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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Program 1--Forces Executive
- Committee Name
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Program 1--Forces Executive
Air Vice Marshal Cox
Air Vice Marshal Moller
Rear Adm. Oxenbould
Major Gen. Hartley
Air Vice Marshal Rogers
Air Vice-Marshal Cox
- Sub program
- System Id
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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(SENATE-Thursday, 27 February 1997)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS
- Program 1--Compensation
- Program 2--Health Care and Services
- Program 3--War Graves
- Program 4--Corporate services
- Program 5--War Memorial
- Senator Newman
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Air Vice Marshal Cox
- Program 1--Forces Executive
- Program 2--Navy
- Program 3--Army
- Program 4--Air Force
- Program 5--Strategy Intelligence
- Program 6--Acquisition
- Program 7--Budget and management
- Program 8--Science and technology
- Mr Corey
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
- Program 2--Passport and consular services
- Program 5--Executive and DFAT Corporate Services.
- Program 6--Development cooperation
- Program 7--Australian Trade Commission
- Mr Chidgey
Content WindowFOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 27/02/1997 - DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE - Program 1--Forces Executive
Senator WEST --What is happening with the review of the provision of health services in the ADF that General Rossi undertook?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --That review is being considered. I invite the Surgeon-General of the Australian Defence Force to make a comment on that and bring you up-to-date on where we up to.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --The review has been referred to our office. The recommendations made by General Rossi have been addressed and recommendations from my own office put to the Vice Chief who commissioned the study.
Senator WEST --Is it possible to get a copy of the Rossi report?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I would not say that the report is in draft form, but until the report has been staffed by the Vice Chief and others within the department, I would not like to say yes to that.
Senator WEST --Can you give me any indications as to whether there are any changes proposed or whether the service delivery may change direction?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Within the report--and, I might add, in other areas of the department where we are considering how those very matters might take place on the delivery of methods, whether or not they might be changed and all the rest of it--they do get some focus. The trick here is how to get what we need at a minimum cost--and we are looking at that all the time. Some of the propositions entail whether or not it should be a uniform medical staff and whether it should not, matters such as that. They are all being considered in the department presently.
Senator WEST --There is a bit of a rumour running around, isn't there, in some areas that nursing will be contracted out, that there will be no further nurses within the three services?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I am unaware of that rumour.
Senator WEST --I am told there is a rumour floating around.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --I am not aware of that rumour.
Senator WEST --So you cannot confirm or deny that that might happen?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I can't because I am unaware of whether the rumour is around. I have not heard it. Deliberations on all sorts of staffing are always going on. It may be that numbers, location, disposition and skills in those particular areas will be under some form of examination at any time. So I can't answer whether there is a rumour specifically addressed at nurses at the moment.
Senator WEST --When do you expect the final deliberations on all this to be completed?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I am not trying to avoid giving you an answer, it is just that I really do not know when it will be completed. With the numbers of changes which could possibly come out of the defence efficiency review, I do not think we will be in a position to answer matters such as you are talking about until the defence efficiency review has been tabled and accepted and goes forward for implementation. All the changes which may flow from a review of that size could well sweep up all these areas.
Senator WEST --So the defence efficiency review will have an impact as well upon the provision of health services within the ADF.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I am only guessing. I do not know what is in the defence efficiency review, but it is a very wide-ranging review. It is looking at efficiency right across the portfolio. From my personal observation, I believe it is possible that the organisation arrangements, the numbers and disposition of all staff could well be challenged under that particular review.
Senator WEST --What did General Rossi look at?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --General Rossi was tasked, as I recall, to look at measures which might facilitate enhancing the retention rates of doctors and medical staff more generally, and I think he was also tasked with looking at how they might be encouraged to join the ADF and provide services for contingency another time.
Senator WEST --Is it possible to have a copy of the terms of reference?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I believe we can provide you with it.
Senator WEST --How is the retention rate going for medical personnel within the ADF?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --If you can give me just a moment, I might be able to find a specific figure in one of these documents, but speaking generally, the retention in the medical personnel is variable. It varies by service, as it does for numbers coming in. I will just ask the Surgeon-General whether he has any specific information.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --The retention since last year has improved in terms of the percentage retention of medical officers. The shortfall which was noted in the Army at the captain rank level, which was the highest shortfall last year, which was 72 per cent, has improved to 58 per cent this year, which would reflect the intake of new graduates into the service. The Air Force shortfall at squadron leader rank has worsened from 68 to 72 per cent, but then again, those are small numbers that we are dealing with.
Senator WEST --And the Navy?
Air Vice Marshal Moller --I do not have the current figures for the Navy; I have here figures from last year which are not relevant.
