John Campbell was appointed to Hansard in 1960, working in the provisional Parliament House until 1988 and then in the new Parliament House until 1990 when he retired from the post of Principal Parliamentary Reporter. He was born in Brisbane in 1935.
Listen to the interview
- John Campbell
Interview with John Campbell, part 1
E Helgeby: This is an interview with John Campbell. John worked with Hansard in Old Parliament House from 1960 to 1988. He will be speaking with me, Edward Helgeby, for the Oral History Program conducted by Old Parliament House. On behalf of the Chief General Manager of Old Parliament House I would like to thank you for agreeing to participate in this program. Do you understand that the Commonwealth owns copyright in the interview material but the clause will be subject to any disclosure restrictions you impose in completing a form of consent?
J Campbell: Yes I understand that.
E Helgeby: This being so, may we have your permission to make a transcript of this recording should Old Parliament House decide to make one?
J Campbell: Yes.
E Helgeby: We hope that you will speak as frankly as possible knowing that neither the tapes nor any transcript produced from them will be released without your authority. This interview is taking place today on Thursday 27 March 2008. Can we begin with when and where were you born?
J Campbell: I was born in Brisbane on the 25th of February 1935.
E Helgeby: And did you attend school in Brisbane as well?
J Campbell: Yes, all my schooling was done in Brisbane. We lived in one of the inner-western suburbs of Brisbane which originally was part of Paddington but later the postal address was changed to Bardon, and the street in which we lived happened to be in the same street as the local school. So I attended that school, the Ithaca Creek State School all through my primary education. At the end of primary school in Queensland we sat for an examination which was called the Scholarship Examination. If you passed that you were entitled to go on to a government secondary school without the payment of fees, which I did. I then attended the State Commercial High School which was one of four schools — high schools — operating in Brisbane at that stage under a very strange system where there was a domestic science high school, obviously attended by girls, there was an industrial high school — not quite so obviously — but in fact attended by boys, there was also the Brisbane State High School which was I guess a more academic high school, designed partly for students who had intentions of going on to higher education. I didn’t attend that school, I went to the State Commercial High School, which unlike the first two schools had a mixture of boys and girls, but a very large majority of girls — there were very few boys in the school — so I did my secondary schooling at that State Commercial High School.
E Helgeby: Did you go on to further education after you left school?
J Campbell: Yes, but only on a part-time or external basis. I — my main education of course was to pursue my shorthand studies and perhaps you might like me to talk in more detail about that later, but on the other hand I decided to study accounting so I went to night school, did a certificate in accountancy through the University of Queensland. Because I had not matriculated — because I did only two years of high school — I was initially ineligible to undertake a degree, but my certificate in accounting gave me matriculation into the Commerce Faculty at the University of Queensland, so I then proceeded to do some additional subjects in the hope that one day I’d complete a Bachelor of Commerce degree but I didn’t finish that; I did finish sufficient of the subjects to get what was known as a Diploma in Commerce but not a bachelor degree.
E Helgeby: After you left school what was your first job?
J Campbell: My very first job was as an office boy or trainee reporter in the State Reporting Bureau. In those days in Queensland the Queensland Government had what was known as the State Reporting Bureau which was responsible for providing the official records of the higher courts and also of the parliament. So the court reporters and the Hansard reporters were combined in the one organisation and the offices of that bureau were in Parliament House, so my first job was in fact as an office boy and trainee reporter in the Queensland Parliament House.
E Helgeby: Well that almost answers I think the next question that I was going to have which was, how did you come to work at Old Parliament House and what kind of skills did you really think you would bring to that job?
J Campbell: I had learnt shorthand as part of my high school course and because I had done reasonably well in that I was offered the position of office boy and trainee reporter in the State Reporting Bureau; that was at the beginning of 1950. I spent then two and a half years training so that by the middle of 1953 I applied for a position of reporter on the State Reporting Bureau. I was successful with that application and for the next seven years I worked as a court reporter, an official court reporter in various parts of Queensland. In the course of those years I was working with men — and they were all men at that time — some of whom decided to move from the Queensland State Reporting Bureau to the Commonwealth Hansard staff, and some of them were very experienced reporters in Queensland — in fact one of them had gone through the system and become one of the Hansard reporters — they were the senior group of about half a dozen of the reporters who were specifically allocated to Queensland Hansard. So when I saw these very experienced reporters moving from Queensland to the Commonwealth I took an interest in that and in 1960 there was an advertisement in the newspapers for a position of Hansard reporter here in Canberra, I applied, I was then 25 years old — much, much younger than any of the other reporters who had previously been appointed to that staff — and I was successful in that application and I came to work here in Old Parliament House on the Hansard staff on the 23rd of August 1960.
E Helgeby: That must have quite a — I mean a real move to move yourself, and were you married at the time?
J Campbell: No I was single and it’s always been of interest of me to remember the advertisement that was in the press; it advertised for a reporter and it said that a house would be made available to the successful applicant, but of course when I as a single man was successful in gaining the position there really wasn’t any mention of the house, in fact I wasn’t interested in living in a house so that didn’t come into the appointment and my taking up the position at all. I had spent quite a bit of time away from home because in the course of working as a court reporter in Queensland I worked all around the state — mainly on the coast in places like Mackay, Townsville and Cairns — so I was quite accustomed to living away from home, and when I came to Canberra the department arranged for me to live in Lawley House in Brisbane Avenue. So I was quite — well to the extent that that was a government hostel offering full board and lodging, it was a little different to the hotels in which I used to stay in Queensland but in many respects it was quite similar. So in that respect it wasn’t a major adjustment, but of course having worked in places such as Cairns and Townsville, in particular for quite extended periods, coming to live here in Canberra was a bit of a culture shock — well a culture shock but also a climatic shock; I’d never seen snow or frost or anything like Canberra and I always remember my father came down to visit shortly after I arrived in Canberra and my car had been parked out in the open outside Lawley House, and when he went out early one morning and saw the car with frost all over it, although he’d grown up in Scotland as a boy, he was absolutely astounded at the difference in climate.
E Helgeby: Going back one little step, did you have any job interview for the job? Were you brought down here for a job interview or…?
J Campbell: No, no. I actually have most of the papers still in my possession concerning my appointment and the arrangements that were made. The way it worked was that I applied, I received a letter from the principal parliamentary reporter who at that stage was a man called Leo O’Donnell, and he advised me that he would be coming up to Queensland — remember that this was in the middle of the year so he was making his almost annual visit to northern climes — and he arranged to interview me at Parliament House in Brisbane. I must say that my recollection of the interview is that it was very short because I had a reasonable understanding of the job from the conversations I’d had with the colleagues I’ve mentioned, as mentioned, who’d come from the same staff I’d been working on to work on the staff in Canberra. It wasn’t necessary for him to go into a lot of detail about the job and that sort of thing — obviously he had my application — so the interview consisted mainly of an actuality test. He had tape recordings of two speeches, one by Sir Allen Fairhall who at that time was the chairman of the Public Works Committee and he presented a report on the construction of the Royal Canberra Hospital, and one of the recordings was his speech in presenting that report. Allen Fairhall was a quite rapid speaker but a very good speaker — he put his sentences together well — so that was more a shorthand speed test. The other passage was from Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes who was a very distinguished member, but in the opinion of many people not a very good public speaker; inclined to not finish his sentences, not always make his arguments clear, and in effect the instruction I was given was ‘This one is not a speed test, we want you to make this a rational report and make any necessary changes to produce a rational report.’ So I very nervously took down in shorthand those speeches and then transcribed them and I still have my transcripts of those speeches, but obviously I did well enough to be appointed.
E Helgeby: What sort of Pitman speed did you have at that time do you think?
J Campbell: I had an official certificate from the business college which did a lot of the training of the reporters in Brisbane and that certificate was for 200 words a minute, but I had also, not long before I applied to come here, passed a test, shorthand test, at 210 words a minute.
E Helgeby: And the minimum requirement for Hansard staff here was 200 words a minute?
J Campbell: Well I wouldn’t say that there was any minimum requirement as such; at that time they were relying on these actuality recordings and obviously that speech of Sir Allen Fairhall’s was used as a good way of testing the shorthand speed of an applicant.
E Helgeby: So when you’ve sort of — you moved down to Canberra, you had not been here before when you came to take up the job?
J Campbell: I had passed through on Christmas holidays but that was all, yeah. I hadn’t spent any time in Parliament House, certainly when it was sitting because any time I was here — I think there were a couple of occasions when I’d come down here on holidays and that was at Christmas time when the House was not sitting.
E Helgeby: So what did it feel like when you — the first day you walked into this building which you had never been in before?
J Campbell: Well that was one of the really good things that happened to me when I came here. A chap by the name of Joe McKnight, he was one of my colleagues in Brisbane, a much more mature man than I was, and he was one of the colleagues I mentioned before who had come to work here on the Hansard staff in the mid 50s, and when he heard that I had been appointed he wrote to me and offered all sorts of assistance; to send me any material about the lists of members and senators and ministers and a little bit of material about how the Hansard system worked, gave me directions because I was driving from Brisbane, and as I say, he gave me all sorts of encouragement and assistance. And I was due to take up my appointment on the Monday of the second week of the budget session, that would have been I think the 22nd of August; I think that’s the right date.
I left Brisbane in the middle of the previous week, actually on the Show Day holiday — what in Brisbane’s called ‘The Ekka’ — that was a holiday, so I left on that day and drove down on that day and the following day. So I arrived here on the afternoon of the Thursday of the first sitting week in that sessional period. When I got here in the afternoon I thought that, ‘The Houses are sitting, or at least the House of Reps will be sitting tonight so I will go over to Parliament House and find Joe McKnight and just say hello.’ So I did that after dinner and I came in and found my way in to the front desk and it was arranged for Joe McKnight then to come to meet me, and he then took me down to the Hansard offices and took me into the principal parliamentary reporter’s office, into Leo O’Donnell’s office, just to pay my respects to him. And then after that Joe said to me, ‘Would you like to go up into the House of Reps chamber?’ and I said, ‘Well that sounds to me like a good idea,’ because I had no familiarity at all with the chambers. So he duly took me up into the reps chamber and we went in through the opposition side door, and as you go in that door there are a couple of chairs on the left hand side and we sat down there and I was able to observe the proceedings.
We hadn’t been there very long when a very tall, elegant figure came through the door and just looked over to his left and glanced down and saw Joe McKnight and he saw me, and he said, ‘Oh hello, you must be the new lad from Brisbane,’ and I said, ‘Yes I am,’ and of course, that was Gough Whitlam. And so that was actually my introduction on the Thursday evening of the week before I actually took up my appointment the following Monday.
E Helgeby: Quite an introduction, and a happy meeting with the politician — in fact a well known politician even at that time.
J Campbell: That’s right, and I think it’s indicative of the interest that Gough Whitlam had in the parliamentary staff and in particular the Hansard staff because he regarded Hansard as a very useful instrument in his political life.
E Helgeby: So this was sort of before you started officially; when was your first day in the chamber actually doing the job?
J Campbell: Well I have here in my hand my first shorthand notebook. This is the notebook I used on the Tuesday, remembering that the parliament in those days was accustomed to sitting on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So I don’t remember what I did on Monday but I think I probably came in and just found my way around the building and became accustomed to who was who and some of the reference points and aids that I would be wanting to use in the future. But on the Tuesday was my first day and I was allocated to the Senate and the Senate met at three o’clock, and in those days it was the custom for both Houses to have question time at the beginning of each sitting day, so I was allocated to the Senate and was scheduled to take my first turn — as we always described these periods when we were in the chamber — at ten past three for just five minutes, and that was of course part of question time in the Senate.
E Helgeby: Can you recall at all what it felt like? Did you feel, you know, comfortable with it or was it a stressful time?
J Campbell: I was most uncomfortable, it was stressful, I was exceedingly nervous; so much so that I — although the period of question time that I was reporting was not in any way difficult — I was so nervous that I was just unable to cope with transcribing that first five minutes on my own. And perhaps it’s necessary then to mention that the way the system worked was that each reporter for each turn was allocated a supervisor, and my supervisor for that turn for instance was a man by the name of Bill Bridgman, and he was able to — when I came downstairs to the Hansard offices he was there at the door to meet me knowing that I would be a bit nervous and might need some help — and he was able to help me through that by checking through my notes. And because he had been able to listen to the proceedings over the internal sound reticulation system in the building he was able to make a check note of the turn that I had taken for that five minutes and he was able to help me, in effect, reconstruct my shorthand notes, and then I was able to go on and transcribe that five minutes of question time.
E Helgeby: You mentioned the sound reticulation system; was that already introduced throughout the building at that time? Or was it just down to the Hansard office or someplace like that?
J Campbell: It was certainly to the Hansard office, and I haven’t a clear recollection as to other parts of the building. Obviously, because since 1946 the proceedings of the two Houses had been broadcast, anybody with a radio in Parliament House was able to listen to the proceedings, but of course that was of only one House — the ABC broadcast only one House at a time, and in those early days — because the Houses were sitting on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — the practice was for the ABC to broadcast the House on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the Senate on Wednesday. So as it happened I was in the Senate on Tuesday so there wouldn’t have been the broadcast but we certainly had the sound reticulated to the Hansard offices, but I’m not really aware of the extent of that reticulation around the building.
E Helgeby: Was this recorded as well or was it purely a speaker-supplied system?
J Campbell: In those days — and remember we’re talking about the early 1960s — tape recording was in its relative infancy and all we had in the Hansard office was two very large real to real tapes, and one was used to record the proceedings of the Senate and the other to record the proceedings of the House. But there were only those two recorders and they had to be kept going, so there was no way you could stop the recording and listen to your section of the proceedings. So that was why the supervisors, who were allocated to the respective reporters, made shorthand check notes of the relevant proceedings, particularly if there was a new reporter such as I was, or there was some very fast speaker or some difficult speaker, some complicated debate, with the practice for the supervisors to make almost complete, if not complete, check notes of those passages of the proceedings.
E Helgeby: I understand that there was also at the table a senior Hansard reporter, and that person would also make brief notes I understand, on the interjections and other issues to assist the reporter who was actually doing the full transcript.
J Campbell: That’s right. Now firstly, on occasions that senior officer in the chamber could be the supervisor for the reporter who was in the chamber at that time, so the supervisor could make a check note as he thought was appropriate and necessary for that reporter. But at other times that wasn’t the case and in any case, some of the functions of that senior officer were — well firstly, to be a contact point for Hansard with members of the House. It wasn’t all that common, but not really unusual for a member to want to have some contact with Hansard, and because there was a senior officer there at the table that was a quite convenient point of contact, so it was a liaison function to that extent, but that was a minor part of that person’s job. The more important parts were to help the reporter to record interjections and also to note the name of the interjector; that was a most important thing because in the days when we were writing hand written shorthand we had our heads down. Later when the stenotype machine came in it was quite common for the stenotype operator to have his or her head up and able to see who made the interjection, so that was a useful aid, to have the senior reporter there helping the reporter with interjections and the names of the interjectors. And another role that that senior officer played — which varied quite considerably over the years — was to assist the reporter in — what’ll I call it? — the continuity of the proceedings, to know who had been the preceding speaker, because often a member would say, ‘The honourable member who preceded me in the debate said so and so and so and so,’ but he wouldn’t actually name who that preceding member had been, so sometimes the senior officer would have been there for a longer period of course than the reporter and would be able to identify that previous speaker.
Also in some of the more complex debates the senior officer was able to keep notes and keep track of the stage of the proceedings that had been reached. I can remember at least one significant occasion when there was a major debate — I think it was on legislation to amend the Crimes Act — and there were very many government amendments incorporated in the legislation and many, many opposition amendments, and the senior officer was able to have a complete set of these amendments and as the respective amendments were being dealt with he would tear out that amendment and pass it over to the reporter, and that sort of thing was very useful in helping the reporters to make a coherent report.
It’s a little bit of a side issue but I might just mention it at this point; that there were lots of things included in Hansard which were not actually spoken in the House. For instance when — in the instance I’m talking about now — when an opposition amendment came to be moved it was the practice to put up in Hansard the clause of the bill to which the opposition was moving the amendment so that when that amendment appeared in Hansard you were able to go back straight away and see the amendment in the proper context. So that’s one example of the many respects in which the Hansard records finally produced is not a completely verbatim record of the proceedings, and that is an example of the type of assistance that the senior officer sitting in the chamber was able to give to the reporter who had the primary responsibility for recording that part of the proceedings.
E Helgeby: Tell me, what did a typical day at work — what was it like for you?
J Campbell: Well if you don’t mind I might try to cover a week in those early days. As I’ve mentioned, the general pattern of sitting was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays, so often Monday was not a sitting day and in fact we were not required to attend in the office if we had no work to do. So sometimes on a Monday a few of us were able to go off and have a game of golf or do all sorts of things at home; in my case I might be doing a little bit of laundry or anything like that, and Monday was often a free day. And then because both Houses didn’t sit until Tuesday afternoon, quite often a committee would meet on a Tuesday morning, and when committees held public hearings and called the witnesses, part of our job was to provide record of those committee meetings. So — not every Tuesday but reasonably often even in those early days before the really large committee work got underway — even in those early days we would often be in on a Tuesday morning reporting a committee. And then, because I had full board and lodging at Lawley I would often have lunch at Lawley and then come over the Parliament House because the reps would start at 2:30 and the Senate would not start until three o’clock. And then they would sit through the afternoon; the reps tended to go through until six o’clock, the Senate would often finish the afternoon sitting by say, five thirty, five forty five, somewhere about that time, and then basically the dinner break was between six and eight.
So both Houses would resume at eight o’clock and then we would just stay here until the last House finished because although we were allocated to one of the two Houses, once one House ‘got up’ — as was the expression we used all those years, finished sitting for the day, and that was often the Senate — the whole reporting team would then work on the continuing House. And often the Senate would finish around ten, ten thirty, something like that; on the other hand the reps was inclined to go a little bit later, eleven, eleven thirty, and occasionally into the early hours of the next morning.
E Helgeby: In those cases when you went to staff Senate that closed down and you were still in the reps, did they change the turns or were you still working on these five minute turns and simply longer breaks in between times?
J Campbell: We would start off the day working five minute turns and that was really good practice because it got all members of the staff working fairly quickly and it enabled the copy to be sent down to the government printer more quickly and therefore it enabled the government printer to get underway earlier in the printing of the Hansard. And then after one round of five minute turns we would change over to ten minutes — ten minute turns — and while ever the two Houses were sitting we would stay on ten minute turns. But then once one House finished, particularly if the Senate for instance had not finished until about ten or ten thirty, then we would come down to five minute turns on the House of Reps, and that again was a good practice because it meant that when the last House finally got up there wasn’t somebody who was left with a full ten minute turn which was going to take another hour and a half to two hours to clear, whereas working only five minute turns that person was left with only half of that extra time.
E Helgeby: Just one other question, I mean; so you would — you might have ten minute turns even during question time — which is usually a fairly intense period of a lot of talking and much more action often than you would find at other times — you still had ten minute turns?
J Campbell: Not so much in those days because, particularly in the Senate it would be rare for question time to go for three quarters of an hour, and often the House of Reps question time would not go longer than three quarters of an hour, which was — if we had a full staff, in the reps it was nine reporters, so that was — five — nine times five, forty five minutes for the first round — when I started we often had only seven reporters on the Senate and even so question time would finish in the first round on many occasions. The Senate was a much, much different place in the 1960s from what it has become in more recent years.
So I was up to Wednesday evening, which quite often could extend into the early hours of Thursday. I didn’t mention that after the Tuesday sitting of course the daily Hansard was produced overnight so although the House of Reps didn’t start until 2:30 on the Wednesday afternoon, and again the Senate at three o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, we were required to do a proofreading of the daily Hansard that had been produced overnight by the government printer, and what happened was that the two books were split up over the reporting staff and each reporter was allocated a certain number of pages and he was required to — not to proofread it in the sense of checking the printed copy against the top [INAUDIBLE]copy — but a proofreading in the sense of checking it through for any printing errors or perhaps any errors that we, Hansard, in the Hansard staff had made, and generally looking for any — all sorts — any errors of all sorts that might have been made in that daily Hansard. So we did that during the morning of the Wednesday and then worked through Wednesday afternoon and evening. And then on Thursday the House of Reps met at ten thirty and the Senate met at eleven, and again on Thursday mornings we had Wednesday’s Daily Hansards to proofread, so we used to come in reasonably early on Thursday morning so that we would be there as soon as the advance copies — we used to get advance copies of the daily Hansard — that we were able to get to work to proofread. So Thursday morning from ten thirty or eleven through til lunchtime, and then into the — the lunch break was usually about an hour and a quarter or an hour and a half from about a quarter to one or one o’clock til — or one o’clock until half past two — either two fifteen or two thirty, I’ve forgotten just now — and then we’d work through the afternoon. But then it was not unusual for the Senate to adjourn for the week at about four, four thirty, five o’clock on Thursday afternoon, so then we would all switch over on to the House of Reps which would always — or nearly always — continue sitting on Thursday evening and go through til any time — eleven, eleven thirty, midnight, sometimes into the early hours — of Friday morning.
And then of course on Friday morning we had Thursdays daily Hansards to proofread, and very occasionally there might be a committee that we had to staff on a Friday, but usually the senators — those who wanted to leave Canberra left on Thursday night and the members — again, those who wanted to leave Canberra — left early on Friday morning, so it was not common for committee meetings. So once we had completed our proofreading tasks on Friday morning — usually able to get through that by lunchtime — again we were free, and again not required to stay in the office on Friday afternoons.
E Helgeby: You’ve mentioned and used the term ‘proofreading’; at some point there is some editing also taking place to remove ambiguities and repetitions, repetitive language, before the Hansard is produced, so who would — so that, from what you were saying, the reporters did not do that?
J Campbell: Yes…yeah.
E Helgeby: Was that the job done by the senior Hansard staff?
J Campbell: By both. If you don’t mind I might just refer to this little book which is called, Commonwealth Hansard: it’s establishment and development, and this copy that I have is the third edition which was produced by Bill Bridgman, the chap I mentioned earlier who was my first supervisor, and this little book contains a definition of Hansard. I’ve mentioned that contrary to the view of many people, Hansard is not a strictly verbatim report and that’s exactly what this piece of text says, and if you don’t mind I’ll just read this small section: ‘Hansard is not a strictly verbatim report. The aim of the Hansard reporter is to produce a rational verbatim report, a report which, in the definition given in May’s Parliamentary Practice,’ — and then this is a quote — “though not strictly verbatim is substantially a verbatim report with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with the obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech or illustrates the argument.”’ That’s the end of the quote, and we here in Canberra unofficially added a few words there to say, ‘and does not add anything unnecessarily.’ So I hope that conveys the fact that, as that quote says, it was the job of the reporter to do some of the editing, and that was done at various points.
The first point was in actually writing the speech in shorthand. As the member was speaking it was sometimes possible to make editorial changes as you were reporting the speech in shorthand. Then the second point of course is in transcribing your shorthand note, and that is probably the point at which most of the editing was done. Once the practice was that once the reporter’s transcript had been made and the reporter had checked it through, checked any quotations, quick checked any significant references, checked any factual statements about which the reporter might have some doubt, and once all those editorial changes had been made the reporter’s transcript was submitted to his supervisor, and often that supervisor had listened to the reporter’s turn and often had taken a check note of it. So the supervisor was then in a position to go through the reporter’s transcript, and depending on the quality of the reporter and the experience and ability of the reporter, the supervisor would check it very closely, or maybe, if he was happy with the standard of the reporter, would just give it a quick run through, and that was again another opportunity for editorial changes to be made in the light of that senior officer’s long experience on the staff. And in my case, obviously when I started my supervisor whom most of the time in the early piece was Bill Bridgman, he’d been here for 30 years and was one of the most knowledgeable and one of the best qualified persons on the staff, so he was able to help me really wonderfully.
