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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 75

Mr FITZGIBBON (2:10 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm that large sections of the board of inquiry report on the Sea King helicopter crash have been deleted? Further, is the minister satisfied with the report, and will he now move to ensure that all due processes were properly followed, that all the facts relating to the accident and responsibilities for it are made public, and that all the families of the nine personnel who lost their lives are given full closure?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Defence) —I thank the member for Hunter for his question. Today the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, the Chief of Navy and the Maritime Commander for Australia are releasing the board of inquiry report into the Sea King tragedy which occurred on 2 April 2005. Every one of the 256 recommendations in that report are being implemented fully. Thirty per cent have been implemented already and by the end of this year 90 per cent will be implemented. It has been a very painful process, particularly for the families of those who lost their lives, for the two men who survived and their families, and for all of those in the Royal Australian Navy—and No. 817 Squadron in particular.

There are issues of natural justice which need to be addressed. A significant amount of legal opinion has been applied to the report prior to its release, and there are a number of redactions throughout the 1,700 pages of the report. Those redactions—or deletions, as the member for Hunter may choose to call them—reflect operational requirements, they reflect issues of natural justice, and they also reflect very strong legal advice which was provided to the Royal Australian Navy and the board of inquiry.

I wish to reassure not only the member for Hunter and the House; I particularly wish to reassure the families and every Australian who has an interest in making sure that a tragedy like this, for these reasons, does not ever occur again. Whilst there are redactions in that report, every single one of the individuals who have been identified—irrespective of his or her rank—will be pursued with the full force of the law but with the application of natural justice.