Senator WEST --If you have a percentage for last year, I will quite happily take that.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --Certainly, and I apologise; I have found this year's. The shortfall at the lieutenant level is two, which is a 10 per cent shortfall. At the lieutenant command level, they have an excess of one, and at the commander level they have a shortfall of one against the liability of six.
Senator WEST --When I asked for health and medical, I just do not mean doctors, of course. They are pretty important but I have an opinion that there are other professions that are equally important, if not more so, with all due respect, doctor. You did not think I would ask, did you?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Of course he did.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --In regard to the nursing figures for Navy, against an establishment of 26 positions, the current strength is 33.
Senator WEST --So you are seven over.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --Two nursing officers are on maternity leave, two are on extended sick leave, two are on leave without pay and five are in out-of-branch billets, so called. The Army has a shortfall against an establishment of 84. They have a strength of 71. In the Air Force, there is an establishment of 100 and a strength of 102.
Senator WEST --How is that shortfall in Army made up?
Air Vice Marshal Moller --Presently, I would imagine that the shortfall in Army would be made up by contract health practitioners filling the vacant posts.
Senator WEST --I see, and I will be interested to ask Army where that shortfall is occurring--whether it is occurring in all bases or just in one particular area.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --I cannot answer that, I am sorry, Senator.
Senator WEST --Maybe that can just go on notice because I might get called for another hearing. I am also interested to know, of those RNs, what post-basic qualifications they have, and that can go on notice as well.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --Certainly. I can answer if you wish. For Navy postgraduate qualifications, two Navy nursing officers hold masters degrees and two are undertaking studies towards a Masters of Nursing degree. The majority of senior naval nursing officers have completed Navy staff college and two nursing officers have completed Joint Services Staff College in the last five years. They are the only nursing officers of the three services so to do. In the Army--
Senator WEST --I would like it put on notice for Army and RAAF. Why have they not had anybody at JSSC?
Air Vice Marshal Moller --With regard to postgraduate qualifications in the Army, six Army nursing officers hold masters degrees and two are undertaking studies currently towards a master degree and, in the Air Force, three Air Force nursing officers hold Masters of Nursing degrees, four are undertaking studies towards a Masters of Nursing degree and one is completing a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies leading to a masters degree.
Senator WEST --Maybe you can take this on notice, but I presume you have some other health professionals. I presume you have dentists, speech therapists, physiotherapists--that sort of thing.
Air Vice Marshal Moller --We have no speech therapists that I am aware of. We have physiotherapists in the Australian Army. In the other services they are contracted.
Senator WEST --No problem with dentists?
Air Vice Marshal Moller --There is no problem in respect of the numbers of dentists in the services. In Navy there are 29 dentists against an establishment, I am told, of 28. In Army there is a shortfall of dentists of the order of 17. In Air Force there is an excess of two dentists over the establishment numbers.
Senator WEST --That is all the health professionals you employ that are within the armed forces?
Air Vice Marshal Moller --Fundamentally, yes--doctors, dentists and nurses. You mentioned physiotherapists in the Army. Navy and Air Force do not have physiotherapists in uniform. Army does.
Senator MARGETTS --Under section 111, strategic operations and plans, I would like to follow up a bit more in relation to Operation Tandem Thrust. During the hearing of the marine pollution inquiry the other day we were given to understand that there would be around 1,000 personnel involved with environmental monitoring. Can somebody give me an idea of what kind of cost would be involved with environmental monitoring for Operation Tandem Thrust?
Mr Corey --I am not sure where the senator got her figures from. There are 11 people involved in environmental monitoring.
Senator MARGETTS --Whoever told me the other day must have been incorrect.
Mr Corey --The person that was at the briefing is sitting alongside me.
Senator MARGETTS --I was wondering how you could have an environmental monitoring unit that was actually a PR unit as well as an independent environmental monitoring unit. I was given to understand that I really didn't understand because there were 1,000 people involved with environmental monitoring and this was just a small portion of it. Was I incorrect in my understanding of what was said to me the other day?
Mr Corey --Yes, you were.
Senator MARGETTS --I was incorrect? So there are really only 11 people. And you can have totally separate departments there?
Mr Corey --There is one team. They are set up as a team on the ground in Rockhampton.
Senator MARGETTS --Fine. And they are also involved with the PR, meeting and greeting?
Mr Corey --They are involved in the same group. They are located with the same group--or they will be when the exercise actually starts.
Senator MARGETTS --Well, I will check back in the Hansard for what was told to me the other day, because I think I was quite distinctly pulled up on my lack of understanding of the numbers of people involved. But I will check the Hansard to find out whether or not the information that was given to me the other day links up with the 11 people you have just mentioned today.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --It has just been passed to me that there is a figure of 1,000 mentioned in Tandem Thrust, but in fact it is contributed to the exercise control group. There might have been some confusion about the role of the exercise control group.