E Helgeby: Did the supervisors actually take a turn in the chambers as well, or were they solely focused on supervising the output from the reporters?
J Campbell: When I started there were three very senior official positions; there was the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, the — it was called the Second Reporter, but shortly after I came that was changed to Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter. And then there was a third position and initially he was called the Third Reporter; they had some administrative functions. And then there were three positions called Supervisor, but all six of those men worked as supervisors of the reporters’ turns and as the senior officer in the chamber. The three administrative type positions did much less of that work than the ‘supervisors’ so called, and often, especially when one House got up and we’re working on one House, those three very senior officers, as we used to say, would go ‘off the book’, then the supervisors and say two or three of the most senior and most experienced reporters would get a bit of experience and training as supervisors. So that supervisory work was done by all those people.
E Helgeby: Just stepping back a little bit from the formal day, you mentioned that — I mean during — you’ve had a morning sitting and you have a lunch break and then you come back in or you had — in the afternoon there’s a dinner break; where did you go to have your meals?
J Campbell: Well when I came here in 1960 the staff facilities were brilliant. Here on this level where we are now, on the main level, on this House of Reps side of the building adjacent to the Member’s Dining Room area there was a Staff Dining Room, and it was a silver service dining room, linen tablecloths and the whole box and dice, I’d say almost the same menu as was provided in the Member’s Dining Room. And there was a table in that Staff Dining Room which was allocated to the Hansard staff, so particularly at dinner times we could come in and — in a rotation or progressively as people finished their afternoon’s work — the Hansard people would come in and have their dinner in the staff dining room, and we were paid a meal allowance which was based on the charges in the staff dining room. So it was very good value for money in the staff dining room. And that dining room was also open at lunch time so we could — if we had time — but quite often, on a Thursday for instance, it would be very unusual for you to have time to go into the dining room and have lunch. You could do it on a Tuesday or a Wednesday if you wanted to, but because I was living at Lawley and was paying for my full board and lodging, and my name being Campbell and of Scottish extraction, I would, if I had the chance, go back to Lawley and have some of my meals there. But the Staff Dining Room was really a very good facility, staff facility, to have available to us.
E Helgeby: You mentioned there was a table for the reporters. That means there was in some way some segregation between the classes of staff who worked there? Like reporters in that corner and other staff in that corner and so forth?
J Campbell: I think that’s right. Of course, the number of people in this building in the 60s was very, very much smaller than it grew to in later years. I remember that the Parliamentary Library for instance, had a very small staff; I wouldn’t have been surprised if the number of staff actually in the library area was in single figures. And we mixed a little with the people in the other departments but I think in many respects we tended to stick to our own offices. But certainly in the whole building there was a bit of segregation; if you think of the members’ area for instance — the Members’ Dining Room and the Members’ Bar — was available to only the senators and members. And then there was the area of the dining room and a small area outside which was available to senators and members and their guests, but except on very rare occasions, unless you were a guest of a member or a senator, the staff were not able to eat in those areas. And then there was the Staff Dining Room. So there was that — there was segregation to that extent.
Of course, after the 1965 extension on this House of Representatives side of the building was constructed, that staff dining room was taken over as a committee room and the staff cafeteria was provided on the lower ground floor adjacent to the non-Members’ Bar, so there was a big change in the late 1960s from the silver service linen tablecloth staff dining room to the cafeteria style, and I…
Interview with John Campbell, part 2
J Campbell: Might mention that there was another instance of segregation in that at dinner time there was a small room down on the lower level, almost in the dungeon near the kitchens, which was available to the very senior officers in the parliamentary departments, and that meant only about, oh I suppose, 20 — 15 or 20 — people were eligible to eat in that senior officers’ dining room, and that was available only at dinner time, and that was of course only on sitting days, and many of the senior officers didn’t avail themselves of that dining room but it was there to be used but only by that small group.
E Helgeby: So there was not only in a sense of a bit of segregation between the various sections and areas or departments of parliament, but also amongst the — on a hierarchical level? So what would happen for example if you were acting as, you know, one of the senior positions? Would you then be allowed into the inner sanctum that you have just referred to?
J Campbell: Yes, if you were acting substantively in a position my recollection is that you were entitled to eat in that dining room.
E Helgeby: When you first came into the building in 1960 — the Hansard office was way below where the then prime minister’s office in the north-eastern corner of the building.
J Campbell: That’s right.
E Helgeby: Now there was — there was one thing which I noted, there was a Lamson pneumatic tube which came down from the chamber, from the attendant’s booth down to the Hansard office one — in the early 70s the whole Hansard was moved up into the Senate wing; what happened to the — what effect did that have on the way you actually handled papers and transmission of documents for example?
J Campbell: It didn’t have any great effect or make any great difference. Just to go back a little, initially in the Hansard offices here on the lower level in the north eastern corner as you said, there was the Parliament House end of the pneumatic tubes between here and the Government Printing Office at Kingston. They were actually in the Hansard offices, so when the Hansard typescripts were completed they were rolled up, put in a canister, put in the tube and sent down to the Government Printing Office for typesetting. And then for instance, those advanced copies of the daily Hansard could be sent back in the parallel tube from the Government Printing Office the following morning. So the Hansard office was the Parliament House terminus of that pneumatic system to and from the Government Printing Office. Now as you mentioned there was also a pneumatic tube system from the chambers to the Hansard office and I’m uncertain as to when that was installed, but it certainly came after the original Government Printing Office pneumatic tube system. And as well as the tube system from the House of Reps attendance booth to the Hansard office, the House of Reps had a pneumatic tube system going from that Reps attendance office to the House of Reps table office on the lower level. I’m uncertain whether the Senate ever had such a system from the Senate attendance office to their Senate table office. And those in-house pneumatic systems were quite useful in sending information backwards and forwards; we always had our Hansard attendants who did a lot of the messengerial type work and those in-house tubes reduced considerably the amount of running around the building that they had to do.
This one aspect that I haven’t mentioned is that we always had a very good system with almost all members and senators, of their providing their speech notes to us as reporters. Even — also we had little message slips on which we could ask a senator or member for a piece of information; the spelling of a name or the name of a book or all sorts of items of information, and our practice was to fill out that little form, and as we left the chamber we would give that to the House or Senate attendant and ask him or her to take it to the senator or member in the chamber. So often then we would have left the chamber and gone to the Hansard area by the time that material was ready, and that’s an example of the sort of material that would have been sent from the chamber attendant’s booth to the Hansard offices. And if, again, if there was anything that was required in the chamber from Hansard we were able to send it up from the Hansard office to the chamber attendants’ office through the tube system.
E Helgeby: So when they moved into the Senate wing how did that — particularly the one that goes down — the tube that goes to the Government Printer’s Office — what happened to it when you moved up to a quite different part of the building?
J Campbell: Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t cover that in my answer, except that I said there was very little difference because basically the system was extended to continue to provide that facility. My understanding is that the line was taken to the back of the building and then along the back, over here to the House of Reps side and then it was joined up at some point to the tube system that went to the Government Printing Office at Kingston. Whether it came all the way down the reps side of the building to the point where it — which is the main access point which is along this House of Reps side, but more towards the front of the building than towards the back, I’m not too sure — or whether it was just connected up at some other point towards the back of the building.
E Helgeby: So in any case it didn’t affect the way you operated or — you could get documents to and from the printers and the chamber just as before?
J Campbell: It worked almost exactly the same way.
E Helgeby: How would you describe the working — your working conditions as such during your early years here?
J Campbell: When I came we had a staff of about 25 permanent officers and we had 10 sessional typists, and being in a quite prime position in the building which we were always anxious to retain, we were in quite cramped conditions. The ten typist transcription booths were around the perimeter of our Hansard area along the eastern front corner of the building, and next to those transcription booths was a reasonably large room which accommodated the supervisors and one or two of the most senior of the reporters as well as the third reporter, number three in the hierarchy. He was in that supervisor’s room; he did not have an office of his own. And then next to that room there were two reporters’ rooms that had about seven or eight reporters in each of those two rooms. Next to that, those rooms, was the administrative office, a small office which had one administrative officer and the two attendants. Next to that office was the principal parliamentary reporter’s office which was a reasonably large office where what I’ll call the bay window is along the front of the building — I don’t know what the proper expression for that area I’ve called the bay window — but it protrudes out from the front of the building, and that was the PPR’s office, and there was a side door out onto the veranda, and next to the PPR’s office, also with a door coming out onto the front veranda, was the second reporter or assistant principal parliamentary reporter’s office. And there was also either one or two transcription booths tucked into that little corner, and later when we expanded the number of typists to 12 we took in a little cubby-hole that was at the end of the corridor. The main corridor where it took a right angle bend where the prime minister would come in from the House of Reps side of the building into the reps lobby and take a right angle — or turn left actually — but a 90 degree angle in that corridor and go up the steps to his office immediately above our offices. Near that 90 degree angle was a tiny little broom cupboard in effect, which at one point was converted into a transcription booth. That’s probably the worst example, plus I suppose the fact that we had seven or eight reporters in each of the two reporters’ rooms, so we were in very cramped conditions, and that was the case from when I — certainly from — one of the big expansions in the staff occurred in the mid 50s of course with the introduction of the daily Hansard, so when I came in 1960 that was the accommodation situation.
E Helgeby: Very crowded and cramped like so many parts of this building?
J Campbell: Sure, that’s right. So do you want to talk about the move up to the Senate wing now or…?
E Helgeby: Yes, by all means if you would like to do that that’s…
J Campbell: Okay, so when the Senate wing was put on in 1972, we were — I think it was determined that we would move from our quite prime position up to the top floor of the new Senate wing, the new south west wing — and we were given much more spacious accommodation. In effect, we took the whole of the top floor of that new wing. So we had the entrance foyer where the pneumatic tube system was located, there was a front counter with room for the attendants at the front counter in a small office behind there, there was, initially, the administrative officer had his space in that area but later was moved over to another side of the corridor, then there was an office for an administrative assistant who acted as the principal parliamentary reporter’s secretary, so her office was adjacent to the PPR’s office, and then going along the corridor, along the wing, there was the assistant principal parliamentary reporter’s office. And by this time we had positions that were designated as ‘leader of staff’ and there was a leader of staff position for the Senate and a leader of the staff position for the reps, and one of the offices for those leaders was next, and then there were two large rooms running laterally along the wing which were the supervisors’ rooms, and they were able to accommodate quite comfortable four in each room I think.
Next to those two rooms was a reasonably large room which accommodated three of the most senior reporters, and by that time I think we actually had positions designated of senior reporter; they were reporters who worked on the Houses but took a leadership role in the reporting teams, and that’s the room that I moved to when we moved from the north eastern — from the lower north eastern corner — up to the south west wing, I moved into that senior reporters room. Next to that was the other office for the staff leader. By this time we had a photocopying machine [laughs], and it was in the corner next to that leader of staff room, and then we’re back to the right in the south west corner, and from that corner, all along the southern side of the wing were the reporters’ rooms and there were usually four reporters in each of those rooms. All the way along there til we came to a room which was our — the room for our reporters in training; by this time we had a reporter training scheme and we had provision for reporters in training, a room for them. And right at the end was a common room for the typists because coming back along the inner side of the main corridor was a whole series of soundproof transcription booths, and I think we would have had a dozen of those all the way along that corridor. So the typists had a small soundproof booth and we’d — actually we had a similar facility here on the reps side of the building but it was much smaller — but here we had a larger common room where the typists were able to — to which they were able to retire in a little more comfort and have a little bit of relaxation between their turns and in their meal breaks and things like that.
And finally there were originally two booths which were converted into an administrative office; as the staff increased there were more administrative duties and more responsibility imposed on the administrative side of the department, so we had a small administrative office immediately opposite the principal parliamentary reporter’s office.
E Helgeby: You mentioned something of a [INAUDIBLE], I must admit I have not heard before, but you referred team leaders or staff leaders, one for each chamber; did that mean that the reporters were actually divided up into you’re a Senate — basically a Senate man, and you’re a rep man?
J Campbell: Yes but not on a permanent basis, but we tended to try to keep a team of reporters on the same House for a sessional period, and in some respects it was a quite complicated arrangement because we tried to take into account several factors; one was that some reporters were more suited to the House of Reps than the Senate. For instance, I always felt that I was more suited to the Senate because although I felt that my shorthand speed was quite adequate and quite good, I felt that I did have a pretty reasonable editorial ability. On the other hand there were some reporters who were really good shorthand writers but they weren’t quite as expert on the editorial side, and because the amount of editing required was greater in the Senate than in the reps we made that allocation partly on that factor. Now let me interpose that my reason for saying that the Senate required more editorial effort than the House was that over the years there was an increase in members preparing and reading their speeches in the reps, and for many years there was a Senate standing order — which the presiding officers tried to observe but weren’t really strict on it — that said that senators were not allowed to read their speeches. And when a point of order was taken they were often — the presiding officer would often say, ‘I believe the honourable senator is referring to copious notes,’ and that was the way they got around that issue.
And of course, because there were only half as many senators as members, and to some extent the Houses sat concurrently, senators had much more time available, they weren’t required — they got more opportunities to speak and they weren’t required to put as much effort into preparing their speeches and delivering a succinct speech, and there were more opportunities for proper debate. So there were more extempore speeches than in the reps where it was quite common — and this was an increasing trend — quite common for a debate to consist of a series of prepared read speeches in which the members often didn’t even refer to what had been said by the previous speaker, and it wasn’t really a debating chamber in that sense but it meant that those speeches required much more editing — sorry, those speeches required much less editing — than the Senate speeches. And though it was, you know, quite usual for us to have access to those prepared speeches, there were always the times when for some reason or other we didn’t get access to the written speech and the speech often would be an exercise in shorthand speed writing. So that was one factor in the team allocation.
And then of course, there were differences in the levels of ability of the reporters, so it was obviously unfair to allocate two reporters — and that was often the case, sometimes three reporters — of lesser ability to one supervisor. The idea was to spread the load as much as we could, so we had — in fact at some points we adopted the practice of rating the reporters on an unofficial basis and using that rating system to allocate the reporters to Houses and to supervisors.
E Helgeby: And this was for a session? You know sort of generally speaking, this allocation would last a session and then it’d be reviewed again?
J Campbell: Yes, that’s right, and maybe even for what we called a ‘sessional period’ because for much of my time we did have two sessional periods in the year; we had the autumn session and the budget session. Now that’s been changed in recent years but that certainly was the case for much of my time, so it might have been for a sessional period that a reporter would be in the one House most of the time, but there was still times when there was only one House when reporters would be working on the other House. I suppose they were the main factors in the allocation of reporters to teams. Initially, when the position of staff leader was established — as I say, we had a staff leader Senate and staff leader House of Reps — but that didn’t mean that they worked solely on those Houses, they often switched Houses and certainly when there was only once House. But then later, with the absolute burgeoning of the committee work we were able to get a third position of leader of staff for committee system, so towards the end of my time anyway, we had three positions of leader of staff.
E Helgeby: John, can I suggest we might take a short break? You know, we’ve been going for nearly an hour and a half so let’s have a short break and then recommence.
Interview with John Campbell, part 3
E Helgeby: All right, we’re ready to resume. We have been speaking a lot about the procedures that you followed in Hansard over — and changing over time as well — but there were of course a number of particularly technical changes in the way you’ve worked as reporters I understand, over that period from 1960 through to ’88; can you tell me a bit about what and when they were?
J Campbell: Right. Look I always worked as a manual shorthand writer; I used Pitman’s shorthand, and when I came to the staff all the reporters were Pitman — manual Pitman writers and even all the senior officers except one wrote Pitman shorthand, so it was the dominant means of reporting. The next change or the — yeah the next change in reporting of course was the introduction of the steno machine, and particularly when we started an official training program in conjunction with the Canberra College of Advanced Education, which instituted a reporter training course at the CAE, and the primary reporting tool for that course was the stenotype machine, not Pitman shorthand — which for years had been taught in the technical colleges — but people saw the future of reporting in the stenotype machine. So as people graduated from that CAE course onto our training — departmental training scheme and then they graduated from that to the reporting team, we had stenotype operators working in the chamber, and we recruited at least one, if not more, stenotype operators from other reporting staffs around the country. It wasn’t very often that we were able to recruit from other reporting staffs but I remember at least one occasion when that was the case. So increasingly the reporting team consisted of stenowriters as well as manual shorthand reporters.
E Helgeby: Roughly what time were these machines introduced?
J Campbell: My recollection is that they would have come in in the 1970s. The first woman appointed to the Commonwealth Hansard staff of course was Pat Sales; she was Pat Finnemore she was single when she came here, she later married, so she was Pat Finnemore, later Pat Sales, and she was a Pitman, manual Pitman writer, but she, at one point, left the Commonwealth Hansard staff and joined the Commonwealth court reporting staff where she underwent some training in the stenotype machine , and I’m pretty sure that would have been in the late 1970s, maybe getting into the 1980s. So I think the late 1970s, early 1980s would be the time when the stenotype machine came in. And basically it is a different type of shorthand; it’s an alphabetical code system but some of the advantages of it over a typewriter for instance are that you can hit more than one key at a time, whereas on a typewriter it’s only key at a time, and of course you can devise shortcuts in the same way as you can with manual shorthand and that increases the ability to write, or provides the ability to write faster and faster speeds of shorthand. We had one stenotype reporter at one point who was writing at speeds around about 260/270 words a minute.
So that was the next development, and then a later development which certainly in my time never came into use on Federal Hansard, was what was known as ‘computer aided transcription’ or ‘CAT’, and that used shorthand written with a steno machine which, by a computer program, could be converted into written English. And my first experience of that in a what they call ‘real time’ situation — that is with a reporter using the steno machine, the computer program being applied to it and the written English coming up on a screen — was in 1987, ’87. So that was an advance on the use of the steno machine through the 1980s. That system has been used in other reporting staffs but to my knowledge it hasn’t been used to any large extent in the Commonwealth staff, but I may be wrong because remember that I left — I may be jumping ahead here — but remember that I left the Commonwealth Hansard staff in 1990.
Now the other aspect of technology of course, was the introduction of tape recording. I mentioned earlier that when I came we had two large real to real tape recorders which were absolutely user-unfriendly, but progressively tape recorders became more user friendly, whereas at the beginning it was almost impossible for a reporter to get access to the tape recording to check anything or to fill in any gaps because of a fast speaker or anything like that. Progressively reporters were given access to tape recorders; my early experience of that was that when we went away from Canberra to report parliamentary committees, sometimes — not all that often — we took typists with us and we were able to transcribe on the spot to those typists. But in most instances that was not feasible or economically possible so we took small tape recorders with us and we transcribed our shorthand onto tapes while we were away from Canberra, and we sent those tapes back to Canberra where they were transcribed and by the time we got back from the out of Canberra committee assignment the transcript would be ready for us to check through and to make any necessary corrections and process the transcript in that way.
And then we got to the point where it was possible to provide a small tape recorder to each reporter, and the practice developed of a reporter turning on the tape as he left the office and then went into the chamber. When he came back from the chamber there was the tape recording to which he could refer, check anything that he wasn’t sure about on the spot or, quite often, at the end of transcribing, go to the tape and run the tape through and if he had the time, check most of the transcript against the tape. But to go back over something I said a little while ago, particularly in the Senate it was much more efficient to use shorthand reporters who were able to do their editing in the course of taking the note or in transcribing, and so the first strike would be a well edited transcript. Alternatively, getting somebody to transcribe a tape recording of a speech without doing any editing is a very laborious and in my opinion quite inefficient process in many respects, certainly compared with the skill of an efficient reporter-editor.
So — and then of course, the further development was that with the massive expansion of the committee system the reporting staff was just completely unable to cope with the volume of work, so it became necessary to tape record proceedings of committees, and just mention as aside that very occasionally it was necessary to tape record a sitting of the House; I don’t think we ever tape recorded the Senate but sometimes if the Senate — if the reps — sat for — I’ll use the word ‘unconscionable’ — lengths of time, it just became too onerous to expect the reporters to stay on duty, and a decision was made to tape record the proceedings and then at some point later we reporters had to go in and transcribe the tapes.
E Helgeby: You mentioned the committee work got so heavy that they was simply not — they were unable to get the reporters out so you tape recorded, then you’d still have to deal with the transcribing those tapes when they came back to Canberra or when the committee sessions finished; was that done by the reporters or did you use sessional keyboard staff who would actually key straight in off the recordings?
J Campbell: The tapes, ah yes, the typists did that off those reporters’ tapes that were sent back from the committee meetings, and then eventually of course we got to the stage where we had typists who were transcribing directly from the tape recordings of committee meetings.
E Helgeby: I’ve heard that — is it true that there was a special separate section of Hansard set up to deal with committee work?
J Campbell: It’s not appropriate to call it a ‘special’ section or a ‘separate’ section because at all times we tried to keep it as an integrated operation. But the amount of committee work became so large that it was completely impossible to handle it within this building, and an arrangement was made with the Government Printing Office, which had gone into computerised phototypesetting and that had left the Government Printing Office with a little bit of excess space and we were able to arrange to take over a part of the Government Printing Office building. And we had it converted from part of a factory floor into office space where we had a series of tape transcripts and booths, a room for transcript editors and also, because we were into tape recording in a major way, we had technical officers who not only looked after the maintenance of all the tape recording and transcription equipment, but on many occasions supervised the operation of the tape recorders at committee meetings, and they had an area within that area of the Government Printing Office where they had a workshop, were able to do their maintenance work and that sort of thing.
And of course with the development of the Senate estimates committees, which were required to be treated almost like a House or a Senate, and the fact that three of them sat through it concurrently and transcripts had to be produced preferably overnight, certainly as soon as possible, we had landlines from the committee rooms where the estimates committees were meeting here in Old Parliament House — landlines to our area at the Government Printing Office. And so there were recording booths as well as transcription booths set up where the tapes could be made and allocated to the transcription typists. So it became — certainly, well geographically it was a separate complex; we called it the Tape Transcription Centre, and it had some technical officers, it had transcript editors employed on a permanent basis — they were permanent officers some of them, but we also employed additional editors on a casual basis — but we had a large group, and I think I’m right in saying that at one point it got up to about 35 casual transcription typists working in that Tape Transcription Centre. So it was a fairly large operation and it was definitely geographically separate. We had those technical officers there, we also had technical officers here in Parliament House and they worked together in that group; the transcript editors there did not work on the Houses, nor did the causal transcription typists work on the Houses; to that extent they were separate.
But what we did was, there was always a middle ranking Hansard officer, usually at the supervisor level, who was put in charge of that operation, and it was done on a rotation basis so that that person would not lose touch with his or her primary job as a Hansard of the Houses reporter or supervisor; they were always supervisors, and I spent quite a bit of time at that Tape Transcription Centre because — and we might talk about this later — I had a lot to do with the introduction of word processing, primarily to that operation at the Tape Transcription Centre. So we wanted it to be part of the Hansard office but it was physically or geographically separate. We had it petitioned off — there were quite attractive petitions — and it was carpeted, so the people in the rest of the Government Printing Office referred to it as the ‘Hansard Hilton’. [laughs]
E Helgeby: When you mention there is all this technology involved, what sort of back up was there? I mean if there was a recording made in say in the chamber in the committee, anything that’s got technology involved well sooner or later well there will be a breakdown of some sort; what kind of backup systems were there in place?
J Campbell: Well often there were two tape recorders running on things but, yeah okay. When we moved up to the South West Wing there were two rooms for the technical people; there was a more office type room where the senior technical officer worked and any of his administrative work was done, and next door there was a workshop type area as well as the workshop we had down at the Government Printing Office, and in those rooms up here there were banks, banks of tape recorders recording the Houses. And I’ve mentioned that the reporters by that stage had their individual tape recorders, so we had the banks of large Tandburg, you know, high quality tape recorders which were operated by the tech officers…
E Helgeby: So there was backup obviously, in case of a breakdown in the…?
