Minister for Defence Stephen Smith on HMAS Success Allegations of Unacceptable Behaviour

I thank the Mem­ber for his ques­tion. HMAS Suc­cess is a sup­ply ship used for the sup­ply of fuel, ammu­ni­tion, food and stores to naval units at sea. In March 2009 Suc­cess left Syd­ney for a deploy­ment to South-East Asia and Chi­na, includ­ing the Philip­pines, Chi­na, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore.
Between March and May 2009, inci­dents of unac­cept­able behav­iour were brought to the atten­tion of Com­mand. Alle­ga­tions includ­ed: inap­pro­pri­ate con­duct towards women, includ­ing preda­to­ry sex­u­al behav­iour; work­force bul­ly­ing and intim­i­da­tion; trib­al cul­ture on board the ship; drunk­en and dis­rep­utable behav­iour while ashore; a break­down in dis­ci­pline; and seri­ous fail­ures of com­mand.

These inci­dents were the sub­ject of an inter­nal Defence inquiry; a Sen­ate Esti­mates exam­i­na­tion and a Sen­ate inquiry. In March 2010 the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Hous­ton, com­mis­sioned Roger Gyles QC to con­duct an inde­pen­dent inquiry into these matters. 

Last month I received Mr Gyles’s Report. The Report is not a good read. The Report makes very sor­ry and con­fronting read­ing about the fail­ure of per­son­al con­duct, about the fail­ure of dis­ci­pline, about the fail­ure of author­i­ty and about the inap­pro­pri­ate cul­ture aboard the Suc­cess. Mr Gyles also con­clud­ed that the deci­sion to land senior sailors after alle­ga­tions were made against them was flawed in var­i­ous respects and was not the result of prop­er process­es. A sec­ond report by Mr Gyles will deal with these gen­er­al Defence processes.

At the end of my answer I pro­pose to table an edit­ed or redact­ed ver­sion of Mr Gyles’s Report. The redac­tions are made on legal advice to pre­vent the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of indi­vid­u­als who may be the sub­ject of dis­ci­pli­nary or oth­er procedures.

I have pro­vid­ed a copy of the full Report in con­fi­dence to Sen­a­tor Mark Bish­op, the Chair of the Sen­ate For­eign Affairs, Defence and Trade Leg­is­la­tion Com­mit­tee; the Deputy Chair of that Com­mit­tee, Sen­a­tor Trood; the Chair of the Sen­ate For­eign Affairs Defence and Trade Ref­er­ences Com­mit­tee, Sen­a­tor Kroger; and Sen­a­tor John­ston, the Shad­ow Min­is­ter for Defence. This sat­is­fies the under­tak­ings made by my pre­de­ces­sor, Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er, to keep the Sen­ate ful­ly informed of these matters.

In hold­ing a Com­mis­sion of Inquiry, it was intend­ed to ful­ly expose the facts and mat­ters Defence and Navy were deal­ing with. In my view, the report clear­ly does this. The Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy have accept­ed the find­ings, rec­om­men­da­tions and con­clu­sions of the report in full. 

The Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy are tak­ing action on all of Mr Gyles’s rec­om­men­da­tions. An action plan has been devel­oped to address the issues iden­ti­fied in the Report and Defence’s response will be based on the key themes of lead­er­ship, cul­ture, alco­hol mis­use and behav­iour while ashore. This plan will be imple­ment­ed along­side the pro­gram already being imple­ment­ed by the Chief of Navy: the New Gen­er­a­tion Navy program.

Regret­tably, the Report out­lines unac­cept­able behav­iour that falls beneath com­mu­ni­ty stan­dards, unac­cept­able behav­iour and con­duct that falls beneath the stan­dards of a mod­ern Navy and that falls beneath the stan­dards of the Aus­tralian Defence Force. Such behav­iour will not be tol­er­at­ed by the Chief of the Defence Force, will not be tol­er­at­ed by the Chief of Navy and will cer­tain­ly not be tol­er­at­ed by the men and women in the Aus­tralian community.

I table a report by Roger Gyles QC, HMAS Suc­cess Com­mis­sion of Inquiry—Allegations of Unac­cept­able Behav­iour and the Man­age­ment There­of, Part One: The Asian Deploy­ment and Imme­di­ate Aftermath. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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