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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23536


Mr Rudd asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 November 2003:

(1) Further to the answer to question No. 2031 (Hansard, 8 September 2003, page 1983), in respect of the Review of Structural Management, is it the case that `G' meter print outs for the Mirage show that tolerances were exceeded and not reported and that major cracks to the old wing spar were not inspected within the hourly limit set by the RAAF extension of life program.

(2) How many Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by Captain Mackelmann, Craig Mackelmann's father, were refused and why.

(3) Is it the case that documents obtained under FOI by Captain Mackelmann reveal evidence which was not produced to the inquiries; if so, (a) why was this evidence not produced, and (b) why will it not be reviewed now.

(4) Why was the Accident Investigation Team (AIT) report not made available to the Coroner and to Captain Mackelmann during the coronial inquiry.

(5) Why was the AIT report withheld from Captain Mackelmann for almost 6 years and then provided only after intervention by the Ombudsman.

(6) Were two differing transcripts of the same tape recording made by the AIT and were both withheld from the Coronial inquiry.

(7) Is the Minister aware that Captain Mackelmann claims to have evidence indicating that the tape has been manipulated in a way which would explain the seven second time difference.

(8) Can the Minister explain how the transcript of the tape used at the Board of Inquiry (BOI) and provided to the Coroner put F/Lt Riley further back behind Craig Mackelmann than he was in the transcript used by the AIT.

(9) Has the possibility that F/Lt Riley committed a breach of Air Force Orders and was being protected been investigated; if not, why not.

(10) Is there actual evidence which supports the RAAF assertion that no guns were fired; if so, why does the RAAF refuse to provide it to Captain Mackelmann.

(11) Did the RAAF witnesses interviewed by the Ombudsman regarding the downloading of the returned ammunition unload F/Lt Riley's aircraft; if not, who did and why were they not interviewed.

(12) Did the BOI inquire into whether proper radio procedures were being followed at the time of the accident; if so, what were its findings; if not, why not.

(13) Has the Minister personally reviewed the transcript of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) proceedings.

(14) Was Air Commodore Ford represented at the AAT hearing by Barrister Logan and Solicitors from the Crown Law Office at Commonwealth expense.

(15) Was similar legal assistance offered or provided to the Mackelmann family; if not, why not.

(16) In what ways did Air Commodore Ford's evidence to the AAT differ from the evidence he had given to the Ombudsman and the Durack review.

(17) Why did Defence try to prevent Captain Mackelmann obtaining a copy of Air Commodore Ford's interview with Senator Durack.

(18) Was Air Commodore Ford's interview with Senator Durack instrumental in challenging Air Commodore Ford's testimony to the AAT.

(19) Did the AAT ask the RAAF to conduct a further search for the gun camera cine film from the returned aircraft.

(20) Was this film provided for and viewed by (a) Air Commodore Ford when he was President of the BOI, and (b) another member of the BOI named Alexander; if so, what happened to it.

(21) Is the Minister able to explain (a) whether a breakdown in radio procedures occurred prior to the accident, (b) whether it is correct procedure for a pilot to hear an “off safe” from the previous pilot on a banner before calling “in live”, and (c) what the purpose is of the “off safe” and “in live” calls.

(22) Does the AIT transcript of the radio calls show F/Lt Riley “in live” 32 seconds after Craig Mackelmann called “in live” with no “off safe” call made by Craig Mackelmann; if so, will the Minister explain whether this is a breach of range safety standing orders.

(23) Has the possibility that F/Lt Riley had made an incorrect “in live” call and been too close to Craig Mackelmann been investigated; if not, why not.

(24) Has Captain Mackelmann's hypothesis in respect of the accident been considered; if so, what evidence (a) supports it, and (b) contradicts it; if not, why not.

(25) Do the Range Standing Orders state that it is preferable for the Range Safety Officer to be a non-participating pilot.

(26) Was F/Lt Riley the Range Safety Officer at the time of the accident and what authority, if any, did the civil pilots in the tug aircraft “with Range Safety Officer responsibilities inherent in its role” have over F/Lt Riley.

(27) Should the civil pilots have reacted when F/Lt Riley called “in live” before Craig Mackelmann called “off safe”; if so, how; if not, why not.


Mr Brough (Minister for Employment Services and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The information sought in the honourable member's question is not readily available. To collect and assemble such information solely for the purpose of answering the question would be a major task and I am not prepared to authorise the expenditure and effort that would be required.

Mr Mackelmann, the father of Pilot Officer Craig Mackelmann, who was killed in the accident, has corresponded for the past 17 years with Defence. Defence has done everything possible to assist Mr Mackelmann with his requests for information so that he may have closure on the matter.

I am satisfied that the loss of the Mirage aircraft A3-40 has been adequately investigated. The Mirage accident has been the subject of an Accident Investigation; Board of Inquiry; Coronial Inquest; Ombudsman Investigation; Review of Structural Management Practices; Senator the Hon Peter Durack, QC Review; Defence Science and Technology Organisation Aeronautical Maritime Research Laboratory Structural Integrity Review; and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The matter has also been the subject of a considerable number of Freedom of Information requests.