07 July 2011

Part two of HMAS Success report made available to public

Between March and May 2009, incidents of unacceptable behaviour on board the HMAS Success were brought to the attention of senior Navy brass and civilian leaders.

Allegations included: inappropriate conduct towards women; workforce bullying; tribal culture on board the ship; drunken and disreputable behaviour while ashore; a breakdown in discipline; and serious failures of command.

The incidents have been the subject of an internal Defence inquiry, a Senate Estimates examination and a Senate inquiry. I have previously written about the inquiries here, here, here, here and here.

In March 2010 the then-Chief of the Defence Force, RAAF Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, commissioned Roger Gyles QC to conduct an independent Commission of Inquiry into these matters.

On 22 February 2011, a tabled redacted version of Part One of the Commission of Inquiry report, which can be found here.

Last month Defence Minister Stephen Smith MP received Part Two of the Report.

Part Two deals with Navy administrative inquiries, the management of three landed senior sailors, response to media queries and reporting, the treatment of the legal officer representing the landed senior sailors and Australian Defence Force Investigative Service investigations.

A number of very significant shortcomings have been identified in the management of the three landed senior sailors. As a result they suffered an injustice, for which Mr Gyles recommends both an apology and compensation.

The Report also rejects criticisms of bias made of a 2009 Defence inquiry into allegations on board HMAS Success. Mr Smith has now tabled a redacted version of Part Two of Mr Gyles’ report.

Defence claims the redactions were made on legal advice to prevent the identification of individuals who may be the subject of disciplinary procedures.

The Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy have accepted the findings and recommendations and will take action on all of Mr Gyles’ recommendations.

This includes an apology to the three landed senior sailors from the Chief of the Navy for the failure to accord them proper process, and an offer to make a payment of monetary compensation for each of them.

It also includes an apology to the authors of the 2009 inquiry from the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of the Navy.

To read the redacted report's part two, which was released to the public today, go here.

Part Three of Mr Gyles’ Report will examine in more detail the conduct of administrative inquiries and wider considerations such as the interplay between enforcement of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, administrative decisions, redresses of grievance and the role of equity and diversity policy.

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