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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 991

STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER THE RIGHT HONOURABLE SIR ROBERT MENZIES, K.T.C.H.Q.C.M.P IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ON TUESDAY, 15TH SEPTEMBER, 1964

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Menzies, Robert

Period of Service: 19/12/1949 to 26/01/1966

More information about Menzies, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 15/09/1964

Release Type: Statement in Parliament

Transcript ID: 991

STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE SIR ROBERT MENZIES,
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ON TUESDAY, 15th SEPTEMBER, 1964
LOSS OF H. M. A. S. " VOYAGER"

LOSS OF H. M. A. S. " VOYAGER"
On August 26, I presented to the House the report of
the Royal Commissioner on the circumstances attending the loss
of HMAS " Voyager". On that occasion I read out the Terms of
Reference which I therefore need not repeat. I also indicated
that the dovernment had taken steps to obtain advice from the
Naval Board through the Minister for the Navy upon the Commissioner's
findings and the implications of those findings. The Naval
Board, presided over by the Minister for the Navy, consists, in
addition of the First Naval Member, Vice-Admiral Harrington,
the Second Naval Member, Rear-Admiral Smith, the Third Naval
Member, Rear-Admiral George, the Fourth Naval Member, Rear-
Admiral Peek, and the Secretary of the Department. I indicated
that the Board had already begun this task, and had in fact
begun when evidence was still being taken. I then said " when the
results are to hand the Government will give prompt consideration
to them and will then put itself in a position to make a further
statement to the House".
In reply to an observation by the Leader of the
Opposition, I made it clear that I did not undertake to present
to Parliament the observations of the Naval Board since that
body, through its Minister, advises the Government. This is
true of all the Service Boards. For the effective discharge of
their responsibilities they must be able to know that their
relationship to the Government is one of great confidence and
indeed secrecy-When the Government after receiving advice
announces a decision or makes a statement of fact or of policy,
it takes the responsibility for what it does.
In the present case, we have been assisted by an
elaborate examination of the matter by the Naval Board. After
careful consideration, we are not prepared to establish what
would be a harmful precedent, by publishing the report of the
Board. Honourable Members will I think agree, particularly
those with Ministerial experience, that if the Service Boards
came to believe that their reports, to their Minister and
through him to the Cabinet, would be made public there could in
all human probability be some change in the nature of the reports.
Human experience shows that where a document is designed for
publication it may very well be written in a somewhat different
way and perhaps be a little less frank than it would be as a
confidential report.

However, what I am about to put to the House has
been greatly assisted, though of course not controlled, by
the views and comments of the Naval Board, a body which I will
hardly need to say is as much concerned by these tragic events
as all the rest of us, and has displayed a marked willingness
already to make changes in the light of the facts elicited by
the Royal Commission. It will be recalled that although the Royal Commissioner
places the primary responsibility for the collision upon " Voyager",
without feeling able to apportion individual blame among its
bridge officers, he did make critical remarks about three of
those on the bridge of " Melbourne".
In the case of Captain Robertson, the Commissioner
said that in his view when " Voyager" turned to port her action
should have created some doubt in Captain Robertson's mind as to
what her intentions were and the moment the movement to port
passed beyond what would have brought her back on course,
Captain Robertson should have made some enquiry or passed some
signal, whether by whistle or otherwise, to " Voyager". He
went on to add " Whether action of this kind would have avoided
the collision I am unable to say, but I feel that the chances
of a collision occurring might have been lessened if some such
action as I have indicated had been taken by Captain Robertson".
In the case of Acting Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant
Bate, both of whom were on the bridge of " Melbourne", the
Commissioner said " the conclusion I reach is that the watch which
was maintained on the bridge of " Melbourne" by the Officer of
the Watch and the Navigating Officer was in the circumstances
inadequate". These observations by the Commissioner were made
in the light of the evidence given by the three officers themselves
and of Captain Robertson's report after the collision.
The question at once arises as to whether charges of
negligence or neglect of duty could or should be laid before
Courts Martial. This question was made the subject of legal
advice, both from Counsel and the Crown Law Department, and
from the Attorney-General. That advice is against Court Martial.
The principal reason for this view is that, as a matter of law,
statements made by any witness in answer to any question before
a Royal Commission are not admissible in evidence against him
in any civil or criminal proceedings, and that this rule,
established by the Royal Commissions Act, should also apply
to proceedings before a Court Martial.