Senator MARGETTS --I wasn't confused. I was asking about the environmental monitoring unit.
Mr Corey --The environmental monitoring unit is a part of the exercise control group. Maybe that is where the confusion comes from.
Senator MARGETTS --Fine. And I asked whether the environmental monitoring unit could be independent when they also had the role of meeting and greeting and telling people what a wonderful environmental job they were doing and whether there was a conflict of interest there. So I think I might go back to the Hansard and ask some further questions about the information that was given to the marine pollution inquiry the other day when I asked questions in relation to conflict of interest.
In relation to Tandem Thrust, is there a breakdown of the costs involved? I know that it has been mentioned that a lot of it is part of the normal Defence budget running costs. Is there any breakdown of the various costs involved with the operation of Tandem Thrust?
Mr Corey --You are talking about Tandem Thrust in total, presumably?
Senator MARGETTS --Yes.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I do not think that I can give you that information. It is probably being compiled by the officer nominated to run the exercise. I suspect that might be the commander of Australian Theatre. I am not too sure of that. The ex-Maritime Commander, now Deputy Chief of the Navy, may be able to answer it.
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --Up until recently I was the lead joint commander before the planning of exercise Tandem Thrust. We do not have the specific costs which are available for the whole of exercise Tandem Thrust. The additional costs were in the order of about $2.3 million to $2.4 million across the portfolio within the service programs. As you look at the individual programs, there are costs attributed there. I think the additional cost in the Navy is in the order of $403,000, which was to do with the additional planning and administration costs associated with the exercise. Most of the costs were absorbed out of our normal operating costs where we have subsumed a number of exercises which we normally conduct within Tandem Thrust.
Senator MARGETTS --When you say `subsumed', you were originally planning to have more smaller exercises and instead had one big one?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --Yes. For example, some amphibious exercises like initial landing, which involved both the Army and the Navy, have been subsumed within Tandem Thrust.
Senator MARGETTS --So is that the only general budget item that has come out of the exercise budget or is it also subsumed into other budgets within Defence as well?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --Within the service programs, their normal operating costs are where we were financing and funding the ADS participation for exercise Tandem Thrust. The only additional costs above our normal operating costs are in the order of $2.3 million or $2.4 million. I can answer for Navy; I believe it is $403,000.
Senator MARGETTS --I would like the breakdown of the `normal operating costs' and the area within Defence under which they would be accounted. Is that possible?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --I could provide that on notice.
Senator MARGETTS --Yes, that is what I am asking for.
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --We could provide the costs associated with the forces that we have participating.
Senator MARGETTS --How is the cost of the exercise being shared between Australia and the United States?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --For joint costs, where we are both using the same services, there has been an attribution split--I think it is 84 per cent to the United States and 16 per cent to Australia--to reflect the proportion of the services which are participating within the force. But any costs which are associated with the individual country--for example, the United States or Australia--are borne by that country.
Senator MARGETTS --What kind of services would you be talking about there?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --The combined services. We are using such things as the combined exercise control group, which you were talking about earlier. If I could just assist in clarifying that point, the combined exercise control group is about 1,000 people. The environmental group within that is only 11 people, but that is their sole task. There are other people within that combined exercise control group who have the task of public affairs and public administration and the handling of visitors, but it is not the environmental group. That is consistent with what Mr Corey said.
Senator MARGETTS --But you said people from the environmental group would be meeting.
Mr Corey --No, I said they were part of the exercise control group.
Senator MARGETTS --Okay. How does the cost of Tandem Thrust compare to Kangaroo 95?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --For Australia it would be considerably less because this is primarily a United States exercise. I do not have the exact figures in front of me, and I cannot provide those to you. We are not setting up this exercise solely as an Australian exercise, as we were for Kangaroo 95. So we are not liable for a lot of the administrative costs associated with setting up the exercise. We are sharing those joint costs with the United States.
Senator MARGETTS --In the event of an accident involving an oil spill or a nuclear accident involving a nuclear submarine or any other accident of that kind, what is the liability of the United States?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --It would be the same as for the normal procedures. I cannot answer your question right off the top of my head. The remote likelihood of an accident with a nuclear powered warship is extremely remote. We have procedures in place associated with port visits. We have exercised with them many times and we have not had any accidents. But the liability would be with the United States.
Senator MARGETTS --Who would be in charge of any clean-up operation in that case?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --For a nuclear accident, it is very hard to imagine what sort of clean-up operation would have to take place. They have many hundreds of thousands of years of nuclear reactor experience without having had any such accident. We are taking extreme precautions to make sure that there are no oil spills within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area. In fact, we are not carrying out any replenishment at sea operations within the park, and that is a result of the impact statement.
