PROBE CALL: Phil Feldman in the uniform he is no longer allowed to wear.
PROBE CALL: Phil Feldman in the uniform he is no longer allowed to wear. Renee Albrecht

Where's the money gone? Ousted commander wants audit

FORMER Tin Can Bay Coast Guard commander Phil Feldman says he believes he has been thrown out of the organisation for rocking the boat on issues involving public money.

He says the reasons given for action against him, including allegedly non-compliant safety paperwork, do not seem to add up.

And the other stated reason, that he has broken the rules by communicating with responsible politicians, means he is being victimised as a "whistleblower.”

Mr Feldman said yesterday he was concerned about travel perks and training expenditure within the organisation's management structure, much of it funded by volunteers, local community supporters and the State Government.

His suspension as commander was accompanied by claims he had not submitted appropriate Safety Management System reports on Coast Guard vessels.

His superior, squadron commodore John Milland initially said this meant the service was unable to operate and skippers putting to sea would be at risk of prosecution.

This was quickly reversed, amid concerns this would leave the Cooloola and Fraser Coast region without an immediately available blue water rescue service.

Mr Feldman said yesterday his suspension as commander had now been escalated to expulsion as a member, effectively banning him from meetings and all access to Coast Guard property.

He said yesterday his expulsion, without the chance to defend himself or challenge allegations against him, was a denial of legal standards of fairness.

And because the decision had been taken by the national body, there was nowhere left for him to appeal within the organisation, as his appeal would only be heard by the board members who had expelled him.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service says the situation is under independent review.

All sides have now vowed to give priority to the coastguard service continuing without interruption in the interim.

Gympie Times


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