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Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
27 November 2006
The Australian Government has declared a World War II Japanese midget submarine M24, reportedly discovered off Sydney, to be a historic shipwreck.
“The declaration under the Historic Shipwrecks Act gives legal protection to the submarine and its relics from damage, disturbance or removal,” the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said.
“Breaches of the Act carry a fine up to $10 000 or imprisonment for a period of up to five years.
“Conserving our important heritage places for future generations is paramount.”
An Australian Navy diving team began inspecting the site today to verify the wreckage and provide a more detailed technical assessment of its condition and investigate the fate of the crew.
“On the night of 31 May–1 June 1942 three Japanese Type A midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour, attacking Allied shipping,” Senator Campbell said. One became entangled in the defensive boom net across the Harbour and her two-man crew deliberately blew her up. Another was sunk in a depth charge attack before firing any torpedoes.
“The third submarine, the M24, fired torpedoes that missed the cruiser USS Chicago, but exploded beneath the barracks ship HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 naval personnel—19 Australian and two British sailors. The attack brought World War II to Sydney's doorstep and is among the most significant events in Australia’s wartime experiences.
“If the submarine’s location is confirmed in Commonwealth waters the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act will protect the vessel from actions that will or are likely to have a significant impact on its heritage values.”
The fate of the two crew members of the M24 has never been resolved. The Government will work with the Japanese Government to ensure this matter is handled sensitively.
“The Australian Government will enter into discussions with the Japanese and New South Wales Governments over the long term management of the vessel,” Senator Campbell said.
Rob Broadfield 02 6277 7640 or 04094 93902