J Campbell: Yeah, nearly always. The only thing — and I once had this experience — sometimes, particularly during recesses when a committee met away from Canberra, we would send a Hansard team for that committee, and it would usually consist of a female monitor to identify the speakers, do a voice over to identify the people who were speaking — because most of the participants were male, it was a good idea to have a female monitor for that voiceover — and if it was a major committee meeting going for, you know, two or three days or something like that we would have a technical officer to operate the tape recording and we would even have a reporter who would be in charge of the operation and would do the liaison with the committee, make sure we got all the documents we needed, all the names of witnesses and all that sort of thing. But occasionally, particularly at a busy time, we might have just a monitor and a reporter, and the reporter would have the job of running the tape machine, and I remember one occasion when I had this job and somehow or other the tape was twisted, and when I switched it on of course it wasn’t recording, it had been twisted, and for a minute or so I couldn’t work out what was going on, because we always tried to listen to the sound off the tape rather than the sound from the meeting, and when I wasn’t hearing any sound off the tape I realised I had a problem. So in that case we just had to ask the chairman to stop the meeting and ask him would he mind starting the meeting again. So there were occasions when we had problems, but generally, because we had some pretty good quality technical people and we had — we always had high quality equipment — the systems worked pretty well.
E Helgeby: The change over to the steno machines in, you’ve mentioned the early 70s, what — by the time, say by 1988 when you moved from here — what proportion of the Hansard staff would actually be using those, and what proportion would still be using Pitman’s?
J Campbell: By ’88 — by ’88 up to the new building — probably at that stage about 40 per cent — just as a rough guess — 40 per cent manual shorthand and about 60 per cent steno machines I would think.
E Helgeby: And you mentioned just a minute ago the example of committees travelling away and they have a small team with them; would they also send — would they only send Pitman shorthand people or people bringing their own steno machine, typing machine when they went?
J Campbell: Steno machine? People would — the steno writers would go on those committee meetings, yep.
E Helgeby: You’ve written two papers about Hansard which are in the collection of the Hansard Library, one called The Hansard Story and the other one is Notes on Hansard Staff Practice and Procedures; who asked you to write those papers?
J Campbell: The PPAs here; I think Jenny Morley would have been the person who asked me to do that. Certainly The Hansard Story one I think would have been Jenny, and I haven’t a clear recollection of that other paper that you’ve referred to, although I think it might be similar to…
E Helgeby: It’s a bit more procedural, dealing with the detailed procedures, whereas the other one covers the story of Hansard and its place in how it came to be what it is today and both papers are very extensively referred to by new people coming in as training guides, for example.
J Campbell: I think the one called John Campbell’s Notes — must have been the first one — and then the second one called The Hansard Story, an expansion of that original one, and in the past I have been asked to speak to new volunteer guides, and again, with the intake that’s about to be trained this week I have been asked to speak to that group, the new guides, and what I’ll be doing and what I have done in the past is base my talk on this document, The Hansard Story, and I’ll encourage people to ask questions to highlight particular things that are of interest to them, and I think it’s the policy to give a copy of this document, The Hansard Story, to each new guide.
E Helgeby: Any points that you — from this paper — that you’d like to sort of specifically draw attention to today?
J Campbell: I have — I brought my copy of that document and I have a couple of passages marked on it. If you don’t mind I’ll just go through that paper and mention a couple of the points as you suggest; the first one I’ve already covered, just to emphasis the point that the Hansard report is not a strictly verbatim report. I’ve referred to, in that paper, to something we haven’t mentioned, and that is that as far as I can see, and certainly in my experience, the Hansard staff or the Commonwealth Parliament has been in a unique position and a most favourable position in that they have been allocated a place right in the middle of the chamber. The Hansard reporter and the senior officer sit in the Old Parliament House, sat right next to the leader of the Opposition, so they were right at the centre table in an ideal position to hear clearly, and even to pick up interjections. In the new Parliament House there’s a separate table at the end of the main table in each chamber at which the Hansard staff is seated, and again, that table is right in the middle of each chamber; again, an ideal situation. Compared with some of the examples of which I am aware in Westminster, the Hansard staff are up in a gallery behind the Speaker’s chair in a similar position to the press gallery here in Canberra. In Queensland where I started off, similar situation, Hansard staff up next to the press gallery behind the Speaker’s chair on the higher level. I actually have had a little bit of experience working as a reporter on other Hansard staffs in Australia, but mainly the Victorian, and from what I can recall, nowhere is the Hansard staff placed as well as they are here in the Commonwealth Parliament, based in the Old Parliament House and in the new Parliament House.
One thing in this paper that we haven’t touched on very much is what I refer to in the paper as ‘extra-chamber reporting’, and that of course includes committee work, but also work for bodies outside the parliament. So to talk about the parliament and the committees first, I consider myself privileged to have worked on a lot of parliamentary committees; it gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time around the country, to get to places that there’s no way in the world I would have got to in other circumstances. For instance, within the first year or so of my coming — so we’re into the early 1960s — the House of Representatives appointed a select committee on voting rights for Aborigines, and in the course of that committee’s investigation it toured all around the country to Aboriginal settlements and missions and various other places, so that, as I say, within a year or two of my coming here I went on an extensive tour of Queensland visiting Aboriginal settlements and missions. And then not very long after that, another visit that committee made to the Northern Territory and we went to places such as Papunya — I’m talking about 1962 it would have been I think — the people at Papunya had only just come in from the Western Desert, and here was a parliamentary committee visiting that settlement. We went to a place called Hooker Creek, which was right out to the west nearly, to the Western Australian border, we went to the main centres of course, we went over to Bathurst and Melville Island, we went to Roper River; it was an absolutely wonderful experience to have the opportunity to visit those places and to experience something of the situation of Aborigines back in the 1960s. So that’s one example of committees that I can remember clearly. And of course there were many, many committees that met in the capital cities as well as major — yeah I suppose some provincial towns — but mainly they met in capital cities.
But then another type of extra chamber reporting we were called upon to do was to report meetings of ministerial councils. And again, this was a really enlightening — and I think I was privileged to be involved in just the reporting side of these, you know, some of these councils.
The major one that we had to report was the Australian Agricultural Council. In those days, the 60s, the 70s, even into the 80s, this was a major meeting of all the ministers, Commonwealth and state concerned with primary industries. And it had a permanent secretariat, and prior to each ministerial council meeting there was a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, and that standing committee consisted of the heads — the permanent heads — of all the state and Commonwealth departments of agricultural primary industry, whatever their various titles were. And we reported the meeting of the standing committee, which was unusual, because generally speaking we reported only meetings of parliamentarians and ministers, but that was an example where we reported the standing committee, and those transcripts had to be done on the spot because the transcript had to be completed and available for the ministerial council meeting which followed within a day or so; the standing committee usually met at the end of the week and the ministerial meeting was held at the beginning of the next week.
E Helgeby: Why was the Hansard staff involved with them when the committees, these councils, had their own secretariats?
J Campbell: Well it wasn’t the secretariat that was capable of providing a full verbatim transcript of the meetings; it was just a small administrative secretariat for it within the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry.
E Helgeby: So you were effectively a Hansard — the Hansard was seconded, effectively, to carry out this task?
J Campbell: Yes.
E Helgeby: For all ministerial council meetings?
J Campbell: No, not all, it was done through the presiding officers; the relevant council would ask the presiding officers to provide the Hansard service for that council, and not all the ministerial councils wanted a Hansard report of their meetings. So for instance the Agricultural Council, I can remember going to one of their meetings which was held in Mount Hagen in New Guinea, which was a fantastic experience for a Queensland boy, to be able to go to a place like Mount Hagen; I would have still been probably in my late 20s I guess, when we went to Mount Hagen. I can remember another one of those meetings held in Mackay in Queensland, that was another one. Another similar council which I think was staffed by the same secretariat was the Australian Fisheries Council, because that was part of the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry at that stage, and again I can remember going to report a meeting of the Fisheries Council in Rabaul, another fantastic experience.
E Helgeby: How come you got to be selected to do this job? There must have been many of you who would have liked to have done…
J Campbell: Well initially I was single; see I didn’t — well I married in January 1963, so just for a couple of years I was single so it was easier for me to be sent away from Canberra, but I don’t know why I was able to, you know, to go on these jobs, but they were truly wonderful experiences. I should’ve mentioned one of the most unusual I suppose, because when I referred to New Guinea it reminded me of this one. The House of Reps decided to — yeah, it won’t hurt if I say all this, I’m sure nobody will take offence — the House of Reps decided to appoint a committee on aircraft noise because this was a big issue, particularly around Sydney Airport. But for whatever reason, the committee decided that it would be useful to investigate aircraft noise around Papua New Guinea and so — and this happened in the case of that Aboriginal voting rights committee and many others — the committee was able to arrange for a defence aircraft to be made available, usually a DC-3, and on this occasion we picked up the DC-3 in Port Moresby and we visited just about every major airport around Papua New Guinea. We did the complete tour, the full circle of the major airports around Papua New Guinea, and again, it was just an incredible experience and something that I never thought, you know — okay I’m talking about this as though I’m a tourist but some of it was hard work — but having the opportunity to see these places was just something that I never envisaged that I would ever have.
E Helgeby: It wasn’t a working holiday?
J Campbell: No, no it wasn’t, but by the same token — I’m being very frank here now [laughs] — but by the same token it was often possible to work in a little holiday with some of these committees and councils. For instance, I can remember one occasion when I was able to go to Perth to do a reporting job in Perth, and because there was another one to be held a week or so later I was given permission to stay in Perth — or in Western Australia — for I think it was about ten days or something like that, so I actually flew my wife and our two or three year old son — two he must have been — over to Perth and we had a little family holiday in the time in between these two meetings and spent a bit of time down in the south west of Western Australia and catching up with some friends in Perth as well.
So I mentioned the committees, the ministerial councils, and the other thing was that from time to time, through the presiding officers we would be given the job of reporting international conferences. Some examples that I’ve mentioned in this paper are meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation, SEATO; on one occasion we did a job for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. One that I haven’t mentioned in the paper was a meeting of, as I recall it, what was known as The Five Power Defence Pact; it was to do with the situation in Malaya and Malaysia, and that conference was held here in Canberra, and I remember that we had to have special security clearances for that as we did for the SEATO conferences. That’s another example of extra-chamber reporting, and without going too long on this there’s another example, and that is that — I suppose it’s an extension of those ministerial council meetings — but a regular reporting commitment was to report the Premiers Conferences, particularly when they were held in the House of Reps chamber. The practice was adopted certainly at one point of having a public session of the Premiers Conference in the House of Reps chamber, and then it would be closed off to the press and we would continue to report the proceedings there, and sometimes the Premiers Conference would then adjourn to the Cabinet room, and again we would report the proceedings of the Premiers Conference in the Cabinet room. But strangely, when it came time to have the meeting of the Loan Council, which was often held in conjunction with the Premiers Conference, we were never required to report the proceedings of the Loan Council. Now, don’t ask me why, but that’s just something that sticks in my memory. So I’ve probably gone on a bit about some of the points in that document called The Hansard Story.
E Helgeby: Well done. I think it would be fair to say I think we have covered the procedural aspects of work in fairly great detail, and there are a large number of other areas which I would like to come to, but we have run out of time for today so perhaps we…
J Campbell: We do that at another time.
E Helgeby: Perhaps we close this session off with this and then we can come back to it at the next session if there’s more to be added to what you’ve already said on that.
J Campbell: That’s fine.
E Helgeby: So we’ll do that.
J Campbell: Thank you.
E Helgeby: Thank you.
Interview with John Campbell, part 4
E Helgeby: This is Tuesday 8 April and I am starting again the interview John Campbell. John, this time could we start with perhaps that, I understand when you arrived in Canberra in 1960 you were 25 years old and I understand, by far the youngest of the Hansard reporters?
J Campbell: Yes, when I arrived in 1960 I was of course the most junior on the staff of reporters and I, having been born in 1935, the one closest to me had been born in 1925, so I was ten years — at least ten years — younger than all the other people on the reporting staff. And plus that, plus the fact that I was single, whereas all the other men — and they were all men — on the reporting staff were married and most of them had children, so I was in an unusual position in that respect.
E Helgeby: Did it sort effect your relationship with them? Did they treat you in a — perhaps as very much the junior or…?
J Campbell: Ah, yes and no; they certainly — as I think I mentioned last time — one of the chaps with whom I’d worked in Queensland and who was now on the staff here in effect took me under his wing and gave me a lot of help in all sorts of respects and helped me to fit in to the staff. Just as one simple example, in a letter that he wrote to me before I arrived he gave me the names of all the members of the staff and mentioned the correct pronunciation of one of the names which is a little bit — the name was a little bit unusual, and that sort of thing was very helpful for me. And the fact that I was still — in those days — still playing cricket and involved in other sporting things, quite a few of the more senior ones were quite interested in how I’d gone on the weekend or something like that, and in that respect we were able to get on quite well.
E Helgeby: Who were your supervisors in the first years?
J Campbell: The main ones were Bill Bridgman and Ken Ingram; they were the most senior and the second most senior of the supervisors so called, but of course there were three other men senior to them who were in administrative type positions as well as doing quite a bit of supervisory work as well. So because you tended, in my earlier years, to work on one House most of the time and that was the Senate, and because the supervisors swapped Houses — on Tuesdays they’d be in one House, on Wednesday they’d be in the other House, whereas the reporters tended not to do that — the supervisors, particularly the principal reporter and the deputy, tended to swap Houses rather than just be in one House all the time. So yeah, Bill Bridgman and Ken Ingram were certainly two of my mentors for quite a while.
E Helgeby: What sort of people were they to work with?
J Campbell: Excellent. They were very good friends. They lived here in Forrest not very far from each other so they spent a lot of time together and their families spent a lot of time together; each of the families had all girls, there were no boys, no sons in either of those two families, so they had a lot in common. Bill Bridgman was I suppose more inclined to take things seriously, whereas Ken Ingram was a man who found some humour in just about every situation. He was a local Canberra boy, had worked with the Canberra Times as a journalist — or a trainee journalist at least, perhaps even as a journalist — and I’ve actually seen him in a photograph of the press gallery way back in the 1930s it probably was, and then he had transferred from the Canberra Times over to the Hansard staff. On the other hand, Bill Bridgman came from Western Australia and had done a Diploma of Journalism in Western Australia and then had come to Canberra. And he was a really crackerjack shorthand writer, he was one of the best shorthand writers that I’ve come across and I’ve come across many; he ranks among the best of them. So they were very, very helpful and always there to get me out of any trouble that I got into [laughs].
E Helgeby: The relationship — what was the relationship like between the members of Hansard? Were they very collegial or were they sort of split into groups or operated as individuals?
J Campbell: No, you cannot work in this sort of job as individuals; you are very much a member of a team and the whole thing depends on good relationships. I suppose the simplest example of that is that we worked to a roster and it was a very strict roster; if you were due to start your turn at 2:15 and you didn’t get into the chamber and get down to that seat until say 2:17, just as an example, that meant that the previous reporter got two minutes more than he should’ve got and you got two minutes less, and that in the sorts of timeframes that we were working that would be very significant. So it was essential that you worked as a team and that you worked according to the roster strictly, and you made sure you helped each other out. Sometimes, particularly late at night when everybody was keen to get the job finished and get home we might come to little arrangements so that if one member of the team had a read speech for instance — although that wasn’t very common late at night — or if there was a division in which of course the proceedings in effect come to a halt and it might take five — between five and ten — minutes for a division to be taken, and that meant that for that time, the reporter who was allocated that segment of the day had very little to do except to process the votes in that division, and that reporter might then agree to doing a little bit more of the next reporter’s turn so that it would even out the workload to some extent.
So there were those sorts of cooperative efforts and we worked very much as a team. And relations generally were very good; I’ve mentioned that there were several Queenslanders, men with whom I had worked in Brisbane on the court reporting staff, and there was also one who had come from the Queensland Hansard staff; I had never worked with him because I had never been on the Hansard in Queensland, but certainly I’d worked with all of the other Queenslanders who’d come from the court reporting staff, and there again we’d worked in teams and sometimes we would have gone away to a circuit court where two of us would go away to report the proceedings of a court in the country, and there of course we were — as just two of us working together — we were very much a team, and that sort of, that spirit, well it applied not only to the Queenslanders on the staff but also to the other members and we all got on very well.
E Helgeby: So in cricketing terms, you batted at number 11 to begin with, but you felt you were still an integral part of a team right from the beginning?
J Campbell: Oh very much so, very much so.
E Helgeby: The staff of Hansard increased greatly from those early years you were there up until the 80s, and we have two photos, one taken in 1967 identified in our collections, ‘Hansard vast 16’ which was — and then another one taken in 1988, ‘Hansard vast’. The numbers are very greatly increased and I wonder if you could say something about what led to this seeming enormous increase in numbers of reporters and staff involved during those years.
J Campbell: Actually that — the first photograph which is marked ‘Hansard’ — and the word is ‘vest’, V-E-S-T, ‘16’ — was a photo of only the reporters and the typists. So that group of — three, six, nine, twelve, that’s seventeen — just short of…
E Helgeby: Twenty-four I think it is.
J Campbell: In total?
E Helgeby: Yeah.
J Campbell: Yes, that of course was supplemented by the senior staff on the reporting and editing side of the — there’d be another seven or eight — and then we had a small administrative staff, a couple of people working in the office and a couple of attendants, and basically that was the staff in the 1960s. And that photo was taken in the House of Reps courtyard and it was taken by a chap who was a reporter on the New South Wales Hansard staff, and he was here in Canberra to help us out because we didn’t have a full staff and the New South Wales Parliament wasn’t sitting at the time, so we had a very useful arrangement under which we could borrow members of particularly the New South Wales and Victorian staffs to help us out. And that chap, that photographer, he actually became the head of the New South Wales Hansard staff in later years.
The other photo is one that’s marked, ‘Hansard vest 2’, that one was taken on the steps of Old Parliament House on the day, or perhaps the day before, we left Old Parliament House to move up to the new building in 1988. So by that time the major development had been the expansion — the massive expansion — of the committee system. There had always been committees, for instance, the Public Accounts and Public Works committees had been in existence for many years and we were called upon to do some work with them. But then in the 1960s, particularly the late 1960s, the committee system started to expand, and even the House of Reps had some select committees; last time I mentioned the one on Aboriginal voting rights and I think I mentioned the one on aircraft noise; they were two House of Reps committees in the 1960s, but there were many more in the Senate, particularly in the late 1960s.
And then around about 1970 came the big change when the Senate decided to set up a very comprehensive standing committee system, as distinct from select committees. A select committee is appointed for a particular purpose and lasts for only the time necessary for that committee to do its job. A standing committee is appointed towards the beginning of a parliamentary session and stays in existence until the end of the session or until it’s disbanded, but it’s a continuing committee, and the Senate decided to set up a series of standing committees with the intention of trying to cover the whole range of portfolios and governmental activity. And as well as that they decided to — Senate — decided to set up estimates committees, which have become famous, or infamous according to your understanding of how they have operated over the years, and my recollection is that the Senate set up five estimates committees, and there was absolutely no way that our Hansard staff could have coped with that increase in the committee activity so it was necessary to increase the reporting staff in the first instance to try to handle the 1960s increase.
But then, with the big change in around about 1970 it was necessary to adopt tape recording of most of the committees, and that led to the establishment of a group of tape transcription typists, some permanent — they were always employed on a casual basis, just on a day to day basis according to the demand of work for them — and then there were permanent Hansard committee editors and they were supplemented by casual editors, again employed on a day by day basis as necessary, and that led to the establishment of the Tape Transcription Centre as it was called, within the Government Printing Office building. So — and because we were then into tape recording in a big way it was necessary to have technical officers who were able to maintain all the equipment, the recording equipment and the transcribing equipment, and for much of the time, and particularly for any really large jobs, the technical officers were also responsible for managing the tape recording itself by making sure that the volumes were correct and the equipment was operating properly and all those sorts of things. And with the expansion of the staff it was obviously necessary to expand the ancillary staff; the administrative area was expanded by two or three people. Even the attendants, that group was expanded because there was a lot of, for instance a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between Parliament House and the printing office. And doing any messengerial work related to the committees involved some more messengerial work, so there was an expansion to that side of the staff as well. So by…
E Helgeby: So what was the total numbers, or roughly do you think, of staff in say when that photo was taken? Roughly how many were there all up employed by Hansard?
J Campbell: My recollection is that we were talking about 70 or 80, something, somewhere around about that number.
E Helgeby: The photo includes roughly 70 people in that image, on a rough count.
J Campbell: Yeah, some of them were employed on a casual basis, but the majority were permanent officers.
E Helgeby: And how many of those staff were actually Hansard reporters, as distinct from support staff or technical staff or type transcript — people who did type transcripts only?
J Campbell: Reporters would have been a maximum of 20 and with the idea of having 18 on duty, on deck, whenever possible with 9 reporters in a team on each House; so 18 to 20 of them were actually classed as reporters. And the supervising staff had increased as well with the amount of work and the number of reporters, but particularly the amount of work. The other increase in the staff came with the introduction of a reporter training program. There had always been a small trainee system but it usually had only one or two people training at any one time, and that hadn’t been in existence for many years and really had been on an off and on basis, hadn’t really — it wasn’t a continuous program at all. But because of the difficulties in recruiting trained reporters from other Hansard staff — that was very difficult — or even from court reporting staffs, there was an effort to set up a more official reporter training program, and part of that was done in association with the Canberra College of Advanced Education, as it was called in those days. This started in Bill Bridgman’s time, as principal reporter, and he was instrumental in arranging with the college to establish a reporter training program.
So the course was set up at the CAE and in that course students were taught to use the steno machine right from the beginning, so they were writing machine shorthand right from the beginning as part of their course, and there were also subjects such as English, a little bit of political material, a little bit of politics, a little bit of history those sorts of subjects; I’ve forgotten the exact structure of the course but the main emphasis was on shorthand, learning to use the steno machine, and there were these additional subjects which were considered — and obviously were — very desirable in training a parliamentary reporter, and that program was quite successful in producing trainees. Often when they left the course they weren’t — they were still not up to the level where they could be employed straight away as reporters, they needed some additional training in House after they’d completed the course, and of course, we didn’t hear — on the Federal Hansard staff — we didn’t always get all the graduates; there were other staffs which were only too happy to snap up some of the graduates who went off to other reporting staffs. And eventually another course was set up in Brisbane and it operated for many years, but both those courses have fallen by the wayside and are no longer operating as far as I know because the — even the steno machine, the machine-written shorthand, has been fading away and being replaced by more modern technology.
E Helgeby: The interesting point about — you said there were difficulties in recruiting proper trained people to Hansard staff; my recollection is having read somewhere that Hansard staff originally were recruited almost exclusively from journalism.
J Campbell: That’s right.
E Helgeby: When did they sort of — by the time you’d joined — what was the — were most of them still with journalistic backgrounds or were they starting to come from the court system like you had?
J Campbell: They had started to come from the court reporting services in the 1950s, and particularly from 1955 with the introduction of the daily Hansard. There was a fairly clear change in Hansard reporting on the Commonwealth Hansard with the introduction of the daily Hansard. Previously the Hansard reporter’s transcript was virtually the only available source of reference, there were no tape recordings, there were no other records being kept by anybody else; the Hansard reporter’s transcript was the be all and end all of the records of the speeches in parliament.