In the result, it became necessary for our legal officers to
consider what evidence, if any, other than the evidence given
to the Royal Commission, could be adduced on a Court Martial.
Their short answer is that the evidence given by these three
officers before the Royal Commission being excluded and
Captain Robertson's report excluded, there would be no evidence
at all available to what might be described as the prosecution.
As this may seem strange to those who are not lawyers, I will
explain it. At a trial by Court Martial, in which the officer
concerned would be in the position of an accused person, the
prosecutor could not tender as part of his case the
transcript of evidence before the Commissioner;
could not call the accused to give evidence for the
prosecution, hoping to convict him out of his
own mouth. For a man is deemed innocent until
he is proved guilty: it is not for him to prove
his innocence. This is one of the basic
principles of the normal criminal law.
Honourable Members will therefore agree that it
would be grossly unfair and indeed completely improper to
institute a Court Martial if competent advice was that not only
would there be no evidence which could establish an offence
beyond reasonable doubt, which was not the standard of proof
which the Commissioner had to apply, but that there was in fact
no material admissible evidence at all. Strictly speaking,
it would, of course, be possible to amend the legal provisions
retrospectively, so as to make the evidence of the officers
concerned, and any report made by any of them, admissible against
them. I am sure that nobody would support such an astonishing
course. I do not propose to elaborate this. None of us
would wish to conduct some form of prosecution against those on
the bridge of " Melbourne" when such a prosecution would fail at
the outset and would therefore achieve no result except the
somewhat inglorious one of creating an unproved slur upon their
names. The Government accepts the advice that has been given
and confidently believes that there will be wide support for
the conclusions I have just stated.
Indeed I think that Honourable Members would agree
that the important questions which arise are not to be answered

by arguments about whether individuals made errors of judgment
or observation. What we must do by all the means in our power
is to ascertain whether in a general way there was or is
something wrong with naval efficiency or in the procedures
followed in the Navy. This, I think, is a legitimate enquiry;
and, as I will indicate later, we propose to take steps to
pursue it. But justice to a very fine Navy requires that a proper
perspective should be established at the outset. In all armed
services, particularly those which must train and operate under
circumstances of special difficulty, there will from time to time
be human errors. This is, of course, true in every aspect of
life. It is specially true of every Air Force, of every Civil
Aviation network, of every Navy. I do not seek to minimise
the tragic nature of the " Voyager" collision, with its appalling
consequence in lives lost. That is why we instituted the most
searching public enquiry in the whole of our Defence history.
But I think I should point out to the House that experience in
other and older Navies supports the view that naval life has its
own dangers and that, in spite of every precaution in selection
and training, accidents will happen. For example, in the
calendar year 1960, the Royal Navy had 17 collisions at sea and
groundings. The United States, whose records are not public,
is known to have had collisions, including one of a similar nature
to the Melbourne-Voyager collision, in which there was a very
much greater loss of life. Every year, around the Australian
coast, there are, in the mercantile marine, ship mishaps.
None of these excuse the error or errors which led to
the " Voyager" loss, nor should we excuse any deficiencies in
training, efficiency, or discipline that can be shown to exist.
But the facts do emphasise that life at sea has its hazards,
and that this is plainly true in the case of the Navy, which
must prepare itself to fight by day or by night in all sorts of
circumstances and weather and whose preparations can be effective
only by practising by day or by night every sort of manoeuvre
which may be needed in war. I therefore invite the House to
look at the Navy as such, and not be led into what might be
described as a campaign against individuals, some of whom indeed
are no longer able to speak for themselves or to explain what
circumstances of emergency or errors of observation or
communication led them into the courses they pursued.
But in the interests of justice'some individual
observations must be made. Some criticism has been directed
against what has been called Captain Robertson's inexperience

in the handling of an aircraft carrier or in tactical command of
an operation involving an aircraft carrier and another vessel,
We have discussed this matter with the Naval Board in
order to ascertain the facts. As Honourable Members will recall,
comments concentrated on three points; that Captain Robertson,
though a very experienced Naval officer, had joined " Melbourne",
his first Carrier Command, only a month before the collision;
that he had just finished three years ashore; and that he had
never had tactical command of an aircraft carrier and another
ship. In fairness to Captain Robertson, it should be stated
that he had in fact been the executive officer and second-incommand
of an aircraft carrier for 16 months, during which he
was, as part of his duty, understudying the captain.
Three years ashore between commands has been common
practice in the R. AoN. and is dictated by the need to give a
number of officers command experience at sea while securing
the great benefit of using recent sea experience in shore
appointments. This has applied in each case of a carrier Captain.
It is interesting to learn that in the United States
Navy, the careers of nine of their better-known Admirals reveal
that the average time they spent in shore duty before assuming
command of a carrier was 3 years and 4 months.
The practice in the Royal Navy is that of carrier
Captains ( as here) have only one carrier command, and that the
average time spent by each ashore before assuming command of his
carrier is 3 years.
Of the general capacity, not only of Captain Robertson
but of Captain Stevens, there cannot be any real doubt. Each
had a splendid record and very considerable naval experience.
The judge found specifically that the ships and their
equipment were in a proper state of preparedness for the exercise.
There were, however, two criticisms made or suggested by
the Commissioner which have attracted some notice.
The first was that it might be advantageous to practice,
by day, exercises which are likely to occur at night during
the initial " touch and go" practice. We have examined the
Naval Board on this point. Their answer as experts is that the

