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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3085

Question No. 464

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 November 1983:

(1) Did the Australian of 11 September 1982 carry a report on the FFG frigate HMAS Canberra which attributed a number of comments critical of the ship to its Captain, Commander Wilson.

(2) Did the report state that Commander Wilson had said that the ship was 'a military wreck'; that it would not be ready for battle for two years because of deficiencies overlooked by the Government; that it lacks stabilisers for its helicopter pad; that it lacks a close-in weapons system; and that it lacks a means of shooting down aircraft.

(3) Did the report further state that the former Prime Minister was present when Commander Wilson made his remarks and that the Prime Minister responded to them.

(4) Did the former Minister for Defence state in the House of Representatives on 15 September 1982 that Commander Wilson claimed to have been 'totally misrepresented' by the report.

(5) With respect to each of the statements cited in parts (2) and (3), what was (a) the nature; and (b) the extent of the misrepresentation.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Weekend Australian of the 11-12 September 1982 did print an article which attributed a number of critical comments to the Commanding Officer of the HMAS Canberra. The Chief of Naval Staff clarified the misrepresentations in a letter to the editor which was printed in the Weekend Australian of 25-26 September 1982. It is significant that the editor included the following note: 'The Captain of HMAS Canberra, Commander Bryan Wilson, has also written to the Australian on this topic. He categorically denies having used the words ' military wreck' and stresses that he is intensely proud of his ship and his crew despite the vessel's acknowledged deficiencies. We never doubted it. We apologise to the Commander and the Royal Australian Navy for having emphasised these-apparently temporary-deficiencies at the expense of Canberra's many virtues.'