Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Australian navy chief says booze culture must cease

AFP, SYDNEY

The chief of the Australian navy, Vice-Admiral Russ Crane, yesterday demanded an end to the service’s booze culture, warning of mandatory breath-tests and curfews on shore leave.

The tough message, in a video address shown across the navy, followed a 400-page report released this year on sordid behavior involving HMAS Success in 2009.

The report examined allegations of a “predatory culture” and drunken misconduct on the ship, with sailors accused of maintaining a list known as “The Ledger,” which put dollar values on sexual conquests with female colleagues.

The claims covered a period between March and May 2009 when the ship designed to supply naval combat units with fuel, ammunition, food and stores while at sea, was deployed to the Philippines, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“The misuse and abuse of alcohol is a common element throughout the report,” Crane said. “The navy is not immune from the alcohol problems which confront this nation, especially when it comes to binge drinking, but we must hold ourselves to higher standard. Every one of us needs to step up here and address the debilitating effects of alcohol and drug abuse.”

Crane threatened to ban alcohol consumption during port visits while overseas, and to increase shore patrols and introduce curfews in Australia.

While random breath testing already takes place, he said he could make it mandatory.

“I will be looking to improve our testing procedures in all Royal Australian Navy ships and establishments,” he said. “If we need to test 100 percent of our people, then this will be done.”

With the report into the Success raising issues about discipline and the treatment of women, the vice-admiral vowed that attitudes would change.

“This report showed alcohol-fueled actively led to inappropriate behavior, especially targeted at women,” he said. “This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I cannot accept a situation where women in the workplace or on ships feel threatened by their male counterparts. This type of behavior must and will be eradicated.”

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Crane’s efforts to change attitudes had his full support.

“I strongly support the chief of navy in his efforts to change culture,” he said, adding that while moderate drinking was currently allowed, service personnel must realize they represent Australia. “We can’t have navy personnel who are ambassadors for the navy, ambassadors for the defense force, ambassadors for Australia, behaving badly when they’re on shore leave in a port. We’ve seen examples which are not only irresponsible, they leave a terrible image for the navy and a very bad distaste in the mouth of the Australian public.”

While alcohol is a problem in the navy, Australia’s military has previously acknowledged drug concerns too, revealing last year that almost 600 personnel had been caught taking illegal drugs and steroids in the past five years.

In December, the Australian Defence Force seized suspected illegal drugs and steroids in a series of raids following claims that sailors were operating a trafficking ring at a central Sydney base.

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