work-up programme was a full one involving many exercises more
complicated than the manoeuvres required on the night of
February 10. The programme stretched over four or five weeks.
Any difficult exercises, for example, replenishment at sea, where
ships sail close together, and " touch and go" landings by
aircraft, were in fact done, first by day. If all the more
routine ship manoeuvres involved in the programme first had to be
practised by day, the work-up period would be so long as to
reduce very considerably the period when ships were available for
operations. This seems to us to be reasonable.
The other suggestion was that the exercise programme on
the 10th February commenced at 7 a. m. and was still continuing
at 8.56 p. m. when the collision took place and that this was a
lengthy period of time. But the whole point of these exercises
is to equip the Navy for operations of war. The Naval Board
believes, and we see no reason to disagree, that if it were accepted
that 12 or 14 hours exercising so reduced the concentration of
of command teams as to render their judgment unsound, the Navy
could not operate effectively in peace or in war.
I referred just now to the findings of the Commissioner
to the effect that the ships and their equipment were in a proper
state of preparedness for the exercise. The Naval Board,
however, considering all the available evidence and findings, has
concluded that the state of preparedness of " Voyager" could not
have been adequate, having regard to some of the detailed matters
dealt with in the Royal Commissioner's Report.
In the view of the Board, the fact that " Voyager" had
just completed a long refit during which she had a large change
aroundof personnel, and that it is not possible now to discover
where the weakness in her organisation lay, does not adequately
explain the state of affairs existing at the time of the collision.
The Naval Board, therefore, is instructing administrative authorities
to carry out an inspection of ships on completion of refit and
before commencing their work-up to ensure that ships' companies
and equipment are at an appropriate level of preparedness. In
addition, reorganisation of the staff of the Flag-Officer
Commanding the Australian Fleet is being made which will enable
increased visits by staff officers to be made to each ship
while working-up, thus enabling an additional check to be made
and remedial action to be taken if necessary.
I will therefore refer to various specific matters
mentioned by the Royal Commissioner.

I think I should recall to Honourable Members that in
the early stages of the Royal Commission, we became accustomed
to somewhat sensational headlines. It is therefore important
to recall that the ultimate findings were on a much more
moderate scale. However, Honourable Members are familiar with
the Report. They will quite probably be anxious to know
what action, if any, has been or is being taken by the Naval
Authorities. As soon as it was discovered that wheel spanners
had been missing from " Voyager's" escape hatches on the night
of the collision, the Naval Board asked its technical branch
to devise, as a matter of urgency, some better means of
ensuring that hatches could always be readily opened. As a
result, a new mechanism has been produced in the Naval
Dockyard and the escape hatches in naval vessels have now been
modified by fitting this improved securing mechanism, which does
not require the use of a wheel spanner. At the same time,
of course, it must be remembered that, like any other opening
device in any vehicle, even this one may fail if badly buckled
in a collision. Although the Royal Commissioner found that at the time
of the collision not all of " Melbourne's" boats were available,
he said that there was no ground for criticising those in charge
of " Melbourne" in that regard. He praised the work of the boats
that engaged in the rescue operation. The findings of the Judge
have, however, not silenced criticism. It is therefore fair
that I should state a considered view.
* Boats in naval ships, unlike life boats of merchant
ships, are not part of survival equipment. Inflatable rubber
rafts are carried in naval ships for this purpose. Naval boats
are carried in ships for three purposes:
to be used as sea boats so that in some emergency,
such as " man overboard" or a ditched aircraft, a
suitable boat can be put into the water quickly.
These boats are fitted with a device which enables
them to be launched and recovered in heavy weather
and with the ship moving. There is always one
crew standing by one of the sea boats so that it
is ready for immediate use in case of emergency,
" Melbourne" carried three motor cutters of this
type. for the transport of men and stores in harbour.
As these boats are required for use in harbour,
their engine and hull maintenance must be done
at sea, except for the one motor cutter which is
required as a sea boat.