With the introduction of the daily Hansard and the gradual use of tape recordings there was a continuing tendency towards a more verbatim report, whereas before the daily Hansard a journalist could apply his journalistic skills to a greater extent than was the case after the introduction of the daily Hansard. So more emphasis was put on getting a verbatim record and then doing only necessary editing, whereas previously there was much more editing of speeches. So that meant that there was more emphasis on the shorthand writing ability and the speed at which reporters could write, to make sure that they got a complete note, whereas previously a journalist might have merged a couple of sentences and just abbreviated things a little bit, and it — well, to repeat myself — it wasn’t as nearly verbatim as it was after the daily Hansard. And although it wasn’t really an issue, there was always in the back of your mind the fact that, particularly say at question time, there might be a fairly full report of a question and answer appearing in the papers the next day, and if that newspaper journalist’s report was significantly different from the rational verbatim report by the Hansard reporter then people might start to question whether — which one was the accurate one. And whilst we were never guided by the fact that because something might appear in the paper the next day it had to be recorded in Hansard that way, it was in the back of your mind a little bit, which I suppose made you careful about changing things. For instance — I suppose the best example is — a misuse of a word; if a member for instance, used the word ‘flaunt’ when he should have said ‘flout’ we in Hansard would change that, but in the newspaper report the reporter might say, ‘Oh, this is what he said so this is what I’m going to put in my report.’ The misuse of a word is an example of that relationship between the Hansard report and a possible newspaper report.
So because there has been, since 1955, a progressive trend towards a more verbatim Hansard, shorthand speed became more important, and the people had high shorthand speeds were the ones on other Hansard staffs or court reporting staffs, so that was where we tended to recruit from, but here on the Commonwealth Hansard staff it was always very, very difficult to recruit people to the staff. People who had the necessary qualifications were quite happy to work in the big cities, in Sydney, Melbourne, even Brisbane, although many Queenslanders came here to Canberra. So there were — people saw some disadvantages in coming to live in Canberra compared with where they were in the larger cities with their families and the attractions of the bigger cities.
E Helgeby: That brings another issue; you mentioned that in a sense that transition from those with journalistic type backgrounds to the more formally trained, specially trained shorthand reporters; did that lead to any sort change of personnel in the sense people resigned perhaps, those with journalistic backgrounds resigned and were replaced by? Or was it just natural attrition, people worked til their retiring age so to speak and then were replaced by younger, more specifically trained reporters?
J Campbell: I think it was just a matter of natural attrition, although perhaps not the quite accurate word, but what happened was that the people who had been journalists tended to move into the editorial positions, the senior positions on the staff, so they in the editorial positions were not required to retain or improve their shorthand writing speeds as much as to continue to improve their editorial skills, so there wasn’t any real problem in that, just with the changes, the retirements. There were a couple of examples, for instance, when I came I actually replaced a reporter who was still relatively young, he would have been — I think he would’ve been in his 40s — who decided to return to Sydney. The reporter who was recruited before me actually came from the Western Australian Hansard staff, but most of the ones before him had come from either Sydney or Brisbane.
E Helgeby: Did you have any — or much contact with your colleagues outside work?
J Campbell: Well I suppose firstly, several of them were kind enough to invite me to their homes for dinner, and particularly when I was single; I didn’t marry until January 1963, but even after that we would be invited to homes of some of my senior, more senior colleagues, so we had that social contact. Because there were days when the parliament wasn’t sitting, when we were not required to report for duty, a few of us used to get together and play golf. There were several quite good golfers and a few of us who were not so good, but they were happy for us to join in, and because the old Royal Canberra Golf Course wasn’t far away from Old Parliament House, down by the Albert Hall in those days, it was quite easy to organise a game of golf there, so several of us became members of the Royal Canberra Golf Club in those early days, and others decided that they would join other golf clubs in Canberra, and as and when opportunity arose we’d get together and have a game of golf.
The other opportunity was the fact that here at Old Parliament House we had tennis courts, and later squash courts, so some of us, particularly the younger ones, would organise a game of tennis, and even for quite a number of years on Sunday afternoons three or four of us with our families would come in and play tennis on the courts here at Old Parliament House.
E Helgeby: Were there any of these that you regard as special friends or developed really strong friendships with?
J Campbell: Well among the older, more senior ones, I’ve mentioned Joe McKnight who was the chap who was so helpful to me when I first arrived. Alwyn Simpson was another; they were both former Queenslanders, and then Albury Follett, Rosemary Follett’s father, was very kind to us, he and his wife Judy; I can remember a couple of occasions being invited to their home for dinner when Rosemary was a little girl. And then among the golfers, well Ken Ingram I’ve mentioned before, he was a golfer and we played together, the chap whose name might have caused difficulty, his name was Dulihanty — D-U-L-I-H-A-N-T-Y — he was a very good golfer, and if I’m not mistaken, I think he nominated me for membership of the Royal Canberra Golf Club. So, and then among the younger ones, Bernie Harris came not very long after me and married a little later, so he and his wife had young children, a little bit younger than ours, and they certainly were a family with whom we used to play tennis on the weekends. And then we had two Bob Martins, one older who came shortly after I came, and then a younger Bob Martin who came several years later; we used to call them Martin Senior and Martin Junior. Martin Senior lived in the same street as we did when we were first married in Watson, so we had quite a bit to do with the Martins. But we also had a lot to do with Martin Junior because he was another very good golfer, and he and his wife later had children but they were much, much younger than our children.
And then a little bit later — well first of all, Neville Richards — he was a New South Welshman who came here as one of the more senior ones — he was a golfer, I played golf with him many, many times. And then Malcolm McGregor, who’s a younger one, he’s about — he’d be about ten, somewhere between five and ten years younger than me — he’s another golfer; I still play golf with him on a regular basis, and in later years he probably became the member of staff with whom I associated most of all, even in the years of my retirement we still get together reasonably often, particularly to have a game of golf. So there were a fair number of them with whom we had very good times together.
E Helgeby: And golf writ large in that social life?
J Campbell: Because it’s a game — and this is why I took it up when I worked in the courts — because it’s a game where you can actually go and play on your own — although that’s not very socially desirable — but you can certainly play it with just two people. So for people in the position that we were in where we sometimes were free on working days we could just arrange — two of us, three, four — to head off to a golf course and have a game of golf when hardly anybody else was around, we weren’t pressed on the golf course, it was a very attractive game to take up, but likewise tennis is in a similar category and we played tennis. And of course, the other aspect is that here in Old Parliament House there were several sporting competitions between departments, tennis for instance; there’s a competition called the Edwards Cup which was played between the departments, so each department would nominate a team and we’d play off; that was usually on an annual basis. There were interdepartmental competitions in bowls, in table tennis. I’m not sure about billiards and snooker; the members spent a lot of time playing billiards and snooker in particular, not so much the staff as I recall, but there was quite a bit of interdepartmental activity. Occasionally a cricket match, because there was a turf cricket wicket over in the Senate gardens which was not used all that frequently, but every now and again an interdepartmental competition would be organised, although in the very early days there were hardly enough people to be able to field a full cricket team.
E Helgeby: Were the politicians at all involved in any of these activities?
J Campbell: I don’t recall any social activities, any formal social activities, organised between the staff and members, except — and I wasn’t involved in this — but from time to time there were football matches — either Aussie rules or rugby union I think — between the staff and the politicians. The members used to organise tennis competitions, and there were some really top line tennis players among the politicians from time to time, and bowls I think. Bowls was another activity in which the members — and the staff probably did get involved with members in bowls because on the House of Reps side there was also the bowling green, as well as tennis courts and the squash court, and from time to time staff and members would play tennis together and squash. So there was a little bit of activity but I don’t remember being involved very much in that, but I know other people were.
E Helgeby: Was there a kind of social club or anything like that here at all at any time? Or were these activities organised by individuals who had a keen interest and therefore took it upon themselves to do this?
J Campbell: Yeah, they were mainly organised by individuals, there wasn’t any formal social club structure, certainly not in the Hansard. The other — when I made a point of referring to those activities as ‘formal’ it reminded me that there were opportunities for informal social activities among the staff and those often involved members and senators as well, and they occurred mainly at the infamous end-of-session parties, at the end of each sessional period actually, so it usually occurred twice a year, but particularly coming up to Christmas time at the end of the budget session there would be quite well attended and long-lasting end-of-session parties which just got a little bit of a go on while the Houses were rounding off the night. But then, after both Houses got up they really came into their own and there was quite a bit of mixing of staffs and some members and senators, and often the Hansard end-of-session party would be the last one to finish, although probably the Senate Records Office end-of-session parties became more famous than the Hansard ones.
E Helgeby: Why was that?
J Campbell: Because they found out that there were some singers, and they used to have sing-songs, and they even produced a Senate Records — what was it called? — Senate Records Office Songbook, which was used at these end-of-session parties [laughs].
E Helgeby: Did you partake yourself?
J Campbell: Oh occasionally at the — not all that often. I certainly — certainly when I was in senior positions I made a point of making sure I attended but I wasn’t a real stayer by any means [laughs].
E Helgeby: So from the sound of it, the work as a Hansard member of staff had some impact on your social life, but it sounds as if, not in a very negative way, that most of the time you actually got perhaps in more social type activities because you could use the non-sitting days and so forth.
J Campbell: The main negative was the fact that, because of the working arrangements we were required to be at work whenever there was work to be done, and the compensation was, when there was no work that needed to be done we were, in effect, free. We were also given additional leave because of the unusual hours and the extended hours that we often had to work. But because we would often be working at night there were many occasions when it was impossible to get away from the building to attend any school functions for instance, in which the children were involved; it wasn’t always easy to go to P&C meetings or parent teacher nights, those sorts of things, or if there were friends organised some function during the week it wasn’t always possible to go to those, concerts for instance; often — because my wife’s quite interested in music and we’ve always been keen concert-goers whenever we’ve been able to — there were many occasions when it was impossible for me to get away to go to concerts; Wednesday night for instance, when the Canberra Symphony Orchestra — or Wednesday or Thursday night when the Canberra Symphony Orchestra has traditionally had its concerts, often the parliament would be sitting on that Wednesday or Thursday night.
So there were those sorts of negative — and the fact that the parliament had its sitting program, but you could never rely on the fact that the parliament would finish at a certain time each night, or that it would finish at the end of the scheduled sitting period; it was quite common for extra sitting days to be added at the end of a sessional period. So whenever you were arranging things you had to be cognisant of those schedule times, and also the possibility that there could be some unscheduled sitting, so that was a constraint, and to some extent it limited your involvement in community activities. For instance, I’ve mentioned P&C meetings, but on the other hand there were the recesses and the fact that parliament didn’t sit every day of the week which meant that we were able to get to some school activities that many people working normal hours would never have been able to get to. And of course we were — it was almost impossible to get leave at any time when the Houses, you know, were sitting, so always had to arrange holidays in the recesses and that was a bit of a constraint. On the other hand, sometimes it was an advantage to be able to get away for extended periods during the parliamentary recesses.
E Helgeby: How much extra leave did you get per year?
J Campbell: We were given initially six weeks leave a year, and my recollection is that at some point that was extended to seven, and we were also given half a day’s extra leave for any sitting after midnight I think it was, and they were called ‘double days’, that was an expression that was used; if in effect we worked for a double day — my recollection is that that meant after midnight — we got half a day’s leave for each of those, and sometimes they added up and finally you might have too much leave. But then there was a — towards the end of my time, if I remember rightly, there was a general Commonwealth public service edict that nobody was allowed to accumulate more than a certain amount of leave, so you know, and sometimes it just was very difficult to arrange to take that leave within the constraints of the parliamentary sitting days. But generally speaking, our leave arrangements were quite generous.
E Helgeby: While you worked at Old Parliament House were you ever a member of a union?
J Campbell: [laughs]. I’d say, continuously. When I first joined the Queensland public service the first letter I got about my appointment to the job as the office boy and trainee reporter in the Queensland Parliament House, told me that I would be required to join a union. In Queensland in those days it was obligatory to be a member, so I was a member of the State Service Union whenever I worked in — in the time I worked in Queensland, and then when I came to Canberra the Hansard reporters were members of the Australian Journalists Association, so I joined the Journalists Association. And I think it’s fair to say that I took a prominent part in the union activities such as they were; we were a separate section, we had a Hansard section of the Canberra branch of the AJA in which Hansard people had been quite prominent. One of the reporters was the secretary of the Canberra branch of the AJA for many, many years and was given a gold medal by the AJA for his services. I remember that for quite some time I was the secretary of our Hansard section and then later the president of the Hansard section.
The main union activity was in seeking to increase our salary levels to at least as high as New South Wales Hansard reporters in particular; New South Wales was always the leader in salary terms. So we, every now and again we would be arguing with the Public Service Board, as it was in those days, that our position as Commonwealth Hansard reporters was at least as significant as New South Wales Hansard reporters and that we should be on at least the same level, but we were never successful in getting agreement from the Public Service Board or from the Public Service Arbitrator. There were at least two occasions on which our cases went to the Public Service Arbitrator and the board — I will always remember — the board attitude was that, ‘the Commonwealth should neither lead nor lag’, so we were always stuck behind New South Wales in particular, and that was the outcome of the couple of arbitration — type of public service arbitrator cases that I can remember.
E Helgeby: Did you take those cases to court yourself, or were you there representing the union on those cases or did you use others to do that?
J Campbell: No, my first experience was shortly after I came here, it would have been in the early 60s when the AJA was fighting an arbitration case on behalf of the Hansard reporters here in Canberra, and I was new so I went and sat in and listened to the proceedings, that was my only involvement in that case, but I remember that some of the Hansard reporters gave evidence about their responsibilities and so on to justify an increase in our salaries, but I wasn’t really involved in that. But the other occasion I remember quite clearly is when I must have been the secretary at this time because I as secretary and the president accompanied the federal secretary of the AJA and he presented our case before the arbitrator, and those proceedings were actually held in Melbourne, and we attended and we — because the federal secretary was handling the case on our behalf and most of the work in which he was involved related to newspaper journalists and the Hansard membership of the AJA was just a very small, discreet part — we used to prepare all the material for him; basically the whole case was prepared by us with just a little bit of input from him on the basis of his experience of presenting cases and appearing in arbitration tribunals. So now we didn’t actually — or I didn’t actually — have to make any speeches or give any evidence, but we did prepare nearly all the material for those cases.
E Helgeby: Where did you get the time to do that? Did you have sort of — the numbers you talked about and people who had to be rostered on every day — would seem to leave little time for someone to step aside and say, involve themselves with union matters?
J Campbell: No, we just handled that in the time that we had off.
Interview with John Campbell, part 5
J Campbell: Because in those early days the parliament tended to sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for — it started off for three weeks and then they’d have a week off, and then they changed later to sitting on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday, and then they had two weeks off. So they changed from nine days in a month to eight days but with some longer hours on those days, in the month. So there were recess weeks within sessional periods as well as the longer winter and summer recesses. So we just made the time to get to work and do that sort of preparation for those cases and to try to argue our case.
E Helgeby: Did you ever take part in or was there a move to take industrial action amongst the Hansard staff?
J Campbell: No, I don’t recall any occasion when we considered taking industrial action. Despite the fact that we often argued for at least parity with other Hansard staffs, I certainly felt that we were rewarded fairly well in terms of salaries, particularly when I was young; the money I was getting when I was young was just, well, quite unusual for — in my experience anyway. And the ability to have free time and generous holidays well at least made up, if not more than made up, for the unusual hours and extended hours and the quite arduous work at times.
E Helgeby: As union secretary and president, what was your relationship like with management of the House and managers of the House outside the senior management?
J Campbell: Always good, always good because many of them had been union officials in their time as well, so there were never any serious problems in those earlier days in particular. The main area of discontent was this feeling that we were being paid less than what other Hansard reporters and we didn’t think that was appropriate, and our senior officers weren’t really in a position to do much about that anyway, it was all done through the board. Although I can remember one principal reporter in particular who established really good relations with the relevant officer in the Public Service Board, and they got on very well together and did their best to look after us, but it wasn’t always easy because the board officer, he was governed by the policies of the board and wasn’t able to have a lot of personal input into it. But certainly in those earlier days there weren’t any really difficult industrial situations.
But I have to say that towards the end of my time when we had a much larger staff and a much younger staff there were quite a few difficulties because, in my personal opinion, many of those younger people were not able to appreciate the value of some of the compensations that we got for the arduous sittings, and particularly the increase in the volume of work, and not being able to increase the staff commensurately with the increasing volume of work. So in later years there was quite a bit of agitation; this is when I was in very senior positions when we had a lot of agitation from some of the younger members of the staff who felt that the departmental requirements were really interfering with their family obligations and they didn’t feel that they were able to accept the situation.
Slightly different, slightly off the point, but one example is that in the 1980s, yes it must — just in my last few years it must have been — it was after we’d started to use word processors on the committees, but while the Hansard typists were still using electric typewriters and not word processors. It was the time when there was a lot of concern about RSI, and we started to have some instances of RSI among our keyboarders, and eventually it got to the situation where a decision was made that whereas all through the years our sessional typists had been employed on a sessional basis and they worked whenever there was work for them to do — they stayed all through night, worked all through the night, however long the Houses sat, they just, the same group of them worked through and they’d go home, they’d be back the next morning, they were nearly all married women, many of them had children, although I suppose the majority of them had teenage children or — yeah around teenage children but there were some with younger children, so there were difficult situations for them — but in those earlier years they regarded that as part of their sessional engagement and because they were sessional they had a loading on the normal, you know, public service keyboarders rate so many of them were reasonably happy with their terms and conditions. But it came to the point where we decided that on long days we would ask them to work for only a normal day and then we would employ another group of keyboarders who came in at around about five thirty in the afternoon if I’m not mistaken, and then they worked through til whatever hour the last House finished.
So that was a quote — that decision, I suppose came partly from what you’d call industrial agitation, but it was also as a result of concern about the RSI issue. That was among the keyboarders, and we didn’t really — well there were a few — as I’ve said before — a few of the younger reporters who were agitating for more family friendly hours than we’d all been used to.
E Helgeby: How long were you president for?
J Campbell: President of the union?
E Helgeby: Yeah, well when I suppose, perhaps more, when did you actually cease to be president? Was it when you became the senior Hansard — principal Hansard reporter or…?
J Campbell: No, I would’ve — I would say I ceased to be president around about 1980, roughly 1980, so I think I was probably secretary in the late 60s, president through some part of the 1970s. But I continued to be a member of the union all through my time, even when I was principal reporter; I retained my membership, and actually when I finally retired the AJA gave me honorary membership, but I’d retained my financial right until the time I retired.
E Helgeby: John we might take a short break here and then — because it’s a break — go onto something else.
J Campbell: Fine.
Interview with John Campbell, part 6
E Helgeby: This is 15 April and I am continuing my interview with John Campbell. John last time we talked a bit about your time in charge of Hansard and I had just a couple of follow up questions which I would like to pursue in that line; what sort of a person in charge were you?
J Campbell: Well I guess I tried to be fair; I don’t think I was — well, to use a word — ‘autocratic’ or ‘unsympathetic’. I hope I recognised that I had no formal managerial type training and basically tried to manage the department and the staff according to principles of fairness and equity and justice, those sorts of things, as best I could. Generally it was a relatively easy department to administer and manage; last time I think I talked about some of the areas in which I felt were areas of tension, if you’d like to use that word, which — particularly because it was quite different being directly responsible to the presiding officers on a personal level and also to their staffs, whereas — except on occasions when I was acting as a principal parliamentary reporter I didn’t have much direct relationship with the presiding officers.
A couple of areas that I don’t think I mentioned last time which are related to this question; one was the responsibility of deciding when people were ready for promotion, as I think I mentioned in the early stage, we tended to have a process based on seniority; if a person was the next in line in terms of seniority and experience and that person was qualified for the position we tended to appoint that person without calling for applications and going through a process of interviews and a process like that, which is quite common in many other areas. So there were a couple of occasions when I decided — largely on a personal basis but usually with some advice from the more senior officers of the department — not to advance somebody just yet, and that applied particularly to trainee reporters; they of course were always very keen to get through their training period and become reporters and to ‘get onto the book’ was the expression that we used all the time, and from time to time it was necessary to decide that trainees were not quite ready yet and often they were very disappointed when decisions like that were made. So that was a difficult time.
I suppose another area was when people became concerned about the length of time on which they were on duty, felt that the hours were unconscionable in some cases, and tied in with that was the fact that it was nearly always difficult to recruit new staff; if we lost a member of the staff and there wasn’t a trainee ready for promotion, it was very difficult to attract somebody with the necessary qualifications and experience from some other reporting staff. There was some tensions sometimes when some members of the staff felt that if we weren’t able to attract anybody from outside we should have gone ahead and promoted a trainee but the tension occurred if I didn’t think that trainee was ready for promotion just yet, so that was a source of tension. Those are the main areas in which I feel that I had some difficulties.
E Helgeby: Would you consider yourself to be a hands-on manager or did you delegate?
J Campbell: Well I tried to delegate wherever I thought that was appropriate, but I certainly regarded myself as a hands-on person. I continued to do quite a bit of supervisor type work, the editing; I think I’m right in saying that I always supervised at least one reporter — I wouldn’t have had time to supervise more than one — so that I, in effect, kept my hand in as an editor or a supervisor and I paid a lot of attention to picking up any necessary corrections — corrections that needed to be made to the daily Hansard for the publication of the weekly Hansards. So although we had the practice which I’ve described before of allocating sections of the daily Hansard for each reporter for proofreading, I made a practice of going through the daily Hansards as much as I possibly could to pick up any errors that I thought needed to be corrected, and much of that work I did in my own time. And I always remember my family, particularly my wife, I suppose, criticising me for bringing home these daily Hansards nearly every day, and instead of reading a novel or reading some other bedtime reading I’d be even going to bed and thumbing through a daily Hansard. So I think that’s perhaps an indication of the style of hands-on attitude I had.
E Helgeby: What was your relationship with your — I suppose we’d have to call them your 2ICs — but particularly Bernie Harris whom I understand was the last one that you had worked to. We have a photo in our collection called Last moments, 366 which shows the two of you together. I just wonder if that triggers any thoughts or memories about the way the two of you worked together and what your relationship with him was.
J Campbell: Well going right back, he had come from Queensland in the same way as I had; he had come from the Queensland State Reporting Bureau working as a court reporter and had come down to Canberra a few years after I did. He is — I’m not sure about — somewhere between five and ten years younger than I am, and he was younger than I was at the time of appointment to the reporting staff; I think he was 22 whereas I was 25. Like me, he was single when he came to Canberra and married within a few years and had two young children, whereas we had three, they were younger than our children, but I guess I tried my best to do what Joe McKnight had done for me in welcoming him into Canberra, and I think in fact when he first came to Canberra he actually stayed with us in our house at Watson for a short time before he got himself settled into Canberra. And then we sometimes played golf together and we played tennis; his was one of the families that I think I mentioned, came in sometimes on a Sunday afternoon and we played tennis on the courts, usually on the Senate side.
So there was that sort of activity and although there were three or four reporters appointed between the time of my appointment and his appointment, they were older people so they — towards the end of course — they retired before he was at the point where he became the assistant principal parliamentary reporter. For instance, his predecessor was a chap called Bob Martin, he was older than both of us; he had come from Adelaide not from Queensland, and I think I mentioned last time that he actually lived in the same street as us in Watson so we saw quite a bit of him and his wife, but because we Campbells had much more in common with the Harrises than with the Martins we saw a lot more of the Harrises than of the Martins. So Bob Martin was assistant principal parliamentary reporter for a couple of years in my five year term and then Bernie Harris came in.
Bernie’s a very much different character from me; he’s a much more outgoing, gregarious person than I am, he’s very interested, and has been for years, very interested in the media, and he’s got very wide experience in the media apart from being a Hansard reporter. In his earlier years he wrote scripts for television, for many years he was a commentator for the ABC on soccer matches here in Canberra, and had a very keen interest in lots of things to do with the media. He also associated with members and senators much more than I did; although I did lots of committee work where we spent lots of time away from Canberra with members and senators on committees, he probably did more of that than I did eventually, and he established quite close relationships with lots of members and senators, many more than I did. We didn’t always see eye to eye on some things, and one of the problem areas was that he did not get on well with a couple of the fairly senior officers of the department who were in positions only a little way down the line from him, where I was on much better terms with them than he was.
