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Tuesday, 14 May 1968


Mr DEVINE (East Sydney) - I want to refer to the system operating in Australia at present under which D notices are issued. These notices are issued by the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee, which consists of representatives of the Defence departments and Press, radio and television interests. These people meet and issue D notices to, for example, the Press in respect of certain matters. The Press accepts this voluntary form of censorship. I refuse to concede that the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee has the right to impose censorship on anybody. It is not responsible to any parliament. It is responsible only to itself. No organisation should be empowered to impose censorship in this country in relation to any matter unless it is responsible to this Parliament.

Attention was first directed to D notices as a result of certain things which happened in the United Kingdom, where D notices have been in existence since about 1912. Certain articles appeared in United Kingdom newspapers dealing with security checks on cables and telegrams. The matter was highlighted in some sections of the Press which refused to accept D notices. As a result of all this an inquiry was held, which recommended that the Government should have some control in the matter, preferably statutory control. I think this situation should apply in Australia. I do. not think that we as a Parliament should condone the issuing of D notices under the present system. Because so much publicity was given to this matter in the United Kingdom the Australian Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee, which has functioned since the early 1950s, sent a letter to the editors and managing directors of all newspapers in the country. So that honourable members may know how the Committee operates I will read the letter. It stated:

As D Notices have been in the UK news recently it may be opportune to remind editors and managers of newspapers and other news media that the system is also operating in Australia through the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee, a list of whose members is attached for your information.

In brief the system is that when particular classified matters affecting Defence require special protection in the national interest a draft D Notice is submitted to the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee, which may accept is as it stands or seek some amendment. When the D Notice has been accepted by the Committee it is then issued on a private and confidential basis to editors and managers of newspapers, radio and TV stations in the name of the Committee with the request that they observe the restrictions contained in it. Experience in this country is that the co-operation of the news media has been very good.

I think we all accept that. The letter continues:

But we are always a little concerned that as D notices are issued so infrequently they may bc lost sight of in the interevening periods or overlooked when changes in management or editorial responsibilities take place. It would assist us in ensuring that the cover provided by the D notice is fully effective if addressees could inform us when there are changes in editorial and management responsibilities so that we can keep our list of addresses up to date. For your information I have attached a list of current D notices and I will be glad to supply a copy of any D notices which you do not have.

There are nine notices on the list that was sent with this circular, I do not know how many of these are still operating. In reply to questions that I have put the Prime Minister, as head of the Department, has stated that the numbers are so small that he would not divulge them but I shall read the list I possess in the Parliament in any event. D notice No. 1 relates to the naval building programme and the publication of information upon it. D notice No. 5 relates to technical information regarding weapons and equipment. D notice No. 6 relates to air defences; it is doubtful whether there is anything to print on that matter. D notice No. 7 relates to photographs taken from the air and restrictions on their publication. D notice No. 11 relates to secret agents: With the way things are developing in this country at the present time we ought to be highlighting more of what these secret agents are doing. Today we listened to the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) raising the old issue about people who demonstrate.

The Government does not tell us about the tactics that secret agents use.

I want to mention just one incident to give an idea of how the civil rights of people are being affected by the work of security agents. It occurred at a demonstration at Holsworthy camp on behalf of conscientious objectors. A security officer came up to a person who was at this demonstration, tapped him on the shoulder and said: 'Does your wife know that you have a blonde girl friend?' Of course, the person ignored him. The agent touched him again and said: 'Does your wife know that you have a blonde girl friend?' The fellow still ignored the agent and went over to his wife, who was also at the demonstration. While he was telling his wife what the security man had said, the agent came up, arrested him and charged him with offensive behaviour. This gives clear indication of methods used by secret agents at the present time. A great many of us are aware of what is going on. This is a true story and I shall have more to say later on. We also know what is going on with reference to telephone tapping. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) were here he could probably give more information about this. Many other members of the Parliament are gravely concerned about the increase in the tapping of the telephones of decent people. Anybody who is opposed to the establishment is called a Com and his phone is tapped. We know that the phones of clergymen, including priests, are being tapped by security people.


Mr Uren - And the phones of newspaper men.


Mr DEVINE - I am reminded by the honourable member for Reid that the phones of newspaper men are being tapped. These are people who have been outspoken about the Government's policy in Vietnam and have tried to bring about peace there. So these people's telephones are being tapped by this Government. The Minister for Eudcation and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is sitting at the table, on one occasion in this Parliament prior to Christmas quoted from a security document information about a young kid who had refused to join the cadets in the school he was attending. The Minister, who was at the time Minister for the Army, came into this

House with a security document to use as ammunition against the kid's mother. I believe this was an injustice to the boy's family.

