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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1774

Senator MAGUIRE —I present the 227th report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts on HMAS Tobruk and the Government's response.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator MAGUIRE —by leave-I have a short statement to make on the report. I seek leave to have my statement on the report incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows-

Report 227 contains the Government's response to the Committee's 223rd Report on HMAS Tobruk.

Honourable senators will recall that the Public Accounts Committee was very critical of the Defence Department's Tobruk project last year, especially the quality of the ship's construction, the Department's overall management of the project and the tragic death in 1981 of Naval Reserve Cadet Kenneth Dax, on board HMAS Tobruk.

I would like to draw your attention to the first of the three chapters in this report.

In this chapter the Committee has departed somewhat from its usual practice of making brief comments on the Government's responses through Finance Minutes. Instead there is a detailed critical analysis of the Minister for Defence's observations and the Government's responses.

The Committee is pleased to note the Defence Department's general agreement with the Committee's findings and recommendations on HMAS Tobruk. In particular the many rectification actions, current and planned, are welcome.

The payment of $35,500 to the family of Naval Reserve Cadet Kenneth Dax is also welcome, despite the extensive delays and poor handling of this family's case by the Department.

However, the Committee does not believe that the Minister for Defence's observations which preface the Finance Minute are warranted or based on sound advice.

Chapter 1 of Report 227 clearly shows that the Department is fully cognisant of the deficiencies of the Tobruk project and that the findings of the Committee's 223rd Report on HMAS Tobruk are vindicated by departmental documentation and analysis.

The Committee's current comprehensive inquiry into the Defence Department's overall project management and associated administration reflects the Committee's concern for improvement in this area.

I commend this report to honourable senators.