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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 333


Senator IAN MACDONALD (10.41 a.m.) —I am not a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and I must confess to not having a great knowledge of the way the services operate. But the matter of the Swan inquiry was brought to my attention by a constituent in relation to an action involving senior officers of the ship. As a representative of the people and as a parliamentarian I always think it is important that, where there are suggestions made to parliamentarians of unfairness and injustice, we acknowledge our obligation to pursue these matters.

  I was very interested to have a quick look at this report when it was tabled just 40 minutes ago. Obviously, in the time I have had available, I have had no opportunity to look at it in any other than a cursory fashion. I did, however, refer to chapter 7 of the report and, in particular, the recommendations arising from that chapter. It is obvious that careers and entire lives can be adversely and seriously affected where censures and disciplinary action are taken against members of the military forces. But where these censures are inappropriate, it is often difficult to rectify them as I understand, again from a very quick reading of the report, that there is no appeal.

  From a quick reading of the report, it is obvious to me that the recommendations show that the committee has some very real doubts about the censure of Captain Mole. The committee has taken the rather unusual but very deliberate step of recommending a review of the censure against Captain Mole in particular, and of other personnel more generally. This is very important and needs highlighting, particularly in the light of the very unprofessional and sensational manner in which this whole matter was reported in the popular press. Both the chairman and the deputy chairman have made reference to that aspect. I think it is important, therefore, that the committee's recommendations in relation to the senior officers be highlighted.

  I note the deputy chairman's personal remark that Captain Mole should be promoted. Whilst I acknowledge that that is a personal private remark by the deputy chairman and that it is for the navy to deal with promotions and not this Senate, I do think it is interesting that the deputy chairman was occasioned to make that remark. I note recommendation 25 and particularly the second part of it, which says:

The Committee recommends that any selection panel considering promotions where Captain Mole is a candidate should have this Committee's report brought to its attention.

That is obviously a specific reference to the matter. It is fairly obvious that the committee in chapter 7—and, I daresay, in the rest of the report, which I have not had the opportunity of reading; but certainly in relation to chapter 7, which I have skimmed through—has gone to great lengths to detail the reasons why it came to its conclusions. It is a very considered report.

  I should at this stage add my congratulations to the members of the committee and, in particular, to the chairman and the deputy chairman, for the scholarship and dedication that they have obviously used in preparing this report and in the recommendations they have made. Whilst, as I repeat, I have not had the opportunity to read the rest of the recommendations, I am quite confident, from the speeches that have been made here and from a quick look at chapter 7, that it is a very worthwhile report and one that the committee and the Senate as a whole can be proud of.

  I simply highlight recommendations 24, 25 and 26. I certainly hope that the relevant authorities in the navy take into account those recommendations, which are based on the very sound scholarship and investigation that has gone into this report, in any future action relating to the careers of the senior naval personnel involved. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

  Leave granted; debate adjourned.

  Bills received from the House of Representatives.