8.
for training and recreational purposes.
On the night of the collision, the emergency boat in
" Melbourne" was damaged in the collision butdespite this, was
in the water in a very short time. The boat's rescue work was
done, as the Commissioner found, with great efficiency.
As soon as it became clear from evidence given before
the Royal Commission that men were not familiar with the procedure
for being winched out of the water into helicopters, arrangements
were made by the Naval Board for all personnel already serving
and for those who join in the future to be instructed in this
procedure. There were many publicised complaints about the travel
arrangements made for survivors. The Royal Commissioner dealt
with this quite precisely. He said:
" In the main, survivors who had long distances to
travel to their homes were permitted to travel by air, and others
travelled by train. There were but few complaints from survevors
in this regard, and I do not think any criticism can justly be
directed against those responsible for the arrangements,"
The Naval Board itself, however, looking at the matter
in retrospect, feels that all interstate survivors should have
been sent to their homes by air from the outset, in spite of the
normal rules. Although the Royal Commissioner found that it seemed
unlikely that very many men were lost once they had escaped from
the ship, he did have comments and suggestions to make about
the nature of swimming tests.
The Naval Board promptly initiated a review of the
swimming tests and has sought advice from the Life Saving
Association as a result of which the tests are being varied
to require a man to be able to keep himself afloat for 10 minutes
instead of 3 minutes. Almost every person in the RtA. N. can
swim. The Board thinks it would be undesirable if the small
minority who cannot swim, despite instruction, were prevented
from serving in the R. A. N. We think that this is right.
The existing storage arrangements for life jackets were
criticised by the Royal Commissioner.
A review of the existing practices ( which have been
identical with those in the Royal Navy) was initiated following
the collision. The Royal Australian Navy Life Saving Equipment

Committee has recommended to the Board that life jackets should be
stowed conveniently to the escape routes from ships and not,
as formerly, in a single store room. The Flag-Officer
Commanding the Australian Fleet is currently and urgently
preparing proposals on the re-siting of such stowages. The
task will take a little time, as space is, for obvious reasons,
at a premium in all naval ships and it will be necessary to rearrange
other stowage so that life jackets can be stowed in the
most important places.
During the hearing, it was said by several witnesses
that they did not know how to operate the inflatable life
rafts. This could well have been the case with a number of
those who joined the Navy before these rafts were introduced.
Since their introduction, instructions have been given to all
recruits as they join the Navy as to how to operate the rafts,
and posters, showing the method of doing so, are displayed in
all R. A. N. ships. The Naval Board, however, has taken steps
to improve the position. Live demonstrations are now given on
the workings of the inflatable life rafts and this, together
with other routines, will be practised as early as possible
in the working-up of a ship and at regular intervals thereafter.
I now return to the important general questions which
have exercised the minds of all of us.
The loss of " Voyager" and the report made upon that
loss may have induced some to reach sweeping adverse conclusions
about our Navy. This would in our opinion be grossly unjust and
unwarranted, since, as I have pointed out, unhappy accidents
occur in all navies and should not be hastily used as a reason for
attacking our Navy as a whole. On the other hand, of course, it
would be most unsatisfying to the public mind and to our own
judgment for us to adopt the attitude that everything in the
Royal Australian Navy is perfect and that what happened on the
night of February 10 was just one of those accidents that must
be accepted as the normal price of Admiralty.
I have already said something about the changes made
by the Naval Board in the light of the evidence before, and the
Report of, the Royal Commission.
Before I conclude, I will say, on behalf of the
Government, something about new steps that we think can be taken
with advantage. But we do think that justice requires that I
should set out certain facts which show that whatever improvement
may on examination be found desirable in the overall organisation
of the Navy and its officers, we have every right to be proud