Senator MARGETTS --Would you like to qualify that statement?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --When I say replenishment at sea, it is the normal practice for our at-sea operations--for the escorts, the destroyers, the cruisers--to refuel from oilers, from tanking ships. But because there is a very slight--and I emphasise `very slight'--possibility of an oil spill, we have directed, as a part of the environmental practices for this exercise, that we will not carry out any of those replenishment at sea operations within the park. They will be well clear of the park.
Senator MARGETTS --But the small craft will be replenished--
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --That is part of normal operations within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Any small vessels--
Senator MARGETTS --No, I am sorry. I offered you the opportunity to qualify that statement. The same kind of statement was made the other day to the marine pollution inquiry. The fact that it is a normal part of the procedures to refuel smaller craft is not an answer to the question I asked. You made a statement about there being no refuelling. I offered you the opportunity to qualify the statement. But there will be refuelling of smaller craft within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --Yes. But this is part of normal operations from any operator who works within the marine park.
Senator MARGETTS --Sure, but, with all due respect, they are not playing war games.
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --Yes, but most of those fuellings will be alongside in ports--such as any trawler, any fishing vessel, any tourist operator, would do within the marine park.
Senator MARGETTS --I asked about the liability and the control of any potential accident involving a US submarine, but you did not actually answer the question. You said that it probably would never happen. No, you were stronger than that. You said that there have not been any problems. But I think there are lists of incidents that have occurred with US nuclear ships that are probably as long as your arm. You might consider them fairly minor, but there are lists of incidents that have occurred in and out of ports in relation to nuclear powered and armed warships. Would you not agree that there are incidents that have occurred?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --There have been no reactor accidents which have resulted in nuclear leakage.
Senator MARGETTS --What about Guam?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --I am not sure of Guam.
Senator MARGETTS --The release of radioactive water, coolant water, into the port.
Rear Oxenbould --I am not aware of those details.
Senator MARGETTS --Perhaps I could find the list of incidents that have occurred--accidents and otherwise. There must be a contingency plan in case there is an accident involving nuclear warships.
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --We have very strict regulations and procedures for nuclear powered warships when they visit Australian ports, and we only have a few ports which are cleared for those visits. They include monitoring of any radioactive leaking and bottom sampling, and we conduct exercises with the state emergency services. They are extremely comprehensive and it has been in place for a number of years and is subject to Senate inquiry and regulations.
Senator MARGETTS --So in the event--albeit, as you believe, an unlikely event--of any accident involving the nuclear warship, what would happen?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --I do not believe there will be any accident. There is only one nuclear powered warship participating in exercise Tandem Thrust. That submarine has applied for a port visit and that is being processed at the moment. There are set procedures in place for if there was an accident, and they are very stringent.
Senator MARGETTS --We are talking about its operation within the context of the Tandem Thrust exercise. It is operating in a free play war game situation. There is another submarine involved. If there was an incident involving that nuclear submarine when it was not in port, what would be happening?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --That would be up to the United States. They would have their procedures for that. But the chances of that happening are so remote. We have very stringent water space management rules to make sure that there is no possible conflict between those two submarines which are operating independently in the exercise. They do not operate in the space of water.
Senator MARGETTS --So there would be no role for Australian authorities at all?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --It would be in accordance with the US standard procedures. We do not have procedures for that because we do not operate nuclear powered ships.
Senator FORSHAW --Still under strategic operations and plans: I understand that the Defence Force is conducting a review of ADF airfields as a result of the government's decision to consider Holsworthy as a site for Sydney's second airport. Is that correct?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I cannot confirm that the study of the airfield disposition is linked immediately--or linked at all--to any consideration of the use of Holsworthy for civil airport usage. We continue to conduct exercises on base disposition, including airfields.
Senator FORSHAW --Can you tell me who is on the review panel? Does it involve civilian as well as defence personnel?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I cannot tell you who is on it, off the top of my head. I would suspect very strongly, and Mr Corey or somebody may be able to confirm it, that there would be some civilian people on it as well. Could you clarify whether you mean civilians from regional areas or defence civilians?
Senator FORSHAW --How about you let me know what the answer to the question is, even if you have to take it on notice.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I think we can answer the question.
Dr Williams --A small team within Defence comprises people from my own division, civilians and military people from the headquarters. It is a team of about four people in total. They are engaged at the moment in looking at current ADF airfields, things like population growth and other factors that might influence the future. They are looking at future ADF requirements for air support. We do not as yet have any report or draft reports. It is still very much in the development stage.
Senator FORSHAW --Are there any consultancies involved?
Dr Williams --The only consultancy that I am aware of was some information that was obtained from the Bureau of Statistics--basically getting some information on population trends in areas near ADF airfields. But that was a collection of information rather than a consultancy.
