Former Australian navy chief criticised for using submarine for marriage proposal

The Royal Australian Navy Collins-class submarine HMAS Waller at Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii, June 25, 2008 (Photo: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael R. McCormick)

UK and Australian media have reported that a former Chief of the Royal Australian Navy has come under criticism for using a voyage on one of the service’s submarines as an opportunity to propose marriage to his then-girlfriend.

Now-retired Vice Admiral Michael Noonan allegedly used his senior position to allow Samantha Heighway, a civilian, to board the Collins-class submarine HMAS Waller on June 23, 2022.

Waller then headed out to sea off Western Australia with the couple on board, and the admiral proposed to Ms Heighway while the submarine was still underway. The couple then took personal photographs of themselves, including one wherein they are seen standing on the hull of the surfaced vessel.

The submarine’s scheduled voyage on the said date was for the purpose of filming footage to be used for an Australian Defence Force recruitment video.

Phillip Thompson, defence spokesman of Australia’s Liberal-National Coalition alliance, said it was an “abuse of power” on Noonan’s part to approve Ms Heighway’s coming aboard.

Mr Thompson added that the incident highlighted the existence of a “double standard” in the defence force, as a lower-ranking soldier would have definitely been punished and reprimanded for allowing another person access to a base or military equipment.

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