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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2130

(Question No. 773)

Senator MacGibbon asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 November 1993:

  With reference to the seagoing appointment of female members of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in RAN ships:

  (1) What were the orders or instructions given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Ray), the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel (Senator Faulkner) or from the Government to the RAN which pertained to the seagoing appointment of women members of the RAN.

  (2) Did the Minister for Defence consult with any other ministers in the Government prior to or regarding these orders or instructions.

  (3) What was the nature of these consultations, were they oral or did they involve written consultation.

  (4) Was any comment made orally or in writing by the RAN to the Minister for Defence or any other minister in relation to the matter; if so, what was the advice tendered and did the Minister for Defence consult with any other minister in relation to the comment made by the RAN.

Senator Robert Ray —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) No orders or instructions were given by me or Senator Faulkner.

  The Hon Gordon Bilney MP announced in May 1990 that, on the advice of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), he had decided to promote full integration of female personnel throughout the Services including Combat Related positions. (News Release 71/90 refers.)

  In December 1992 the Hon Gordon Bilney MP announced that he had accepted a recommendation

from the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) to open a considerable number of combat positions to women in the RAAF, Army and Navy. In the RAN, women would be permitted to serve in the new Collins class submarines and all combat positions excepting the extremely hazardous and physically demanding mine clearance diver category. (News Release of 18 December 1992 refers.)

  (2) The decisions referred to were Ministerial, not taken in Cabinet, and therefore formal consultations did not take place.

  (3) As for (2).

  (4) The COSC considered a review of the Employment of Women in Combat and Combat Related Positions on 9 December 1992. Based on the deliberations of that Committee, CDF recommended to the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel that a number of combat positions be open to women. It was recommended that only positions involving the probability of direct physical contact with the enemy should continue to be unavailable to women. The Minister agreed to CDF's recommendation and announced the policy on 18 December 1992. The review document, as amended after COSC consideration, was then passed to the three services.