And this is a very difficult area to talk about, but an example of that — and many other people might not think this is a very serious matter but it’s something that clearly sticks in my mind — for many years it was the practice for the senior group of officers who were here in the office much more frequently and for much longer hours than the more junior officers, to get together for morning tea. We’d come down to the refreshment rooms — I don’t know when this practice actually started but it goes back a long way to people such as Bill Bridgman and Ken Ingram — as I say, just the small group of four, perhaps five at the most, would have this practice of just getting together nearly every morning tea for morning tea. Now in my time that became impossible because three of the, say five, most senior officers — the PPR, the APPR and the three leaders of staff — did not get on well together and there was a lot of tension between two of those leaders of staff on the one hand and the APPR.
So another area that’s difficult to talk about is that Bernie is very good at public speaking and telling stories about things that happened, and some people might not always agree with his versions of events. Now I don’t want to go into this at any length but I was shown recently a copy of an article that appeared in the Canberra Times Public Informant Supplement I think it’s called, and there were some stories in that article related by Bernie, and just as a couple of instances, my recollection of things does not agree with some of his recollections. I might just take a couple of instances and, as I say, this is something on which there could well be differences of opinion and in which my recollection may not be as accurate as I think it is. For instance, in that article there are a couple of quotes of strange things that have either appeared in Hansard or occurred in the House and may not have been — may not have got into Hansard. Just a couple that I’ll pick out; there’s a reference there which says, ‘Did honourable members really have their trouts in the snoff? Or had Dr Spooner struck again?’ Well my recollection of that spoonerism was that it read: ‘Snoffs in the trout’ not ‘trouts in the snoff’.
And then there’s another example where there’s a little story about: ‘A tired and emotional senator who was having the Devil’s own job trying to get the title of the person occupying the chair, correct.’ And it finished up with the occupant of the chair at that time saying, according to Bernie’s recollection, ‘In effect the correct title is, quote: “the Acting Deputy President”; I don’t have sex when I am in the chair.’ Now my recollection of that incident is that it was not a senator who was in any way inclined to be ‘tired and emotional’ really at any time, and that it was just a case of getting a little bit tongue-tied and not remembering the exact way to refer to the occupant of the chair, and my recollection is that the person in the chair, and my recollection is that the person in the chair — who of course was a woman — said, ‘It is the Acting Deputy President; I don’t have any sex when I am in this position.’ So those — I don’t want to go through that article in detail, but I just give those as a couple of instances where my recollection differs from his and, well I guess I’m actually implying that sometimes Bernie’s recollections and the stories that he told may not have been strictly accurate. But that’s just my recollection and my understanding of these sorts of things.
So there were times when there were tensions between him and me, and largely for those sorts of reasons, but I suppose the principle one was that — well there was another incident that comes to mind when — I suppose was one of the few really difficult staff issues that I had to deal with as PPR, and that was one evening when one of the attendants had been down to dinner and had just a little bit too much to drink over dinner and got into an argument with the chief attendant, and they actually came to blows in the office, and that was a matter that I had to deal with, and I tried to smooth it all over and to counsel the more junior attendant about his duties, and I felt that the matter could be resolved by that way, by just a little bit of counselling and a little bit of common sense. On the other hand Bernie’s attitude was that the more junior officer had overstepped the mark and he sided with the chief attendant, and my recollection is that most of them were pushing for more severe action to be taken against the junior attendant. So that was an instance I remember where we were in disagreement.
E Helgeby: Did you find it difficult to work with him as 2IC? Were there matters that you didn’t trust him to deal with the way you wanted at times?
J Campbell: No, I think anything that I wanted him to deal with I could hand over to him and trust him to deal with it appropriately — particularly in any areas where he had more expertise and experience than I did — and the obvious area of that was the — well initially — the tape recording work and the work of the attendants — sorry, the technical officers, not the attendants, the technical officers — and it came to a head when there was a proposal to establish what became known as the Sound and Vision Office, and that was an area in which he would have been very competent and very suitable to be in charge of that. We endeavoured — and I had a fairly prominent part to play in this — we endeavoured to get the presiding officer’s agreement to put the Sound and Vision Office under the department of the parliamentary reporting staff. And we thought we had a good chance of getting that under Speaker Harry Jenkins, senior, but the presiding officers decided that they would refer the matter to the committee on the broadcasting of proceedings, and that meant a committee enquiry at which I represented the department and gave evidence — or presented a submission — arguing that the office should be put under our department. And that did not happen, so Bernie Harris did not get a position where he was in charge of the Sound and Vision Office, and eventually a section called the Parliamentary Information Systems Office — PISO — was established, and it was put under the control of the library, not under our department, and my recollection is that that really wasn’t resolved by the time I left in March 1990. And what happened after that was that, following my retirement a new principal parliamentary reporter was appointed from the Prime Minister’s department, in effect from outside the parliament, and then when a short time later the parliamentary librarian retired, no appointment was made to that position substantively, and the principal parliamentary reporter was also appointed acting parliamentary librarian, and that really was the beginning of the amalgamation of the three service departments.
E Helgeby: The article that you referred to that Bernie Harris had written implies that he was principal parliamentary reporter from 1990 to 1999.
J Campbell: He was never principal parliamentary reporter; a chap called John Templeton took over — took the position after I retired and Bernie’s title was Chief Hansard Reporter under the principal parliamentary reporter. As I say, he had responsibility for Hansard and the library from the early 1990s, so Bernie’s title was Chief Hansard Reporter.
E Helgeby: Okay, have we — anything else you want to add on the matters we’ve covered in relation to the work environment at this point? Or shall we move on to another topic?
J Campbell: I think that’s covered things reasonably well.
E Helgeby: Okay, well we’ll have to go to something a bit different and go back to the beginning. Were you interested in politics before you came to Canberra or did you become interested in the sense — the political side of things — through working here?
J Campbell: I guess I was interested in it right from the time I started work because, as I explained, I started work in Parliament House in Brisbane, and in fact, I started there in January 1951, not 1950 as I said right back at the beginning of these interviews; I made a mistake in referring to it as 1950, it was 1951. And our officers, the officers of the State Reporting Bureau — were on an upper level of Parliament House, which of course was the same level as the galleries of the Legislative Assembly chamber. The public galleries, the press gallery and the Hansard gallery were all — were then spitting distance, virtually, of our offices. So one of the ways in which we trainee reporters built up our shorthand speed was by going into the gallery, the public gallery, and practicing on the actual proceedings in the Legislative Assembly, as well as of course the more formal training that we did, particularly at the business college where we did formal shorthand tests and practice, and even that, much of that practice material was taken out of Hansard reports. So in effect, right from the word go I was associated with and involved in that peripheral way, with politics.
And then when I did those tertiary studies that I referred to in the first interview, I first of all did accounting, but then when I decided to go on with that to do a commerce degree, as well as economics and statistics, I did two years of political science; the first year was about Australian politics and British politics and the second was about United States and Russian politics. I’m not sure that I actually finished the whole Political Science 2, as it was called, because I finished up with only eight units which gave me the diploma rather than the twelve I would have needed to complete a commerce degree. So I was involved in politics at work and I was doing a little bit of it in my external studies with the University of Queensland at that stage. And of course, because the Hansard reporters and the court reporters were in the same department, the State Reporting Bureau, we were often in contact with those half a dozen Hansard reporters, and often talking to them about what was going on in the parliament, even in the time when I was working as a court reporter and not as a Hansard reporter.
E Helgeby: Did you ever join a political party?
J Campbell: No, I’ve never been a member of a political party, no.
E Helgeby: Well as you know, we’ve got a major new development underway here at Old Parliament House and the Gallery of Australian Democracy, and the word ‘democracy’ is one which means different things to different people and I think also in different countries; what does the word ‘democracy’ and the term ‘democracy’ mean to you?
J Campbell: Well you gave me warning of this question so I’ve prepared a couple of little notes, and I’ll just use these notes as a basis for my response to that question. My understanding of democracy is that it involves the people of a country having appropriate opportunities to participate in the government and the administration of their country, and this, in my view, should involve such things as free and fair elections, including appropriate representative voting systems, that there’d be free speech, and associated with that, freedom of the press, that it involves government being responsible and accountable to the parliament, the members who’ve been elected by the people to represent them in parliament, it involves an apolitical public service that’s encouraged to give for the government, frank and fearless advice, to use the quite common expression, and that it should involve high standards in the making of appointments to significant positions such as governors-general, judges, departmental heads, members of government agencies and so on.
But I think it should also involve appropriate levels of assistance to non-government members of the parliament; that is, the government back benchers, and especially opposition members, and I think our Commonwealth Australian Parliament is a classic example very successful attempts to provide that sort of assistance through our parliamentary library, which I think is renowned around the world as being a great resource centre for government back benchers and especially opposition members. And desirably it should involve a comprehensive and appropriately resourced parliamentary committee system. So those are just some of the principles that I thought were involved in democracy.
E Helgeby: And do you think this country meets those standards that you laid down there at this point in time?
J Campbell: I think it does; I think Australia is one of the outstanding examples of a democratic system of government in the world, and I think we’re exceedingly fortunate to live in a country that has such a high standard of adoption of democratic principles.
E Helgeby: While the period that — the years that you worked in parliament — you would have experienced the House — both chambers in action — under seven prime ministers: Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke; well, taking them one at a time, what was your impression of them as individuals and as parliamentary operators?
J Campbell: Okay, when I came in 1960 of course Sir Robert Menzies was prime minister and there until ’66. Obviously — in my view anyway — he was in the twilight of his career, and he had the reputation of being a great orator and a great parliamentary performer and also a very successful and competent performer on the hustings. My recollection is that in the early 60s he was still a dominant personality, I suppose you could say a towering presence whenever he came into the chamber from that little alcove in the corner and came down to the centre table; the House just seemed to change with Menzies’s entry into the chamber.
E Helgeby: Which way do you — when you say change — in which way do you mean?
J Campbell: Well, change in the sense that the attention, even of the members, would tend to be directed towards him although he might not be doing anything, merely coming in and sitting at the table. His mere presence there seemed to have a — generally a calming — effect that people, the other members — or most of them anyway — would tend to feel that they need to be a bit more respectful and more dignified because he certainly was a man of dignity and presence. But for those five or six years after I came, he wasn’t making his traditional speeches; most of the speeches that he made were prepared and read speeches rather than extempore speeches in which he would be responding to interjections and for which he had a great reputation and ability to respond with humour and with appropriateness to all sorts of interjections. So mostly his speeches in my time were prepared and read speeches, but of course he was there to respond to questions at question time, but for much of the time question time, which certainly was not televised and was — on the other hand — was broadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the House of Reps, it wasn’t as lengthy. The ministers — and certainly my recollection is Menzies — didn’t use question time as a great opportunity to go into a great length about government policies or to try to use Dorothy Dix questions to make great speeches criticising the opposition, and on the other hand, praising all the things that the government was doing; my recollection is that that wasn’t the way things were done in Menzies’s time. So you know, he goes down as one of the great Australian prime ministers of course, and to a large extent, some of the criticisms of him related to his experience before and during the Second World War, rather than in the post-war years.
I guess the significant things in his time in the 60s, apart from his retirement in ’66, the other one was the 1961 election where he only scraped back in, and had a majority of only one after providing the Speaker, if my recollection is accurate. But he was able to turn that around in the next election which I think was in ’63. And of course, the other factor much to his credit, but it’s obviously before my time, was the formation of the Liberal Party. So I think he was one of the great figures across all my time, and especially in those first six years.
E Helgeby: Were there any sort of stand-out moments during the time that he was still prime minister while you were in the chamber? Any moments that you can remember specifically where you happened to be present?
J Campbell: No, I don’t remember any incidents in which I was involved as a reporter or which really stand out. There are just a couple of little things which have been well reported and well recorded in various historical books and biographies and so on that…
E Helgeby: But none that actually — none that you were actually present for?
J Campbell: That I was involved in, no.
E Helgeby: Okay well then the next one coming up then is Harold Holt; what was your impression of him?
J Campbell: My impression of Holt was that he was 2IC to Menzies and obviously his preferred successor; he’d been groomed to take over. Again, it’s a personal impression, but I got the impression that to some extent the job of criticising the opposition and being the government’s chief attacker of the opposition was a job that seemed to be beneath the dignity of the prime minister and should be handed over to the 2IC, so Holt was often in that position of being the chief attacker of the opposition, but he was such a gentlemanly fellow that — in public appearances anyway — that he wasn’t always very effective in that role it seemed to me. For most of that time he was treasurer; I think for all of that time because he succeeded Fadden if I’m not mistaken. And really, I didn’t have anything to do with him personally and it was just a matter of reporting his speeches whenever I was in the reps.
E Helgeby: Did he strike you as being a good parliamentary operator?
J Campbell: Yes, because he was the leader of the House and of course that involved negotiating with Gough Whitlam who had that job on behalf of the opposition, and obviously they were able to get on reasonably well and Holt generally was able to manage the government’s business and do what was necessary to get the government’s business through the House. I think he was a quite competent parliamentarian.
E Helgeby: Any stand-out memories of him? Again, in the chamber?
J Campbell: No, I don’t have anything in particular about Harold Holt.
E Helgeby: Well then follow to John Gorton.
J Campbell: Our relationship with John Gorton and his office was unique in my experience, because my understanding is that an instruction that we in Hansard were given probably came from Ainsley Gotto and probably did not come from John Gorton himself, but we were instructed to report John Gorton verbatim. In my experience, that request, or certainly not an instruction, didn’t ever come in respect of any other member or senator, and so although Gorton was highly educated a quite reasonable speaker, when we reported him verbatim his speeches did not come out as well as many other members’ speeches did. And for instance, in the 1969 election, if I remember rightly, Gough Whitlam was able to use quotes from Hansard of Gorton’s speeches to great effect, while in effect ridiculing the language that Gorton was recorded in Hansard as using. So that was probably the most direct relationship we had — we and Hansard had — with Gorton. And of course he was quite different from most other conservative political leaders in that he was on the conservative side, certainly a political leader on the conservative side, because he proposed some quite unusual policies for the Liberal Party certainly. He wasn’t as strong on states’ rights for instance, as most other Liberal Party and Country Party leaders were. He was — well the word that’s often been applied to him — is a ‘larrikin’, he was nowhere near as straight-laced as Holt or Menzies for instance, or McMahon.
E Helgeby: Did that actually show itself or show up in the way he acted while he was in the chamber as well? Did he…?
J Campbell: No, not to my recollection; it seemed to me the way in which it showed up most prominently was in the events that led eventually to his downfall, but of course they were largely events outside the parliament, and my recollection is that he always conducted himself most appropriately in the parliament. And he wasn’t a difficult speaker to report in any sense, and I suppose in many ways it’s easier to report a speaker verbatim than it is to present a rational verbatim report, so to that extent he didn’t present any great difficulties for a Hansard reporter, except for the fact that he was a highly educated man, but that didn’t mean that he used language that was difficult to report.
E Helgeby: Was Hansard ever given any explanation as to why Gorton wanted all those speeches of — Gorton’s speeches — to be reported verbatim?
J Campbell: Not to my knowledge. I — again, this is a very personal opinion — I just believe that Ainsley Gotto thought Gorton was the be all and end all, a person who was almost perfect and would never make any mistakes, and he was the perfect speaker and didn’t need any attention by people as lowly as Hansard reporters.
E Helgeby: And how did Hansard staff take this? Did they — did you find it difficult to sort of, to comply with that or were there any discussions or objections to it or…?
J Campbell: No, not to my knowledge, we just accepted it as an instruction that had come from the prime minister’s office, and it was easier to do that, to give a verbatim report rather than to do the work of editing it to make it a rational verbatim report. That’s my recollection of the main thing that affected Hansard in John Gorton’s time, but of course there were the momentous events during his prime ministership.
E Helgeby: McMahon.
J Campbell: Well McMahon as prime minister wasn’t there for very long but I suppose the thing which sticks in my mind relates to his earlier career, but still in my time, when he was treasurer and before that, Minister for Labour and National Service. And again, a highly educated man; a lawyer and an economist I think, had double degrees, and very experienced politician, but the thing related to Hansard was that it was not uncommon for McMahon at question time to, off the top of his head, give detailed figures about the number of people unemployed or all sorts of economic statistics, and then our Hansard transcripts would be submitted to his office and quite often those figures on unemployment or economic statistics would be corrected by his staff. And again, although the definition of what members and senators were allowed to do was to make necessary corrections, almost invariably those changes would be regarded as necessary corrections, they — I suppose it reflected the fact that they were corrections of actual figures, figures which had been quoted wrongly. Other people might say that what he was supposed to be doing was correcting only any errors that had been made the Hansard staff, but in terms of an historical record, it was providing accurate figures, and as I say, unless another member made a point of drawing attention to the figures being inaccurate, those corrections by his office would have been accepted and would have finished up in the — well it would have finished up in the daily Hansard, and certainly in the weekly Hansard.
E Helgeby: So this was not seen as — I suppose in a sense, a breach of Hansard’s role, that numbers might have been substantially changed or modified by the members him or herself?
J Campbell: No, because there were many other members who made a practice of making quite substantial changes to their speeches, and generally speaking, those changes would be accepted. Those ones in the case of McMahon tended to be numerical changes whereas most of the others were literary changes; perhaps a different choice of words or a different sentence construction or something like that. There were some members who regretted the fact that they had not put things the way they wanted to when they were on their feet in the chamber and wanted to take the opportunity to make editorial changes to their speeches, and some members had a particular style that they wanted to preserve, and those Hansard reporters might not have been always familiar with that particular style that they wanted. I can think of a few examples; they don’t relate to prime ministers, but just to go back a little bit, my recollection is that it would have been most unusual for anything to come back from Sir Robert Menzies’s office with any changes at all. Menzies was, in my recollection, perfectly happy to accept whatever Hansard staff reported him as saying. On the other hand, I can remember Paul Hasluck — who was again a very well educated, very articulate, very distinguished person in all sorts of fields as well as a politician — and was, I suppose the best word to describe him was a pedant, he had a…
Interview with John Campbell, part 7
J Campbell: He had a very high opinion of his ability as a journalist and as a speaker, and was a very good speaker, rarely needed much editorial change, but occasionally we might, in going through our transcript, we might change a word we had transcribed and transcribed incorrectly and put in the correct word as a result of checking our shorthand note or checking the tape, and when we sent that to Paul Hasluck, my recollection is that he often looked at his own greens — didn’t leave it to his staff to do it — and because he thought that change on the typescript was something that we had changed from what he had said, he would change it back again, but in fact what he was doing was just the opposite of what he thought he was doing [laughs]. And then there was another member who insisted on introducing his question in a particular way, whereas sometimes a member would begin his question by saying, ‘My question is directed to the Prime Minister; is the Prime Minister aware…?’ Well often we would leave out that first sentence and start off, ‘Is the Prime Minister aware…?’ straight into it. Well there was one particular member who insisted on retaining the way he introduced his question, he always started off by saying, ‘I ask the Minister for so and so…’ and then he’d go into his question, and whereas with another member we might have just gone straight into, ‘Is the Minister aware, so and so, so and so…’ but for that member we always knew we had to put in, ‘I ask the Minister for so and so…’
Sorry, I’ve got a little bit away from McMahon because he was one who did make — or he or his office — made changes to the Hansard report.
E Helgeby: What was your impression of him as a speaker?
J Campbell: I suppose the impression was his high-pitched voice; not a good speaking voice but he wasn’t Robinson Crusoe in that respect. Arthur Calwell is the worst example of somebody who had a terrible speaking voice and which detracted markedly from his presentation. Arthur Calwell used to make wonderful, magnificent speeches, he was very well read, very well educated and made great speeches, and they read exceedingly well on paper, but as I say, his voice was terrible. So was McMahon’s; McMahon had that high-pitched voice, but he was a pretty reasonable speaker, trained as a lawyer and as an economist, and spoke quite well.
E Helgeby: Now we come to 1972.
J Campbell: Come to 1972 and in my estimation Whitlam is right up there with Menzies because — I’ve already referred to my introduction to the House of Reps chamber when he walked in the door the very night that I came, the day I arrived in Canberra — and it’s always seemed to me that Gough Whitlam had a special relationship with Hansard, partly because he had grown up, spent so much time here in Canberra, he had actually gone to school with a couple of people who were on our Hansard staff, his father had been a very senior Commonwealth public servant; Whitlam had a great respect in my opinion for the public servants and parliamentary officers, and of course, for the parliament itself. And he made — well, he was one of the clearest speakers we ever had in the parliament, always put his sentences together so well and so clearly, required very little editing, and then, once Hansard was produced he made very good use of Hansard; in my experience he probably made more use of Hansard than any other member or senator. He would get his daily Hansard, he would go through it and prepare a little index of his speeches or questions in that daily Hansard and of any other member’s speeches or questions that he thought he might need to refer to at some later time. And then — I think I’ve referred to the — oh I may not have in these interviews — referred to the indexes that we prepared; we prepared a speeches index for each member and senator, and it was not in the traditional librarian type indexing style, and our Hansard indexes were not available until after the end of each sessional period. So Gough Whitlam, through the sessional period, he would prepare an index for himself, his own index according to our Hansard style, and very soon after the end of the sessional period he would send his version of his index to us and we would then incorporate his suggested index entries into our prepared index for his speeches. And then he would use those indexes and he would use the Hansards in his campaigning, and my understanding that in the 1969 election he used all the Hansard references to his speeches and to Sir John Gorton’s speeches to great effect, remembering that that 1969 election was critical to his subsequent victory at the 1972 election.
So he was really a godsend for Hansard reporters because of his speaking and because of the respect he had and the use that he made of Hansard. But by the same token, as we all know, he had his faults, some people might say arrogance, petulance; the incident with Paul Hasluck is probably the worst example of un-parliamentary conduct by such a senior parliamentarian…
E Helgeby: Were you there when that happened?
J Campbell: No, I certainly don’t remember being there, but we all knew it happened and there were lots of things that we all knew about and became so well aware of that sometimes it’s difficult to remember whether you were actually there or whether — you know so much about it that you think you might have been there — but in fact you weren’t, but I don’t recall being there in the chamber when that glass of water incident happened. And I guess another example of his — ‘arrogance’ is too strong a word — ‘pomposity’ might be a more appropriate word, I don’t know, but I think it was at the end of 1973 — I might be wrong about that — but when he had arranged for Graham Freudenberg and other members of his staff to prepare a list of all — what he saw as — the achievements of his Whitlam Government, and this was a very extensive list, and towards — right towards the end of the sessional period he came into the House and he sought leave to have that document — which had a Latin title — many people will remember that I can’t recite it off the top of my head — he sought leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard, and the Opposition refused him leave, and of course, you’d have to only have only one member to refuse leave for a leave to be denied, and that’s what happened in that case. So he then proceeded to read the whole document into Hansard, and my recollection, and from reading the books, is that it took nearly two hours to read that document into Hansard.
So I certainly acknowledge and most other people acknowledge that he had his failings, but he really was very highly regarded by me and by most other Hansard reporters of that time.
E Helgeby: You mentioned when you spoke about Sir Robert Menzies, that when he came into the chamber I think the atmosphere seemed to change, it became more serious, more focused on Menzies; what sort of effect did it — you also mentioned that — you said that Whitlam was ‘right up there’ in terms of as an operator and as a parliamentarian; did Whitlam have the same effect on…?
J Campbell: I don’t think so, I don’t think so because Menzies had been prime minister since ’49, all through that time he’d been the national leader all of that time, whereas Whitlam was only the deputy leader through those earlier years in the 60s, and even he was a leader for only a relatively short time before he won the election in 1972. So no, he didn’t have the same effect as Menzies in my view.
E Helgeby: You also mentioned that he had — you thought the relationship between Whitlam and Hansard was quite different to that of team Hansard and any other prime minister; did he have actually personal dealings with staff or…?
