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HMAS Cessnock incident.

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Minister for Defence

The Hon Ian McLachlan AO MP




Friday, 17 July 1998



The Minister for Defence, Ian McLachlan, today strongly criticised Labor Defence spokesman, Arch Bevis, for uninformed and ill-considered comme nts on the HMAS CESSNOCK incident.


Mr McLachlan praised the efforts of the Commander and crew of the Navy Patrol Boat who responded appropriately when confronted by an aggressive response from the Indonesian fishing vessel fishing illegally in Australian waters on July 7.


After shadowing the vessel for the best part of the day the CESSNOCK was rammed and the fishing boat escaped into Indonesian territorial waters. The CESSNOCK broke off the apprehension when it was less then one mile from Indonesian territorial waters.


“I understand Mr Bevis suggests that the Commander should have fired on the Indonesian boat,” Mr McLachlan said. “That is a highly irresponsible comment and contrasts dramatically with the highly responsible actions of the CESSNOCK crew.


“Sea state conditions were very rough and firing on the fishing boat could have led to casualties or deaths. That is not an appropriate response to illegal fishing. Mr Bevis’ idea would have created an international incident with Indonesia.


“It is easy for an armchair sailor like Mr Bevis to make these comments but the Australian Government has a responsibility to manage a minor incident like this to make sure it does not become a problem in relations with our neighbours.”


The Indonesian Government has been approached at official levels to discuss our concern about the incident and to help prevent any possible repetition.


The Fremantle Class Patrol Boats are highly effective, boarding around 300 fishing vessels a year, and apprehending about 100. The Government will extend the life of the Fremantle boats for as long as economical and replace them with a boat of similarly modest, but adequate capability.


Mr McLachlan compared Labor’s plan for a replacement vessel - the offshore patrol boat, a 1300 tonne vessel compared to the present 250 tonne Fremantle - with using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.


News Editors: Mr McLachlan will be available for media interviews on the l2th Floor, CPO, 100 King William Street, Adelaide, at 1:30pm (Adelaide time).


Media Contact - Liz Bennett - 02/6277 7800 or 0419 438 490