Senator FORSHAW --If Holsworthy were to be selected as the site for Sydney's second airport--and I note that the minister for transport has actually now extended the time by two months for the presentation of the draft EIS; it was announced yesterday--can you tell me what that would mean in terms of the future operation of Holsworthy and the relocation of some or all of the force facilities and personnel at Holsworthy at the moment?
Dr Williams --I cannot give you details of that. The details of Holsworthy are a more specific topic which others can perhaps answer.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --To come up with a cause and response would be very difficult because of the possible locations of that large area and it would depend where any airfield, if it were to be put in that area, was actually sited as to the impact it would have on the continuing utility of some of the facilities we have there. So there could be any number of outcomes, depending on locations, runway directions and the like. To give you a set answer to what it would mean to us is very difficult to do.
Senator FORSHAW --Yes, but a preferred option at least has been put forward by the consultants and the department of transport as to the location and direction of runways on the Holsworthy site. From memory, there are two options now. The first one is a little bit further south than where the first one was, and the second option is right down the bottom of the base area. I would have thought that the Defence Force would be considering the ramifications if either of those options are successful in terms of what they will mean for the existing facilities such as the Army units there, the military police there, and the storage and distribution centre.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I do not have the information, but I notice the Deputy Chief of Army has come to the table. He may be able to provide some detail for that.
Major Gen. Hartley --At this stage, and it is still early analysis, certainly we would have to change some of the patterns of our training activities. In particular, anything that involved high trajectory weapons would not be able to be fired, regardless of which airport or runway option was taken. There would also be some disruption to other types of weapon firing, but I can certainly say categorically that we would not be able to fire artillery, mortars or any weapon that in fact has a high trajectory.
Senator FORSHAW --What about the relocation of units that are there now? Has that been considered? If not, why hasn't it been?
Major Gen. Hartley --The relocation of units is being considered as part of a broader study. There are two units at Holsworthy which we would think would be relocated anyway. One is the parachute battalion, which clearly needs to be as close to a strategic airhead as possible and proximate to the Air Force aircraft that would actually deploy that force. The second is a newly formed unit, the 4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Commando, which ideally should also be located close to an airhead but also proximate to an amphibian force. So those two units in the longer term will probably be relocated, but that really is not dependent upon the Holsworthy airport outcome.
Mr Corey --Parallel with the EIS process which the department of transport are conducting we are looking at a study of the potential impacts on defence activities around the Holsworthy area. The initial outcome of that study suggested, as has been said earlier, that the training activities that are conducted at Holsworthy are likely to be severely impacted on, but the units that operate there, such as the Defence National Storage and Distribution Centre, and many of the other units that are in the cantonment, would not be impacted.
Senator FORSHAW --Is the Defence Force or the department, or both, putting in a submission to the EIS process?
Mr Corey --We certainly will be. We are preparing one, yes.
Senator FORSHAW --But you have not done it as yet?
Mr Corey --We have not completed our impact study as yet, but we will be putting it in before the EIS process is complete.
Senator FORSHAW --That would explain why there has been an extension of time, would it?
Mr Corey --No, it would not.
Senator FORSHAW --Do you know why there has been an extension of time? It just sort of helps--
Mr Corey --I do not know precisely. No, I do not. But, if our experience with EISs is any indication, they always take a little longer than you initially think they might.
Senator FORSHAW --Yes, but I thought that was one of the lessons we were supposed to have learnt from the previous ones. Will that be a public submission? Will the submission be made publicly available?
Mr Corey --I imagine all of the documents in the EIS process will be public documents.
Senator FORSHAW --You imagine wrong, but--
Mr Corey --Well, it will not be our call, I guess. It will be--
Senator FORSHAW --In terms of the position of the Defence Force, would you be making the submission--
Mr Corey --I guess that will be the minister's decision.
Senator FORSHAW --And would you be asking that it not be publicly released or that it be made publicly available?
Mr Corey --That will not be a decision that will be made by me or probably by anybody within the organisation. I guess that will be a minister's decision.
Senator FORSHAW --So the submission would ordinarily, I assume, be cleared through the Minister for Defence?
Mr Corey --It will, yes.
Senator FORSHAW --Any idea when that is likely to be finalised?
Mr Corey --We will have to get it finalised within the next month.
Senator FORSHAW --I asked the question earlier about review of airfields. Can you indicate whether or not the review includes or, if it does not, whether you can still comment upon the likely impact of a new airport at Holsworthy on the airspace for Richmond and consequential impacts upon the operations at Richmond?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I will give you a general answer to that. Any study of the airfield disposition is going to have to take all those things into account. The airspace, the usage, ownership, frequency of air traffic and all of those sorts of things will be taken into account in any study that is done on airfield disposition. It will be a mandatory requirement. You would not do a study without taking all those things into account.
