that until then I had no reason to doubt that the Minister had made such a direction.

That was shown in other documents that I have tabled. So Mr Flemming regards a request as a direction. In respect of the decisions of the Council, which questioned him on at least two occasions last week-on Thursday and Friday of last week-Mr Flemming was requested not to return to duty. I am advised that the officers who represent the armed forces on the Council are of the view, and I am of the view that, in military parlance a request is tantamount to a direction. He defied that direction and returned to work. So it is pretty clear that Mr Flemming has different attitudes to suit different circumstances.