Last Thursday, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) quoted from files for political purposes. Tonight we saw another episode, when the Attorney-General made a statement. We are getting to the stage where we are becoming a police state because of the activities of security agents. The amount of money paid by taxpayers to run the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has risen to over $2m a year. So a lot of money is being ploughed into this field. We also know of cases in which members of the Commonwealth Public Service have openly stated that they have been approached by members of the Security Organisation to act as agents for them in universities. They have been asked to report the proceedings of clubs and different organisations that operate within the universities. People are openly stating that they have been approached by the Security Organisation to act as spies in these places. 1 believe we ought to be raising a lot of matters in the Parliament in regard to the Security Organisation. We should be querying some of their activities.

Another matter concerning D notice No. 12 is the Petrov inquiry. I asked a former Prime Minister about this in one of the first questions 1 asked in the Parliament. To give the House an idea of how this D notice system operates, I will describe what happened to a gentleman who wrote a book about Dr Evatt. This man tried for 18 months to have his book published. During this time he was put off by the publisher who said that he had not got round to printing the book because the reader had not finished it. The publisher requested that the author take out the chapter relating to Mrs Jessie Street, which he did. The author was also requested to remove the entire reference to the Petrov affair from his book. He refused to do so and was held off. The publishers kept mucking about until I raised the matter in Parliament. I let the author know there was a D notice on his book. As a result he made representations to the Press and the book was printed. But the matter did not stop there. Afterwards we found that the person who was the publisher's reader was at the Petrov Royal

Commission. His name is not given, and I shall not mention it in Parliament. However, at present this man holds a responsible position on a Melbourne newspaper. I remind the House that this was the gentleman who wanted the chapter on Mrs Jessie Street and reference to the Petrov inquiry removed from the book. The publisher of the book also wanted removed references to matters relating to the appointment of judges who constituted the Petrov Royal Commission. This is a result of D notices that are issued as a result of action taken by this Government.

D notice No. 14 relates to official communications. I do not know what is meant by 'official communications'. I do not know whether they are messages sent between the different embassies in Australia and their home countries. But it appears that it does not matter what is going out of the country. It is nice to see that the AttorneyGeneral has come into the House. It does not matter whether this information is being sent by cablegram or telegram. It appears to me that the Government is censoring everything that is leaving the country. An example of this is the petitions that were sent to the Governor of Hong Kong by certain trade unionists complaining about the treatment of strikers and demonstrators. Copies of these petitions were presented in this Parliament. Where did they come from? Was the mail censored and were photostat copies taken by the Security Service so that they could be produced in this Parliament for political purposes? This is the type of scrutiny that is occurring at present. Our civil liberties are being whittled away by the policies of this Government. I do not know to what extent present activities are being censored, but there is no doubt that a file is kept on most people, and probably every member of Parliament, by the Security Service.

D notice No. 16 relates to the publication of certain defence, radio and radar information. The secretary of the Committee has stated that other such notices have been issued. I would like to know what they cover. I do not accept this Committee because only the Government has control over its actions. If the Committee was responsible to the Parliament and there was a representative of the Opposition on it we could examine the matters that are placed before it and accept its actions. However, I maintain that we should not accept the Committee as it is at present constituted.

It is my intention to name the people who constitute this Committee because I feel that the Australian people should know the names of the people who are controlling the D notice system. There are representatives from the various newspapers. The Australian Newspapers Council representative is Sir John Williams, who is Chairman and Managing Director of Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, a very good conservative; there is Mr Angus Henry McLachlan, who is Managing Director of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd, publishers of the 'Sydney Morning Herald', the 'Sun' and the 'Sun-Herald', and an influential person in television: from Mirror Newspapers Ltd there is Mr Ian Patrick Smith, who is the executive editor of the 'Daily Mirror'; and from the Australian Provincial Daily Press Ltd there is Charles Dudley Lanyon, a former Australian Country Party member of the Victorian Parliament. He comes from Mildura and is managing director of Elliott Provincial Newspapers Group Pty Ltd and also chairman of Sunraysia Television Ltd. From the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations there is Mr H. M. Goodsall, who is executive secretary of the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters. From the Australian Broadcasting Commission there is Mr Arthur Noel Finlay, who . is the assistant general manager; and from the Federation of Commercial Television Stations there is Mr Arthur Cowan, who is the general manager of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations and also executive officer of the. Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations. Along with those gentlemen there are the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, the Secretary of the Department of Air, who, incidentally has just been promoted - I do not know why but honourable members may guess - and also the Secretary of the Department of Supply.

