Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Defence Chiefs Confirm Override Of Command

Sunday 1st Jul 2001

ACT Finance Spokesman Rodney Hide said today that Defence Minister Mark Burton must be held to account for last year ordering a bomb-laden Hercules back to Samoa to pick up a father anxious to be with his critically injured young daughter in Dunedin hospital.

“The Minister defended his actions as 'humanitarian'. But the father got home only a couple of hours earlier than if he had taken a commercial flight. The 14-man crew was subjected to unacceptable risk, Faleolo Airport was endangered, and the Minister broke the law by pressuring a squadron leader to countermand the orders of Defence Headquarters.

“The Defence Chiefs this week confirmed to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee that the chain of command was broken. The Chief of Air Staff told the Committee that in his opinion: "the Ministerial directive had placed undue pressure on the aircraft captain and influenced him to accept heightened risks".

“The Defence Chiefs confirmed they believed the risks to the 14-man crew were unacceptable. They reported to the Committee that the Minister’s office had broken the chain of command and ordered the Squadron Leader directly. The Minister didn’t make a request as required by law – he issued a directive – and he did so, not through the Chief of Defence as required by the law, but directly to a squadron leader.

“The Minister told Parliament subsequently that the Chief of Defence was ‘in transit at the time and uncontactable’. The Chief of Defence told the Committee last week that he was in fact travelling home on the Hutt motorway with his cellphone switched on beside him.

“The Minister has some explaining to do.

“The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee’s report presented late Friday afternoon makes the following observations:

“The Defence Force chain of command is central to all the functions and responsibilities of the armed services but in this case, and in the words of CAS, ‘[his] aircraft got given a direction that didn’t come through [his] chain of command.’ The best comments that can be made about this sequence of events are the comments offered to us by CAS and CDF: that it is surprising, it is of concern, and it is not normal.

“The Committee’s report makes plain why the Chief of Air Staff and the Chief of Defence were so concerned about this incident on 17 August 2000:

* The crew faced a difficult situation, having to go about an abnormal overweight landing at Faleolo with a cargo of non-fused 8,000 lbs of high explosive bombs on board with a blast safety distance of 445 metres from any other aircraft, inhabited building, or public road.

* Safety controls prohibit the carriage of passengers under combat or emergency conditions where the risk of not carrying the passengers is greater than the danger presented by carrying them with explosives.

* The tired crew faced a difficult night-landing at Whenuapai.

* The crew had worked a total working day of 21.5 hours, 3.5 hours over the limit for a normal maximum crew duty day and 1.5 hours over the limit for ‘critical rescue missions’ and/or ‘operational necessity’ missions under RNZAF flight regulations.

* The operational commander, in full knowledge of the crew, its competencies, the risks and the full context, had determined that the request to carry the passenger should be declined on grounds of unacceptable safety risks.

“The report confirms that Chief of Defence raised several concerns with the Minister. But that he did so verbally, not in writing. The Chief of Defence told the Committee that he does not believe the Minister would take such an action again.

“I don’t think that is good enough. The fact remains that the Minister over-rode the chain of command, broke the law and put lives at risk. He has got some explaining to do – and he needs to be held to account. We simply can’t afford to have politicians ordering aeroplanes around to look good in the public eye and without regard to the consequences," Rodney Hide said.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Joseph Cederwall: The End Of ‘Objectivity’ In Journalism

... and the dawn of something much better?
2019 looks like it might well be another really bad, terrible, not so good year for the traditional journalism model globally. Already in January three leading US digital outlets—BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, and Vice announced layoffs that have left many accomplished journalists unemployed. Consolidation of journalism looks set to continue unabated as larger (sharky) media conglomerates swallow up smaller players globally. We also appear to be witnessing the death throes of the concept of ‘objective’ truth in journalism. However, perhaps that is not at all as bad as it sounds, and we are just finally waking up to the reality that it never really existed in the first place... More>>


Environment: Government To End Tenure Review

“Tenure review has resulted in parcels of land being added to the conservation estate, but it has also resulted in more intensive farming and subdivision on the 353,000 ha of land which has been freeholded. This contributed to major landscape change and loss of habitat for native plants and animals,” said Eugenie Sage. More>>


Bell Tolls: Big Changes, Grand Mergers Planned For Vocational Training

“At a time when we’re facing critical skill shortages, too many of our polytechnics and institutes of technology are going broke... More>>


Sallies' State Of The Nation: Progress Stalled In Reducing Inequality

The report shows a lack of tangible progress in key areas including record levels of household debt and a growing gap in educational achievement between poorer and more well off communities. More>>


Party Politics In Tax Morale Survey: SSC To Seek Answers From IRD

Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins has today asked the State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes to examine IRD’s reported inappropriate use of a public survey. More>>


Health: Prohibiting Smoking In Vehicles Carrying Children

Under the change, Police will be able to require people to stop smoking in their cars if children (under 18) are present. Police will also be able to use their discretion to give warnings, refer people to stop-smoking support services, or issue an infringement fee of $50... It is expected that this amendment will become law by the end of 2019. More>>


Waitangi Day: Nationwide Events Commemorate Treaty Signing

“From large-scale events attracting tens of thousands of people such as those at Hoani Waititi Marae in Auckland and the Porirua Waterfront, to smaller gatherings in areas as far flung as the Chatham Islands and to the significant commemorations at Waitangi, these events are an opportunity for us to reflect on the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.” More>>





InfoPages News Channels