Reporting of accountability of personnel on Border Protection Operations
22 January 2014
There have been assertions that Australian sailors are no longer personally liable for their actions under Operation Sovereign Borders. Any such assertion is misleading and takes out of context previous statements made by me, the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy.
The Declaration made by the Chief of the Defence Force under sub-section 12D(2) of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) has not stripped Defence Force personnel carrying out border protection operations of their workplace safety protections and obligations under the WHS Act. The Declaration does not alter the fact that ADF personnel remain subject to the normal requirements of the criminal and general law, as well as the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982.
The purpose of the Declaration is to ensure that ADF personnel undertaking Border Protection Operations are protected from the application of elements of the WHS Act in inappropriate circumstances.
The Declaration acknowledges that these operations are conducted in a hazardous, uncertain and high-tempo operational environment. This was made clear in my public statement of 15 January which has been made available.
With respect to specific reports of mistreatment made today, I have every confidence in the dedication of our people and their ethical approach to the conduct of operations in difficult and often dangerous conditions. I reiterate the statement made by the Chief of the Defence Force on 9 January where he stated that our Navy, Army and Air Force personnel conduct themselves in a humane and considerate manner that is a credit to them and to the Australian Defence Force.
As I stated on 15 January 2014, the safety of life at sea of all people, not just Defence members, is and will remain, Defence’s paramount consideration in the conduct of border protection operations. We are committed to safely executing the lawful direction of government and will always strive to operate within the obligations set out by the WHS Act.
M.D. BINSKIN, AO
A/CDF 22 January 2014