Chief of Navy – With All Despatch

08 October 2014

Making our Navy a Safer and Healthier Workplace

A few weeks ago I put out a Leadership Log which talked about alcohol in our Navy.

I asked you all to show leadership and challenge the way we’re treating alcohol in our Navy.  I’ve been overwhelmed with the feedback, and I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to write to me or my Flag LT Eric Chapman.

The vast majority of the feedback is that action is long overdue. While most people in the Navy have a healthy attitude towards alcohol there are a small number of people who are taking things too far, getting drunk and doing stupid things like getting into fights, drink driving and acting inappropriately around members of the public.  This has to stop.

We are Te Taua Moana – Warriors of the Sea.  Being a Warrior is more than putting ourselves into harm’s way for our country.  It is about standing up for what’s right, intervening when we see inappropriate behaviour, speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves.  It is about fighting for equality and fairness in everything we do.  It is clear that a small number of you struggle to maintain these ideals when you’ve been drinking and I need this to change.

As I mentioned in my Leadership Log, I’m not advocating for an alcohol free navy.

You all are adults, and I trust you to have a couple of drinks after work and enjoy a night out.  But, as the old saying goes, it’s not that we’re drinking it’s how we’re drinking.

While individuals need to take better responsibility for themselves and their alcohol intake, we also need to take better care of each other.

When you’re out together, if one of your shipmates has too many drinks, you need to take responsibility and get that person home safely, and talk to them about their actions the next day.

I no longer want to come into work on a Monday and find out that one of you has been arrested doing something stupid while drunk.

Alongside standing up for what’s right, we need to change the culture of alcohol in our Navy.  In 1990, we abolished the mid-day tot of rum.  At the time, people didn’t like it.  But, it made our Navy safer, more inclusive and meant sailors were not drunk at work and putting themselves and others in harm’s way.
After all your feedback and positive messages, we’re going to make a few changes.  The changes are designed to ensure we’re treating alcohol with the respect it deserves.  They are not about stopping you having a few drinks, but I think they send an important message that it’s not ok to go out, get drunk and act inappropriately.

If we continue to see poor behaviour then we will revisit these changes and look at stronger action.

First and most significantly, we are going to make our ships dry while they are underway or at anchor.  If you’re at sea, you’re working and it’s a hazardous environment.  Drinking at sea makes this environment even more dangerous.  This will also mean no duty free at sea. You can still claim duty free through the AFCC when you return to New Zealand.

No duty-free at sea will include cigarettes.  The adverse effects that cigarettes have on our health are well documented, and research shows the price of cigarettes directly affects the numbers of people smoking.  This change is designed to make our Navy healthier.

Secondly – There will be no consumption of alcohol during work hours, unless expressly approved by the Deputy Chief of Navy, this includes off base as well as on.  I would still like your messes to continue to serve food at Friday lunchtimes alongside goffas, tea and coffee or mocktails.  Going to the mess is about spinning a few dits and catching up with people.  I know you will make this work.

We’re also going to raise the prices of drinks in the ships’ messes.  Prices on shore will still be set by the CO PHL who will benchmark them on a six monthly basis against alcohol prices at the Devonport New World.  Ships’ messes will follow the pricing set for shore messes.  Any extra profit made by the messes will be put straight back into mess funds and spent on events and other things which benefit the mess members.

Alongside these three major changes we’re going to champion greater enforcement of bar rules and host responsibility, abolish awarding alcohol-related gifts at prize-giving’s, provide more visible shore patrols and remove alcohol advertising from our Naval Base.

We are going to increase our education and awareness programmes.  Every promotion course will have a responsible drinking component, as well as a renewed focus on diversity and equality in our Navy.

Finally, drinking and driving is a serious offence that displays a lack of judgement and self-discipline.  Drinking and driving is not accidental, it is a conscious choice that endangers not only you, but others on the road.  If you are convicted of drink driving it is likely you will be discharged from our navy.

I want to reiterate, these changes are not about punishing people, they are about changing our culture and championing an environment where our people take responsibility and behave like ambassadors for our Navy and our nation.
We’ll still have events such as Champion of the Navy and BBQs where alcohol is available, but we’re trusting you to take these changes, run with them and challenge New Zealand’s culture of binge drinking.
We are Te Taua Moana – Warriors of the Sea.  I expect us all to live up to this ideal. Our Navy will be better for it.

Yours aye
Rear Admiral Jack Steer

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35 Responses to Chief of Navy – With All Despatch

  1. John Bullock says:

    I would like the statistics listed in the article to show the ethnicity of the alcohol-fuelled drunken offender(s)? …. or is that being too PC?

