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Tuesday, 9 May 2000
Page: 16119

Mr Laurie Ferguson asked the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 23 September 1999:

(1) Did he receive a briefing from his Department or the Navy prior to issuing his media statement of 22 January 1999 about the HMAS Sydney harassment case; if so, on what date and in what form was the briefing provided.

(2) Did he request and receive a briefing from the Chief of Navy at the conclusion of the investigation; if not, why not.

(3) When and how did he first become aware that the outcome of the case was actually a management initiated early retirement.

(4) Will he ensure that future serious allegations against senior Navy officers are investigated independently of the chain of command; if so, what are the details of the changed procedures.

Mr Bruce Scott (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The former Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Don Chalmers AO, RAN, provided a written brief on issues relating to allegations concerning harassment onboard the HMAS SYDNEY dated 22 January 1999 to the Minister for Defence, with an information copy to me.

(2) On 14 April 1999, the former Chief of Navy formally advised the Minister for Defence that, after consideration of this and an earlier incident, he had made a recommendation in the then Commanding Officer of HMAS SYDNEY's career records that the officer not be considered for further command appointments or promotion and advised that he had initiated the officer's early retirement using the Management Initiated Early Retirement provisions. A copy of this brief was also provided to me. The Director - General Defence Legal Office had also provided advice to the Minister for Defence on 18 March 1999 in relation to the release of a number of Investigating Officers' Reports concerning this matter.

(3) See response to part (2).

(4) An Inquiry into Military Justice Procedures in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was conducted by the Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. The report makes several recommendations for improving the ADF system of military discipline and administrative action.

While the decision to investigate a matter remains a command decision, there is nevertheless a requirement that the inquiry be conducted independently of command chain influence in respect of the inquiry process, findings and recommendations. Comprehensive guidance for personnel conducting administrative investigations will soon be provided in the new Administrative Inquiries Manual to be issued by the ADF.