CDF Statement - Part One of the report of the HMAS Success Commission of Inquiry
22 February 2011
Good afternoon and thank you for joining the Chief of the Navy and I for this press conference.
As you would now be aware, the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, has today tabled in the Parliament a redacted version of Part One of the Commission of Inquiry report into allegations of unacceptable behaviour onboard HMAS Successbetween March and May 2009.
The report entitled ‘The Asian Deployment and Immediate Aftermath’ is now online. Included in your media packs is the Executive Summary, the Conclusions and Recommendations, some information about New Generation Navy and the plan of the corrective actions we are implementing in response to the Honourable Roger Gyles’ findings.
As you would recall, last March I formally appointed Mr Gyles to conduct a new and independent inquiry into allegations of unacceptable behaviour onboard HMAS Successbetween March and May 2009. I strongly believed that the facts about what happened onboard the ship, as well as the setting aside of the initial Navy inquiries and complaints by three senior sailors who were landed from HMAS Success, needed to be examined transparently and comprehensively.
During the period 12th of March to the 7thof October 2010, Mr Gyles conducted 46 days of hearings and heard evidence from more than 100 witnesses.
Last month, I received Part One of the final report. The report makes for uncomfortable and confronting reading. But in holding a Commission of Inquiry, it was my intent to fully expose the facts and matters we were dealing with and not shy away from investigating and tackling them head-on.
It is only by identifying and understanding the problems that we can work to fix them.
Mr Gyles’ conclusions go to culture, leadership, alcohol misuse and behaviour ashore. Mr Gyles concludes that there was a culture of silence and mutual protection among the Marine Technical sailors onboard HMAS Success and that the behaviour of the Marine Technical sailors was that of a fiercely tribal culture. He also concludes that the behaviour of the crew of HMAS Success while on leave ashore during the March to May deployment was out of control and discipline had broken down. He states that the considerable volume of alcohol that was consumed by many members of the crew – male and female – was a factor contributing to virtually every untoward incident that took place during the deployment.
Mr Gyles also foundevidence of predatory sexual behaviour and evidence of inappropriate conduct toward females. He states that the lack of consequences for personnel involved in unacceptable behaviour sent a message that drunken behaviour ashore would be condoned and this was a serious failure of command. Mr Gyles also concludes that the decision to land the senior sailors was not justified. He states that the real reason for landing them was that they were identified as the ringleaders of the undesirable culture and behaviour of the Marine Technical sailors. He concludes that the decision to land these sailors was not the result of proper process.
I fully accept the findings, recommendations and conclusions of Part One of the report. The Chief of Navy and I are taking action on all of Mr Gyles’ recommendations.
We demand high standards in the ADF and I am bitterly disappointed that these standards were not met on this deployment.
I have made clear that my highest priority as the Chief of the Defence Force is the welfare of our people and the unacceptable behaviour that occurred on this deployment deeply disappoints the Chief of Navy and I.
And that’s why we are taking decisive action. The Chief of Navy will detail the reforms we are making, however, his cultural transformation program - New Generation Navy - is a key element of the solution.
In April 2009, Vice Admiral Crane identified the need for cultural reform in Navy. He set in train the five year New Generation Navy program which is designed to change the focus of Navy leadership, and to evaluate and align Navy’s behaviours and contemporise its policies and processes. It focuses on Cultural, Leadership and Structural changes.
In my view, the bulk of the problems that occurred on HMAS Success between March and May 2009 can be attributed to leadership failure. This led to a breakdown in discipline that led people to believe that there would be no consequences for their behaviour.
A key focus of the New Generation Navy program is leadership development, especially promoting the ethical principles which underpin good leadership.
New Generation Navy is the foundation upon which to embed leadership change. Strong values-based leadership at all levels is essential to ADF discipline.
Mr Gyles also highlights the issue of alcohol misuse in his report. Indeed, it is a problem which the Service Chiefs and I have become increasingly concerned about across the ADF.
In response, we are establishing a comprehensive ADF Alcohol Management Strategy. The ADF is partnering with the Australian Drug Foundation to develop a long-term cultural change strategy to prevent the misuse of alcohol.
The tri-service initiative aims to first define and understand current alcohol-related issues and then create sustainable change in alcohol attitudes, behaviours and culture across the ADF.
The Service Chiefs and I are committed to implementing a comprehensive and effective strategy that addresses the problem of alcohol related issues within the ADF.
The issue of individual accountability is also very important. In his report, Mr Gyles inevitably formed judgements about the conduct of many Navy personnel.
In respect of the conduct identified by Mr Gyles, it is vital that action is taken - as Mr Gyles says - by those with the responsibilities of command.
Some weeks ago, I asked Mr Andrew Kirkham QC, a former Deputy Judge Advocate General of the ADF, to audit the Gyles Report and to provide an independent view of all matters that may provide a basis for possible disciplinary or administrative action against individuals, or matters which may merit further investigation.
I can tell you today that the Kirkham audit identifies 26 individuals as having been involved in incidents that may give rise to possible disciplinary or administrative action. It also identifies 23 individuals as being involved in incidents that are noteworthy and may merit further investigation.
The Kirkham audit is now being assessed by a team of military professionals who will report back to me on the appropriate next steps in terms of investigation and future disciplinary and administrative actions.
Let me make it absolutely clear, the actions of junior sailors, senior sailors and officers are being carefully considered for further action.
I am sure you will appreciate that while this is underway, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on individual cases or pass comment on particular breaches under examination.
Of course, the implementation of Mr Gyles’recommendations will take time and commitment.
To ensure all the necessary reforms are instigated, I have established a specialist HMAS SuccessImplementation Team headed by Rear Admiral Allan Du Toit. I have directed that he report to me quarterly through the Chief of Navy on implementation progress.
Finally, from time to time the conduct of a number of individuals reflects poorly on our individual Services or the ADF as a whole.
I think it is important that we remember the vast majority of our Navy personnel, including the company of HMAS Success, are dedicated, professional and serve our nation with distinction.
Indeed, Mr Gyles stated in his report that a sense of proportion is necessary.
I expect to receive the balance of Mr Gyles’ report mid-year. It will deal with the remaining matters within the Commission of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, including the conduct of inquiries within the ADF and how we might improve our inquiry and related processes.
I now invite the Chief of Navy to speak.