PM has refused to go into detail on reports soldiers drug claim before fatal parachute accident

Nathan SchmidtNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: NCA NewsWire

The Prime Minister says reports members of an Army unit preparing parachutes for military exercises tested positive to illicit drugs just days before soldier Jack Fitzgibbon was killed in a training jump are ‘of concern’.

The six soldiers were serving at RAAF Base Richmond when they reportedly failed a comprehensive drug screening in mid-February and early March and now faced the possibility of expulsion, the ABC reported on Sunday by the ABC.

Photos - Sunday, 19 May 2024:

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese pictured at Gosford Hospital today with the Member for Dobell, Emma McBride, and the Member for Robertson, Dr Gordon Reid. Picture:NewsWire / Monique Harmer
Camera IconAnthony Albanese would not comment in detail on the report. Credit: NCA NewsWire, NewsWire / Monique Harmer

Asked about the revelations, Anthony Albanese described Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon’s death as an “enormous tragedy”, but would not “talk in any further detail about the specifics”.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


“This is of concern,” Mr Albanese said of the reported drug tests.

“I can’t comment on the detail because the Australian Defence Force investigations are ongoing. That’s why my thoughts will be with the family and friends of Jack”.

Mr Albanese said it would be a “another difficult day” for the Cessnock community where Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon was raised, adding he was confident the ADF had “clearly undertaken appropriate investigations” into the death.

Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon was killed in a parachute accident. Defence
Camera IconLance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon was killed in a parachute accident. Defence Credit: Supplied

“Asking me questions about it (the drug claim) is a clear indication that the ADF are being transparent in how they’re dealing with these issues … it’s important that they be allowed to conduct these processes through to conclusion,” he said.

Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon, son of former Labor defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon and a member of the Sydney-based 2nd Commando Regiment, was killed on March 6 during a routine parachute jump during a training exercise.

Military sources reportedly told the ABC five members of the army’s 176 Air Dispatch Squadron were found to have taken prohibited substances, while another more senior soldier working in logistics also tested positive to cocaine.

But the ABC reported the members who packed the parachutes for the March 6 training exercise had tested negative for drugs, which was confirmed on Sunday by a spokesperson for the Department of Defence.

“The safety of our personnel is paramount and the death of any member, whether in training or in defence of Australia, is deeply felt across the ADF,” the spokesperson said.

Defence carries out random and targeted testing for prohibited substances on an ongoing basis.

All personnel who were involved in packing and checking Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon’s parachute tested negative for prohibited substances.

“The investigations into the death of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon remain ongoing.”

Camera IconThe 35-year-old was farewelled in Cessnook earlier this year, NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper Credit: NCA NewsWire

A long-serving member of 176 Air Dispatch Squadron told the ABC on the condition of anonymity the drug tests put further pressure on a small unit that was already understaffed, having been “30 per cent below capacity”.

Lance Corporal Fitzgibbon was farewelled at a heartfelt ceremony earlier this year in his native Cessnook, which was attended by the Prime Minister, as well as a raft of political and military leaders from across the country.\

Defence numbers helpline

Originally published as PM has refused to go into detail on reports soldiers drug claim before fatal parachute accident

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails