Steve Gavin, born in Brisbane in 1944, worked in the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet from 1970 to 1980 and was a Cabinet note-taker for three years from 1976 to 1978.
Listen to the interview
- Steve Gavin
Interview with Steve Gavin part 1
B York: This is an interview with Mr Steve Gavin who worked in the provisional Parliament House as a Cabinet note taker from 1976 to 1978. He will be speaking with me, Barry York, for the Oral History Program conducted by the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Now on behalf of the director of the museum Steve I really want to thank you very much for being part of this.
S Gavin: It’s a pleasure.
B York: Do you understand that the Commonwealth owns copyright in the interview material but disclosure is subject to any disclosure restrictions you choose to impose in that Rights Agreement?
S Gavin: Yes I understand.
B York: So that being the case, can we have your permission perhaps to make a transcript or a summary of the recording if we’re able to do so?
S Gavin: Yes, that’s fine.
B York: Okay, thank you. The interview is taking place today, the 12th of July 2012 at the Museum of Australian Democracy. Just to begin with can I have a bit of personal background please, like when and where were you born, where did you grow up, you know…?
S Gavin: Yes certainly Barry. I was born in Brisbane in 1944. I grew up principally in Redcliffe which is a seaside town just north of the city. My parents were in their 40s when I turned up; I was their second child but their first child — a daughter had died 15 years before — so I was late in their life, and my father died when I was nine so most of my bringing up was by my Mum. My Dad was an unskilled labourer with the Public Works Department, my Mum was — when she went back to work — a primary school teacher. I went to school on the Redcliffe Peninsula, the local primary school and the high school, and I went straight from there to university on a Commonwealth scholarship.
B York: Right, and what did you study at university?
S Gavin: History.
B York: Oh, very good.
S Gavin: Yeah, and I did that because that was my best subject and the subject I was most interested in during my schooling. I had some early ambitions maybe to be an academic historian but as things worked out my grades weren’t quite good enough for that; I got second class honours instead of the first that would be the ideal I guess, and by the end of four years anyway my interests had switched to wanting to work in government, and particularly in the Commonwealth Government. So that led me to apply for a job in Canberra under a very good training scheme I thought, run by the Public Service Board at the time called the Administrative Training Scheme — I think it went on for quite a few years but doesn’t operate these days — and that took about, between 20 and 30 graduates and put them through an intensive training course for 12 months; it was some periods of full time training, it started off with six weeks full time training together with the Diplomatic Service trainees who were the other group trained in a similar sort of way, and then we were sent off to various departments for quarterly rotations it was called; you just went into jobs in various departments, came back for short training courses in between them and a final course at the end of the year for a couple of weeks, and then we got a permanent posting at what was said to be an accelerated promotion rate. So we went in at about level 4 in the hierarchy at the time instead of joining up at the bottom. So it was a very good introduction to Commonwealth administration, it gave you a sampling of various different agencies and lots of opportunities.
B York: And had you been out of Brisbane before? Like was this a big move?
S Gavin: I only ever lived in Redcliffe previously; I’d travelled to the major capital cities on the Eastern seaboard: Sydney, Melbourne — well, Sydney and Melbourne, and Canberra — I had an uncle who worked in the public service in Canberra so I’d visited him a couple of times so I was a little bit familiar with Canberra. In the 50s and 60s it was a very strange place in the — my earliest memory in late 40s when I was very young coming here — and I can remember going from where my uncle lived which was Yarralumla to what they called ‘the City’ across the open fields where the lake is now, and then over to Parliament House here and through another lot of open fields, and it was a very strange sort of a place at the time, but there were only like, 25 or 30,000 people there then. When I moved here in ’67 there was still only about 100,000 and the development of the city was underway but it still had quite a long way to go. So a very different place to the city that it is today.
B York: Was your uncle able to help you at all? Was he a…?
S Gavin: When I moved here? No because he promptly got a posting overseas himself; he was with the Department of Primary Industry and he was sent off to Brussels I think, so he was a useful contact but I was pretty much by myself when we moved her. I went into — like lots of people did in those days — I started life in one of the Commonwealth hostels.
B York: That’s interesting from a historical point of view; can you give us a bit of recollection about what they were like? Which one did you stay in and…?
S Gavin: Well initially we stayed at the crème de la crème, Brassey House which was — that was where the training course was being held so that was pretty good, and I mean even being as good as it was I don’t recall that it had ensuite facilities, I think it was just a nice room and they had good meals and so on, and we did the training in the place so it was a very closed environment, but that was only six weeks. We went from there back to reality which was Lawley House, which these days — interestingly enough in light of my later career — is now the Federal Police Training College, but back then it was a standard hostel. I thought it was quite reasonable at the time; you got to know people quite well because, first of all, you didn’t have ensuite facilities, you all had to share bathrooms and you all shared dining rooms and there were fixed places at table, and there wasn’t much nightlife in Canberra back in the 60s; such nightlife that there was tended to be private parties in people’s houses or in hostels and so on.
So it was a good way of mixing but a fairly unsophisticated lifestyle I suppose you would say.
B York: Were you happy here?
S Gavin: Yes I was then, yeah, yeah, and of course, you know, you’re young, in a new environment you don’t have any family restraints, a lot of other people in the same situation coming from all over the country; at that stage a lot of recruits to the public service were being drawn in from all other parts of the country so lots of people mixing from all sorts of places, and yeah, I quite enjoyed those early years.
B York: And were you interested in politics at all?
S Gavin: Not in the sense of being a member of a political party, but I was interested in the political process and the government process; how decisions were taken, how issues were developed and so on. My academic thesis at Queensland University was on an aspect of Australian military history in World War II, so I was interested in going to work in the Department of Defence, and that was my preference for the posting at the end of the year, and the preference for the rotations that we had through the year. The three rotations that I had were: the Public Service Board, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Defence, and I stayed on in defence initially for a couple of years.
B York: And did you have choice in the rotations?
S Gavin: You could ask; you didn’t necessarily get what you wanted. I didn’t care whether I went to the Public Service Board or went to somewhere else, but I did ask for PM and C and defence and so I got two out of the three that I asked for and I hadn’t raised an objection to the board, so I was pretty happy with that. And more importantly, at the end of the year I wanted to go to defence as a permanent posting and that was able to be fixed as well.
B York: Were there security clearances involved in these postings or…?
