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Defence Changes As A Result Of Children Overboard

Minister for Defence Media Mail List

Tuesday, 22 October 2002 MIN 584/02


Defence improves procedures as a result of children overboard incident

The Department of Defence has improved procedures following detailed examination of a range of internal and external communication issues flowing from the SIEV 4 incident, Defence Minister Robert Hill said today. "There is no doubt that confusion surrounding the SIEV 4 incident in October 2001 led to inaccurate information being given to the Government," Senator Hill said.

"The Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary of Defence established a taskforce in February to examine lines of communication within Defence. "A number of actions have been taken as a direct result of recommendations from the taskforce. These changes have ensured a clearer understanding of the incident reporting requirements through the chain of command and the passing of such information to the Minister's office.

"Further areas of improvement have also been identified and the CDF and Secretary are considering the best way to address these. I expect Defence to move quickly to implement more changes to help ensure there is no repeat of the communication problems experienced with the SIEV 4 incident."

Of the 26 recommendations contained in the Powell, Bryant and Ekin-Smyth routine inquiries, 24 have been implemented with more refinements planned. The CDF and Secretary have:

* Issued a Directive that provides clear advice as to incident reporting requirements through the chain of command to ensure that the CDF/Secretary and their staff have ready access to up to date information to be passed to the Government;

* Increased the role for the Vice Chief of the Defence Force as the Chief of Staff for Defence headquarters on high visibility issues;

* Set down new guidelines on 22 March 2002 for the handling of photographic imagery;

* Embedded a Public Affairs and Corporate Communication watch-keeping into the existing Canberra-based Strategic Operations Division;

* Issued on 25 March 2002 a revised Defence Instruction relating to the dissemination of public affairs information;

* Started a review of how Defence interacts with other Commonwealth departments through interdepartmental committees, having already issued guidance on 9 May 2002 relating to Defence representation, participation, provision of information to and communication regarding Inter Departmental Committee (IDC) Guidelines; and

"Ministers and decision makers within Defence must be confident that the information they are acting on is delivered in a timely and accurate manner," Senator Hill said.

"I also accept there is a responsibility to ensure there are clear lines of communication between the Minister's office and Defence.

"For this reason, I have structured my office to ensure that when advice and information on important operational matters is communicated to my staff it is drawn to my attention.

"This structure has been tested and refined through the current operations in Afghanistan and has worked effectively.

"I am confident that the changes, along with the further actions recommended by the taskforce, will provide greater certainty in Defence's internal and external communications. "


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