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Monday, 18 November 1996
Page: 5579

(Question No. 254)


Senator Woodley asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 8 October 1996:

(1) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (1a) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated that `There is no record held of discussions or conversations involving Lieutenant Commander Kelly or Lieutenant Strack in late 1991':

(a) How did the Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin investigate Cason's claims on 29 October 1991 that Lieutenant Commander Kelly and Lieutenant Strack appear to have publicly implied criticism of the Fun Dive Group's knowledge of nitrox and helium diving operations;

(b) What documentation was used to substantiate that that investigation was in accordance with Defence instructions;

(c) Was the investigation thoroughly and competently conducted; and

(d) Could Lieutenant Commander Kelly and Lieutenant Strack have misled or made inaccurate statements during the Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin 's investigation.

(2) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (2) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated that `No record is held of any discussions conducted during the Hazards of Deep Diving Seminar at Prince Henry Hospital on 16 September 1991':

(a) Is the Minister aware that a Mr John Parsell made the following statement regarding the seminar: `During the seminar three doctors who had been involved with mixed gas diving overseas and in the Navy here in Australia. . . All three doctors said it was highly dangerous introducing this type of diving within this State';

(b) Is the Minister aware that this statement was made by Mr Parsell in a letter to the New South Wales Minister for Health on 30 September 1991; and

(c) Is the Minister also aware that Mr Parsell's letter resulted in New South Wales Department of Health Ministerial 91/10134.

(3) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (3a) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) may make available non-classified technical or scientific information if requested by a consultant, for the compilation of public papers and reports':

Did the RAN provide Dr D Gorman with a copy of HMAS Penguin letter 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) dated 26 September 1991; if so, did the RAN consider that the release of the letter containing highly critical and unsubstantiated statements concerning a private individual was possibly an infringement of that individual's rights; if not, can the RAN explain how Dr D Gorman obtained a copy of the letter.

(4) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (6a, b and c) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated that `The procedures were the use of mixed gas diving to depths down to 200 metres'; using both open circuit and semi-closed circuit sets':

(a) How did the RAN substantiate `depths down to 200 metres, and

(b) Will the RAN provide copies of the documentation used to substantiate this statement.

(5) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (10b) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `No. Recreational mixed gas diving at that time was not endorsed by major world bodies involved in underwater medicine and diving including. . . and recreational diving bodies such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the Federation of Australian Underwater Instructors (FAUI), National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI)':

Is the Minister aware that the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD) and American Nitrox Divers International (ANDI) were set up in the United States of America in 1985 and 1988 respectively, as alternatives/competitors to existing recreational diving bodies such as PADI, FAUI and NAUI; if so, why does the RAN make a practice of only recognising certain companies and refusing to acknowledge the existence of, or recognise, their competitors; if not, why was the RAN not keeping current and up-to-date with developments in recreational mixed gas diving in Australia and overseas.

(6) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (11a) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `Lieutenant McIntyre did not write his report immediately after Fun Dive's presentation as he attended in a private capacity and therefore did not believe a report would be required. It was not until WorkCover expressed concerns about fun dive's proposal that he wrote a report on what he had heard and seen':

(a) How and when did New South Wales WorkCover receive a copy of HMAS Penguin letter 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) dated 26 September 1991;

(b) Who authorised the release of this official RAN correspondence to the New South Wales Government;

(c) Was Annex A to HMAS Penguin letter 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) dated 26 September 1991 discussed at the meeting between the RAN and New South Wales WorkCover on 30 September 1991; and

(d) Did Annex C to HMAS Penguin letter 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) dated 26 September 1991 come from HMAS Penguin 's own library.

(7) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 2626, paragraph (21b) (Senate Hansard , 1 December 1995, page 4829) which stated `The RAD did not hold any documentation to substantiate the alleged details of the proposed dive by Mr Cason'; and with further reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (13) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `It is not accepted that the Commanding Officer used unsubstantiated information':

(a) Why did the RAN provide professional advice on civilian issues such as recreational mixed gas diving without documentation to substantiate its claims; and

(b) Is this practice permitted by Defence instructions.

(8) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (15a) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `It is considered that the initial discussions would have been general and not considered of a controversial nature and therefore falling within the guidelines for exchange of professional and technical information with other government agencies'; and with further reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (15) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The details of Lieutenant McIntyre's letter, which were corroborated by discussions with Prince Henry Hospital'.

