Death of Mr Francis Thomas Miller
|About this Item||Subjects||Obituaries; Protests and Demonstrations; Fines and Penalties; Sydney Harbour
||Speakers||Debnam Mr Peter
||Business||Private Members Statements, Condolence
Mr DEBNAM (Vaucluse) [5.37 p.m.]: On Good Friday a good man died in Sydney. On 18 April Frank Miller suffered a heart attack which was unexpected, but I note it came 10 days after a Greenpeace stunt which caused considerable concern to Frank. Before I speak about Greenpeace and its illegal activities on 8 April, I wish to inform the House about Frank Miller. Francis Thomas Miller was "Frank" to his family and many friends. He was a constituent of mine, but unfortunately I had not had the privilege of meeting him. After hearing Alan Jones speak about Frank Miller on air yesterday, I made contact with Frank's employer and then I spoke with his wife, Irene, and his son Shayne. They told me of a much-admired husband and father.
Frank Miller was born in 1935 in Hong Kong to Irish parents. Frank's father was with the police in Hong Kong and was to die as a prisoner of war of the Japanese during World War II. In 1941 six-year-old Frank and his mother fled as refugees to the Philippines and in 1942 they made their way to Sydney. From 1942 Frank Miller grew up in Sydney and I understand he went to Waverley College. He did National Service and continued with the Army until 1962. He was promoted to captain and was a member of the First Commando Unit.
In 1962 Frank Miller began a second career in sales and marketing in South-east Asia. He later began his own business in import and export, and grew his business throughout South-east Asia. Frank Miller was not the sort of person to settle back in Sydney and retire when he came back to Sydney in the late 1990s, so he got his truck driver's licence and last June went back to TAFE to get a marine engine driver 3 qualification. He then set out to find a couple of jobs. A few months ago he began driving water taxis on Sydney Harbour.
Shayne and Elissa are Frank's son and daughter from his first marriage, and Patrick and Jack are sons from his marriage to Irene. I understand Shayne delivered a moving and very personal eulogy at Frank's funeral this week. Frank was also given a military send-off at his funeral. As his son Shayne told me today, Frank Miller was a self-made man. He did a lot of things in his life; he made money at times and he also lost it at times. He loved the ocean and sailing. He enjoyed South-east Asia, especially Hong Kong.
Shayne says his father was a true battler with very strong views and he stood up for what he believed in. Shayne said his father never boasted and never complained. But Frank Miller was upset with what happened on 8 April when Greenpeace activists attacked HMAS Sydney and refused to follow Frank's instructions while on board his boat. On 8 April Frank was asked to take three people who he understood were Reuters News photographers to view the departure of HMAS Sydney. But he soon discovered that these people were from Greenpeace and they were going to cause him considerable grief and result in his being fined by the Waterways Authority. We will never know whether Greenpeace's illegal activities contributed to Frank Miller's heart attack, but, as his wife, Irene, told me:
Frank had strong views about the Greenpeace type of activists and their attacks on our community and Australia. He believed they threatened our security.
Frank Miller wrote to the Waterways Authority to take exception to receiving a fine and the recording of the infringement on his record. Irene said the fine really got up his nose and he was concerned to set the authorities right about his actions on the water. Frank Miller had tried to do the right thing but his passengers had firstly deceived him and his company about their identity and had then refused to obey the law while on board his boat. A few days before his death Frank Miller wrote to the Waterways Authority as follows:
On Tuesday 8th April at about 0830 hrs I was advised by my base to go to Rose Bay Public wharf to pick up a number of photographers. I was advised they were from Reuters News and wished to record the departing of HMAS Sydney.
I arrived at Rose Bay wharf on time and picked up three Photographers with their equipment. On the way from Rose Bay to Woolloomooloo Bay I was advised all three represented "Greenpeace" and were being employed to record, not the departure of the HMAS Sydney, but the protests they knew would occur.
I explained they could take photographs either through the windows or the open door on the starboard side of the vessel. One of them asked could he film from the roof of the vessel and I explained this could not be done nor could they film from anywhere outside the housing …
Later when the protesters were able to secure one of their number on the starboard bow of the Sydney … three photographers moved to positions outside the vessels housing. I repeatedly told them to come inside. Initially they ignored my instructions and only after I steered my vessel away from the Sydney, they responded.
I stopped the vessel and told them they were breaking the law and I could not allow them to film from the gunwales.
Frank noted a couple of other instances in which the photographers broke the law. The point I make is that Frank Miller was a good, responsible citizen; his passengers were not. I can understand Waterways initially citing Frank for the unlawful behaviour of his passengers, but in the circumstances of the day I think Waterways should have acknowledged that Greenpeace had broken the laws and Frank Miller was the meat in the sandwich, as were the Water Police who were injured as a result of the attack by Greenpeace. The three activists on Frank Miller's boat should have been the focus of attention for Waterways and the police. I understand that this afternoon Waterways dismissed the fine and infringement. However, I ask Greenpeace to identify the three activists who broke the law on Frank Miller's boat. I ask the activists and Greenpeace to apologise to the Miller family for their illegal activities on 8 April and for the concern they caused to Frank Miller.