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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6528

Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (15:11): On indulgence—on 27 May 2013 the member for Tangney raised a matter of privilege concerning the possible provision of false or misleading evidence by Mr Tom Burbidge of Lockheed Martin Corporation during an appearance before the Defence Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. Mr Burbidge's testimony concerned the Joint Strike Fighter Program and was provided on 20 March 2012 during the committee's review of the Defence annual report of 2010-11.

Speaker, you responded to the member for Tangney by advising that, prior to you giving the matter consideration, it should be brought to the attention of the committee and dealt with there. On behalf of the committee I wish to advise you of the outcome of the committee's deliberations on this matter.

Prior to Dr Jensen's statement here, the Defence Subcommittee, of which Dr Jensen is the deputy chair, had concluded its examination of this matter. At its meeting on 12 March 2013 the subcommittee invited a response to Dr Jensen's concerns from the Chief Executive Officer and President of Lockheed Martin Corporation, Ms Marillyn A Hewson. The subcommittee inquired if, in retrospect to and in light of a December 2012 report on the joint strike fighter by the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, which was brought to the members' attention by Dr Jensen, the company endorses Mr Burbidge's testimony to the committee. Ms Hewson responded in correspondence dated 16 April 2013 by saying that Lockheed Martin:

… believes that Mr Burbidge's statements were accurate in all material aspects.

Ms Hewson went on to state:

We recognise the possibility that various statements contained in these materials could create a misunderstanding. We therefore hope to dispel any such misunderstandings with the clarifications included herein.

The correspondence goes on to clarify the distinction between 'Key Performance Parameters' and other performance capabilities, and responds to the three specific issues—acceleration, sustained turn performance and weight—which were raised by Dr Jensen and that could appear to be contradicted by information contained in the operational test and evaluation report.

The Defence Subcommittee considered Ms Hewson's response and Dr Jensen's critique of her correspondence at its meeting on 16 May 2013. Speaker, the view of the subcommittee is that a prima facie case for the alleged contempt had not been established. I should note that Dr Jensen alone dissented on that question. The subcommittee formed the view that it had not been deliberately misled or presented with false evidence by Mr Burbidge. Further, the subcommittee formally resolved not to proceed with the privilege matter canvassed by Dr Jensen and, importantly, not to authorise publication of the correspondence from Lockheed Martin. The full committee has now also considered this matter. The committee agrees with the decision of the defence subcommittee.

There is another important issue in connection with this matter that I wish to refer to. In raising the privilege matter the member for Tangney presented papers to the House, including correspondence by the chair of the subcommittee and Lockheed Martin. The defence subcommittee had previously asked Lockheed Martin if it would give permission for its correspondence to be published. The company subsequently asked that its correspondence not be published. Choosing to respect the company's wishes, the subcommittee resolved that the correspondence would not be authorised for publication. Regardless, Dr Jensen presented the correspondence in the House when he raised the matter of privilege. The effect of this was to disclose the documents, which are now, of course, publicly available.

I can advise that the committee has decided not to raise a matter of privilege in relation to the member for Tangney's unauthorised disclosures, because it does not feel or consider that the conduct constitutes a substantial interference in its work. Nevertheless, the committee notes that the unauthorised disclosure of correspondence was contrary to the expressed wishes of the defence subcommittee and breaches the undertaking made to the company with which it was corresponding in good faith. This, the committee believes, is deeply regrettable. The committee is disappointed that a member has chosen to act in such a regrettable manner and expresses concern over the dangerous precedent such conduct could set.