    • John Bullock says:

      Further, as reported, since August 2012 just 21 alcohol-fuelled offenders have been “hung out to dry”! For the sake of these few “defaulters” the whole Navy cannot have a cold beer anymore! How many personnel are on a frigate now, about 180, and over 2000 in the Navy itself. It seems now, personnel have been treated like children because of a few idiots that are, or have been totally irresponsible for their actions. I forgot … we have a “no smacking” law!

  2. John Snow says:

    To me this is going back more or less to the way it was when I entered the RN and it did not stop any drunkenness but rather in my mind anyway encouraged it. Moderation would possibly be better or have today’s Navy Personnel no sense of acting prudently and have to have it done for them. Hope I make sense.

  3. Jim D says:

    Jack’s navy wouldn’t know anything about salty dits as everything is too PC.

    • gunther says:

      well at the end of the day, jack (the lad) only wants to have his name alongside that of the admiral who stopped the brit’s having their rum. something to go down in navy history and the only thing he’ll be remembered for..can see it now, quarter of the ships company did not return for the ships sailing, binge drinking and hav’nt recovered, or woken up …yet..
      I have to say im bloody glad I did my time when I did with all the good and the bad..

  4. Chook says:

    In the words of Frank Spencer……do my eyes deceive me???

  5. Alan (Tug)wilson says:

    The way Jack has got this mans navy headed they will be able to do away with the urinals on both ships and shore bases soon, just so glad I was in when it was a real navy, we had real ships real men and women real uniforms and you looked after your mates. God help NZ because the Navy will not be able too.

  6. Lindsay Roberts says:

    With ships being dry whilst at sea and the apparent lack of education about responsible drinking amongst the young of today glad I’m not the Regulator who has to deal with the results of the first .run ashore after a lengthy period at sea. Not a good move CN.

  7. Dave Wistrand says:

    Well what can be said we have moved from Alcohol – Yes – Bum Banditry – No – and turned it a 180 – It is a funny old world – I wonder if this is secretly preparing us for the Caliphate of New Zealand in a few years when we become part of the desert races, it would help with the conditioning of the population to the requirements of Allah. Probably just being over sensitive but if we ever see camel racing at Avondale or Addington remember these words

  8. Derek B says:

    Our society and military alike has a history of alcohol abuse – towhit I was as guilty’ as anybody both at sea and ashore. However with the passage of time, the benefit of hindsight and EDUCATION there are many of use that can see that there are many old habits cannot be allowed to continue, or at the very least mitigated and curtailed down to a reasonable level.
    In my view this is a modern, progressive move and I applaud the Rear Admiral’s decision.

  9. Jim D says:

    Dear Jack,

    It’s not intentional to rubbish you and your navy, but you have crossed the boundary.
    1.You do not air the RNZN’s dirty laundry in public.
    2.You have no idea what salty dits are.
    3.You need to change your speech writer.
    1.Talking about the problems in the navy in public is a no-no.
    2.Salty dits become more empahised after a couple of beers. EG
    Two young sailors come out of a bar in Sembawang and are confronted by a long, black limo with blackened windows. The left hand front window is lowered slightly and the following conversation takes place:
    “you ferras wanna see a blue movie?” An affirmative from the two young matelots sees them transported in the limo into the jungle behind Sembawang. Fearing for their lives, the limo finally comes to a halt in front of a large Quonset Hut. They are told to get out and walk to the door. With intrepidation, they open the door to be confronted by a comely chinese wench in Cheong San (dress with a slit up the side.). Inside the Hut are many rows of seats with a lot of Commonwealth Sailors watching an “educational” movie. She asks the intrepid two if they would like $5 or $10 seats – to which she was asked, what’s the difference. She replied “For $5 dorrar you sit anywhere except the back row. For $10 Dorrah, you watch movie and get a “bro” job””.
    So, you see Jack, how the hell can you discuss this over a cup of coffee?
    3.Public relations – well, what can I say. You appear to have employed an ex journalist from the NZ Herald who revels in the ridiculous. “We are the sea Warriors”. What a load orf piffle. Out of a complement of 1900 in the RNZN, you might have one ANZAC frigate at sea with a complement of 170 – so what are the rest of them called?
    Yours Aye
    Jim

    • Jim D says:

      Hey Jack,

      Another salty dit for your coffee group:

      Five young sailors come out of a bar in Sembawang and are immediately directed to a large building at the rear. Here, they are met by several, young nubile, chinese girls under the direction of a MamaSan. The lads are told to line up and she then inspects the ends of their noses to see if they are “Cherry Boys” – if there is no split in the end of the nose, then indeed the owner is a virgin. She proceeds along the line and the first four four lads are declared “Cherry Boys” which means that they get their first Nookie free. The fifth lad, however, is declared as not a cherry boy to which he states most vehemently that he is a Cherry Boy, but the reason that he has a split at the end of his nose is that he abuses himself a lot…

      • Jim D says:

        I can imagine the senior officers salty dits – “Hey, guess what! I passed the starboard buoy on the wrong side!”