S Gavin: Yes there were, I mean I can’t recall in detail what level of security clearance was for the administrative training scheme but given that I went to a security area of defence in particular, I know that I got a top secret clearance when I was working in defence, and in addition to that there were a couple of other additional clearances which were needed to access material such as material from the Secret Intelligence Service and Defence Signals Division, and when I went permanently to defence I got those clearances as well.
B York: What was the attraction of working in the public service to you?
S Gavin: The principal thing I think probably flowed on from my study at university; I was interested in the way government took decisions on important matters, which at the time I had defined as matters relating to national security, foreign policy and so on, and I thought the best way to find out about that was to go and work in the areas where the decisions were being developed.
B York: Did you have a hope to advance within the public service? Like did you see that as a career path?
S Gavin: Yes, yes I did; I never really seriously considered anything else.
B York: Now if I’ve got the chronology correct, after defence you had a very brief period as liaison officer in Senate? Did that come after the time in the defence…?
S Gavin: Quite a while, I mean defence I was fortunate in that the two areas I worked in there, in the three years I was in defence were in what was then called the Defence Planning Division; I think it’s Strategic and International Policy these days, but it dealt with issues that tended to be high level government policy relationships with foreign affairs and PM and C and so on, and halfway through my time in defence I got picked out to be research assistant to the secretary of the department who was Sir Henry Bland at the time, and he was engaged in a major reorganisation taking the structure away from — the structure of the organisation which existed from the 50s when it was very much just a mediator or balancing act between the three armed services to a structure which was much more integrated — and gave the civilian arm a stronger role in shaping the overall policy, so it was a very interesting time to have that sort of job.
Towards the end a bit Bland was succeeded by Sir Arthur Tange who was a very different sort of a person, much more demanding, much more fiery, and I would have thought more difficult to work for, but fortunately as it happened, before Bland retired I’d got myself a promotion to PM and C and I was very glad to be on the way out because the general attitude that Arthur Tange took was that anything his predecessor did and anyone associated with things that he did were probably not the best way to go about things. So there was a fair bit of staff turnover which I was able to avoid by fortuitously leaving in the first place.
B York: And that was a promotion you said, to Prime Minister…?
S Gavin: Yes it was, to PM and C, yeah that’s right, yeah.
B York: And is this Gorton or McMahon period?
S Gavin: It was McMahon actually, yeah and so it was a bit of an anti climax in a sense, after the defence period, but it was a very interesting time as well in the external relations area of PM and C but not quite as full on as in the defence department itself.
B York: Now you were there until 1974, is that right?
S Gavin: That’s correct, that’s when I moved to the Constitution and Legal Affairs area of PM and C, but before I leave the external relations area I suppose the one project that stands out to me as being a worthwhile long term thing that I did there was, I was heavily involved with sorting out the Commonwealth position on the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea in the Torres Strait. That was actually under the Whitlam Government by this time, but the Whitlam Government came in with a disposition to say the border needs to be redrawn; PNG independence was coming up, the border runs within a couple of kilometres of the PNG coast, and on the face of it you would think perhaps it should be in the middle of the Torres Strait, that was the approach the Whitlam Government took at the time, and the PNG Government certainly wanted to have a bigger border than the one that existed at the time. The government which wouldn’t play ball with that was the Queensland Government, and they had a say in the boundaries of the state, it wasn’t just a national government issue. So the end result was a task group was set up led by Dr Nugget Coombs, supported by us, and that is PM and C, and having people from foreign affairs and the Queensland Government on it as well to come up with an outcome that was suitable for all governments, and the outcome was the one that’s in place these days, a special zone in Torres Strait that overlaps both the borders, so it was a face-saving formula for all three governments, enabling all of them to claim that there’d been some movement or, in the case of Queensland, that they had retained the Queensland sovereignty where it was. So that was a very interesting project.
B York: I bet, yes. And what level were you at?
S Gavin: At that I was about, in the old terminology, I think about a level 9 or 11; now 11 I think equates to about an EL2 or 1, something like that, around the top of the structure just before you get into the SES, yep. So from there I moved to the Constitution and Legal Affairs area in the intelligence and security part of it, which was a sort of a natural flow on from external relations and defence in a way, and the hot issue at that time was the very first development of counter-terrorism policy, and there were two things happening in Australia; there were people who were organising in Australia and in other countries to attack Yugoslavia to attempt to create a free Croatia, and they were perceived at the time to be dangerous terrorist people, and there was no legislation in place to stop what they were doing in Australia at the time, which was planning armed incursions into another country. So that led — that work with Attorney General’s department and us and Foreign Affairs — led to a piece of legislation called the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act which made it illegal to plan and organise armed incursions into another country from Australian territory, so that was very interesting.
And the second — and of course, in the course of time Yugoslavia’s fallen apart and Croatia’s a separate country and so on, so the thing which triggered the legislation has all worked itself out anyway but the legislation’s in place as a permanent thing. The second thing that was happening then was the first aircraft hijackings and associated activities related to Middle Eastern or Palestinian terrorism, so there was a lot of work done in terms of how to counter that in developing interdepartmental machinery and some way of tapping the intelligence resources of the government into a way of presenting information to government and ministers that didn’t compromise intelligence sources. So that was very interesting as well. So that was the sort of work I was initially doing in Constitution and Legal Affairs, but then the other part of that constitution and legal area dealt with relations with the parliament, which is where I’d sort of flowed on to getting into the Senate parliamentary liaison officer job.
B York: And do want to tell me how that came about? How did the opportunity arise?
S Gavin: The opportunity arose because the person who was permanently doing it became ill and had to take extended sick leave and they needed to thrust somebody else in quickly, and I got fingered to do that job. I found it — and this was the period of time — this was in the Whitlam Government in either late ’73 or early ’74 — I was only there a couple of months as I mentioned, but it was a very difficult time because the government didn’t have the numbers in the Senate and that made anything you tried to do in the job much more difficult. In a nutshell, the purpose of the liaison officer job in the Senate, and there was another one in the House of Representatives, was to get their government’s program through the parliament. Now that wasn’t too hard in the House of Reps, they had the numbers; the leader of the house was Fred Daly who was a very easy person to get along with and a lovely bloke as well. In the Senate, much more difficult because they didn’t have the numbers, and as I found out very quickly, Lionel Murphy’s staff were exceedingly protective of him and of his relationship with the Senate parliamentary officers, the clerk of the Senate and the subsidiary people. Murphy had worked with them in opposition to develop the Senate committee system and so on and had very strong and good relationships with the Senate staff; they didn’t want to let anyone else in. Murphy wasn’t interested in having anyone else and Murphy’s staff were, as I say, very protective; in the six weeks I didn’t get to see him at all, which is, you know, extraordinary when you think that the job was to help him and to develop a legislative program for the week.
