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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2136

Mr SINCLAIR - I ask a question of the Minister for Defence about his concepts of open government. Is it true that the naval officer - I understand a lieutenant-commander in the Navy Reserve - who is the editor of Navy News' is to be reprimanded for views expressed by him in the last edition of 'Navy News' concerning the Labor Government's defence policy? Has the Minister for Defence checked to see whether the Prime Minister is going to reprimand his, the Prime Minister's, principal economic adviser, Dr Coombs, over some statements that Dr Coombs made at the weekend concerning the budgetary tactics of the Government? If no reprimand is to be issued to Dr Coombs and a reprimand is to be issued against the editor of 'Navy News', is it because the editor of 'Navy News' is too close to the truth or is it just because he is seen as a little man and a man over whom the Minister feels he can exercise his authority whereas Dr Coombs is seen to be somebody above the law?

Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister for Defence) - The last part of the honourable gentleman's question will be dealt with by the Prime Minister. In reply to the part of the question relating to the editor of Navy News', I want to say quite unequivocally that there is no suggestion that the editor is to be reprimanded. The last authority concerning Press statements or references to Press statements by members of the Armed Forces is contained in a directive that was issued by the honourable member for Wannon in 1970. I have not changed that directive, it has not been altered and it is still in force. It would appear that in some circumstances the directive has been contravened.

There is what is known as a management committee which is responsible for the direction of the paper referred to by the honourable gentleman. From my inquiries I understand that the committee has not met regularly. This is one of the matters that I want to discuss with the editor. This Govern ment has no intention of directing an editor of this or any other Defence paper to report merely the policy of the Government. At the same time I would not expect the editor of any such journal to use that journal as a means of pursuing his own policy lines. So there are a number of matters that one would want to discuss with the editor since the staff producing the paper is paid for largely by the Department of the Navy. It would be a matter of concern to this Government if the management committee has not met and if the paper is not under the control that was originally intended when the management committee was established. However, there is no suggestion that the editor is to be reprimanded in any way.

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