Senator FORSHAW --Do you have any indications as to what would be the likely impact?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Of?
Senator FORSHAW --Of the location of an airport at Holsworthy on airspace at Richmond.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I will invite my colleague the Deputy Chief of the Air Force to answer that.
Air Vice Marshal Rogers --Yes, Senator, we can. There was a study commissioned, you may remember, by the minister for transport, Mr Sharp, and it was handed to him on 16 December last--a study of the Sydney Basin airspace. Defence participated in that particular study and the study was released, I recall, in late December as to the new flight paths for Sydney's airport.
As part of that study they looked at the various options for the second Sydney airport and the impact they would have both at Badgerys Creek and at Holsworthy on Defence activities. For example, the Holsworthy sites would have the following impact on military activity. At Richmond it would be reasonably minimal because of the flight paths they were looking at. There may be some relocation of general aviation activities, but that is not our bailiwick as such. In Nowra the air base and fleet support areas would be slightly affected by the modification of some of the flight paths out to sea--and that, you may recall, was also part of the findings of that particular study. At Holsworthy, as mentioned by the Deputy Chief of the Army, there would be major impacts in relation to some of the flight paths around there on Army's activities.
In relation to the Badgerys Creek options, at Richmond there would be some modifications required to our control zone around there to accommodate the flight paths. However, we could accommodate those quite easily by modifying our flight paths to facilitate the general aviation access between Bankstown and the western areas. There would probably be increased use of Richmond airspace by civilian aircraft. Again, because we have some agreements between Airservices Australia and us for the management of the Sydney Basin airspace, we feel those could be accommodated with minimal impact on Defence.
There are some options for the north-south aligned runway which again would increase the need for some more use of our airspace around there. This is all in the Badgerys Creek one. In relation to Holsworthy, it is a similar distance from Badgerys as it is from Kingsford Smith. As mentioned by the Deputy Chief of the Army, the low-level firing areas would be okay but any of the higher level stuff would require amendments. Generally there would be some rearrangement of the general aviation flight paths around. Nowra and Badgerys Creek should have very limited impact on Navy's operations in the air.
So in essence, to sum it up, both Sydney options for the second Sydney airport in our view will have an impact on Richmond, but we can live with them and we can accommodate them. I make that point because there is only limited airspace in Australia, we have got to share it and that has been Defence's approach to all these sorts of things. We are a partner and we will try to accommodate, wherever possible, any of the changes, but bear in mind we still have our requirements for defence.
Senator FORSHAW --Thank you. In respect of the submission that has been prepared, does it include any costing of the contamination, the removal of unexploded ordnance, et cetera on the Holsworthy site if it were selected for the second airport?
Mr Corey --That is part of the task that has been conducted by the department of transport, and their study. It has nothing to do with us. We might have been the contaminant, but the actual clean up costs are being estimated by the consultants that are working for the department of transport.
Senator FORSHAW --So the Defence Department force has no input into that?
Mr Corey --We are providing expertise where they find something that they need to have blown up. We are providing some historical background, but the actual assessment of the contamination and the cost of clean up are a part of the study that is being conducted by the department of transport's consultants.
Senator FORSHAW --But you would certainly have details of what it has cost for previous similar exercises--albeit on a much smaller scale--such as the establishment of a rifle range.
Mr Corey --The clean up of UXO is usually done by consultants. We manage them if we are doing clean ups. But it is done by consultants--by private industry--so the costs are available from industry.
Senator FORSHAW --Would you take it on notice and see if some estimate of cost can be provided?
Mr Corey --That is impossible, Senator.
Senator FORSHAW --Impossible?
Mr Corey --It is impossible until you know the extent of the contamination. You cannot do any estimate of remediation until you know the extent of the contamination, and that requires a lot of work. You cannot just take a rough rule of thumb and say that because we used that type of range for the last 50 or 100 years, it will take this much to clean it up. It does not work like that.
Senator FORSHAW --We must have some means of calculating how much it is going to cost to put an airport on an area that has been subject to shelling for 50 years.
Mr Corey --That is part of the exercise that the consultants working for the department of transport have. One of their primary tasks is to come up with the cost.
Senator FORSHAW --That is what I would like to know.
Mr Corey --We are not involved in that process.
Senator FORSHAW --I see. You said earlier that it was the department of transport. I find that amazing--
Mr Corey --It is their project.
Senator FORSHAW --It is your base.
Mr Corey --It is their project.
Senator WEST --Sounds like all care and no responsibility.