of the Navy for the way in which it has handled the problems
which have come to it in recent years.
It should be remembered that since 1959 a new destroyer
and four new frigates have completed their building in Australian
shipyards and have been manned and commissioned, together with
a number of smaller support ships, We have acquired a flotilla
of six mine-sweepers which have been commissioned and steamed to
Australia, their base support has been provided and magnetic
mine sweeping has been introduced into the R. A. No. Antisubmarine
Wessex helicopters have been introduced and H. M. A. S.
" Melbourne" converted to operate them. HoM. A. S. " Sydney" has
been brought out of reserve and has been converted to a fast
transport. In this role, she has been effectively employed
quite recently. A modernised replenishment tanker has been
brought into service to complete the fleet's mobility. A new
specialised survey ship has been built in Australia and brought
into service, while three frigates have been converted to oceanographic
and survey work, New weapons and techniques have been
introduced, such as the SEACAT anti-aircraft missile and variable
depth SONAR. The first Australian designed naval weapon, the
anti-submarine system IKARA is being developed in conjunction
with the Department of Supply.
In the introduction of all these new units and
techniques, a very considerable training and logistic and
administrative effort has been involved. Work is under way on
ten new ships for the Fleet, three guided missile destroyers in
four Oberon submarines in Great Britain, an Escort Maintenance
Vessel and two new frigates in Australia.
Preparations are well in hand to cope with the greatly
expanded training and maintenance requirements involved in
absorbing these new and sometimes almost incredibly complex
units in the Royal Australian Navy,
All these things have put a great strain upon the
resources of the Navy, because they have not only required steps
to raise the general educational level but have also required
provision for specialised training in the wide range of activities
required. There is a junior recruit entry scheme which has
involved the setting up of training establishments in Western
Australia and Victoria. The Navy has set up an apprentices
training centre ( which is recognised as one of the largest and
most efficient in the country) to meet the demands for tradesmen
volunteers.

11.
Large numbers of selected officers and men and
technicians are receiving training in Great Britain and the
United States. It is, I think, commonly agreed that R. A. N.
personnel who are sent abroad each year to Britain and the
United States are regarded as being well up to the standard of
their counterparts in the British and U. S. Navies. For some
years, at the request of the Government of Malaysia, the R. A. N.
has provided the Commanding Officer of the Royal Malaysian Navy
and seven other officers for that service.
The manpower strength of the Navy has increased from
10,600 in 1960 to 12,870 at present. It is evidence of morale
that the re-engagement rate has risen from about 8 per cent at
the end of the 1950s to over 50 per cent to-day.
Two destroyers or frigates have served continuously
since 1955, on a rotation basis, with the strategic reserve based
on Singapore, and the aircraft carrier, with escort, has served
a tour of duty each year with the reserve. The general standard
of efficiency of these units and their crews has been the subject
of favourable comment by a succession of British naval commanders
to whose command they have been operationally assigned.
A R. A. N. squadron has participated for several years
with distinction in annual multi-national SEATO and Commonwealth
Maritime exercises. On two occasions, the R. A. N. has been
responsible for the planning and command of SEATO exercises, and
with great credit.
I need not elaborate these matters. The mere statement
of them should be sufficient to show that we have a good Navy and
that we ought not to under-estimate its quality and performance.
* In considering whether new practices or procedures
might be adopted in the Royal Australian Navy, it is as well to
remember that our Navy began as the child of the Royal Navy, a
very great Navy with centuries of tradition and achievement
behind it. We have therefore had a natural tendency in
Australia to inherit the practices of the Royal Navy and, to
a considerable extent, vessel design. This, of course, has
advantages; as a relatively young naval power, we cannot
pretend that we have nothing to emulate or to learn. But it
might turn out that it has some disadvantages, since it may
lead us to believe that the problems of the Royal Navy are in
substance identical with those of our own.

We have learned something about this in the case of
the Army where, having regard to our territorial situation,
we have found it necessary to give particular attention to
training soldiers for jungle fighting in tropical areas and
have considered the weapons that we may require in the light of
similar circumstances. In the Air Force, we have had our own problems. The
kind of Air Force that might be required by Great Britain is
not necessarily the same kind of air force that we feel that
we need. To take a quite recent example, any fast bomber we
wanted would need to have a very long range and would need to
have a speed and manoeuvrability that would enable it to foil
attack at a long distance from its base.
The point I am making is that each country must
consider each of its own armed services in the light of its
own particular circumstances.
Much of what I said earlier was somewhat detailed;
and even then there are many minor aspects of the matter to
which it has not seemed necessary to refer.
But, in examining this tragic event, the Government had
and has several duties,
The first was to put in hand with all speed a searching
enquiry into the causes of the collision, This has been done,
withcut fear, favour or affection, by the Royal Commissioner.
We now know as much as we are ever likely to know about what
happened that night, and about the acts or omissions of those
conducting the manoeuvres)
The second is to restrain ourselves from harsh judgments
upon individuals, and in particular upon those on the bridge of
" Voyager", who are lost and gone and cannot speak for themselves
or personally influence our judgment,
Nor, for the reasons I have stated, should we, having
decided that no charge can legally be laid or supported against
Captain Robertson, Commander Kelly, or Sub. Lt. Bate, seek to
condemn them for deficiencies of observation or action which
the Commissioner has found were not the primary ( which I understand
to mean the effective) cause of the collision.
The third, and at this stage the paramount duty, is to
establish and enhance the future efficiency and morale of the
Royal Australian Navy; a military arm vital for our national