Why didn't HMAS Penguin seek and obtain approval for discussions with the Prince Henry Hospital Hyperbaric Unit as it did with New South Wales WorkCover on 26 September 1995.

(9) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (16) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The details of Lieutenant McIntyre's letter, which were corroborated by discussions with prince Henry Hospital, were sufficient to warrant bringing the matter to the attention of WorkCover'; and given that the HMAS Penguin 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) letter was dated 26 September 1991, the authorised meeting between the RAN and New South Wales WorkCover took place on 30th September 1991 and Lieutenant McIntyre's report was dated 3 October 1991.

(a) Is the Minister aware of a telephone conversation between the RAN and Inspector Appel of the New South Wales WorkCover on 20 September 1991;

(b) Is the Minister aware of a telephone conversation between Inspector Riley of the New South Wales WorkCover and Lieutenant Commander Barnes on 23 September 1991; and

(c) Can the Minister explain the validity of his answer considering the apparent conflict of dates and events.

(10) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (4a) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The RAN policy is that where material is published which contains private opinions of RAN personnel the writing must contain a notice to the effect that the views expressed are private and not the official view of the RAN'; and with further reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (16) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The unsubstantiated details were not reported as fact to WorkCover'; and given that the Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin stated in his letter 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) to the Flag Officer Naval Support Command dated 26 September 1991 that `WorkCover understands that the most authoritative source of information on mixed gas diving in Australia is the RAN diving school':

(a) Is the Minister aware that Lieutenant McIntyre's report was faxed by HMAS Penguin on 3 October 1991 to Inspector Riley at New South Wales    WorkCover;

(b) Is the Minister also aware that Lieutenant McIntyre's report did not contain a statement stating that his views were private and not the official view of the RAN, as required by RAN policy; and

(c) Can the Minister explain the validity of the answer, `The unsubstantiated details were not reported as fact to WorkCover'.

(11) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (15b) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The reason for the close timing of the meeting and its approval document is not recorded. It is assessed that due to constraints on the availability of personnel to attend the meeting a tentative time was set subject to higher authority approval. This approval was forthcoming':

Does the Minister therefore agree that arrangements were apparently made for representatives of the Prince of Wales Hyperbaric Unit to attend the meeting at HMAS Penguin prior to 30 September 1991.

(12) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (15c) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `This question should be referred to New South Wales WorkCover or New South Wales Department of Health. Flag Officer Naval Support Command approved discussions with WorkCover and these took place'; and given that the New South Wales Minister for Health gave the following answers to questions on notice in the New South Wales Legislative Council on 2 May 1996:

`Yes' to the question ` If officers from the Prince of Wales Hospital Hyperbaric Unit attended the meeting, was it as guests of HMAS Penguin ?'.

`Dr Gleeson and Mr Gibbons' to the question `If so, who stated this?'

`I am informed by the area that the hospital administration is unable to recall the identify of the person who issued the verbal invitation to attend the meeting' to the question `If officers from the Prince of Wales Hospital Hyperbaric Unit attended the meeting, who at HMAS Penguin invited (authorised) them to attend':

(a) Will the Minister now reconsider his answer to question on notice no. 35 (15c) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996);

(b) As Lieutenant Commander Kelly was the senior RAN officer present at the official meeting with New South Wales WorkCover on 30 September 1991 and given that the Flag Officer Naval Support Command letter N5/5/87, dated 30 September 1991, only gave approval for discussions with WorkCover: (i) why did Lieutenant Commander Kelly allow unauthorised representatives from the Prince Henry Hospital Hyperbaric Unit to attend the meeting, and (ii) will disciplinary action be taken against Lieutenant Commander Kelly for failing to strictly comply with the directive of the Flag Officer Naval Support Command; and

(c) Has Lieutenant Commander Kelly misled the RAN about his role in inviting representatives from the Prince Henry Hospital Hyperbaric Unit to attend the meeting at HMAS Penguin on 30 September 1991.

(13) With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 35, paragraph (19) (Senate Hansard , 18 June 1996) which stated `The allegations that the RAN had no idea of the developments in mixed gas diving since at least the mid-1980's, is entirely refuted,': given that the Minister has not answered the actual question asked; will the Minister now answer question on notice no. 35, paragraph (19):

Why did the RAN provide professional advice to the New South Wales WorkCover about recreational mixed gas diving when it had no idea of the developments in recreational mixed gas diving since at least the mid 1980's.