  10. Neill Dorset says:

    Whilst I find that Derek B’s comments maybe correct , I think Jack is pretty gutsy in even voicing or attempting to bring this massive change about. Navy life always has been and will always be ‘different’ from the other services but to be treated like ‘little children’ (as Johnny B puts it) over a problem that obviously has a P.C. ring to it, seems a little over the top. .
    I saw the worst of the effects of alcohol on family life with violence in domestics and other serious crimes during my policing years HOWEVER, the vast majority of people I was involved with over those years used alcohol with moderation and common-sense. Whatever happens, I would hope that this ‘draconian’ measure , if brought in, would not be applicable to just the Navy.
    Hopefully a little common-sense in this world will prevail here.

    • Charles Conroy says:

      Hello Niell ,I heard the Admiral being interviewed on radio and he did say that the Chief of Army and Airforce are looking at possibily doing something as well.
      I also was in Law enforcement as a prison officer for 28 years, and many people came into our care with alcohol related problems , they when addicted are worse to handle than those that were on THC etc .
      At least the Admiral is trying to do something to assist in combating the problems he sees in his domain I commend him for that.

      Charles Conroy .

  11. Chook says:

    Wow, this has the troops fired up, and with good reason I think, agree with Jim D completely, I wonder if they are doing away with mug nights at the SRFM???

  12. Dave Wistrand says:

    This is the old chess nut of blaming “all” instead of dealing with the “few” who abuse whatever the current ideological rant of the day is. It is not only Navy or the services it is western society wide. If a few get out of line change the law for all instead of dealing with the miscreants. I am who I am don’t put me with anyone else,, deal with me and my good and bad parts. our society does not like personal confrontation and hides behind the umbrella of the larger group.
    Alcohol is a drug which affects behaviour so lets deal with it – Homosexuality is a a in built condition for some and now legal – All I say is that I would rather have a beer at lunchtime than have man to man sex in a cabin (or anywhere for that matter) Homophobic not really it just seems out of kilter to me

  13. John Snow says:

    Maybe the problem may soon be solved by other means. I understand that there are now more females in the RNZN than males and experience of yore tends to suggest the ladies do not quaff it down like male counterparts or has that changed. Possibly it may have caused the problem and it is the males drowning their sorrows. Not PC, unsure as what PC is.

  14. Casper says:

    It would be even worse if the only beer in the cabin was DB………….

  15. Dave Wistrand says:

    Some of the most dangerous people I have ever run up against are drunk females

  16. Dave Wistrand says:

    Not that this is worrying me unduly but upon reading the CN missive again and then mowing the lawns I did wonder about the provincial nature of the order and the lack of tactical nous. To wit:
    1. Why base the canteen prices on a Devonport New World – isnt this a problem in Waiouru – Wellington and other places RNZN sailors are based? Perhaps (or did he) give this to a Warrant Officers Committee to examine in depth. I am unsure of the maori for “Control drinking in a Warrior at Sea Environment” but it probably goes something like – sorry couldn’t come up with something but further thought and living in NZ experience would mean “Since this is a pakeha sourced liquid we are not responsible but in compensation want several million dollars”.
    2. How to manage the price structure. Suggest serving members, ex serving members and associated associates band together and buy the Devonport New World and “manage” the price structure to “identified customers”. Problem solved for you poor buggars still serving.
    Hmmm back to the lawn have another idea perculating that might help with this problem.

  17. Casper says:

    Control drinking in a warrior at sea environment should be something like
    Inu Mana i roto i te i te Warrior i Sea Taiao but don’t quote me, quote google. Several million dollars of course requires no translation. I think that the general feeling I am getting from the above comments is “what a load of bollocks”-a feeling with which I heartily concur. I was never a “warrior” of the sea as far as I know- perhaps an “onanist” of the sea would be closer! John S-you should come and see the sleepy street of Invercargill at 2am on a weekend morning-I can assure you that the “ladies” that I see on Community Patrol are more than capable of quaffing more booze, outswearing, out piddling, out vomiting and just about out everything than their male counterparts.
    Love light and peace

  18. A question for Jack: Can you please confirm that as a result of the new alcohol policy that all Wardroom Cocktail Party’s held onboard ships (internationally) and shore bases will be alcohol free.

