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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 325


Senator TEAGUE (10.01 a.m.) —This is a major report of the Senate and it lives up to the best traditions of the Senate committee system in the way in which it has been undertaken. I wish to commend the chairman and the other members of the committee: Senator West, Senator Burns, Senator Woodley and my close colleague Senator Ellison. The six of us have grown together because this is a matter that very much concentrates on human relationships, human values and justice. This committee process has been undertaken, I believe, in the most genuine way, with an enrichment of our own relationships with each other.

  As well as that, the witnesses that came from navy, some individuals who had in camera hearings with us and who were central to the events of 1992, the long line of witnesses that are listed in the appendix and the huge amount of correspondence and papers that were tabled—we have all in a sense gone through a shared experience that, I believe, contributes to Australia.

  I believe that our report will be read not only by those in the armed services—especially the navy—but also by all persons concerned with equal opportunity in the Public Service and private industry throughout the Australian community. I believe it will also be read by defence services in countries overseas. Australia is establishing, not least in navy, a benchmark of good practice, now that these tragic events of 1992 are behind us. The response by navy and the reinforcement in the 42 recommendations of this report will be of great importance as a benchmark for looking at these matters in the future.

  This is an unanimous report. We are all alike in reinforcing that the defence services of Australia are for men and women alike. It is right that women are to serve in the navy and on ships at sea. It is impossible for women to have an opportunity of authority within the armed services if they do not gain experience at sea. We are critical, and the navy itself is critical, that in the years leading up to 1992—and to some extent this is a reflection on the government of the day—there was tardiness in getting in place the necessary transitions to ensure that women would be successful at sea. There is a corporate responsibility in navy, paralleled in army and air force, which, we point out very explicitly, had inadequacies in the years 1989, 1990, 1991 and, especially, 1992.

  This matter arose with regard to behaviour on one ship at sea in a four-month tour to Asia in the middle of 1992. There was unacceptable behaviour in the officers' wardroom and, in particular, unacceptable behaviour by one officer. There was bullying in another area of the ship by one petty officer. Critically, this involved two able seamen, both women. It was a hellish bullying of these two women. That was the finding of the board of inquiry and it is the finding of this committee. We have recommended that the navy's tactical electronic warfare support section be completely reviewed to ensure that there is nothing of this behaviour possible in the future.

  The third incident was a charge of sexual assault—or, as reported in the media, rape—on one officer by another. This is fully reviewed, especially in chapter 7 of this report. We addressed all terms of references given to us by the Senate at the suggestion, in part, of the then Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, and, with additions, we widened that inquiry to army and air force, which was the suggestion of the Senate. The fourth incident involving the HMAS Swan in 1992 related to inappropriate behaviour onshore at a party in Hong Kong. It amounted to food throwing and other childish, inappropriate behaviour, but not sexual harassment.

  In retrospect, the concreteness of these incidents involving men and women on one ship at sea not only gives a spur for navy to get it right and a spur for this Senate inquiry, but it also gives a series of real life examples, discussed in the report, of sexual harassment generally and sexual assault, and all the appropriate educative means to minimise and even eliminate them from every part of Australian life. It also gives a spur for appropriate investigative, prosecuting and disciplinary procedures to deal with these when they arise.

  This report follows a court martial where the charged officer was acquitted. It follows a two-month board of inquiry where all of the matters of 1992 I have discussed were investigated. Amongst our papers tabled here today is the full transcript of the court martial and the full transcript of the board of inquiry. It is impossible to understand the report without recourse to all of the papers that were before us. As we have explained in our appendix to that evidence, we have expunged those matters that ought to be expunged on the grounds of privacy and privilege.

  The media became involved in September 1993—partly as a political instrument for some of the aggrieved parties. The media's reporting was extreme, exaggerated and misleading to the Australian public and it was with some of those bells ringing in the public's mind and, indeed, in the government's mind, that this matter had to be cleared up. The Senate committee system has the appropriate clout—the appropriate authority—to deal comprehensively with a situation that needed a further inquiry to settle the matter. We have dealt with the misleading by the media—there is still in the Australian public a caricature of the events in navy of 1992 which is wrong—and have sought to set out the facts. We not only give our 42 recommendations and our clear findings, but also give the reasons for our findings.

  I will list the recommendations that I find most significant. Recommendation 1 is that there needs to be an assessment of the hierarchy for complaints about sexual harassment and the appropriate responses, depending upon the level or degree of harassment. That also relates to recommendations 9 and 21. No. 5 recommends that whenever there is a board of inquiry the participants be informed as to what happened to their evidence and their contribution. Recommendations 10 and 12 are about improving selection and training procedures before men and, especially, women go to sea. Recommendation 14 calls for a complete review of the navy's tactical electronic warfare support section.

  Recommendation 18 calls for a complete review of the divisional system. Recommendation 24 deals directly with Captain Mole. We believe that the censure of Captain Mole is not justified. We seek a review of that censure. I believe that he ought to be promoted to captain within his present very important task as a submariner in charge of one of our submarines. The report speaks for itself.

  Recommendation 26 calls on the army and air force to get into line at least to the extent of the navy and to prosecute this matter according to their own action plans, which is also referred to in recommendation 39. Recommendation 40 calls for the ADF to report back on all of this to the Senate. (Extension of time granted) I refer to chapter 7, page 191—particularly the discussion about Dr Wheat which I believe is balanced and significant. I also refer to page 215 and the balanced discussion of the two able seamen, Connelly and Flannery. We have come to a very clear understanding of the hell that these two women experienced. They are no longer in navy and have been given a compensatory financial payment by navy.

  Page 233 of the report is a very important section that talks about the corporate responsibility of navy. On page 255 the report talks about jurisdiction when events like this happen overseas. I refer to page 300 and pages following where the report refers to Major Quinn's very important 1987 survey of sexual harassment in the armed forces. Reference to this very balanced and careful survey is, in some ways, a good way to start reading this report.

  I was delighted to have been associated with this inquiry and this report. I hope that the individuals involved will regard the report as sound and responsible. I commend the whole report to the Senate and to our armed services.