The parliamentary liaison officers, first of all, attended the Legislation Committee of Cabinet so that we — and we attended in the capacity as note takers — so that we knew what decisions the government was taking, you know, in terms of what it wanted to do with the legislative program, both long term and tactically from week to week. We then had to go to the leader of the house and the leader of the Senate and try to translate those government intentions into reality, and for the sort of reasons that I’ve mentioned it wasn’t always possible in the Senate, it was pretty easy in the reps. I suppose the other reason why it wasn’t possible in the Senate is that, it seemed to me — and I was fairly new to this — it seemed to me that Lionel Murphy’s agenda wasn’t always Gough Whitlam’s agenda.
The Legislative Committee ran very efficiently and I think that was probably characteristic of all of the Whitlam Government committees; they ran terrific meetings, you know, really well organised, good debate, good discussion, moved things on and decisions were taken, and then more often than not nothing happened! Because outside the committee there were other things altogether and these were the pressures on the government in the Senate through not having the numbers and, it seemed to me, possibly other priorities in either the officers of the Senate’s mind or in Murphy’s mind. It was quite often the big decisions taken the next week — the committee met weekly — next week you’d have a meeting and the Prime Minister would say, ‘Well Lionel wasn’t able to get such and such through so we’ll go and do so and so,’ and off they’d roll and make another series of very clear, incisive decisions which may or may not get through. So it was a very interesting period from that point of view. As I say, I didn’t get to meet him so I spent all of my time pretty well sitting in the Official’s Gallery of the Senate Chamber day and night, so it was pretty deadly. And we had to produce from the Legislative Committee decisions the legislative program for the house and the Senate each week, and that was the principal job, plus help steer it through; well there wasn’t much helping to steer it through in the short time I was there but I did produce the legislative program every week, and sometimes it changed and sometimes it didn’t; sometimes it did look completely different to the decisions that had been taken as to what should happen. So it was a very educational experience I’d say. I found Fred Daly much more accessible and much more helpful than the staff in the Senate. I did meet Fred; I had a lot to do with him in cranking up the program, so it was an interesting period but I was very glad to move on.
B York: Were you prepared for it, adequately prepared, would you say?
S Gavin: Oh, not at all! The ethos of PM and C in that period was, ‘You’re a generalist, you’re expected to do anything and everything.’ The only area of the department I think that was specialised would have been the Economic Division where it was generally accepted that you had to have some sort of economics qualifications, but as for the rest you were just transferred, you know, thrust into a gap and expected to perform. So there wasn’t any training, you were just expected to pick it up and go.
B York: And did you leave the liaison officer position because the original person came back from sick leave or…?
S Gavin: Yes, he did come back from sick leave; I was sounded out as to whether I wanted to — or whether I’d be prepared — to continue it, but because I found the work very arduous in terms of hours and I’d just had a young baby and I wanted to be able to support my wife by being around and see our little girl a bit, I just didn’t feel like spending night and day in the Parliament House, because it did involve working from about nine in the morning until about two o’clock the following morning, pretty well regularly during sitting periods. In non-sitting periods of course you were back to a more routine time frame but it was fairly strenuous parliamentary type hours.
B York: What spaces did you use? Where was your — where were you based in the building?
S Gavin: Well where I was supposed to be based was in Lionel Murphy’s office, but I wasn’t even given a desk, so where I found myself spending most of the time was the Officials Gallery of the Senate Chamber; I spent many hours just sitting in there listening to events drone on. When I wasn’t there I was in Fred Daly’s office with the House of Reps liaison officer usually, so I worked closely with him and with Fred in developing the program and doing what I could to get it put up at least. And the third place where we spent time was back in the department in the non-sitting periods.
B York: Okay. Did you have staff supporting you?
S Gavin: No, it was a single person job.
B York: It sounds…
S Gavin: Yes, horrific!
B York: I don’t know what to say, yeah it does sound bad!
S Gavin: Yes, well it would have made it — and you know, the House of Reps liaison officer would’ve been a much, much better and more satisfying job I think. The Senate liaison officer was probably on a no-win situation. I think all the functions I’ve been talking about, these days in the home parliament, are probably being undertaken by that committee that has the two Whips and the independents on it and they seem to be performing very similar functions and that seems to be, now, a more sensible development.
B York: Is there anything else you’d like to say about that period before we move onto the note taking?
S Gavin: No I wouldn’t want to put too much emphasis on my brief time in the liaison officer job; it was a very eye-opening and interesting time but I was very happy to move on to somewhere else.
B York: It was brief but it’s given us an insight into how things actually work, rather than the official documented account, you know, of the…
S Gavin: That’s right, yeah, yep.
B York: So thank you for that. So now let’s talk about the Cabinet note taker, which you worked in for three years.
S Gavin: That’s right.
B York: But do you want to tell us briefly what you did in between the PLO [Parliamentary Liaison Officer] job and the note taking?
S Gavin: Yes, I went into a newly created branch called the Intelligence and Security Branch, which followed on to some extent that any counter-terrorism work that I was talking about earlier, but also was principally concerned with the implementation of the recommendations of the Hope Royal Commission onto Intelligence and Security, and one of the key things that that involved was setting up of the Office of National Assessments. Now the Hope Royal Commission Report didn’t actually recommend Office of National Assessments; it recommended that the then Joint Intelligence Organisation, run by defence, should be taken over, taken out of defence and made accountable to the government as a whole, and that was fought tooth and nail by defence, naturally, and Arthur Tange had yet another win where he retained the then Joint Intelligence Organisation, which has now become the DIO, and a separate organisation, which is the Office of National Assessments, was set up.
So the Hope Royal Commission wasn’t quite implemented in exactly the way that Hope recommended, but a similar sort of structure was put in place, and of course all that took quite a bit of time working through; there were permanent heads committees that I was the secretary for and there was a report that they made to ministers that I was involved in drafting, and eventually there was a parliamentary statement about all that that I was involved in as well. So it was a pretty major project and that took quite a while; of course I wasn’t the only person involved in all that, I was, at that stage, still only a — still not in the SES, but I did a lot of the legwork for other people who were in the SES by that time, like Alan Rose, later Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, who also had a very heavy hand in the development of those arrangements out of the Hope Royal Commission reports. So that was the major thing that I did.
