On 4 April 2012, one of the more shameful moments in the recent history of the Legislative Council took place on what should have been one of its most solemn occasions.
Nearly one third of the 16 speakers on a motion to commemorate ANZAC Day plagiarised material from easily accessible websites to pad out their contributions to the debate.
Of the 12 MLCs who spoke for 5 minutes or more in the Debate, 5 MLCs relied on unattributed or barely acknowledged material from the internet for significant portions of their contributions.
They were The Hon. Charlie Lynn (Lib), The Hon. Lynda Voltz (ALP), The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones (Lib.), The Hon. Marie Ficarra (Lib), and The Hon. Matthew Mason Cox (Lib).
The two worst offenders by far were Lynn and Voltz – the lead speakers for the Government and the Opposition, who each brought a substantial history of plagiarism in previous Parliamentary speeches to the occasion.
To compound the offence, Lynn is the Parliamentary Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs, whose responsibilities includes representing the Government on commemorative military occasions.
On moving the motion and leading from the Government side, Lynn’s opening was lifted, directly and dishonestly, from a speech given by Dale Stephens, a Royal Australian Navy Captain, to Harvard in 2010, and another given by noted author and journalist Les Carylon at the War Memorial in 2011.
In addition to plagiarising these two speeches, the next substantial portion of Lynn’s speech was devoted to (an attributed) reading of selections from John Curtin’s 1942 address on the Bombing of Darwin.
Accounting for these three speeches, less than 1000 words of Lynn’s near 2800 word speech was original material.
Here I have provided a full extract of Lynn’s speech, with the original source material annotated.
Lynn’s plagiarism on this occasion adds to at least another seven speeches in the Legislative Council for tributes or military commemorative occasions where he has plagiarised speeches, newspaper articles and material from the Australian War Memorial.
The Hon. Sophie Voltz then led the debate for the Opposition. Of her 2600 word speech, barely one tenth of it was original or attributed material.
The entirety of her speech was comprised of an unattributed blog post from the Australian War Memorial website, noting the passing of a distinguished member of the Nursing Corps, and a 2002 Australian War Memorial conference paper on Japanese prisoner of camps in Korea.
While Voltz acknowledges one of the researchers responsible for the latter, there is no indication that she is reading the substance of the conference paper on to the Parliamentary record as her own contribution to the debate.
Indeed, Voltz compounds the injury by not even knowing the gender of the academic (“ I acknowledge the work of Professor Fran De Groen for his research”) whose work was appropriated for her speech.
And given the time constraints, Voltz was not even able to bring this second part of her speech to a timely finish, leaving a vague and inconclusive summation of the train of events that brought an end to the horrors faced by the prisoners of war who were to be “honoured” by her speech.
Here I have provided a full extract of Voltz’s speech, with the original source material annotated.
While the extent of the plagiarism in subsequent contributions does not approach that evident in the speeches given by Lynn and Voltz, it is nevertheless obvious.
Here are the excerpts from the speeches made by Maclaren-Jones, Ficarra and Mason-Cox that establish the same failure to acknowledge the sources for substantive elements of their speeches.
Like Lynn and Voltz, Ficarra has a documented record of plagiarism in several speeches to Upper House debates.