Process character: the Royal Commissioner
Part B: The Royal Commission
There are three Royal Commissioners and your teacher on the Royal Commissioners team. The Chief Royal Commissioner (teacher) opens the Royal Commission by making remarks about what is to happen and why.
You will be allocated either:
- Royal Commissioner 1
- Royal Commissioner 2
- Royal Commissioner 3
1. You will devise the order of the characters/witnesses, starting with Colonel Charles Spry.
2. The commission team will read the common character resources and devise questions for each character that will: * articulate who they are and why they have been summonsed to appear: and * draw out the complexity of each character, questioning actions, motivations, fears, etc.
3. Deliver your findings Once all of the characters/witnesses have given their statements and answered the questions of the Royal Commissioners, the Royal Commissioners are to pull together all of the evidence they have heard and present the major points.
The questions you must consider in your findings are: * Has espionage been carried out by the Soviets in Australia? To what extent? * Were Australians involved? If so, who, how and why?
4. Your assessment on this segment of your work will be based on how well your questions allow the witnesses to articulate who they are and why they have been summonsed to appear, and draw out their actions, motivations, fears, etc.
Royal Commissioner 1
Your role is to ask questions that will allow the witnesses to present themselves in their best light. Prepare 3 questions.
Royal Commissioner 2
Your role is to ask questions that bring out the weaknesses in the witness’ testimonials. Prepare 3 questions.
Royal Commissioner 3
Your role is to ask questions that bring out the inconsistencies in their story. Prepare 3 questions.
National Archives of Australia, Royal Commission on Espionage – Fact Sheet
What is a commission?
In general, a commission is an order or an instruction to carry out certain duties. Parliaments in Australia regularly commission inquiries into certain subjects or order activities to be carried out.
The inquiry will be carried out by a single Commissioner, or several Commissioners. Their job is to investigate the issue and make a report on their findings.
On some occasions, especially on major political issues, the government may establish a Royal Commission. A Royal Commission is an inquiry issued by the Governor-General. Royal Commissioners have very wide powers of enquiry and have the power to call, or subpoena, witnesses. The commission can also read documents [eg books, papers, other forms of written information] which may be relevant.
A commission makes recommendations for future actions – it does not have final authority. A Royal Commission reports to Parliament. The government decides what, if any, action will be taken. Therefore, reports which are not in accord with the policies of the existing government could be shelved.
The Final Report of the 1954 Royal Commission on Espionage
The Final Report of the Royal Commission on Espionage concluded that the Petrov documents were genuine and that the Petrovs were ‘witnesses of truth.’ However no prosecutions were recommended as a result of the inquiry. Although the Commission cast suspicion on six Australians – Fergan O’Sullivan, Rupert Lockwood, Frances Bernie, Ian Milner, Jim Hill and Walter Clayton – there was no existing Australian law covering their alleged crimes. In the case of Milner and Hill the Commission’s judgement rested on evidence that could not have been produced in court—the results of a top-secret code breaking operation.