I had a very nice and interesting time after that; I suggested that it would be good for me if I went and did a course at the Joint Service of Staff College. As I say, PM and C wasn’t big on suggesting staff development for people, you were expected to just get in and do things, but I decided that if I didn’t raise this no one else would. I knew from my time in defence that they took a couple of people a year who were civilians from other agencies and I thought it was time that I should do that, so I said yes that I’d do it, and I was accepted and I did six months at what was then called the Joint Service of Staff College, now part of the Australian Defence College, and I found that a very useful sort of sabbatical six months, very useful.
B York: And then after that…?
S Gavin: Then I went back and did something completely different, not connected with defence at all, [laughs] which is the way the system often works, but I mean the background was still very valuable in terms of just, well first of all, giving you a break from just being a bureaucrat and giving you time to think things through and so on. But when I returned after the six months and they remembered I was around, I got slotted into the Cabinet office, and the job I had there was again just under the SES; the Cabinet office had a first assistant secretary who had other divisional responsibilities, an assistant secretary Cabinet, and then there were three senior advisors and I was one of those, and the three of us plus the assistant secretary did almost all the note taking in Cabinet. For some minor committees there were some other people who, at the next level down, were committee secretaries as well, but the bulk of the note taking was done by the three senior advisors and the assistant secretary. The secretary to Cabinet, who was also the secretary to the department, also sat in on full Cabinet and major Cabinet meetings as well.
B York: Was there a selection process or was this an appointment?
S Gavin: To the job? I was just told that that’s where I’d be working, yeah, no I’m not sure what selection process went on behind the scenes but I think it was probably a matter of, I was coming back and they needed to find a place for me, somebody was moving on, here was a good spot, and in I went.
B York: Again Steve, I’ll ask about training; was there any — I’d imagine there would be some kind of formal training process for a position as important as this.
S Gavin: Well it’s — you might think that that was the case but there was absolutely none; as I say, the departmental ethos was you’re a generalist, you should be able — if you’re in the department — you should be able to do any job that was tossed your way, and that’s the way it proceeded, and by and large it seemed to work reasonably well; you learnt what was involved in the particular area at the time and just got on with it.
B York: But how did you learn that?
S Gavin: By doing it I guess. The job wasn’t just taking notes in Cabinet and writing decisions, it was — my particular one was called Policy and Projects which is one of those catch-all titles that can mean anything — but the project that I was given was to manage the arrangements for budget Cabinet every year, and that was driven essentially by, you know, what Treasury required to be done so that the Budget was brought down at a particular time, and the requirements of ministers. So it was really a scheduling job to work out, you know, what time the first submissions for Cabinet needed to be called, what was the latest time that decisions had to be taken before budget documents were printed and so on. So there was a range of things connected with the scheduling of that that was quite important, and beyond that there were other projects from time to time which I can talk about later as well, but they didn’t emerge for a little while. I suppose there was training in a sense that I didn’t start off with full Cabinet, I started off with a couple of committees and I’d already done the Legislation Committee as a Senate parliamentary liaison officer, so I got a feel from them. So you started off with a couple of fairly non-controversial committees but pretty soon — because there was only five of us — you were tossed into the full Cabinet, and a normal sitting week, particularly in the Fraser Government, involved a lot of hours…
Interview with Steve Gavin part 2
S Gavin: …In Cabinet. Malcolm Fraser tended to govern by exhaustion I think; he’d get people in a room and he’d keep talking until the outcome that he wanted emerged. And so Cabinet meetings were very long, they were held on Tuesday starting in the afternoon about two and typically going through til midnight or say, 2 am or something, and you then had 24 hours to get the decisions out, sometimes less depending on the importance of the decisions, then on Wednesday and Thursday there were committee meetings which fed into the Cabinet meeting of the following week. So you only ever had Monday and Friday that was free of actual meetings to, you know, crank up the results or do other things, so it was a fairly busy period.
B York: Were the other people you worked with, were they more experienced than you? Were you the new boy on the job, so to speak? And were they helpful to you?
S Gavin: Yes, yeah, there were — naturally, when I first arrived, yes I was the newest person — as time went on other people changed and I was a bit more experienced, but particularly the FAS [First Assistant Secretary] and the AS had been around in the area for a year or two or more, and knew the scene. And of course it changed with Prime Minister. I only had a very brief period of experience with the Labor Government with Whitlam in the Legislation Committee, but it was a different tone of feeling altogether in the Fraser Cabinet, and in a full Cabinet meeting as distinct from just a committee as well.
B York: I was going to ask, where were you in the Cabinet Room? Like where would you actually sit?
S Gavin: Right. As you entered the Cabinet Room the Prime Minister sat at the head of the table at the other end from the entrance, and the ministers arranged around him in sort of order of seniority; he had Doug Anthony, the Deputy Prime Minister on his right, from memory I think Ian Sinclair was on his left, and they went around in that order, so the most junior ministers were the ones nearest the door and the PM was in the centre, the furthest away. There were three tables in the room in the corners where the note takers sat; on the right hand side of the Prime Minister was the tail where the secretary to Cabinet or the secretary of the meeting, the one who signed off the decisions would sit, and what we called the second note taker sat in the left hand corner of the room, down near the table, and the third note taker sat up near the door. Now there were only ever three note takers in full Cabinet meetings or very big committees, for small committees we only had two, and the functions of the note takers varied; the one who had to do the most recording was the third note taker, that was his principal job — there weren’t any female note takers I think in my day — so his job was to take the best and fullest record as possible and to write up the decision. The second note taker was also supposed to take a fairly full record and assist the third one get the terms of the decision right. The secretary to Cabinet, or the first note taker was more concerned with how the meeting was running, whether the Prime Minister or the chairman wanted something, what the next item of the agenda was, what needed to be put up in relation to the matter under discussion and so on. He still took notes but his notes would be less detailed than the other two.
B York: And before the meeting would you be briefed or prepared as to what was being discussed in the meeting or…?
S Gavin: Oh yes, the — you need to look at it as a whole process, and the process started with departments or ministers lodging submissions, and the submissions had to be in terms acceptable to the Cabinet Handbook. The ministry itself set out and authorised the rules under which Cabinet was to run, and of course, the rules were suggested by the secretary to Cabinet at the beginning of the ministry, but they were things like, submissions should be lodged ten days before they’re considered in Cabinet to give time for consultation, so that the submissions were lodged and people had time to brief and so on. There had to be consultation with interested departments beforehand and so on, so there were a series of criteria as to the lodging of submissions, so we knew what submissions were coming up, we knew what their recommendations were and we knew what the views of other departments as formally stated in the coordination section of the submission were, so we had all that background.