J Campbell: Well I mentioned that there were two members on the staff who’d gone to school with him, and one of those was the main administrative person, the administrative officer —he wasn’t a reporter, he was an administrative officer — and they would’ve had personal contact from time to time. It wasn’t all that usual for members or senators to come to our office and deal face to face with us. There were some members who did that; there’s one quite prominent member who was not a very good speaker and who would — after he’d made his speech and got his greens — would himself come to the office and sit down next to one of our Hansard people and go through his speech and ask could he change this or would it be okay if he used that word instead of another word, and in effect go right through the speech, you know, sometimes kneeling down if it wasn’t going to take too long, but otherwise we’d have to provide a chair for him and he’d go through the speech. But he was exceptional; most of the others didn’t deal on a personal basis like that with us.
But on a personal basis, when I was PPR I can remember one occasion when I got a phone call from Gough Whitlam when he was in Paris as ambassador at UNESCO and — I don’t think I’m telling any secrets that — after — well, while Whitlam was a member, he made a practice of asking questions on notice which required lots of detailed information about all sorts of subjects in which he was interested, and after he left the parliament he arranged with one or two Labor members to put questions on the notice paper on his behalf, and then the answers would appear in Hansard and there would be the information that he wanted to keep and to correlate with the other information on the same subject that he’d been collecting over the years. And — a little bit of detail — but for questions without notice and questions on notice we were required to put a subject heading on those, and we tried to be consistent so that people could follow through a line of questioning, and as I say, I remember one occasion when I got a phone call from Paris and he just wanted to say hello and he said he’d received his daily Hansard for such and such a date, thank you very much, it’s always good to get the daily Hansard and keep up to date, but would you mind if I suggested a different heading on this particular answer to a question? So he obviously had previous questions on that subject and we had chosen to put a different subject heading on this question and he just would like to have the question headings consistent.
E Helgeby: And did you?
J Campbell: I think we probably did [laughs].
E Helgeby: Even though he wasn’t a member of parliament at this point?
E Helgeby: So did you have any — apart from that — did you have any personal dealings with Gough Whitlam?
J Campbell: Not that I can recall, no.
E Helgeby: And then there was Malcolm Fraser.
J Campbell: Virtually nothing that I can remember when we had dealings with Malcolm Fraser, he’s not a prime minister or even a member who would’ve come to the Hansard office frequently, if at all.
E Helgeby: How was he in parliament, as a speaker and I suppose as the prime minister?
J Campbell: Well again, a highly educated man and a good speaker, required very little editing, always clear, no real problems at all, I think he must have had pretty good staff, and again, I don’t recall that we had any great difficulty in having to reject any suggested corrections or alterations. I suppose the one little thing that stands out in my mind about Malcolm Fraser in relation to things to do with Hansard is that, unbelievably, on one occasion he wanted to refer to something as ‘grandiose’ and he’d pronounced it as ‘grandoise’. And of course, apart from it being a mispronunciation it presented quite serious problems when that was picked up, and other members started to chiack him about the mispronunciation; how were we going to show this mispronunciation in Hansard? But apart from that little thing that sticks in my mind we didn’t really have any difficulties with Malcolm Fraser.
To a large extent — apart from Gough Whitlam — I think the prime ministers had much more significant issues to deal with and to devote their attention than Hansard; important as it was, it was something that could be left basically to their staffs to look after, unless there was some problem arose and problems hardly ever arose.
E Helgeby: So I suppose — am I interpreting it as right that in a sense, from a Hansard reporter’s point of view and from your point of view, you were doing a job, and whatever was — that was what you did, and so the politics or the theatre, the theatrical aspects of parliament or anything like that, really didn’t come into it?
J Campbell: That’s right, we were concentrating on the words and always trying to get the best understanding we could possibly get of the speech and the subject matter, but recognising that — as a generalisation certainly, our level of education and — well general education — was quite a bit lower than most of the prime ministers in particular and many of the other members and senators, and with a very wide range of experience and education levels among senators and members it was impossible for us to have as good an understanding of the subject matter as the members and senators so we were very much reliant on their speeches and their applying their knowledge and experience to their speeches. And we were there to help them with some editorial skill in presenting a rational, verbatim report of their speeches, but really it was really their work that was being put into the Hansard.
E Helgeby: So amongst your colleagues and yourself, did you ever sort of — after a session or after — when during the period when you had time to sit down and talk — did you ever sort of talk about the politics of it all, or was that — were you mainly focused on the way to do a better on what you were actually doing?
J Campbell: I don’t recall any staff discussions about political issues really. I might well have been the one who had taken the closest interest in politics among all the staff I think; there might have been one or two who had taken a more direct interest in politics, but not really, and basically we were concentrating on doing the job of reporting the speeches, doing the editing work and getting the job done, and although I used to take a lot home with me, many of the others tried to separate their professional life from their home life and their social life, just to make sure that they did as good a job as they possibly could, but then leave it at work and not let it interfere with their family and social life.
E Helgeby: Got one prime minister left: Bob Hawke.
J Campbell: Hawke. Okay, so we’ve got ’83 to ’90. Again, highly educated, again, a larrikin, but not all that obvious in the parliament, and remember the major change in his whole lifestyle when he came into the parliament and certainly when he became prime minister where he became a teetotaller, became impeccably dressed — that’s impressive and I have a — well of most of them actually — but that just sticks in my mind a bit about Hawke and Keating; absolutely impeccably groomed and impeccably dressed, always. And in Hawke’s case that was at odds with his years in the trade union movement — certainly the larrikinism part and the drinking side of it were quite different. Highly educated, a good electioneering speaker, but nowhere near as good a speaker in the parliament as people such as Whitlam, inclined to be — what’s the word? — to engage in circumlocution, not concise; his language, his sentences were not concise, succinct sentences, inclined to ramble and repeat himself, so he required quite a bit of editing of his speeches.
Again, I didn’t have any personal contact with him, certainly I don’t recall his ever coming to the Hansard office for any reason, or even much contact with is staff, although I remember a girl who became one of his personal secretaries — not his principal, the woman who’d been with him for donkeys years — but a younger girl who went onto his staff. I had met her I remember years ago when she had worked for Ken Wriedt and that — I think I mentioned last interview that I went to Rabaul to report a Fisheries Council meeting and she went to Rabaul with Ken Wriedt for that meeting and we had — because he was the chairman of the meeting and she was one of his offsiders we had liaised with her, so we had a little bit to do with her at that meeting, and from time to time we used to see her around the building after that, and then she came onto Bob Hawke’s staff, and then I think anything that we had to do with Bob Hawke’s staff, which was very little, it might have been done through her. So not a lot related to Hawke’s time that I can remember, certainly no personal dealings with him.
E Helgeby: Okay, well shall we take a short break here now?
J Campbell: Have a break, that’d be…
E Helgeby: Okay.
J Campbell: Right.
Interview with John Campbell, part 8
E Helgeby: John over the years you were in parliament you must have witnessed some major events in our political history. For example, were you present at the joint sitting in 1974?
J Campbell: That was the most significant event I think in the whole of my time here because as we know, it is the only joint sitting as provided for in the Section 57 of the Constitution. There have been other joint sittings for other reasons but this is the only — strictly speaking — the only Section 57 joint sitting. I certainly must have been present; I don’t have all that many clear recollections of it, but that’s a time when I would’ve been a supervisor and I would’ve been one of the supervisors at the joint sitting. And of course it was a major event, and for all sorts of reasons; for the legislation that was passed at the joint sitting, for the fact that it was the first televised sitting of the parliament, among other reasons.
E Helgeby: How did it actually affect the way in which you — your work on the day?
J Campbell: In a couple of respects it was different from a normal sitting of the Senate or the House. Of course, all the senators and members were in the one House, they did not speak from allocated seats, all the speakers came up to lecterns — there were two lecterns, one on the right of the Speaker and one on the left of the Speaker, right up near the Speaker’s chair in the House of Reps chamber — the proceedings were televised, and overall the senators and members were exceedingly well behaved. There were very few interjections and there were even fewer recorded in the Hansard record. Most of the speeches were prepared and read so in some ways it was easier to report the proceedings, and of course we were able to have a full staff with all the available reporters on the one chamber in the House of Reps on the one job. So in some ways it was easier than a normal House of Reps — House or Senate sitting — and I think it was just a wonderful example of the way a parliament can work because, for instance, there were no rules existing before it was decided to have the joint sitting, the clerks of the Houses and some of the leaders of the major parties had to get together and agree on a set of rules or standing orders for this unprecedented event, and they were able to do that, they were able to agree on who should be the clerk and who should be the chairman of the meeting, they were able to agree on the order of business, they were able to agree on the numbers of speakers and the allocation of times for the various pieces of legislation, which of course is the way the parliament works for most of the time.
If it weren’t for the spirit of cooperation that exists for most of the time the parliament just would not work, and the joint sitting I see as a classic example of the way the Commonwealth Parliament or any other parliament can work, and for most of the time, should work. I acknowledge that at other times there will be contentious debates and that’s appropriate, but for much of the time there is a high degree of agreement between the sides and a very cooperative spirit.
E Helgeby: You mentioned that you had a full team of Hansard staff available; did that mean that you ran — had more than one reporter and a supervisor in the chamber at any one time?
J Campbell: No, no we wouldn’t have had more than one reporter and one supervisor, but we may well have, for instance, had say 12 reporters — I don’t recall that we used more than nine — we may well have used 12, we may well have used as many as were available which could have been up to about 16 or 18; I just don’t recall how we handled it.
E Helgeby: You also had television cameras and therefore very bright lights in the chamber; did that affect the way, you know, you had to work, on your working conditions at all?
J Campbell: Not really; it was probably warmer than normal but that might have been — the temperature might have been adjusted to allow for that — but that wasn’t any real problem, no.
E Helgeby: You also mentioned that all the speakers used a specially set of lecterns rather than speaking from the boxes.
J Campbell: That’s right.
E Helgeby: Why was that?
J Campbell: I don’t know why they decided to do that; perhaps it was because — it was so that the relevant ministers and other front benchers could sit at the table. It was interesting that at a couple of points there was some discussion as to from which lectern certain members or senators should speak. It was obvious that speakers in favour of the legislation, generally speaking, would speak from the lectern on the right hand side of the Speaker, but when it came to any member of a smaller party there was some question as to from which lectern that member or senator should speak. I’m trying to recall — I think it was Steele Hall, but that may be wrong — I think there was some question as to from which lectern Steele Hall should speak, but it worked very well. It did tend to make it more of a lecture type sitting than a certainly Senate debate style of sitting with more interjections. There were very — I’m just repeating myself — but there were very few interjections and even fewer actually recorded in Hansard.
E Helgeby: Were there any actual divisions on the day?
J Campbell: Yes there were divisions on just about each piece of legislation. I have the official weekly Hansard here in my hand and — the page — for instance, there is a division on the Commonwealth Electoral Act which starts on page 43, and in that division there were 96 ayes and 91 nos. 188, on the Senate Representation Of Territories Act there were divisions in the numbers there with 97 ayes and 90 nos and 96 ayes and 91 nos.
E Helgeby: That must have been an immense exercise of trying to get people to move from one side of the chamber to the other; given the number of people who were in it, how did they manage to move smoothly without disruption when the space is so small and there were nearly 190 people in there?
J Campbell: Well I don’t think there was much need to move from side to side because, generally speaking, members of the government party who were supporting the legislation sat on the right and the members of the opposition — senators and members — all sat on the left of the Speaker.
E Helgeby: So there was little crossing over the floor?
J Campbell: Well in terms of the expression that’s often used, crossing the floor — which actually means that somebody who would normally be expected to vote one way decides to vote the opposite way — there was none of that.
E Helgeby: So from your perspective and from Hansard’s perspective, the whole operation went very smoothly?
J Campbell: Exceedingly smoothly; it was an excellent example of how a parliament can work.
E Helgeby: What about other major events which took place during your time in parliament?
J Campbell: I guess the first one was the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies, but that didn’t — strictly didn’t — occur in the parliament, but it was a major event. Again, the 1967 referendum was a major event but of course the legislation to propose the referendums went through the parliament but the referendum was something outside the parliament; that was very significant. Harold Holt’s disappearance, again, outside the parliament, but a very significant turning point in Australia’s political history. Sir John Gorton’s resignation as leader of the Liberals and prime minister in March 1971; okay it occurred here in Parliament House, but strictly it wasn’t within the chambers, but that was another significant event. The next one I’ve got on a little list that I drew up was the double dissolution in 1974 and the subsequent joint sitting, followed later by the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in November 1975.
E Helgeby: Were you in the chamber for that? Either chamber, when the events unfolded after that, after the Governor-General had acted?
J Campbell: It’s another instance where there have been so many references and so much written about those events that each time you read those things you become more and more certain that you were actually there, and my recollection is that I was actually in the Senate chamber after lunch — and again, I have gone back to Hansard from time to time to try to reinforce my recollection — but the funny thing is that there is very little that finished up in the Hansard record about the events in the Senate that afternoon. But my clear recollection — or my — sorry, my recollection — supported by frequent references back to the Hansard of that afternoon — is that I was there when the Senate resumed after lunch, and the Senate had some business to finish off from before lunch; they had not finished the tail end of question time so they proceeded to deal with that unfinished business from before lunch, remembering that both Houses had started late that morning because it was Remembrance Day. And then when that business had been completed some words such as Ken Wriedt saying to Senator Withers, ‘What do we do next?’ and Withers responding with, ‘Bring on your bills,’ and Wriedt being most surprised, but recognising that those bills, the resumption of the debate on those appropriation bills, were sitting at the top of the notice paper and if they weren’t going to be brought on somebody on the government side had to move a motion to rearrange the order of business. So because those bills were sitting at the top of the notice paper and neither Ken Wriedt nor Doug McClelland took any action to rearrange the order, the clerk then called on those bills and they were put through the Senate without any discussion at all, and to the surprise of everybody, the appropriation bills had gone through and suddenly the word got around that at that point in the Senate chamber — not to the surprise of Senator Withers, but to the surprise of Ken Wriedt and Doug McClelland and everybody else on that side of the Senate — that the Whitlam Government had been dismissed.
E Helgeby: How did you find out if you were actually doing a turn? How did you find out?
J Campbell: Again, I don’t have a clear recollection but with my recollection of actually being in the chamber at that time, I think I probably heard Withers or somebody like that telling — the Labor Minister said, ‘Don’t you know that the government’s been sacked?’ or some words to that effect.
E Helgeby: Were these words recorded?
J Campbell: No.
E Helgeby: So these were simply conversation in the background which was not…?
J Campbell: Yeah.
E Helgeby: Yeah.
J Campbell: Yeah, and those words that I seem to remember such as Ken Wriedt saying, ‘What do we do next?’ that’s not something that would ever get anywhere near being recorded in Hansard. And because of the way the formal parts of the proceedings were recorded in Hansard, the actual words that were used to put the legislation through didn’t ever get into Hansard; words such as the clerk standing up and saying, ‘Order of the day number one: Appropriation Bill so and so, so and so, resumption of debate on the motion by Senator Wriedt that the bills be read a second time,’ or something like that, none of that appears in Hansard, that’s just the way of bringing on the next item of business, and in Hansard that just appears with the title of the bill as a heading, a full caps, bold subject heading, and the motion then actually appears underneath it: ‘Debate resumed on motion by Senator Wriedt that the bill has been now read a second time,’ or whatever the appropriate motion was. And then the next line would be, ‘Question resolved in the affirmative. Bills read a section time and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate,’ some words like that, a narrative line which describes the result of the proceedings without going word for word through the procedure.
E Helgeby: So when you were relieved from your turn and got back to your office, was there any talk about this or…?
J Campbell: Yes! Oh golly, everybody was talking, everybody was racing outside because crowds were already gathering outside the front of the building. The word had got around Canberra and everybody had started to gather. By this time it was nearly half past two and crowds were gathering and most of us went out the front of the building.
E Helgeby: So you did as well?
J Campbell: Yes.
E Helgeby: Where did you — so what happened then?
J Campbell: Well there was still another — meantime the House was still sitting — the Senate had adjourned, but the House of Reps was still sitting — so people who were working on the reps were still working away, and it wasn’t until — I’ve forgotten now, but somewhere about three o’clock that the sitting of the House was suspended and then everybody was out the front when Sir David Smith arrived to dissolve the — read the proclamation dissolving the parliament. And then Gough Whitlam came — or was there — when that proclamation was read and then he took the microphone and made his famous comments.
E Helgeby: Where were you actually in relation to that?
J Campbell: Somewhere down in the front there, I’m sure I was out the front there and heard that proclamation and heard Whitlam, but probably somewhere towards the Senate side of the front of the building.
E Helgeby: And what was your personal reaction to that? How did you feel about it?
J Campbell: Astonishment, astonishment. I could not understand what had happened, and I guess my personal reaction was, ‘This is an elected governor-general sacking the elected prime minister.’ Admittedly he didn’t have a majority in the Senate but there had been all those unusual circumstances which led — or meant that the government still did not have a majority in the Senate — and disbelief, astonishment that such a thing could have happened.
E Helgeby: So would you have considered yourself to be a Labor supporter or sympathiser at the time?
J Campbell: Well I always tried to be impartial in everything that I did, but I suppose because of my family background largely, I tended to — my politics such as they were would have been a little bit left of centre, whereas my family background was — my father had been a member of the Labor Party but I had never been, but he had not been heavily involved at all, but he’d been a working man all his life and had been a Labor supporter and a member of the Labor Party at one stage. So from my family background I tended to be a little bit left of centre.
E Helgeby: What happened to the Hansard reporters after the hearing Whitlam on the front steps? What did you do after that?
J Campbell: We would have just cleaned up everything for that sitting day and the daily Hansard for the previous day, cleared the decks as it were, and then gone home, because the dissolution of the parliament dissolved not only both Houses but all the committees, so apart from preparing the indexes for that sessional period and clearing any committee transcripts that hadn’t been completed, we wouldn’t have had any work to do from a short time after the11th of November.
E Helgeby: Any other events of this nature?
J Campbell: The next major event I’ve got in a little list here is the change of government when Bob Hawke came in in ’83 and then the move up to the new Parliament House. They were the most significant events.
E Helgeby: The change of government in 1983, the lead up to that before — while Malcolm Fraser was in his last days as prime minister and before he dissolved parliament?
J Campbell: Well of course the unusual thing is that — my understanding, from reading the books and so on — is that Malcolm Fraser decided that he would call an election for March it would have been, ’83, thinking that Bill Hayden would be his opponent at that next election, and it was on that very same day that election was called that the Labor Party in effect decided to change leaders, and so Malcolm Fraser went into the election thinking that he was going to be opposed by Bill Hayden and in fact he was opposed by Bob Hawke.
E Helgeby: Was parliament sitting at the time?
J Campbell: No because it happened right at the end of January, that’s my recollection, that it was late January or early February, and then the election was in March ’83 wasn’t it? Yeah.
E Helgeby: Did you have — you were obviously many years in the House; did you have much contact with parliamentarians?
J Campbell: Contact — my contact with members and senators was much closer in committees than in the Houses. Of course we didn’t ever speak to members and senators in either of the Houses except if I was the senior officer in the second Hansard chair in either chamber. Occasionally a member or senator would come and just have a word about something, ask a question, or sometimes hand over his or her copy of his typescript, either the greens or the pinks, instead of calling an attendant down to take them; some members made a practice of handing them over at the table. But apart from that we didn’t ever speak to — or very rarely did we speak — to members and senators. Occasionally there might be a little — very short — conversation with somebody at the — the leader of the opposition or somebody sitting in the chairs next to us, but nothing significant and not very often did that happen.
E Helgeby: I think you mentioned that when you were with committee, the committee work, there was more contact?
J Campbell: That’s more because we were travelling with the members on many occasions and we were spending — sometimes we were staying in the same hotels and spending quite a bit of time with them, so we did have much more contact with them when we were working on committees.
E Helgeby: Were there any that you had developed some kind of friendship or a bit more of a relationship with?
J Campbell: No, I didn’t really develop relationships with any members or senators in the Houses or on committees; the only very small relationships happened to be with Ian Sinclair because at one point Ian Sinclair and his family lived in Deakin and they attended the church to which our family went in Curtin, and their children came to the Sunday school there, so occasionally we would see the Sinclairs at church, and then of course we’d see Ian Sinclair in the — I would see — Ian Sinclair in the chamber, so we had a very small relationship there. And coincidentally, the other one was also a Country Party member and that was Ralph Hunt. Ralph Hunt was the member for Gwydia and he had a home in the town of Moree, right next door to my sister and brother in law and their family. So that established a connection there, and then Ralph Hunt’s son was in the same class at Canberra Grammar as our younger son, and they played cricket together. So occasionally we would see the Hunts at school functions, fetes and other — and parent teacher nights and things like that, and also at cricket matches. So we did get to know the Hunts and Ralph Hunt in particular, reasonably well, but I can’t recall any other members.
Even the fact that the Senator Bertie Milliner, who was one of the senators about whom there was a lot of discussion in relation to the dismissal because Senator Milliner died and was not replaced by a Labor senator, and my father’s family and the Milliner family had grown up together in Brisbane, but we hadn’t — and I had gone to school with one of Fred Milliner’s nephews. But that was never relationship, I never had any real social contact or anything like that with Senator Milliner, but that — I suppose that’s the only other social relationship with any member.
E Helgeby: Sorry, you’ve worked around and with many other parliamentarians over long periods of time, over many, many, many years, and yet was there some kind of distinction between the Hansard reporters and the parliamentarians so that they in a sense didn’t — it didn’t naturally become — get close or…?
J Campbell: Oh yes, very definitely; we were working for all the members and senators and that was just a professional relationship. There was very little social relationship apart from when we were away on committees, perhaps travelling with the committee, staying in the same hotels occasionally, and I think I referred last time to the end-of-session parties where some members would come along to the Hansard end-of-session party, and that went way back. I can remember here in our offices here on the House of Reps side that there was some end-of-session parties where members would come along, perhaps because our end-of-session parties started later than a lot of the others and therefore were still going after some of the others had finished, so the members were looking around for somewhere to continue, to keep going, and our Hansard party was a convenient one to come to. And then when we moved up onto the Senate side of the building Senator Walsh’s ministerial office was right next to ours, in fact it was straight opposite the offices where we had our technical offices, and we also had a small library in that area directly opposite Senator Walsh’s offices, and he was a great party-goer and would often come to the Hansard end-of-session parties with some of his colleagues.
E Helgeby: When you travelled with the committees you mentioned you might be staying at the same hotel; was there any socialisation between say the Hansard staff and the committee members themselves?
J Campbell: We’d have — if we were on a committee where we were travelling as a group, for instance I mentioned there were a couple of committees where I was a reporter and the committee had arranged for a defence or VIP aircraft to be used; we would travel as a group on that aircraft, stay in the same hotels, and we’d eat together and generally spend virtually the whole time together. But on the other hand, if we were working on a committee in one of the capital cities for instance, we would be staying at any hotel that we could book into that would be within our travelling allowance and it would be fairly unusual for any committee members to be staying in those hotels. It might be even in capital city in which some of the members lived, so they wouldn’t be staying in hotels, but even the members from places other than that capital city would almost invariably be staying in different hotels from us, and apart from the meeting itself we wouldn’t have much contact with them.
E Helgeby: So you still must — through even that level of contact — must have got to know something more about many of the many members of parliament simply by seeing them in action and closer than you would be maybe in the chambers; were there any that you particularly admired or respected, came to respect as individuals?
J Campbell: Yes, one that sticks in my mind is Kim Beazley Senior; he had been in the parliament of course for many years before I came in 1960 and I mentioned at one of these earlier sessions of these interviews that I had two extended trips on the House of Reps committee that was investigating Aboriginal voting rights, and Kim Beazley Senior was a member of that committee. So I spent a little bit of time quite early in my career on that committee going around with him and I couldn’t but admire the man, he was just a wonderful human being, his knowledge and interest in Aboriginal affairs was to be admired; again, he was a wonderful speaker, he was one of the best speakers — small ‘s’ I’m talking about of course — one of the best small ‘s’ speakers in the parliament in my time, not only in terms of delivery of the speech but his knowledge of the subject. Of course, sometimes he was referred to as the ‘student prince of the Labor Party’, particularly in his early years, and he was a front bencher for much of the time, a minister for education throughout the whole of the Whitlam Government if I’m not mistaken. So I had a lot of admiration for Kim Beazley senior in particular and although I didn’t have a lot to do with Kim Beazley junior I have a high regard for him [at all?]; I think he has followed in his father’s footsteps in many respects and was — I think he would have made an excellent prime minister, but it wasn’t to be.