These are the people who constitute the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Committee. As honourable members can see, they include people who are most influential in the Australian newspaper world and who control the majority of the newspapers and radio stations. I should not think that they would be very favourable to the Australian Labor Party because we have seen enough of the matters that are raised by them at election time. It can be seen that all these gentlemen are Government sympathisers who will support anything that the Government throws up. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has informed me that these men receive no remuneration and no expenses and that they give their services voluntarily. Out of the goodness of their hearts they do this for the Australian people.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And they need the money, of course.


Mr DEVINE - Yes, they need the money, but this is what they are doing, and the Prime Minister says they are doing it voluntarily. Well, I do not accept them. I refuse to accept them and I think the Parliament should refuse to accept them. If they are made responsible to us we will accept them.

In England the membership of a similar committee that operates there is well known. People are informed when a new secretary is appointed. A recent appointment was Sir Norman Denning, a brother of Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls in the United Kingdom. He evidently realises he has a responsible position. This is what he said when he was appointed to this Committee:

What 1 have got to look after is not only the interests of the country as regards security, but also the interest of the general public as regards their legitimate interest and right to know what is going on. I shall be an impartial adviser.


Mr Robinson - Who appointed him?


Mr DEVINE - The Labour Government in the United Kingdom appointed him, but at least it let the people of that country know that it had appointed him. It let the people know that he did exist. I know, and probably a great many other members of the Parliament know, that the Conservative Government which was in office in the United Kingdom at the time of the Profumo affair tried to have a D notice placed on Christine Keeler's memoirs, but the Press refused to accept this.


Mr Robinson - Ah!


Mr DEVINE - I am telling the honourable member that this is what the Conservative Government tried to do, but the Press would not accept it. The Press also refused to accept a D notice in respect of the Philby affair. The newspaper people in England realised that these were matters of public interest and that the public should at least know about them.

Let me give the House some indication of the power of the Government of this country over the members of the Press. An article appeared recently in the Melbourne 'Truth' about a matter affecting the present Prime Minister. When the article appeared hot lines were opened between Canberra and the managing director of 'Truth' newspaper, and the poor editor of 'Truth' was fired because he had the audacity to publish this article. This shows the pressure that is applied by the Government on newspapers.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What was the article about?


Mr DEVINE - lt referred to a court case involving some shares in a company of which the Prime Minister was chairman, lt concerned the transfer of these shares from a friend of the Prime Minister's father to the Prime Minister himself. It was written up in the paper and as a result the poor old editor lost his job. I am mentioning this only to give an indication of the pressure that is applied to these people.

I bring this up because it seems to me that in this country at the present time our civil liberties are slowly dwindling away as a result of the policies of this Government. I am sick and tired of coming into this chamber and hearing members of the Australian Labor Party being castigated by honourable members opposite on the basis of information supplied to them by the security service. When it suits the political purposes of members of the Government they get the information and use it here. If they want to attack some individual who has not the right to say a word in reply, they use information here under the privilege of the Parliament The people I have referred to who comprise this committee have control over Press, radio and television. I am stating these things here tonight and they can be printed in the newspapers tomorrow, but I can tell the House that on the last occasion I asked a question in the Parliament on D notices only two newspapers in Australia even mentioned the fact that the question had been asked. Those newspapers were the Canberra 'Times' and the Hobart 'Mercury'. No other newspaper in Australia mentioned it. They suppressed the information. They do not want the Australian people to know that they accept censorship restrictions.

The newspaper proprietors cry about the freedom of the Press when it suits them but at present they are imposing censorship on information coming out of Vietnam. One day last week an early morning edition of a Sydney newspaper carried a report that American aircraft had bombed certain suburbs of Saigon. In the later editions of that newspaper the report was withdrawn because the proprietors did not want the Australian people to know that the Americans were bombing Saigon's suburbs in which live women and children who were suffering from the bombing.

I have said all I wish to say at present on the subject of censorship by the Press. Other honourable members are waiting to speak in this debate. I have spoken on censorship because I believe that the matter should be raised in the public interest to enlighten the Australian people who are not aware that the wool is being pulled over their eyes. I hope I have informed them of the action being taken at present by the Australian Press.







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