The other part of many Cabinet meeting — not so much committee meetings but certainly Cabinet meetings — were business under the line, in other words, without submission, and that wasn’t just a free for all either, or wasn’t supposed to be just a free for all, the Prime Minister controlled what items were to be taken without submission; there were bids for those beforehand by ministers writing to the PM or officials writing to other officials who would then suggest the ministers take it up. So the PM had a list of things that he would want to raise, usually — almost always — appointments; appointments were never made on the basis of written materials, they were always without submission, and other matters that were regarded as so important or so urgent that they didn’t have to wait for the ten days and didn’t have to have formal submissions. So those, the list of items without submission, was controlled by the PM on the advice of the secretary to Cabinet, any advice of course would have been funnelled through people like us or the heads of the relevant line areas in the Prime Minister’s department would give advice about whether something should go forward or what attitude the PM should take to it.
So that was an important part of the business. Quite often you’d have meetings where the under the line business, the without submission business, took up more time than the formal submissions, and there’d be a lot of debate on the under the line stuff and the formal submissions would be ticked off very, very easily. So there was that preparation done. The other preparation we did of course was to write up the decisions before the meeting was held and we did that by taking the recommendations of the submissions and assuming they would be accepted in full without any change, which of course very seldom happened, but you know, as a template to work off. And this was in the days before word processors, you have to remember that there was a secretary — the secretary to the assistant secretary — typed up most of the anticipatory decisions beforehand and when we came back and wrote up our results we’d generally write them up by hand and hand them over to her to type up, so she was a pretty important part of the team as well. The days when you did it all yourself were still to come.
B York: And did you ever have a rough idea of how long the meetings would go for…
S Gavin: [laughs]
B York: Or was that like a…?
S Gavin: Well we knew they were going to go for a very long time. Malcolm Fraser tended to govern by exhaustion; if he wasn’t getting his own way he’d just keep ‘em in! And the people would just talk until things would go on. It was a sort of a standing joke in a way, that you could tell what the sense of the meeting was around the room if three quarters of the Cabinet felt that the approach should be taken, say to adopt the recommendations in the submission, but the PM and usually some of his National Party allies like Doug Anthony or Sinclair or another key officials like Phil Lynch as Treasurer was against it, then you could pretty well bet that the meeting would go on, Malcolm would say, ‘Well, I don’t think that we’ve got the sense of the meeting yet; you’ll need to examine it again,’ and again and again, and eventually people would realise — would give up — and he’d essentially get the nub of the approach that he wanted. So the meetings tended to go for quite a long time.
B York: Were you able to leave the room during the meetings?
S Gavin: Yeah, well we had to; if a meeting went from say 2pm til 2am or midnight say, the most you could do really sensibly was about three hours. So you’d go out, write up your decision to that point if there was a decision taken. You usually tried to change over when, say a submission was dealt with; you might have two hours on something and then an hour on another and then go, or try not to leave when there was the middle of a discussion, because obviously the person coming in couldn’t pick things up properly and so on. So yes, you changed over when it was a convenient time; somebody else would come in and the same thing happened with all three note takers. You couldn’t possibly be there for the whole length of time — well the only ones who were there for the whole length of time of course were the ministers — but the officials tended to rotate around. The secretary to Cabinet stayed longer than the others, but then he did less of the detailed notation and he didn’t have to worry about producing the draft document; he had to worry about it being right, but he didn’t have to actually produce it. So the changeover happened from time to time.
You can get trapped; like there was one incident that was burned into my memory because it was such a disaster; it was a committee meeting and the committee was — the PM was on it I think, yes he was — Peter Nixon was the minister concerned, Minister for Transport, and a small number of other ministers. And there’s another trick ministers used to play, which was to have what we used to call ‘sleeve options’, you know, every bit of paper before the Cabinet should be lodged with the Cabinet secretary, registered, have ten days consultation and you know, properly put in and so on, but if a minister wanted to ram something through and get an advantage he’d try to quite often whip something else that hadn’t been circulated at all and have it discussed. And the Prime Minister should, according to the Cabinet Handbook and all the rules and expectations say, ‘No, look give that to Geoff Yeend, the Secretary and we’ll lodge it and consider it next week,’ but of course with things that he wasn’t interested in or didn’t want to consider, that’s what he’d do. But with things that he was a party to wanting to get through, the sleeve option came up; the minister would whip something out and it’d be discussed.
Now that was all fine, we could cope with that, except in this one occasion I had — the meeting had started, Nixon had apparently zipped out his sleeve option, I’d come in — I didn’t know that that had happened — the discussion was pretty staccato as it often is, you know, ‘Yes, I favour option A,’ you know, ‘but so and so says option B is more preferable; the problem with B is this and that…’ And so the discussion went on in that sort of shorthand way, talking about options A, B or C in the paper. The paper I had, which was the properly lodged one, also had options A, B and C; I thought they were talking about one thing, they were actually talking about something completely different…
B York: Dear me!
S Gavin: I wrote the decision up according to what I thought was the result and went home, and it was late. About nine o’clock that night I got a call from the FAS saying — no it was the next night, that’s right, because the decision — we had 24 hours to get it out — we got it out — I got a call from — at night saying, ‘This decision’s wrong,’ you know, ‘Peter Nixon’s has a strong objection to it; you need to come in and fix it up.’ So I went in, I found out about the sleeve option, I wrote the decision up the right way, and then the Cabinet secretary, who’d got involved in it by this time, said, ‘You’d better check it with Peter Nixon.’ This was one o’clock in the morning and I thought, ‘This is going to be,’ you know, ‘I’m going to be really welcome here.’ But I got his home phone number and rang him up; he said, ‘Yep, come on over,’ so I trundled up to his door at two o’clock in the morning in Campbell somewhere, handed over the submission and to his credit, not a flutter, he had a look, got what he wanted, said, ‘Yep, thanks very much,’ and off he went. So he was a formidable character; I wouldn’t like to have crossed him and I thought I was going to have my head bitten off, but he was quite happy, and as I — talking earlier about parliamentary hours — it probably wasn’t much different for him. So, but I remember that as being burned into my memory. It wasn’t a career-ending move, it was just one of those — one of those glitches that happen from time to time; people row on.