Kim Beazley was one. There were a couple of others that I admired for their work ethic; Senator Reg Wright is one who comes to mind, he was a very frequent speaker in the Senate. He wasn’t always the easiest speaker to report because he had a very — well he was apt to get into circumlocution and although he was a distinguished lawyer he didn’t always express himself succinctly, but his attention to detail and the way in which he applied himself to the job of a senator was exemplary in my opinion. And of course, he was a senator who on occasions was willing to stand up for what he thought was right even if it wasn’t party policy, he was not unknown across the floor and vote against his party on many occasions, and although of course he was a senator for many, many years he didn’t become a minister until quite late in his career. He was somebody to be admired.
This is not easy to pick out examples, remembering that over a period of 30 years there would have been hundreds of senators and members. Billy Snedden, as Speaker, was certainly somebody to be admired. In my experience I would think that Billy Snedden was the best Speaker that the House had, he was — whereas many presiding officers were not inclined to explain decisions that they made, for instance, a senator might take a point of order and most of the presiding officers would merely say, ‘There’s no point of order,’ and that was the end of it, but Billy Snedden would explain why he decided that there was no point of order or why he made a decision. Plus the fact that he — especially in his time as Speaker of the House — was a real parliament man; he on occasions did propose that Australia follow the British example of having a truly independent Speaker, and I think in a similar vein, he deserves quite a bit of the credit for the legislation that resulted in special, or separate, appropriation bills for the parliament, whereas previously the money to run the parliament had just been included in the general appropriation bills. In recent years there have been separate appropriation bills for the money to provide for the running of the parliament, and you know, Billy Snedden had a lot to do with that, which I think was a good initiative.
E Helgeby: When exactly was Snedden a Speaker?
J Campbell: When the Fraser Government came in in ’75. My recollection is that Billy Snedden was a Speaker there for — I hope I’m not wrong about this — but for most of the term of the Fraser Government, or the earlier part, yeah that sounds right. So as Speaker he was certainly admirable in my opinion.
E Helgeby: You’ve already mentioned that you obviously had great admiration and respect for Sir Robert Menzies.
J Campbell: Yes, yes, yes although in my time he was, well, he was in the twilight years of his career. Another senator is Sir John Carrick; he was another real gentleman, Sir John Carrick. He was Liberal through and through, conservative in many ways, but sometimes I’ve been asked to try to say what was the best speech I ever heard in parliament, and that has always been difficult but when I’ve really been pushed I’ve usually come down to the point of saying that a speech made by Sir John Carrick very soon after he came into the Senate — and it might have even been his maiden speech in the Senate, I’m not absolutely certain of that — but it was a speech on a death penalty abolition bill, and in the light of Sir John Carrick’s background — remembering that he’d spent most of the Second World War in Changi — after the Second World War he’d been the director — state director the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party for many years, had been a mentor for many successful Liberal politicians, and he made a speech on the death penalty abolition bill setting out in great detail and with great clarity his reasons for supporting that bill and for the abolition of the death penalty, and I thought that was pretty amazing.
Of course there have been some characters as well; I don’t put them in the same category as some of these other people that I’ve tried to talk about, but one character was Leslie Haylen who was a left-winger in the Labor Party, a journalist and a very difficult member to report because he used to speak very quickly and he used lots of literary allusions and quite elegant language. All in all he was regarded as one of the more difficult speakers to report, and one of the things for which he is most remembered — and again I don’t think I was actually in the chamber when this happened — was that one night — I think it was in 1963 — straight after dinner Billy Wentworth was speaking and Wentworth sat on the end of the back row on the government side and he was accusing the Labor Party of being, to use his phrase, ‘Infected with communism,’ and he was hammering this point on and on, and he had been speaking — my recollection is he had been speaking before dinner and he resumed his speech after dinner, and shortly after that a person came through the door and stood next to Wentworth and he had a white coat and a stethoscope around his neck, and he said words to the effect, ‘Sir the car is waiting for you,’ and the House just dissolved into absolute bedlam! And of course it was Haylen, he had borrowed a coat from one of the waiters in the dining room and had found a stethoscope from one of the doctors in the House and had come in to take the mickey out of Billy Wentworth, and that’s one of the best practical jokes that everybody remembers in the House.
So they were a couple of characters. Wentworth of course was a real character; an eccentric, somebody with very progressive and really ahead of his time in many, many respects, he was a great advocate for the standardisation of the rail gauges from way back, he was an environmentalist, he was very interested and did a lot of wonderful work on Aboriginal affairs before it became a real national issue. On the other hand he was an ardent anti-communist and very strongly right-wing in that respect and took every opportunity he possibly could find to attack the Labor Party for his belief that the — to use his phrase — that the Labor Party ‘was infected with communism’. And of course he was another like Reg Wright, who was in the parliament for many, many years before he became a minister. So those were a couple of characters that I just had a little made about.
Jim Killen was another character who made some quite excellent speeches; he trained as a lawyer after he came into the parliament and practiced as a lawyer. He was a very entertaining speaker — some people might say that often there wasn’t a great lot of substance in his speeches — but he again was another person who was in the parliament for a quite long time before he became a minister, and he had a very good personal relationship with Gough Whitlam. They often exchanged notes in the chamber and it’s said that many of the notes were written in Latin, and Killen was an inveterate practical joker and got himself into bother with his colleagues on many occasions for his practical jokes. I suppose the sorts of things that he used to do was he would talk to Freddy Daly and would have a bit of a chat about something — and this story’s been written up in the books as well — on one occasion there was a ministerial vacancy and Daly and Killen were talking about who might get this vacancy, and Killen evidently suggested three or four names and Daly said to him, ‘Well why don’t you get a message to them to call around and be ready at Malcolm Fraser’s office when he comes back from dinner?’ And so lo and behold, three or four members turned up sitting outside the door and when Malcolm Fraser came back from dinner he said, ‘What are you fellas doing here?’ and they said, ‘Oh we’ve been told that you want to see us, perhaps about the vacancy,’ and he said, ‘Get Killen!’ [laughs]. So Killen and Daly duly went around to see Malcolm Fraser and Freddy Daly saw that there was a camera sitting on its table and to Freddy Daly said, ‘What’s that?’ and Malcolm Fraser said, ‘Oh that’s my camera,’ and he said, ‘Well why don’t you take a photo of us?’ and then he did! [laughs]. That’s written up in the books, I think it’s written up by Killen in one of his books.
And the other story about Killen — while I’m thinking of it, and we’ll have to break off — is that, the story goes that Eddie Ward who was another wonderful character called the ‘Firebrand of East Sydney’, made wonderful speeches; everybody thought he was difficult to report but he wasn’t, he was quite easy to report, but Eddie Ward was sitting one day during the proceedings were on a condolence motion and Eddie Ward’s alleged to have to said to [INAUDIBLE], ‘Oh, all I want to want to say when I go is — all I want people to say is, “He was loved by all”’. And the next part of the story is that when Eddie Ward died, Menzies made a really appropriate and very generous condolence speech about Eddie Ward, despite the fact that they’d been bitter political enemies for donkey’s years. And after this speech when Menzies went outside the chamber Killen happened to run into him and he said to Menzies, ‘Bob, how can you get up there and make a speech like that about Eddie Ward after all the years of bitterness and so on that has gone on?’ and Menzies looked at Killen and he said words to the effect of, ‘My boy, there’s,’ — oh no, what are these words? — I think we might stop because I’ve forgotten the key words of that little story and I’ll come back to it another time and we’ll chop that off the tape and I’ll come back to it. Sorry about that.
E Helgeby: That’s all right. All right, we’ll stop for today and then come back to it — the rest of it — on another occasion.
Interview with John Campbell, part 9
E Helgeby: This is the 22nd of April and I’m continuing my interview with John Campbell. John last time we were talking about parliamentarians that you had some dealings with, and particularly those you admired or respected as individuals and as well as parliamentary operators, and you were about to tell us a story about James Killen.
J Campbell: Yes I think I said that Killen was one of the better orators in the House, he was a very amusing speaker and he did speak very well. Some people said that sometimes there wasn’t a lot of substance in some of his speeches but generally he was one of the better speakers, and I was trying to relate a little story about Killen when we were — towards the end of our last session; I could not recall the key phrase in the punch line of that story but I’ve found the story in one of Killen’s little books so I might just go back to that. It related to his relations with Sir Robert Menzies and it involved Eddie Ward who was a long term opponent of Menzies politically. There was a story that during a condolence motion on an earlier occasion Eddie Ward had turned to Arthur Calwell and said words to the effect, ‘Arthur, when it comes to the time for people to talk about me all I want them to say is, “He was loved by all.”’ And then when Eddie Ward died Sir Robert Menzies made a quite generous speech on a condolence motion on the death of Eddie Ward, and afterwards Jim Killen ran into Sir Robert Menzies in the lobby and said words to the effect, ‘Prime Minister, how do you manage to make a speech such as the one you’ve just made about Eddie Ward when you’ve been political enemies for so many years?’ and Menzies, according to Killen, turned his head slightly and said, ‘Killen, every human being in this world has some redeeming features. I suspect that if we worked at it long enough we’d find one even in you.’ [laughs] And obviously that was an instance where Killen was able to tell a story against himself to some extent, and I find it a good little story.
I was also talking about some members with whom I had a closer association than I did with members such as Sir Robert Menzies or Jim Killen. One I mentioned was Ian Sinclair and I think I made a small error in saying that when I had some little social contact outside the parliament with Ian Sinclair’s family and him, they were living in the suburb of Deakin. My further recollection is that actually at that stage they were living in the adjacent suburb of Yarralumla and the family was coming to the church that we attended during that time when they were living there.
Another member I didn’t mention last time was Manfred Cross; he was the member for the electorate of Brisbane for many years, in fact his time in the House of Reps coincided almost exactly with my time here in Old Parliament House, from the early 1960s until the late 1980s. There was a short period probably of three years when he was out of the parliament, but I had a connection with his family in Brisbane and he being the member for Brisbane, that was the electorate which covered the area in which I had grown up; our home was in that electorate of Brisbane I think for all of that period. So — but mainly because of that connection with his family in Brisbane from time to time we would just say hello to each other and have a little conversation, but nothing all that extensive or all that deep, but it was just a — he would acknowledge that relationship that I and his family had had in Brisbane.
Apart from those I’ve mentioned I didn’t have close relationships with members. Just to reiterate the point that in the chambers we didn’t have a lot to do with the members, but it was when we were away working on committees that we associated much more with them and had more conversation, perhaps over the meal table or something like that, particularly when we were staying in the same hotels.
E Helgeby: Any events that stand out for you in relation to following up on the same thing, talking, conversations, communication, dealing with parliamentarians on those trips around? Any events that stand out?
J Campbell: No, I don’t recall any special occasions, no.
E Helgeby: Well you have spoken about parliamentarians that you respected and you had positive thoughts about; were there any on the other side of the coin, some that you did not respect as either individuals or as political operators?
J Campbell: I’d prefer not to talk about that side of things. Obviously the parliament being broad cross section of the community there were all sorts of characters. Occasionally members might not behave themselves as well as they should have and some of those incidents have been recorded either in newspapers or books even, but I’d prefer not to go into any of that side of it.
E Helgeby: Did you ever have to keep information that you got through your work and keep it secret?
J Campbell: Frequently because in the parliamentary sphere we would often report proceedings of parliamentary committees that were held in camera and obviously those proceedings were not public so we would not divulge any information that we gained in the course of those proceedings, and let me just make the point again that — I hope I’ve made this point before when we were talking about the way Hansard is produced and what gets into Hansard and what doesn’t — many people think that a parliamentary reporter performs the job almost automatically and doesn’t really try to understand what is being said and what that reporter is reporting. But to be able to do the job well and even just to transcribe your shorthand notes you need to understand as much as you possibly can about the subject to be able to understand the context, because transcribing, shorthand, can involve making the choice between a couple of alternatives or a number of options, and often knowing the context and understanding a little of the subject matter will help you to transcribe your shorthand notes correctly. So the context was always significant. Now I’ve lost track of the actual question you were…
E Helgeby: It was related to secret — or information you were required to keep secret.
J Campbell: That’s right, I’m sorry about that. So obviously we tried to understand and remember the things that we were reporting and if it was a parliamentary committee that was meeting in camera that was something we had to keep to ourselves and certainly not divulge publicly. And then there were some of the other bodies or organisations whose proceedings we reported which were completely confidential and I think I mentioned some of those at previous sessions; meetings of the Premiers Conference that were held in private, some international conferences that were very much private and in the case of some of them, highly significant from a national security and defence stand point. So there were many, many occasions when pieces of information or knowledge about some subject came into our possession and although I don’t recall ever having been sworn to secrecy under the Crimes Act, we always understood that that was our responsibility to maintain the secrecy of those proceedings.
E Helgeby: So you think Hansard staff were not required to sign any — you know, give any formal undertakings in this respect during your time there?
J Campbell: I don’t recall having done that myself or when I was in administrative positions requiring members of the staff to do those things. The only thing in that connection is that for certain jobs we were required to have higher security clearances than the normal ASIO clearance for appointment to the public service or the parliamentary service.
E Helgeby: Since you had to keep quite a lot of information secret at times or keep it under wraps, did anybody try to get the information from you? Try to let you — let them in on what was going on at any time?
J Campbell: No, I don’t recall any instance like that. I would think the only people who might be interested in trying to do that might be press, people, journalists, but they understood the procedures and our responsibilities and I can’t recall any occasion when I or any member of staff was approached in that way, certainly no such approach was ever brought to my attention.
E Helgeby: So can you recall whether there were any instances during your time at all when issues about confidentiality came up amongst Hansard staff?
J Campbell: No, I can’t recall any such instance.
E Helgeby: During your time you worked in the chambers there were certainly — the records indicate there were quite a number of disturbing incidents happening, particularly during those post maybe the 70s; can you recall any such episodes while you were in the chamber at any time?
J Campbell: Again, I can’t recall that I was present when those sorts of things happened but I have recollections of a couple of them and as I’ve said before, my recollection might be reinforced by having read about them rather than by my being present at time. From the gallery the one that sticks in my mind and in the minds of a lot of other people was the occasion when the journalist Alan Ramsey called out, ‘Liar!’ when Sir John Gorton was making a speech. From time to time there were small demonstrations in the galleries and people were escorted out of the gallery. There was an occasion when the daughter of a member — I forget now whether he was a member at the time or he was a former member at that time — this woman threw an egg or maybe more than one egg from the gallery down onto the floor of the chamber.
E Helgeby: What happened then? That must have resulted in some uproar?
J Campbell: A little, but really the thing that happened was that she was escorted from the gallery. I seem to recall that there were occasions when people tried to tie themselves or chain themselves to the gallery to prevent their being escorted from the gallery but I don’t recall any specific occasion when that happened. Within the chamber I suppose the most unusual event — and I don’t recall now whether I mentioned this in one of the earlier sessions — was when one night — or very early in the morning actually, when a member was suspended from the House for persistent interjecting and failing to obey rulings of the chair. It got to the point where the Speaker told the Serjeant-at-arms to assist to — sorry, to escort — the member from the chamber; almost invariably it didn’t get to that situation because any member who was in that situation would realise that he or she should leave the chamber and not put the sergeant-at-arms in a position where he or she had to physically take the member out of the chamber. But on this occasion the member decided to stay in his seat and the other — or some other members of his party — gathered around him so that the Serjeant-at-arms could not get to him. And that situation persisted for a minute or two I suppose, and my recollection is that the Speaker then decided to suspend the sitting until order could be restored, and the member realised that he’d been suspended and that it was his duty to leave the chamber and not return to the chamber when the sitting resumed.
E Helgeby: Can you recall who the member was?
J Campbell: [laughs] Yes, in fact it was Gordon Bryant, and I think I might have mentioned — I’ve been talking to other people in the last few weeks about these sorts of things and I can’t remember whether I mentioned them here or in the other context. I might have mentioned that Gordon Bryant was a member who was a little more difficult than most other members to report because of the speed with which he spoke, but he was a passionate member with passionate views on several key issues and expressed himself very passionately and vehemently, and sometimes at great speed which made him a difficult person to report. But on the other hand he was a very nice fellow, and I had a little bit to do with him on committees related to Aboriginal issues which was one of his — one of the issues on which he felt most passionately. My recollection is that it was Gordon Bryant who was involved in that incident.
E Helgeby: During the 70s I understand there were reviews of security procedures which affected both the House and the chambers in particular, was Hansard at all involved in any of these discussions as far as you know?
J Campbell: No, not to my knowledge. Security was a matter that came under the jurisdiction of the respective Houses, largely, according to my understanding, through the offices of the sergeant-at-arms and the Usher of the Black Rod respectively. The two Houses jealousy regarded their rights and responsibilities for the security of their members or senators, and we on Hansard didn’t really come into the issue in that way. It must have been around about this time or perhaps just a little after, that the incident at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney occurred, and up until that time there were very few security issues here in Parliament House. There weren’t any passes or special entry requirements, it was just a matter of coming through any of the doors into the office or into virtually any other part of the building. It was only after the — sometime after the Hilton Hotel bombing that special security arrangements were made with the pass system and scanners and entry through the lower level of the front entrance rather than up the main steps. But as far as I know the Hansard staff didn’t have any input into the institution of those security measures.
E Helgeby: You mentioned the Hilton episode; of course, some years earlier in 1966 someone took a, fired a, shot at Harold Holt’s offices, then prime minister, one night, an episode which only really became very public when Wallace Brown produced his memoirs and mentions this then. Were you aware of that at the time? That there had been, effectively, an attempt on Harold Holt’s life?
J Campbell: No, I’d never heard anything about that until I read it in Wally Brown’s little book. As far as I know that was never public knowledge, not even known among occupants of the building. The only other major incident in Australia’s political life — or sorry, not the only one, but the only one in around about my time — was the attempt on the life of Arthur Calwell in Sydney; it must have been in 1966 I think.
E Helgeby: Yes it was just a few weeks before the event happened here in Canberra with Harold Holt, in about July of 1966.
J Campbell: 1966. That of course happened in Sydney outside the parliament, but even after that incident, as far as I’m aware there was no more formal security system instituted here at Parliament House.
E Helgeby: So did you after that time have to wear security passes or anything like that to get in and out of the building?
J Campbell: After the Hilton Hotel bombing we did, yes.
E Helgeby: And before then it a matter of simply walking in and — into your offices?
J Campbell: Yes, yes, we could walk around the corridors and really to any part of the building without hindrance and without any badges or anything, apart from the fact that because the number of people working in the building was so small many of the attendants would know most, if not all, of the occupants of the building, so it was relatively easy to manage the security side of the building.
E Helgeby: During your time here, were there any what you might call ‘funny’ incidents that you remember?
J Campbell: I think I’ve mentioned the incident occurring — the incident involving Les Haylen and Billy Wentworth; that was probably the best example of what you might call ‘practical jokes’. Just off the top of my head I don’t recall any really hilarious or — okay, one was the night — and again, I don’t recall being in the chamber when this happened — the night when somebody — and everybody believes that it was one of the members — fairly late at night, came into the House dressed in a chicken suit. That was quite hilarious, and there was always a little bit of doubt as to who was the member but I think eventually it was fairly well accepted that it was a certain Tasmanian member who was dressed in the chicken suit.
E Helgeby: Who exactly was it?
J Campbell: Well everybody seems to agree that it was Bruce Goodluck.
E Helgeby: Was there any reason for why he did this or was it just to play a practical joke?
J Campbell: I think so; my recollection is that there’d been a committee meeting which had been going on for well into the evening, I don’t recall the subject matter of the committee meeting, whether it had anything to do with primary industry or chickens or eggs or anything like that, but he just, somehow or other, got access to this chicken suit and decided that he’d cause a little bit of consternation by coming into the chamber dressed in it.
Another incident was the occasion — again, this time not in a chamber but in the Members’ Dining Room when there was a party to celebrate some significant party anniversary — and one of the members — and you keep asking me the name of these members so I’ll name this fellow — it was Donald Cameron who was the member for Moreton for many years; there were several Donald Camerons in the parliament, and this was the Liberal member for the Southern Brisbane electorate at that stage, of Moreton, and he had something to do with the organisation of this celebratory dinner in the Members’ Dining Room and he arranged for a large birthday cake to be provided, and in the course of the party, so the story goes, a young lady appeared out of the birthday cake, and he got the credit for that anyway. So that was a funny story from in the members’ dining room, not in the chamber. As I go a bit further I might suddenly think of other incidents, but those are two or three that come to mind.
E Helgeby: When you look back on your years in Old Parliament House, what would you regard as your fondest memory of this building?
J Campbell: Well one of the fondest memories was the incident that I talked about right at the very beginning when on the Thursday before I actually started work here on the Monday, I was sitting in the little gallery in the back of the House of Reps when Gough Whitlam walked through the door and in effect, acknowledged me as the new reporter who had just come from Brisbane, and I thought that was pretty special because later I developed a great respect for Whitlam as a parliamentarian, as a speaker and his association with Hansard and the use he made of the Hansard itself, which I think I’ve gone into in a little more detail. That’s one significant memory.
And then of course the night of the last sitting here in Old Parliament House was significant; it had been the home of the Australian Parliament for 61 years. I had been on the Hansard staff here for 28 of those 61 years, almost half, so leaving this building was a very significant occasion. From 1972 to ’78 we had been in quite reasonable accommodation, especially compared with some other people in the building, so perhaps the move to the new building wasn’t quite as significant for us as it was for some other people, but moving out of this building was a cause for some regret. On the other hand, we realised that we were moving into a truly magnificent new building. We weren’t successful in getting all the accommodation that we wanted in the new building but we had been successful in getting one of the prime positions in the building; we had always stressed that because of the system we were using at that time and envisaged using for a reasonable time into the future it was desirable that our offices be as close as possible to the two chambers, and we finished up being very close to the Senate chamber and probably as close as it was possible to get us to the House of Reps chamber.
So moving into, as I say, into a wonderful new building in which the workmanship was just great, a really, really majestic building, was a significant occasion. We must have done that the end of June, beginning of July 1988 after the last sitting here in the Old Parliament House which was on the sitting day of the 2nd of June, and it spilled over onto the early morning of the 3rd of June if I remember correctly.
E Helgeby: How did you feel about actually leaving this building itself? What was that…?
J Campbell: Well, we were moving into quite good accommodation. Just from a personal point of view, I had a quite good office in this building; in fact I’ll tell you a little story about that before I go onto the rest of this answer. It was the practice in recent years for both the Senate and the House of Reps to conduct orientation courses for new senators and members, and as the head of the Hansard staff I was invited to speak to the new senators and members about things to do with Hansard, to explain our system and their entitlements and all sorts of things like that. And on one occasion, which was whenever the election was between ’88 and ’90 — I’ve forgotten exactly when that election was — but after — sorry, I’m wrong — this occurred when we were still here in the Old Parliament House, and as I say, I had a quite good office in the south west wing there where we were, and in the course of that orientation program I had said to the members and senators, ‘My office is open if you wish to come and talk to me at any time about Hansard matters, I’m only too willing for you to do that and to talk to you,’ and that offer was rarely availed of, but on one occasion it was — and again I’ll mention the name of the member — it was Julian Beale, of course the son of a very distinguished former member of the House, Julian Beale had been very successful as a businessman and had developed a very successful company and was used to all the benefits and privileges that go with being the head of a very successful company, and he’d been elected to the House of Reps and he’d been allocated an office in the bowels of the earth which he described as a ‘broom cupboard’. And he came up to the office and had a look around and came to my office with his private secretary and he came over and just had a look out the window and had a little look around the office and he said, ‘How long do you have to be here before you get an office like this?’ [laughs]. So that was perhaps an indication of the accommodation that we had and that I in particular had, which was quite comfortable.
