MP braves the sea to better understand naval operations

Published on SBLT Daniel Lea (author), ABEW Matthew Hagglund (photographer)

Mr Keith Pitt MP, Member for Hinkler, on HMAS Newcastle's bridge wing during his sea ride as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program. (photo: ABEW Matthew Hagglund)
Mr Keith Pitt MP, Member for Hinkler, on HMAS Newcastle's bridge wing during his sea ride as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program.

Mr Keith Pitt MP, Federal Member for Hinkler, Queensland, recently embarked in HMAS Newcastle as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program (ADFPP).
Mr. Pitt joined Newcastle during the second week of her Unit Readiness Workup, to acquire a more in-depth understanding of life at sea and of the demands placed on Navy personnel.
Newcastle’s busy schedule provided the Member of Parliament with many exciting serials including Air Warfare, Damage Control exercises, a boarding party exercise and helicopter operations.
Although Mr Pitt discovered first hand the effects of seasickness, along with other members of the Ship’s Company due to heavy seas in the East Australian Exercise Area, he remained positive.
“The ADFPP provides good opportunities for MPs to learn what life is like for Australian Defence Force Personnel. It’s important that MPs from all sides of politics participate in this program, get involved and understand the sacrifices being made and the skills and commitment being shown by ADF members.’
During the week, Mr Pitt participated in a wide variety of exercises and activities as Newcastle progressed with her workup.
During a boarding party exercise, Mr Pitt donned a Mustang anti-exposure suit to protect himself from the harsh environmental conditions. He participated in boat drills and acted as an observer on Seahorse Horizon, a DMS training vessel which was boarded by Newcastle’s boarding party. The highlight of the week was when Mr Pitt embarked Newcastle’s S70-B Seahawk helicopter, affectionately known as Fatcat, for a flying serial.
After accompanying members of the Sea Training Group during a number of whole-ship Damage Control exercises, the parliamentarian commented on how he’d witnessed a sight not seen by many people outside the Navy.
“It is great to see teamwork evolving the way is has over the week, especially with such a young and relatively inexperienced crew,” Mr Pitt said.
The Member for Hinkler, who previously has worked as an engineer, electrician, cane farmer and more recently as a safety advisor to the Mining Industry, has extensive experience with breathing apparatus, emergency response and personnel management. That experience, however, did not prepare him for the demands placed on sailors during Damage Control incidents.
“It’s an entirely different environment on a ship, when you’ve got no one coming to help you and your workplace is effectively your home,” said Mr. Pitt.
As the dawn broke on his final day at sea, and with the effects of his sea-sickness diminishing, Mr Pitt took time to thank the crew of Newcastle for their welcoming attitude and professionalism.
“I’d like to thank the crew of HMAS Newcastle, the Royal Australian Navy and all Australian Defence Force personnel for their contribution. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it immensely,” he said.