B York: And generally, am I right to think the process worked smoothly?
S Gavin: [laughs].
B York: Is that right or…?
S Gavin: Well yes, more or less, yeah, there were those sort of glitches from time to time; you wouldn’t want to do one of those per week, and so there was one of those in my three years, but other people had similar sorts of occasions, and that crossing over, you had to be very careful with that, very careful.
B York: When you would be replaced by somebody in the Cabinet meeting, where would you then go?
S Gavin: Into the Anteroom, and if my part was finished I’d go back to the department and start writing up the decisions, but the normal process is: before the meeting the note takers would be in place, the ministers would come in, after a couple of hours you knew it’d be your turn, you’d go over and wait in the Anteroom. There were messengers that came in and out of the Cabinet Room, employees of the Prime Minister’s office, so they’d say, ‘Yeah, look,’ you know, ‘they need to change,’ and you’d go and swap over.
B York: And what was in the Anteroom?
S Gavin: Not much; there was a kitchen, so you could go off to the kitchen and have a, you know, a cup of coffee or something and some nice snacks from the parliamentary dining room as I remember. It was just a place to wait, a few chairs and the kitchen. Ministers who weren’t in Cabinet were supposed to wait there too but you didn’t mix with them; when they were around you retreated to the kitchen.
B York: I see. And where was your actual office?
S Gavin: There wasn’t an office, there was the office back in the department which at this time was in the Edmund Barton offices, but in the Parliament House you basically worked out of the Cabinet Room and the Cabinet Anteroom. The secretary to Cabinet had a tiny, tiny little office in the Prime Minister’s suite; it was hardly bigger than a cupboard, just enough for him to fit in.
B York: In the actual Prime Minister’s suite?
S Gavin: Yes, that’s right. Well the Cabinet Room as you know, is adjacent to the PM’s suite here and there’s a tiny little room — I haven’t been in there for ages, it might still be there, it should still be there — that was where he operated from when he wasn’t in the Cabinet Room itself.
B York: I’d like to ask now about the sort of, decorum of the meetings; generally speaking, how would you describe them?
S Gavin: In Malcolm Fraser’s time? Formal; in Whitlam’s time, very efficient, very efficient is his — as I was saying earlier — the Labor Party ran terrific meetings; as for how effective they were is another matter, but they were well run and brisk and talked about issues, and in the Legislation Committee there was never any heat or any problems, and that’s the only committee I’ve got experience of, under Labor. In the Liberals, yeah the decorum was pretty right, I mean people were on first name terms, they talked in first name terms, except the ministers called the PM ‘PM’, unless you were a senior minister when you called him ‘Malcolm’, but the juniors knew their place. And the debate, it depends very much on the personality of the minister of course, and the PM could either close it off or open it up, depending on what he was interested in achieving.
B York: were decisions taken by vote most of the time or by…?
S Gavin: No, in the Legislation Committee yes, but it was — in the Legislation Committee it was pretty formal I think, or rather it was a formality, not pretty formal, but they’d have a discussion and Gough would ask for, ‘Right, what are the views on that? Those in favour…’ People would briefly raise an arm and go on. He was never overruled in the committee meeting; often overruled in practice afterwards, but as I was saying earlier as to what actually happened. But in the Liberals no, never a vote of that nature, it was — the Prime Minister would sum up in getting the sense of the meeting and the sense of the meeting really was what he wanted it to be. There were quite a few occasions when it seemed to us the sense of the meeting was something different, but the PM summed it up in a particular way and, oh yes, ministers would then be invited to either go along with it or make it a really big deal, and they usually wouldn’t make it a really big deal. On the other hand, I’m sure Malcolm Fraser wouldn’t have pushed the envelope too far in terms of getting something he wanted if it was pretty clear that other significant ministers were opposed to it.
B York: In your experience, did things ever become really heated?
S Gavin: No, as I was saying earlier, never in — certainly in Labor — superficially it was very good natured. In the Liberals people became tired because the meetings went on so long, and there were often whispered asides and so on, but there was never any emotion other than exhaustion.
B York: And with the taking of the notes, did you use shorthand or longhand? How were they…?
S Gavin: Only my own version. The note taking was again, a whole series of traditions or expectations; the Cabinet note takers took their notes in — and still do — take their notes in an officially provided Cabinet notebook. I understand they were based on judges’ notebooks, and when I first started it was a pink quarto sized notebook that had been the same since 1949 apparently, and in the time I was there they changed to a blue, A4 I think, sized notebook, certainly it was bigger. It was bound so it was a permanent document, but it was your notes, no one else interfered with the content of the notebook, but it was an official document so it goes into the official record; eventually goes to archives. As I understand it, the rule is that, while Cabinet decisions and papers are available after 30 years — it might even be coming down to 20 I think, but 30 years was the general rule — the notebooks are available after 50, so these days the notebooks from the Menzies period, the 50s, and yeah the early 60s, are available where you can actually look at what people took down as to who said what, whereas the documents, the formal outcome, the decision, is available rather earlier. So the, yeah, the notebooks were taken down in whatever form you wanted; I think that anyone reading mine in 20, 30, is probably going to have a bit of trouble with my scribble. But the secretary to Cabinet and the older hands had a remarkably clear hand, partly I think because they were taking less detailed notes and partly because they were just very good at it, you know? You could read Geoff Yeend’s or John Bunting’s and they were very clear, I mean they even wrote down things like, ‘Mr Menzies’, not ‘PM’, you know, so you could write very, very concisely the discussion, and I had my own form of shorthand that I knew about but it was — I think anyone reading it afterwards might be able to piece together the gist of it but they’d need probably a couple of sources.
B York: Were you ever in a situation where you couldn’t quite keep up or you weren’t sure of the accuracy of the notes you were taking?
S Gavin: I could always keep up, partly because I could write fast and developed my own sort of shorthand version in a sense; as for being sure of the accuracy, in very technical discussions, particularly in budget Cabinet, it became difficult, but you always had the second note taker to double check with and if necessary you could even go back to the originating department and ask them what they meant by particular parts of submissions and so on, but you usually didn’t need to do that, you generally wouldn’t want to do that. But it became difficult when something was a sleeve option produced that you hadn’t seen before, or a very technical paper that one or two ministers might be across but not too many others. But generally you see, you had the advantage that you’d seen a submission beforehand, you’d seen the departmental briefing note about it beforehand so you had some background as to what everything was about, and it was only if the discussion took off in some unexpected direction, which it generally didn’t do.