Senator FORSHAW --This is not on Holsworthy itself, but let me ask you this question. Who paid for the clearing of that land around the Holsworthy base, including the area on Defence base land, before the construction of the DHA housing?
Mr Corey --We did.
Senator FORSHAW --Department of Defence?
Mr Corey --Yes. It was part of the sale. We sold the land on the basis that it was clean.
Senator FORSHAW --Why did the Defence Department pay for it?
Mr Corey --We have a responsibility to clean up land when we dispose of land. We sold it to DHA on the basis that it was clean so we had to do the decontamination. It was not a range. There was a rifle range there and there was some buried UXO, but it was not used as a field firing range as the main Holsworthy range is.
Senator FORSHAW --I see. From program 1, on page 38, there is a reference to equipment and stores which refers to the provision for changed function and increased establishment at Headquarters Australian Theatre--$166,000. Does that reflect costs involved in the earlier answer you gave me about the establishment of the interim headquarters, or what is that?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Just looking at the specific thing there, there has been a change in the program allocations to allocate the funding to that particular activity, I think you will find.
Senator FORSHAW --I am not sure. What are you telling me?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --You are looking at the $166,000--
Senator FORSHAW --Yes.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --That is just variations in equipment and stores for the increased role and function at that particular headquarters.
Senator FORSHAW --Yes. I can read that.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I do not have any further information. I might be able to find out.
Senator FORSHAW --It is not a big deal. Could you take it on notice? It is just that earlier on you said that you had established a sort of an interim headquarters pending this final thing. I just wondered what that amount was for, because you talked about a changed function.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I understand that embraces new equipment such as computers and activities for more people going into the location. More people have gone into that particular area to run the Headquarters Australian Theatre. Although it is an interim headquarters, more people have gone in there and they do utilise additional equipment.
Senator FORSHAW --The other issue that I wanted to raise is the far more significant amount which is on page 37. This is something which appears on a number of occasions throughout the estimates and it is the cost associated with the folding in of leave loading. I understand what that involves, but can you explain to me what the figure of $36,500,000 actually represents as an additional amount?
Mr Lewincamp --The folding in of leave loading includes the paying out of all outstanding leave loading for servicemen. So a number of servicemen might have two or three years worth of leave loading that they have not yet taken advantage of, and in the paying in of the leave loading not only is there a penalty because you are paying in advance--so there is an up-front cost for all service personnel--but also there is the paying out of all the outstanding leave loadings that people might have accrued.
Senator FORSHAW --But this is an additional amount to what was originally estimated. Is that not correct?
Mr Lewincamp --No. This is a net program transfer. In the budget statement we put all of that money into the forces executive program, and since the budget, we have now allocated that money to the programs where the servicemen actually work. So there is a net program transfer here. With the reduction in the forces executive program there will be corresponding increases in the three service programs.
Senator FORSHAW --Okay. Can you tell me how many personnel that amount relates to?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I cannot give you an exact figure, Senator, but presumably it would relate to the uniformed members of the ADF.
Senator FORSHAW --All of them?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes. It would be all of those entitled to a leave bonus or loading. It may be differing amounts depending on what time they were recruited.
Senator FORSHAW --It includes the people leaving the services, as well as all of those remaining?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --A one-off snapshot was taken at the time to put this thing in place. We were paying leave loadings and a change was made, and this is to make it all happen. So, as my colleague has indicated, it has come from program 1 and has devolved into the programs where the service personnel are.
Senator HOGG --Can I just get in at the tail end of that and refer you to page 34 to a note under subprogram 1.5? There is a folding in of leave loading with the figures from a negative $47 million in the budget to a negative $17 million revised, which is a $30 million difference. Can you explain that? Is that part of what you have just been talking about?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Could you say where those figures are again, please?
Senator HOGG --They are under the words `Permanent Force' on page 34, about halfway down the page. Under subprogram 1.5 it says:
. . . folding in of leave loading of--$47 million (1996-97 Budget) and--$17 million (1996-97 Revised)
I am wondering if those are related to the figures that you have just been quoting to us.
Mr Lewincamp --Yes, they are. The $17 million refers to the retention initiatives. That is separate from the leave loading. If you recall, all the adjustments here are the subtractions made from the subprograms for the purpose of calculating per capitas. As we explain, there is a provision that we had centrally for the folding in of leave loading. There is another central provision that we have for retention initiatives within the ADF as part of the government's policy initiatives.
CHAIR --Senator West has some questions on program 1.
Senator WEST --I have a question on program 1. On page 37, we have an amount of $2,869,000 for net program transfers, primarily for the Defence Community Organisation. What precisely is that all about?
Mr Lewincamp --They are transfers within the Defence organisation. In this case, they came from the Army program and the Air Force program. It was a transfer of responsibility to the forces executive program, with a transfer of the corresponding funds.