13.
security. This is a duty to be performed with understanding and
judgment; its performance not to be impaired by extravagant
attacks, or to be abdicated by an uncritical defence of the
status quo. The statement of this third duty, indeed, brings me
to the nub of the matter. I think it probably right to say
that the people of Australia are not looking for individual
scape-goats. They know that the R. A. N. has a splendid record
in two great wars, and that its international reputation is
high. They have read with a mixture of pride and anguish the
findings of the Royal Commissioner about the efficiency with
which operations after the collision were conducted, the
absence of panic among the men, and the outstanding gallantry of
those to whom the Commissioner has directed attention. They
will, no doubt, have properly concluded that a service which
can train men to this high point of discipline and efficiency
has much in it to be recognised and praised. Clearly, the
general morale is high.
But the Government is well aware of the existence of
a feeling of uneasiness because of some recent incidents, of
which the latest is the " Voyager" disaster. It is not our
practice in Australia to conceal such incidents. Indeed, in
two which involved loss of life, the investigations have been
conducted in public. This is not the normal practice in other
navies. We believe that the uneasiness may arise partly from a
natural failure fully to understand the hazardous nature of
naval training and service even in time of peace, when preparations
must be made for active service in circumstances of great menace
and difficulty. But we also believe that there may be doubts,
not capable of precise definition, as to the effectiveness of the
naval organisation, including communication procedures, and as
to . the suitability of the methods of selection, training and
promotion so far practised.
To this criticism we have most anxiously directed
our attention. For whatever the overall efficiency of the
past, and I have made recognition of it, we must meet the
challenge of the future. We will not be afraid to make
changes where they prove desirable. In particular, we must
not assume that practices followed by other and much greater
navies are necessarily appropriate to our own, with limited
numbers, a much smaller fleet, and peculiar geographical and
strategic circumstances.

14.
Steps will be taken constantly to review procedures in
the light of the special character and circumstances of the
R. A. N. It would be wrong to say that the cause of the " Voyager"
collision was maladministration on the part of the Naval Board, for
proper look-out and navigational moves on individual ships are
matters of individual efficiency and judgment on the part of
those at sea. But it is right to say that much good may result
from re-examination of methods of selection, training, and
promotion, and of constantly improving general efficiency.
How should such review and re-examination be made?
It has been suggested that we should seek the services of a
British or American Naval Officer of suitable rank and experience.
We reject this suggestion. What we are looking for is Australian
answers to Australian questions relating to an Australian service,
operating in its own special circumstances. There are plenty
of Australian Senior Naval Officers of ability, experience,
and integrity, as capable of giving advice as any.
It would, of course, be quite unsatisfactory if
changes in organisation or procedures were conditioned upon the
occurrence of some mishap which directed attention to some defect
in the Service. Our study must be wider and more continuous.
Yet we have noted that in the Air Force there is a Standing
Committee to investigate air accidents; that it goes to the
spot rapidly; that it concerns itself particularly with such
problems as faulty construction or maintenance, defective
communications, and inadequate control. Its reports are a
valuable source of recommendation for improvements, and have
contributed usefully. to the increasing efficiency of the Air
Force. Enquiries are made by experts into naval incidents;
but they are essentially ad hoc, and are made by varying groups
of people. We have decided that there should be a Standing
Naval Committee of Investigation, with as much continuing
membership as the circumstances of the Navy will permit.
But for a general review the Government must and will
accept its proper responsibility. It will, through a Ministerial
Committee presided over by the Minister for the Navy, the Cief of
the I. aval Staff b7ing associated with him, and with the professional
naval advice available to it, ' closely and regularly consider
ways and means of reviewing Naval Organisation procedures and
methods so as to make improvements where these are found to be
desirable.

We believe that under these circumstances the Navy
can go on with its vital service to the nation in co-operation
with the Government and with the moral backing of the Australian
people. I repeat that we have a fine Navy, with a gallant and
devoted company of officers and men. It is the task of all
of us in responsible authority to remove any discoverable
impediments to its full effectiveness.

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