    • gunther says:

      oh and formal dinners at sea, which seemed to happen quite a lot

      • gunther says:

        I wonder what it is going to be like, toasting the queen with a cup of tea..or Trafalgar night
        with a coke..doesn’t seem right does it???

      • John Bullock says:

        I think the term of phrase CN used, i.e. Kids does not sit well if I was an officer, or Senior Rate, etc. There must be a lot of saturated “wet bus tickets” floating around in the discipline department! What has happened to the authority and discipline dished out by ones DO, MAA, Heads of Departments, LH of the mess decks and so on have these days?

  19. Rod says:

    Or ‘fruit’ juice Gunther. Although in the modern all inclusive RNZN, the term ‘fruit juice’ may have quite a different connotation since our understanding of the term!

  20. Albie Cross says:

    re the question from Dearne and Rod concerning “at homes” on the quarterdeck: or anywhere else for that matter . Recent mention of Sembawang on the blog kindles a memory of when we were attached to the 3rd Frigate Squadron . We were rafted up alongside Fox 3 (HMS Crane) and the Wardroom threw a party on our quarterdeck . This carried on until well passed midnight and the guests proceeded to depart. The gangway was just aft of the 4 inch ,typical admiralty pattern with high-heel catchers and rope halyards hanging limp. The EM’s had well and truly illuminated the area which was also the QM’s post. Most guests managed to navigate their way over the gangway but one lady who may have had one pink- gin too many had difficulty in getting her skirt up high enough to allow her somewhat wobbly walking gear to access the gangway. A lot of ooooing and ahhhhing and things like : don ‘t touch me (hic) I’ll be orright ” This fiasco interrupted the sleep of a dab who was bunked down by the 4 inch on a safari fold -up camp bed and who was covered with only a sheet He decided to turn over onto his other side and in doing so presented all and sundry with a perfect “whaka pahone” . We did’nt have to muster the Sea Boats crew but it was bloody close. So I say, bring on more quarter-deck parties and give everyone an invite.

  21. Neill Dorset says:

    As one of you put it so succinctly.. it has certainly opened up a wide ranging amount of comments./
    Greetings Charlie C – been a long time since you turfed me out of my bunk and I agree with your comments however if there is a problem with a few, then deal with the few – tarring everyone with the same brush never helped anyone or any organisation except create a large amount of dissent and resentment. Regarding this item along with the Breath Screening tests, one has to wonder who is advising the CNS on these matters, where are the figures are to substantiate such a change, and why the sudden need for the change.
    PC aside – having seen some of these “advisors’ in HQ and within the “halls of power” – I wonder at the reasoning behind it all!

  22. Pat Coghlan says:

    When I made a claim to Veterans Affairs New Zealand, I outlined the exact things that the Chief of Navy has referred to. The fact that we were given access to cheap cigarettes was tacit encouragement on the Navy’s part for me to smoke. It could also be said that giving us access to cheaper beer and a rum ration encouraged drinking. It was part of the culture of the Navy, to drink and smoke, and making things easier encouraged that. Veterans Affairs rejected my argument as did the Appeals Board. I know that there must have been hundred’s of ex Navy personnel who put forward the same argument, and like me, got rejected.

    I am not a Communicator- but I find that this site has more intelligent comment on issues than some of the others that have sprouted, particularly on Facebook. Does anyone agree with me? I wonder if Veterans Affairs will re-consider some of their decisions in light of Jack Steers comments?

    Stay safe Folks.

    • gunther says:

      for all the good words that vet affairs are telling us, they now seem to be running the show like it was acc..with pre 1974 being vet affairs and after that acc control problems for anyone with a problem..it is getting harder to make a claim with very few getting what they desire. altho know of people in the past six months who have got claims for booze thru and being at mururoa (nerves etc) it seems you need to go to a sympathetic specialist first who writes the letter for you to vet affairs. they more sympathy the better the chances, or so it seems in the cases I have heard (from the people concerned). they supposed to be softening up when the new act goes thru, but who knows..

  23. Chook says:

    Pat, there are all levels of intelligence, but ex and serving communicators are professional communicators. I have no idea what that means mainly because I am the odd one out!!!! Welcome to our page anyway, we hope you enjoy the articles and comments from the professionals……

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