But by the same token, in the new Parliament House I had an absolutely magnificent office. As the head of one of the parliamentary departments it was decided that I was entitled to an office very similar to a member or a senator, so I had beautiful furniture similar to a member or a senator, I had an ensuite, I had attractive windows overlooking one of the courtyards, and it really was absolutely first class accommodation. I’m not suggesting that all of the staff had accommodation up to that standard by any means, but generally we were pretty well accommodated in the new building so we were looking forward in many ways to moving up to the new building, and because it was such an important building and obviously built as part of the Bicentenary celebrations we were moving into one of the world’s great buildings, so it was a privilege to work there.
E Helgeby: So if I understand you correctly, there were — you had no real regrets about leaving this building and moving up the hill?
J Campbell: The only regret was the proximity of people in this building compared with the new building. Because of the size of the new building and the facilities that were available to the members and senators in particular, there was nowhere near the same level of contact between members and senators and between — members and senators on the one hand and staff on the other, nowhere near the same level as there had been in this building where you would often see members and senators and say good day to them, and up in the new building that was quite rare. If you don’t mind my going on about this because it’s my mind at the moment, before the new building was chosen, before the plan for the new building was chosen, of course there was the new Parliament House committee, and at one point the assessors of the design competition had chosen five finalists, and when they got to that point they very kindly suggested that representatives of the parliamentary departments come and consider these five final designs from the point of view of functionality; how these designs would work in practice, and I was our department’s representative in doing that. So we spent some time looking at the five final entries and I’m pretty sure we were unanimous in choosing the design that ultimately was selected, which — because at that stage that process was being kept under wraps and names of architects were not made public or anything that — there were, I suppose you’d call them ‘code words’ for the various designs, and the successful design, that I recall, went under the name of ‘Boomerangs’, and obviously because of the shape of the large curved walls in that design. And my recollection is that there was unanimity, if not almost — there was almost unanimity — if not unanimity — on the choice of that Boomerangs design which was the final fine choice.
But I read that to say that new Parliament House did not work out as well from a functional point of view as people had hoped, largely because of the facilities that were provided for everybody in the building so that members and senators for instance had everything they wanted in their own suites, didn’t have to go to the dining room or the bars or other places as often as they used to here in this building so they didn’t see each other as often outside the chambers, and the large distances between one part of the building and another didn’t lead to a high degree of functionality. Another example of that is that on the House of Representatives side there was the non-Members’ Bar, and in Old Parliament House some of the best patrons of the non-Members’ Bar were the journalists, and in the new Parliament House the press gallery rooms are way over on the other side of the building up on the top floor on the Senate side, so it was a real expedition for journalists for instance to get from there over to the non-Members’ Bar. The result was that it didn’t get anywhere near as much use as was expected and eventually it was closed down, and has not been used as a bar for most of the 20 years for which that building has been operating. So there were a couple of negative factors in the new building but overwhelming there were positive factors in working in that building.
E Helgeby: Did that — what you describe as lack of functionality affect the way Hansard worked in any way?
J Campbell: Not really, apart from the fact that we had to walk a long way from our offices to the House of Reps chamber, and that really was a waste of time. It didn’t affect the operation of Hansard in any material way, we were able to go on in much the same way. Just as an example, the tube system to the Government Printing Office was extended and operated from the foyer of the Hansard quarters in the new Parliament House and in much the same way as it always had. So apart from losing some time in walking between the Hansard offices and the House of Reps chamber there wasn’t a great — and of course the fact that attendance, when they were required to deliver documents around the building, spent more time doing that than they had previously in this much small building.
E Helgeby: At the time when you moved up did any other technology that you worked with change at all?
J Campbell: I mentioned that in 1988 we were still unable to computerise the production of the Hansard of the Houses, and one area in which we were not successful in relation to the new building was in trying to get the Tape Transcription Centre incorporated in the new building. So the Tape Transcription Centre continued to operate within the Government Printing Office and its operations had been computerised for several years so it continued in much the same way, and by and large the Houses, Hansard for the Houses, continued much the same way during my time there, because I was there for only — just under two years.
E Helgeby: Taking you back just to Old Parliament House again, you mentioned what were you thought — mentioned as your fondest memories; what were your worst memories of working in this building?
J Campbell: The worst memories would have been the unconscionable hours of sitting and the effect that had on family and social life. There were several attempts to make the sitting hours more staff-and-family-friendly but often exceptions had to be made to changes in the hours of sitting because the government just decided that it wanted to get legislation passed before the end of the sessional period in particular, so it was not unusual for the Houses, particularly the Reps, to sit until all hours of the morning and sometimes all through the night, or for the Senate to schedule additional sitting days at the end of sessional periods which sometimes had an effect on people’s plans for Christmas in particular, if the sittings extended late into December. And so the staff, particularly the Hansard staff’s family arrangements were always likely to be disrupted and without notice, and it was not unusual to work very, very late into the early hours of the morning, sometimes going home the beginning of the next day, just having a little bit of breakfast and a shower and coming back to continue working; that happened every now and again.
So the difficulties that the extended hours posed for family and personal arrangements were the main downside of working on Hansard, but I think they were mentioned earlier, that on the other hand there were some compensations in terms of not having to work when most other people were working so you were able to get things done very easily in terms of shopping and paying bills and those sorts of things when other people weren’t doing it, and being able to play sport at times when other people weren’t around, and that made it very comfortable to play a game of golf for instance. So there were those compensations, but the unusual and extended hours were a cause of great irritation personally and they were one of the main sources of tension and agitation on the part of members of the staff.
E Helgeby: Can you recall roughly how long the longest sitting you were involved in lasted?
J Campbell: I don’t recall exactly how long the longest one would have lasted, but I just had a little note from something I read in one of the books recently, that looks like in1971 for instance, at the end of the Autumn or sometime in the Autumn sitting in 1971, between the 4th of May and the 6th of May there were 50 hours of sitting and then the Senate sat for eight additional days after the Senate rose. That’s just one example that I picked up in my reading of — and there were examples where a decision was made to suspend the use of reporters in the House and to tape record the remainder of the sitting to allow the reporters to have some break if the period was extending into a third long day, and that was able to be done after we got quite sophisticate tape recording arrangements, high quality tape recordings which enabled us to prepare the Hansard in that way, from tapes.
E Helgeby: Did you prepare them or did the type transcription people do it?
J Campbell: No, the tapes would have been transcribed by the people at the Tape Transcription Centre and then the chamber reporters and supervisors would then have done the editing of those tape transcripts.
E Helgeby: How did they manage to keep a track of the interjections and voices, I mean voices, it would be difficult to interpret who exactly was saying what; what sort of back up material or information did you have to help people get those?
J Campbell: My recollection is that some of the senior officers stayed on and stayed in the chamber and kept what we call a log of who was speaking and the interjectors and a note of the interjections that would be required to be included in the Hansard, and that was done by several of the senior officers staying on and taking turns of probably half an hour or an hour at a time in the chamber.
E Helgeby: So overall, if you think back to the move up there, there was a lot of — was there enthusiasm amongst your colleagues and the staff for moving up? Or were there many that — was the feeling that perhaps they were leaving something important behind in this building?
J Campbell: I would say that the overall feeling was one of anticipation and excitement in moving into such an important building, but a little bit of regret at moving away from this historic building, but I guess even then we had in the back of our minds the fact that this Old Parliament House had always been intended to be only a temporary or provisional building and that one day the move would be made to the what was always described as the ‘new and permanent Parliament House’.
E Helgeby: Old Parliament House has a number of photos of you in your office on one of the last days here, identified as ‘OPH last moments, 364 and 367’. When you see these again today what sort of reflections do you make?
J Campbell: Well these two photos that I have now, 364 and 367, were taken in the room up in the south west wing that I’ve just been referring to, that Julian Beale came to, and looking at these photographs the things that it brings to mind are our use of the Macquarie Dictionary, for instance there it is, sitting on the very prominent position on the desk. When the Macquarie Dictionary was being prepared and was first published we had quite a bit to do with it — sorry, perhaps not quite at the time of its publication but shortly after — because the Macquarie Dictionary…
Interview with John Campbell, part 10
J Campbell: People had what was called a Style Council, they got together various people who were interested in dictionaries and use of the English language to discuss current trends and the use of the dictionary and things like that, and I actually attended a couple of meetings of the Style Council, and not very long after its publication we in Hansard decided to adopt it as our standard reference dictionary, whereas previously we had used Oxford or Chambers as our standard dictionary. And so we had an association with the Macquarie Dictionary and I suppose to some extent it was a rather circular process that — Macquarie Dictionary was always interested in the use of words and whether words coming into common usage justified their inclusion in the dictionary, so at a certain stage the Macquarie Dictionary people asked us to provide computer tapes of large slabs of Hansard from which they could get some indication of new words that were coming into use. And of course we were using the Macquarie Dictionary as our reference dictionary, so as I say, it was to some extent a circular process. We found it a very useful dictionary because it was a little bit different from most standard dictionaries in that it had a lot of proper nouns in it as well as common nouns, so that was very useful.
Of course, in this photograph I can see lots of Hansards, bound volumes, weekly Hansards and quite a lot of daily Hansards, and it just brings to mind that comment that I made in one of the earlier sessions, that I spent a lot of time, not only in the office but outside at home reading through the daily Hansards to pick up any errors the printer or we might have made, so they took a pretty prominent place in my office and also at home. I did a lot of work on the daily Hansards.
Okay, another thing that I pick up from these photographs is that I am, in these photographs, I am wearing the tie of what was known as the Commonwealth Hansard Editors Association. Now that was a body established only in 1984. From the 1970s there had been annual meetings of the heads of the Hansard staffs of the Australian states, the Northern Territory, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and some of the Pacific Islands. Those meetings were nearly always held around about the Australia Day holiday at the end of January when most parliaments were not sitting, and they were quite useful meetings where the heads of the various Hansard staffs could discuss their staffing situations, their common problems, their solutions to those problems and advances in use of technology, and all those sorts of issues. In 1983 I think it would have been, the head of the House of Commons Hansard staff, whose title is the Editor of the Official Report, he attended one of those conferences, and the idea of having a conference, in effect, of the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations arose, and the editor of the House of Commons Official Report decided to convene such a conference and it was held in 1984 in London. And the then principal parliamentary reporter Jim Roberts attended that conference in London and it was decided then that the meetings would be held once every three years and it was hoped that the venues would be moved around the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations. And that’s what happened, and those meetings were held each three years, certainly during my time, and I’m not sure just what the situation is either about the meetings of the Australasian group or of the Commonwealth of Nations group.
So there was the conference in London in 1984 and then by 1987 I was the principal parliamentary reporter so I attended that conference in — it was held again in London, and at that meeting it was decided that the next conference would be held in Canada, and as the parliament of Nova Scotia was the — I think I’m right about this — was the first Canadian parliament to establish a Hansard staff it was decided that the conference be held in Halifax, but unfortunately the decision that I would retire was made at the end of 1989 so I did not attend that conference. That was in 1990. And then — we haven’t talked about this and it’s not all that relevant to this current discussion — but from about September 1990 until 1998 I was the editor of the Hansard for the ACT Legislative Assembly, so when the Commonwealth Hansard Editors Association Conference was held here in Canberra in 1993 I attended the conference here in Parliament House as the head of the ACT Legislative Assembly Hansard. And then the next one in 1996 was held back in London and I attended that conference again as the head of the ACT Legislative Assembly Hansard. So that’s the tie of that organisation.
E Helgeby: When was the tie introduced? I was interested, you mentioned the tie but you haven’t said how come.
J Campbell: My understanding is that the editor of the official report who instituted this idea of the Commonwealth of Nations conference approached a member of the House of Commons who had an interest in heraldry and those sorts of issues and asked him to design a tie for the association, and I believe he did, and it’s got — my recollection is that it’s got a sphere representing the world, it’s got crossed quills and on the top it’s got either the Big Ben Tower or the St Stephen’s Tower, I’m not sure which, but anyway a symbol of the House of Commons — the House of Commons, the sphere and the crossed quills.
E Helgeby: So when did you get your copy of the tie?
J Campbell: Obviously before ’88, probably at the 1987 conference, probably.
E Helgeby: So when you — you’ve mentioned that you continued — when you moved up to the new parliament building you continued to work there until 1990 and then you went — after that what happened then?
J Campbell: Yeah, I retired in March 1990; that was in the middle of a parliamentary recess. My recollection is that there was an election probably in about March/April 1990 — ’93, ’96, I think that’s right — so I retired actually in the middle of a recess and one of the last jobs I did as PPR was to give the ACT Legislative Assembly secretariat some advice on how its Hansard staff might operate. What had happened was the first meeting of the ACT Legislative Assembly was in late 1989 and we seconded one of our officers to the ACT secretariat to establish a Hansard staff and to be the editor, and then I did this small exercise of giving some advice on the ACT Hansard and basically confirmed the arrangements that had been made for the operation of that staff. So after I had had a break after retiring, in the middle of the year the ACT Assembly called applications for a permanent editor of their Hansard and I applied for that position and was successful, so I took up duty as the editor of the ACT Legislative Assembly Hansard in September 1990, and I stayed there until August 1998 as editor of that Hansard staff.
E Helgeby: Looking back, what thoughts and feelings do you have about your years working at Old Parliament House?
J Campbell: I suppose the overriding feeling is that I was really doing something important, that I was helping to prepare an historic record of one of the most important institutions in Australia, so it was an important job. It was a job for which I really had trained from the time I first started working, although I did have always in the back of my mind that it might not work out and if it didn’t then I might find a job as an accountant, but seeing I was reasonably successful in the court reporting staff in Queensland and then managed to get onto the Hansard staff here, I had really achieved an ambition. That it was a very satisfying job, something where you could actually see the product of your work and if you did it well then there were people who were going to be grateful for the job that you had done. You were working in a small team so it was important to be a team player, generally speaking they were a fine body of people, I’d known many of them with whom I’d worked in Queensland, and just overall they were a highly talented group of people, especially the ones who were my seniors — and by the same token, the ones who followed me they were talented people too — but particularly the ones I had followed. Many of them were men who had they had the opportunity would have reached the top in whatever profession they chose to undertake, but whether because of their family economic circumstances or the Second World War or whatever, they had — as I did — found a job which paid very well, was satisfying, you worked hard but you had compensations which many people were not privileged to have. And so they stayed and made their way through this job of court and Hansard reporting, but many of them would’ve been top, top people in any profession that they decided to go for.
E Helgeby: How would you think you would have gone if you had ended up as an accountant?
J Campbell: Well I don’t know how well I would have done, but by the same token, when I left high school I was advised by a man who subsequently became the public service commissioner in Queensland, that if I was thinking of going to the Queensland Public Service there were two offices which he would suggest; one was the Reporting Bureau and the other one was the Office of the Auditor General. And one of my best friends who lived two doors up the road from us was a year behind me at school, and he went into the Office of the Auditor General in Queensland in 1963, he was groomsman at our wedding, and quite a few years later he became the Queenslander Auditor General. You can’t go any higher in the Auditor General’s office and the position of Auditor General in every public service is one of the most esteemed and most significant positions. And of course in the case of the Commonwealth the Auditor General is an officer of the parliament; he’s not a run of the mill public servant. So perhaps had I gone that way I would’ve been competing with my very good friend and my groomsman for the position of Auditor General, who knows?
E Helgeby: But did you have at any time any regrets about the career path you chose?
J Campbell: No, no, I never did because the way things worked out I had reasonable expectations that I would get to the position of principal parliamentary reporter, and as far as I could see that was the high point of government and parliamentary reporting in Australia.
E Helgeby: What role do you believe this building, Old Parliament House, has today?
J Campbell: Well I see it as a parliamentary museum and a building which I’m pleased has been preserved, and I haven’t really strong views on just how much of it should have been preserved, whether it should’ve been kept the way it is or whether the 1965 and ’72 wings should have been knocked down or whether it should’ve been taken right back to 1927, but overall I think the way it’s been preserved is appropriate and as a parliamentary museum I think it serves a very important purpose and plays a very important role, particularly in the fact that contrary to the views of some of my fellow guides, the ability of school groups from all around the country to come to Canberra and to have a visit to Old Parliament House included in their program is just wonderful, and if we can do anything to encourage young people, particularly school children to — well first of all to respect this building, but probably more importantly — to learn more and more about our democratic system, the way the parliament works to get an understanding of the whole process of parliament and the electoral system and associated things, then I believe that that’s something which is well and truly worth putting as much effort as we possibly can into it. So I think, not only for adult visitors who come to Canberra and many of whom know very little about our political history and the role that this building played in it, for overseas visitors, many of whom know nothing about it, and especially for school children who can come here and learn about these things, I just think it’s absolutely essential that we maintain it as a parliamentary museum and as an educational facility in terms of political history and our political and democratic systems.
E Helgeby: You’ve mentioned that you are a guardian and you have been for many years; what led you to take up that role? Was it for the reasons that you have just outlined?
J Campbell: Yes, I’d say those sorts of reasons prompted me to decide to come back to the building. I had great memories of working in the building and I felt that I might be able to impart some of my enthusiasm for the building to visitors to the building and do something towards achieving those purposes that I’ve just talked about.
E Helgeby: Any last points you’d like to make before we finish the interview?
J Campbell: One question that you asked me at one of the earlier sessions was whether there was any one speech that had impressed me more than others, and I nominated a speech that was made by Senator Sir John Carrick on the death penalty abolition bill. I was unsure whether it was his maiden speech in the Senate and by referring to the Hansard — there you are, when you want to know something about this sort of thing you refer to the Hansard and if necessary you look up the index which has been prepared by the Hansard officers — and by doing that I find that yes, on the 9th of September 1971 Sir John Carrick, at eight o’clock on that evening, Senator Carrick made a speech on the death penalty abolition bill. In fact it was not his maiden speech, he had made his maiden speech on the budget just shortly before, and so he had made that speech on the budget but this was, in my view, a most significant speech and I think I explained the reasons for my picking it out as one of the most significant speeches in my time.
E Helgeby: Anything else that you’d like to add on any of the matters that we have covered?
J Campbell: I made a couple of notes about a few things that we may not have covered but I don’t think they’re all of such significance. I suppose there are lots of little phrases that people have used over the years that stick in your mind; a couple that stick in my mind from my time: the first one was when Alan Reid referred to the federal conference of the Australian Labor Party as the ’36 faceless men’, that was in 1963, and then some little time later when Gough Whitlam was having difficulty with the administrative wing of the Labor Party it seemed to me that he wanted to refer back to that phrase that had been coined by Alan Reid when Gough Whitlam referred to the federal executive of the Labor Party as ‘the 12 witless men’. I thought that was significant for two or three reasons.
We talked a little bit about parliamentary committees; I guess one of the most significant parliamentary committees and the one for which the Senate became notorious was what was officially titled the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, which was often referred to as the RAE committee because for most of its time it was chaired by Peter Rae, and that was a very significant committee in which some very influential people in the Australian financial community were under close examination, and unusually for parliamentary committees in my experience, many of those people found it necessary to bring legal advisors with them to the committee, and whilst those legal advisors, who were in many cases very prominent leading members of the Bar, they were not in a position to give evidence but they were there close by for the witnesses to refer to about which questions they should answer and which ones they might not answer and things like that. So it was a very significant committee but it was also an unusual committee in that respect. And the other unusual committees were the ones that dealt with the allegations about Senator Murphy and his conduct as a high court judge — or at the time he was a high court judge. When the second of those Senate committees had two commissioners to sit with the senators who were appointed to the committee and they were two retired judges, and that again was an unusual arrangement.
E Helgeby: Did you service these two committees?
J Campbell: Yes, yes, the Hansard staff reported those two committees, and interestingly the — and I hope this is not secret information because I said that I wouldn’t talk about any secret information — those committees arose out of what became known as the Age tapes because they were first — they first appeared in The Age — transcripts of them — first appeared in The Age newspaper, and when the — probably the first of those Senate committees — gained access to those tapes our Hansard staff was asked by the Senate to transcribe those Age tapes, so called. So some of our typists in the Tape Transcription Centre were involved in transcribing those Age tapes for the Senate committee. That again, was an unusual incident.
I’ve mentioned — I think we talked about the joint sitting in 1974; that was unique and certainly was one of the most significant parliamentary sittings in my time. I think I might have mentioned that Sir Billy Snedden was, in my view, one of the most efficient and best Speakers of the House of Representatives, mainly because he was willing to explain the decisions that he made, but he was also — and I think I’m repeating things I’ve said before — he had a large part to play in the introduction of legislation which provided for separate appropriations for the parliamentary departments. Another of his hobby horses was to try to get the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives much the same as that of the Speaker of the House of Commons in terms of being independent as well as impartial, but he wasn’t successful in that in terms of the level of independence that the Speaker of the House of Commons has. But one example of his ability to adopt a stance that enabled the House to continue to function and not be brought to a standstill was an occasion when, somehow or other, he allowed Bob Hawke to get away with calling Malcolm Fraser a liar. Normally no member ever gets away with using the word ‘liar’ in the parliament, and by deciding not to put the motion for the suspension of Bob Hawke he allowed the proceedings not to degenerate into a shambles, but it was an unusual instance of a Speaker using his authority in what some people might regard as a common sense way.
I guess there were quite a few other significant events that I haven’t called to mind, I haven’t noted, but there are a couple of instances which have been recorded in the books over time which are a little unusual; one involved Edward St John, who wasn’t a member of the House of Reps for very long but had a quite significant impact in the short time he was a member. He was probably one of the fastest speakers we ever had in either House. Just again on a little — on a tangent — many people used to think that Eddie Ward was one of the most difficult speakers for Hansard reporters because people used to think that he spoke so fast, but in fact because Eddie Ward was used to campaigns on the Hustings, out in public where you had to, in effect, shout all the time to get yourself heard out in public, he had a very — his style of speaking was to speak very loudly, and the louder you speak — this is a very broad generalisation — the louder you speak the slower you tend to speak, so a person who speaks very quietly will often speak much more quickly, and that was the case with St John. He wasn’t a boisterous and loud speaker by any means and that tended to make him a very fast speaker, and of course, he made his maiden speech in the House of Reps on the subject of the Voyager disaster and the strong push for a second Royal Commission into the Voyager disaster. It was his maiden speech, and in the course of that speech Prime Minister Holt interjected, and that was most — well first of all it was unusual for anybody to interject because our members are requested to give the courtesy of not interjecting to a person making a maiden speech — but secondly that it was the prime minister who interjected on him. And of course there’d been an earlier instance of that when Gough Whitlam had made his maiden speech and John McEwen had interjected on Whitlam, and I can’t call it to mind, but Whitlam made an appropriate response to McEwen and which Whitlam drew on his vast knowledge of literary allusion and historical repartee and things like that, and I’m sorry, I don’t recall it but it’s a well remembered occasion. Those are two examples of maiden speeches being interrupted by interjection by prominent members on the other side of the chamber. I think I’ll pause there and maybe if it’s your wish that we round it off at that point.
E Helgeby: If there’s anything that you think of that you would have liked to have included we can certainly arrange another session at another appropriate time, but if there is nothing more that you would like to add today then perhaps it’s time we call it — you know, bring this interview to an end for now, and I have to again, thank you on behalf of the Chief General Manager of Old Parliament House for your willingness to participate and your contribution to this interview.
J Campbell: Well thank you for that, and thank you for the — and those who have made this possible, thank them for the opportunity to be involved in this Oral History program. Thank you.
E Helgeby: Thank you.
This history has multiple parts.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Found an error? Email us