B York: But if you did have to consult with the second note taker, would that happen in the meeting or — physically how would that happen…?
S Gavin: Physically that happened afterwards when you were writing up the decision, so you’d go out of the meeting, draft up the decision, it would go from you as the third note taker to the second note taker and then to the secretary of the meeting to sign off.
B York: All right, and would you say to the second note taker, ‘Look I’m not sure about this point,’ or would they see a problem and tell you or…?
S Gavin: Both I think, I mean most of the time I’d have to say I wasn’t unsure about what the issue was or how it was decided; sometimes the way in which it was expressed would be altered a little bit by the other note takers, but generally not; generally you took the third note taker as having got the best thing. I wasn’t always third note taker, I was sometimes second note taker in committee meetings so you know, I’ve had experience of both types of roles there.
B York: Right, right. What were the pluses and negatives of working in such a position?
S Gavin: Well the pluses were of course you had a unique, insider’s view of the way in which government decisions were taken, I mean that was very enlightening and very, very enticing in a way, that’s what kept your interest going, and it was very good to see how things worked most of the time; sometimes it was a bit despairing, but generally it was a very interesting and valuable experience to see how decisions were taken and what decisions were taken at that sort of level of government, what were the factors that influenced people and who was really the one who had the most impact on a decision and so on. The negatives, I suppose partly the same as the Senate job; it was demanding in terms of time, you could very easily get trapped into like a little bubble where your life was comprised of the Parliament House, the Cabinet Room, back in the office, night and day and the same sort of cycle, you know; by the time three years were up I was feeling a bit tired of it all, but other people were quite happy to carry on a bit further, so that was the only downside that I saw. Plus it could also, if you stayed in it for a very long time I imagine it would be career limiting, because while it was very good at a macro sort of decision making level it didn’t help you really get to grips with how issues had developed to the point where they were brought to Cabinet.
B York: I wanted to ask about, you know, the claims we hear from time to time through the media where something is leaked from a Cabinet meeting; do you have any views on that? I’ve always wondered, how would that happen?
B York: Who would do it, you know?
S Gavin: Yes, yes, yeah, yeah. Well we never saw it of course, as officials, exactly how it happened; the only thing I’m 100% sure of is that it would not have happened from any of the officials. The leaks, it seemed to me, would have to be deliberate and from a minister and with the authority of a senior minister I would think, you know, I don’t recall in those three years that I was there that there were any major, unauthorised leaks that were embarrassing to the government in the sense of being a big issue for the government; I don’t think so. So I mean at that stage it was at the time when the Fraser Government was in a fairly strong position I suppose, so leaks didn’t become a big issue over that period as far as I can recall.
B York: Steve, is there anything else you’d like to say about this period, about the Cabinet note taking?
S Gavin: I think we’ve covered pretty well all of it. I did other things apart from note taking, there were other issues that affected the job; there was a Cabinet Handbook and still is a Cabinet Handbook, and one of my projects in the Policy and Project job was to revise the Cabinet Handbook, and that was an interesting exercise. Another related thing which we did in the late 70s, Geoff Yeend as Secretary to Cabinet, persuaded the PM that there needed to be some changes to the Cabinet arrangements and the way he wanted to do it was to ensure that the changes came from the ministers, and so we had this project of reviewing Cabinet arrangements where he and other senior people like Mike Codd who was the under secretary of the department at that stage, and the FAS and the AFAS and us three senior advisors went around as usually two of us at a time and interviewed each minister individually about their experiences of Cabinet and how they found it working, what they’d like to do to have things change and so on.
So I met a few of them that way in a face to face arrangement which was better and interesting in a way than just seeing them in the Cabinet context, because you didn’t really get to know people that way, and that was interesting. I don’t know quite at this distance in time that anything major came out of it mind you, but it did enable some shake-up in the Cabinet committee structures and arrangements to take place in a way that they all felt ownership of, you know? And I think that was the importance of the consultation rather than tapping into their deepest thoughts about the process.
B York: Right, good. If that’s all about your Cabinet period — I suppose I should ask — why did you leave that position, how did it come about that you moved on to a…?
S Gavin: Another one, yes. Hard to remember at this stage; I think what happened was that there was a need develop in the public order on anti-terrorism area; I’d done some work in that beforehand as I was saying, and the need was in another department, in Special Minister of State, they were just at the time when the Australian Federal Police was being set up, 1979, and the time when the counter-terrorism arrangements were being refined again a bit more. So it was an area I knew something about; there weren’t too many other people in PM and C who knew anything much about it, and I was just seconded off. And the other thing is, mostly in the Cabinet you rotated through, after about three or four years, you know, so I’d done my time there, there was a need somewhere else and off I went to do that and found myself, first of all in SMOS [Special Minister of State] and Department of Administrative Services, and then fairly short order after that with the Federal Police where I stayed for another 18 years. So it was a fairly — that was a career-shifting move at the time.
B York: As you may know, here at the museum we have an Australian Prime Ministers Centre, a permanent exhibition, so we’re very interested in the men who were Prime Ministers; did you get to know Whitlam or Fraser at all or…?
S Gavin: Well no, not in the sense that people would have an intimate knowledge of them or they would know the person; I saw plenty of — many, many hours of Malcolm Fraser in action in the Cabinet Room, I saw a few hours of Gough in the Cabinet Room, but not in a way that you could say they were known personally to me, I got — you know, you got to know their character traits and so on but…
B York: Yeah that’s what I was interested in; are you able to say anything about their characters as expressed through the way they handled the meetings or behaved at the meetings or…?
S Gavin: Yeah well, I mean it’s only a very small slice of their life and the way they operated, so you have to be very much aware of that. As I was saying earlier, the thing that I found impressive about Gough there and on the one or two occasions when I had to go to his office to deal with some other things with other people, was first of all he had a very quick mind, a very, very quick mind, and very good a chairing a meeting and giving people the opportunity to contribute, but also pulling things together and moving on. But in a sense it was all in this unreal world where whatever decisions they took, reality happened outside and changed the circumstances, and the following week they’d be back doing something much the same! So it was almost surreal in some ways. Malcolm Fraser, completely different personality at the time; it’s interesting looking back on it since when it appears he and Gough have become closer, but they certainly didn’t appear to be so at the time in the late 70s. Malcolm was a very aloof sort of personality, and while he got on well with senior people in the party and those close to him, and particularly in the National Party, there was quite a distance between him, it seemed to me, and the more junior ministers, and he was pretty aloof with staff; Gough was more open with staff.
