Release of Part Two of The Report of The HMAS Success Commission of Inquiry
7 July 2011
The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, and the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, have today welcomed the public release of a redacted version of Part Two of the report of the HMAS SuccessCommission of Inquiry conducted by the Hon Roger Gyles AO QC.
Part Two of the report entitled ‘The Management of the Allegations and Personnel Involved’ is limited in scope and deals with the management of the allegations and personnel involved from May 2009 until March 2010. It makes recommendations relating to the original Inquiry Officer’s report (known as the Wark Inquiry), the management of the landed sailors and the media repercussions.
“I fully accept the findings, recommendations and conclusions of Part Two of the report. The Chief of Navy and I have examined the report and we are working to implement all of Mr Gyles’ recommendations,” General Hurley said.
“Clearly, the landed sailors in this case were not given the due process that was owed to them.”
In relation to the Wark Inquiry which was set aside on the grounds of bias, Mr Gyles said: “I do not agree with the criticisms made of the conduct of the inquiry and of the content of the Wark report and reject any claim of lack of impartiality or bias by prejudgement.”
Mr Gyles’ reports that Commander Wark (the Inquiry Officer) and Lieutenant Commander Vesper (the Inquiry Assistant) “..carried out a difficult assignment well in trying circumstances.”
In response to this finding Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston- prior to his departure as Chief of the Defence Force – signed personal letters of apology to Commander Wark and Lieutenant Commander Vesper for the public criticisms made about the conduct of their inquiry and the content of their report.
In regards to the management of the landed sailors, Mr Gyles said: “The failure to provide to the sailors any reasons for their landing until 18/9/2009, despite numerous requests, and their continued exclusion from Success without explanation consigned them to a limbo that was serious enough. The consequences were, however, escalated to extraordinary proportions by the frenzy of media allegations of a connection between the landing of the sailors and a sex ledger or a sex scandal of some sort, first published on 4/7/2009 and not refuted at all by the Navy in the media until one letter was written to one newspaper on 27/10/2009.”
As a consequence, Mr Gyles recommended that: “..the Chief of Navy offer a properly framed apology to the landed sailors and that payment of ex gratia monetary compensation be made to each of them. He goes on to state that: “Nonetheless, the senior sailors should be called to account for their wrongdoing. Two wrongs do not make a right.”
Vice Admiral Griggs said he accepted Mr Gyles’ criticisms of certain aspects of Navy’s management of the three senior sailors who were landed and the fact that Navy did nothing to correct the widely held public impression that their landing was because of involvement in an alleged sex ledger.
“I have therefore extended Navy’s sincere apologies to the three sailors for the serious failings in their care and management as detailed in Part Two of Mr Gyles’ report,” Vice Admiral Griggs said.
“Action is also being initiated in relation to payment of the monetary compensation as recommended by Mr Gyles. Defence will invite the sailors, through their legal representatives, to participate in a mediation process with a view to reaching an agreement.
“At the same time, action in relation to the individual accountability of the three sailors, as well as all other personnel subject to adverse findings by the Commission of Inquiry, remains ongoing.
“Reporting in today’s media that the three sailors have been found guilty of misconduct is incorrect. Their conduct and that of others involved is still being scrutinised through usual disciplinary and administrative processes.”
Mr Gyles concluded that: “..Defence Public Affairs, Navy Legal and Navy Command need a jolt” and he recommended that: “..the Chief of the Defence Force take steps to improve the candour with which decisions are made and implemented.”
“Since the period reported on by Mr Gyles, Defence has restructured and strengthened its Public Affairs function to make it more responsive,” General Hurley said.
“In respect to Mr Gyles’ finding that Navy Legal lacked candour in the manner in which it provided legal advice in the HMAS Success matter, I have directed a review of the command and control arrangements for all ADF legal officers which will examine their structural and organisational independence from command, particularly in the context of being free from perceptions of inappropriate command influence.
“In regards to Navy Command, the Fleet Commander has issued clearer guidance to all personnel on how to manage and investigate incidences of unacceptable behaviour. Further, the former Chief of Navy held a Leadership Day where he clearly articulated the importance of personal as well as collective responsibility and emphasised Navy’s commitment to stamping out unacceptable behaviour. Leadership and management training is also being reviewed to lock in New Generation Navy practices and signature behaviours.”
General Hurley said he expected to receive the final Part of the report in late 2011.
“Part Three will include consideration of how we conduct administrative inquiries within the ADF and possible improvements to our inquiry and related processes,” General Hurley said.
“To ensure all the necessary reforms are instigated, the HMAS Success Implementation Team headed by Rear Admiral Allan Du Toit will be responsible for implementing the recommendations of Part Two, building on the Team’s work in relation to Part One.
“As with Part One, Rear Admiral Du Toit will report to me quarterly through the Chief of Navy on implementation progress.”
Vice Admiral Griggs said there were a number of significant lessons to be learnt from the HMAS Success experience and from Mr Gyles’conclusions.
“It is essential that our policies, procedures and practice support fair treatment of our people, as well as supporting effective leadership,” Vice Admiral Griggs said.
“The vast majority of our people do the right thing and they feel let down by those who don’t. It is important that we hold people to account, particularly for unacceptable behaviour, but that does not remove their right to a fair go, or to the level of support that is part of being a member of the Navy.”
General Hurley said the ADF was committed to ensuring procedural fairness and natural justice for all.
A redacted version of the report is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/coi/success/index.htm