(14) Is the Minister aware that ex-Lieutenant Cason, having voluntarily withdrawn from MCDO Course 1/75, was posted as Executive Officer HMAS Curlew (a MCDO billet) in late September 1975 while the then Lieutenant Gibbons (a qualified MCDO) was posted to a general seaman billet in HMAS Brisbane in early November 1975, some 6 weeks late.

(15) What is the weight of a Drager FGT in its carrying case, ready for shipping.

(16)(a) Is the Minister aware that the advice received by WorkCover from a number of government and semi-government organisations regarding the safety or otherwise of recreational mixed gas diving in 1991 was based on `the proposed 200m dive and the way it was proposed to be conducted'; and

(b) Is the Minister aware that there is no documentation held by New South Wales WorkCover, Prince Henry Hospital Hyperbaric Hospital or the RAN that can substantiate statements by Lieutenant McIntyre and HMAS Penguin about an alleged 200m dive by the Fun Dive Group.

(17) Is the Minister aware that the New South Wales Minister for Health has stated in the New South Wales Legislative Council on 6 June 1996 that a search of the records has failed to locate a record of any advice about recreational mixed gas diving given by the Prince Henry Hospital Hyperbaric Unit or any member of the unit to the RAN.

(18) Did the RAN or the Department of Defence have any involvement whatsoever in the purchase of Drager FGG rebreathers by the Victorian Division of the National Safety Council of Australia from Drager in the 1980's.

(19)(a) What was the role of Dr Gorman in the Victorian Division of the National Safety Council of Australia when the Division purchased the FGGs from Drager in the 1980's; and

(b) Did Dr Gorman act as a consultant to the RAN during the 1980's; if so, during what dates in the 1980's and in what capacity.

(20) Was the professional advice about recreational mixed gas diving, given by Lieutenant Strack at a New South Wales Interdepartmental meeting on 17 July 1992, the official position of the RAN; if not, were Lieutenant Strack's private opinions accompanied by a notice to the effect that the views expressed were private and not the official position of the RAN.

(21)(a) Was the professional advice about recreational mixed gas diving, given by Lieutenant Strack to the Queensland Division of Workplace Health and Safety on 15 October 1993, the official position of the RAN; if not, were Lieutenant Strack's private opinions accompanied by a notice to the effect that the views expressed were private and not the official position of the RAN;

(b) Is the Minister aware that Lieutenant Strack's professional advice was used by the Queensland Division of Workplace Health and Safety to refuse approval for Mr Cason to provide recreational mixed gas instructional services in Queensland on 22 October 1993, 7 days later; and

(c) Is the Minister aware that Lieutenant Strack's advice was inappropriate to recreational mixed gas diving and has since been disregarded in the proposed Diving Industry Code of Practice for Recreational Mixed Gas in Queensland.

(22) Where, when and how did the Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin get the necessary information to substantiate the statement, `the regulation of mixed gas diving by a sports diving company is not provided for by any legislation' in his letter 88/1/2 (DS 321/91) to the Flag Officer Naval Support Command, dated 26 September 1991.

(23) Is it possible that the Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin and the Flag Officer Naval Support Command have been misled by any of the following officers regarding their involvement in the Fun Dive's proposed recreational mixed gas diving activities in 1991:

(a) Lieutenant Commander G Barnes RAN

(b) Lieutenant Commander G Kelly RAN

(c) Lieutenant Commander M Loxton RAN

(d) Lieutenant M McIntyre RAN

(e) Lieutenant C Strack RNZN.

(24) Is it possible that the Minister for Defence has been misled by the RAN regarding HMAS Penguin 's involvement in Fun Dive's proposed recreational mixed gas diving activities in 1991.

(25) Is it possible that the RAN's inquiries/investigations into HMAS Penguin 's involvement in Fun Dive's proposed recreational mixed gas diving activities in 1991 has been inaccurate, incomplete or incompetent.


Senator Newman —The Minister for Defence has provided the following response to the honourable senator's question:

I refer the honourable senator to my response to question on notice no 192, published in the Hansard of 31 October 1996, page 4838.