I had one exchange with Malcolm that I remember very much for all the wrong sorts of reasons; it’s amazing I survived longer than I did, but it was a meeting about — in the Ad Hoc Committee taxation which was a dreadful committee that used to deal with, you know, bottom of the harbour schemes and all those sorts of things, dealing with taxation legislation and so on. I was the second note taker and so I was sitting on the PM’s left, and the meeting was droning on and on because he wasn’t getting his way and he was just keeping them in, and it came to a halt at one stage while people were looking something up, and I had my head down writing, and I suddenly became aware there was this shadow over me. So I was sitting down and I looked up and Malcolm was standing beside me, all six foot five of him, looking down, and he said in that Western district accent that he has, ‘I want the ect!’ and unfortunately I said — I was a bit taken by surprise so I said, ‘The ect?’ And he said, ‘The income tax assessment, etc!’ and so I said, ‘Oh yep right, the Act!’ [laughs]. So I went off and got the Act. That was really the only interchange I’ve had, and it’s amazing I survived til the next meeting but I did.
B York: What about other people who were or became Prime Ministers? Did you have any dealings with any of the others?
S Gavin: Not really; I had one meeting with Billy McMahon that was pretty forgettable and one or two meetings with other people, with Gough, and outside the Cabinet Room in the context of his office and so on. Again it was the same; he was very open to ideas, very quick, very receptive, and decisive in the sense of moving on, but…
Interview with Steve Gavin part 3
S Gavin: …As for what happened with those decisions was another matter altogether.
B York: Yes, yes.
S Gavin: That’s right. So no, in terms of one to one interaction with Prime Ministers, no, the opportunity didn’t arise in the Cabinet context and it was just very occasionally from other things. There were plenty of submissions, written ministerials to the PM on various things but you just got — you just got them back with the notations on them; it wasn’t the same as actually sitting down and talking to a person.
B York: Steve, if I might ask one more question, to conclude the interview, how do you feel coming back to this building?
S Gavin: Well I haven’t had a look around in the areas where I spent all those hours yet; I’d be interested to do that, but the one area I will have no hesitation in being happy to avoid is the Senate Officials’ Chamber, the Senate Officials’ Gallery; I spent far too long in there a long time ago. But yes, it’s interesting to come back and I’ll have a wander through the PM’s office and the Cabinet Room and see if it retains the feel of the time when we were here. The last time I did come through when it’s been open as a museum it did seem to have that feel which was nice that it’s been able to be retained.
B York: Well thank you very much indeed for today; it’s been an excellent interview I think, it’s been very insightful into how things actually worked and…
S Gavin: Well in my little slice of the event anyway.
B York: That’s right, yes, from your perspective and experience, so I think you very much for cooperating and we’ll send you a CD copy of this and let’s — if you’ve got a moment we could go to the Cabinet Room and the Prime Minister…
S Gavin: Okay, I’d like to do that.
B York: Okay.
S Gavin: Okay.
B York: Thank you.
Interview with Steve Gavin part 4
S Gavin: Okay.
B York: This is an addendum to the interview session with Steve Gavin. Steve, there was something you meant to mention, so let’s do it now.
S Gavin: Thanks Barry, and I’m sorry that it slipped my mind earlier on. Essentially it was to say that I was part of a series of meetings which culminated in the decision to build the new Parliament House, and the thing that I recall about these was that it took quite a long time for the minister bringing the matter forward and his official to even get a hearing, and secondly, it took some time beyond that for the decision to go ahead to be put in place. The issue was brought forward by Bob Ellicott as the minister responsible for the National Capital Development Commission at the time. The commission, headed by Tony Powell, saw an opportunity to make some decisions about a very important part of the planning of Canberra and for the country as a whole in terms of timing the decision to build a new Parliament House if one was taken, so that the Parliament House could be finished by 1988, the bicentenary of the First Fleet arrival.
And Ellicott and Powell had a submission to the effect that a decision needed to be taken by a particular time if the government was minded to go ahead with a new Parliament House. The old Parliament House by this time was groaning at the seams; there was an annexe put on at the House of Representatives side over near the tennis courts, there were people hot desking it in the corridors who were the officials, members were crammed into tiny little rooms, it was really very inefficient and ineffective as a workplace. On the other hand senior ministers, especially the PM, were relatively comfortable and where they weren’t in that much of a hurry to go, but I was impressed by the fact that Tony Powell and Bob Ellicott fronted up week after week; before they even got through the door their item would be listed for discussion, but for one reason or another, possibly because the PM didn’t want to bring it on for whatever reasons, it didn’t get up.
But eventually Bob Ellicott had his day and put forward a very persuasive case that decisions need to be taken and so on, and the decision was commenced. I mean it was a long process; there was the decision first of all as to where the Parliament House was to be located, whether it was to be by the lakeshore, as some planners wanted it, or on top of Capital Hill, which wasn’t in the Burley Griffin plan as such, but he had a thing called a Capitol Building, but no one quite knew what that was supposed to be so the other alternative site was the top of Capital Hill. So it was a long discussion first of all about siting; some ministers were in favour of the lake and some in favour of the hill. Eventually the hill was settled on, and then came another series of decisions about the process for building and what time frame was involved and when decisions needed to be taken to enable construction to be completed by 1988.
There seemed to be fairly ready agreement that if something was going to be done it needed to be done by that sort of time frame, and that tended to drive the process once the decision was taken but it took quite some time to get to that point. At this distance in time my memory is that I don’t think Tony Powell and Bob Ellicott proposed the establishment of a separate authority for the building of new Parliament House but that is what ultimately came out of the process, but at the end of this series of meetings as to whether or not the thing should go ahead, I remember very clearly Geoff Yeend folding it up, and it took a very long period of time — more than some months I think; it was somewhere between some months and six months or maybe even longer — but finally when the decision was settled and cast and it was determined that the new Parliament House would be built on Capital Hill with an objective of completing it by 1988, Geoff Yeend folded the books up and said to me as we made our way out, ‘You’re now part of history.’ So it struck me at the time that it was a significant decision and it was one I ought to remember, so there we are.
B York: Well thank you very much for adding that; that is important, so thank you.
S Gavin: Okay, good, thanks Barry.
[End of transcript]
This history has multiple parts.1 2 3 4
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