Senator WEST --What defence community organisation was that, and what sort of program were they planning to run with it?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --This was to do with the establishment of the Defence Community Organisation where we took staff from numerous other programs, particularly the service programs, and brought them together in the one organisation. It was formed on 1 July last year, and it is known as the Defence Community Organisation or the DCO. That service brings together the family support which we had in disparate areas. We have regional education liaison officers, family liaison officers, and a social work service, and, more recently, we have also absorbed what was known as the Army Community Services into the Defence Community Organisation. So we now have one organisation which is under the personnel division and provides those sorts of family support and other services right across the ADF in one organisation.
Senator WEST --They are purple.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes.
Senator WEST --This item was as part of the transfer into the single organisation?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --These figures here indicate some tail, if you like, to that process, yes. The formation of the community organisation flowed from a study which was done some time ago by Valerie Pratt. You might recall it?
Senator WEST --Yes, I do recall it. I think it is an excellent idea.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --So do I.
Senator WEST --How is it working?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Very well, I believe. For your information, it was found to be a great arrangement when the Black Hawk tragedy happened. We had the extra pool of people which we could move around and it is proving to be a good move.
Senator WEST --There were some shakedown problems, weren't there, with some of the changes to service delivery, with one service not wanting to--
Air Vice Marshal Cox --When you bring together into one organisation people who have been allied in other areas, there is usually a bit of a cultural problem at the start until everyone gets refocused and reorientated. I am quite confident that the process is complete and we are getting on with the job and it is going very well.
Senator WEST --It must make it easier for the REDLOs and EDLOs, when they are dealing in places where there are Army, Air Force and Navy together, to be in one office and not have to be in six or three different places at once.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Correct.
Senator WEST --Thank you, that answers my question there. Where do we deal with ADFA? I want to deal with some sexual harassment. There was an article in the Sun-Herald of 15 December and there had been articles two weeks prior to that about the AFP investigating three claims of sexual assault involving cadets at ADFA. What is the story?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Unfortunately, I do not think I can give you a specific answer on that incident. I recall the incident you are talking about, and I know it is being investigated, but I am not aware if there has been a conclusion reached from the AFP investigation. I would have to clarify that. I cannot recall that being completed.
Senator WEST --What about internal ADF discipline and investigation--or was it handed straight to the AFP?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --In all these matters, there is an agreement about whether or not they are handed straight to the federal or civil police in the first instance or whether they are handled by internal investigations, depending on the nature of the alleged activity. That is specified in our defence instructions and we agree that it should be there. When some of the more serious sexual assault allegations are made, they go straight to the civil police.
Senator WEST --It is now the end of February. This obviously occurred at the beginning of December, at the very latest. That is three months ago. Has somebody not followed up with the AFP to find out how their investigations are proceeding with a view to--
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Senator, I cannot reach that conclusion. It is just that I am unaware of it, because the Commandant of the Defence Force Academy is responsible for oversighting that activity and, to my knowledge, he has been doing so. It is just that I do not have with me the immediate information to say whether it has been resolved one way or another. There were some aspects of it which were unfortunate, and there are some sensitivities with the particular cadets involved, so we have been treating it fairly carefully and with compassion. Whether it has been completed to give total satisfaction of the process, I cannot answer.
Senator WEST --Can you take it on notice that I want to know at what stage the AFP investigations are? Following the result of the AFP investigations, if there are no charges laid, what investigations is the ADF planning to undertake? And what, if any, is going to be the disciplinary action?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes, I obviously will, Senator. I was recalling as you were speaking that I have a suspicion that some of the allegations were withdrawn, but I will check for you.
Senator WEST --Will somebody be looking into the withdrawal of some of those allegations? I am very concerned that sexual harassment is still alive and unfortunately well in the ADF, and that there are women out there who are feeling pressured. I do not want them to be feeling so pressured that they would actually withdraw the allegations. I know that that is a problem that occurs with all assaults and sexual assault cases and that it is a risk that is run. But, even if the charges or some of the allegations were withdrawn to the AFP, I would like to think that, because there has been an allegation raised, it would at least be looked at, and looked at in terms of military discipline; and that it is going to be done within the three years statute of limitations, and not be like the Tindal case and a few others that are still kicking around unresolved with the statute of limitations expired.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I have a couple of observations. One is that I share your concern equally and, indeed, the whole of the ADF, the senior management and everybody else shares your concern--
Senator WEST --Yes; most senior management does.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --There have been numerous studies, which I can table. Some of them suggest that we are in fact making some progress on this vexed matter. With the particular circumstance you quote from the Defence Force Academy, I am reluctant to go too far into it. As I recall, there were some sensitivities involved with the particular young lady, and they were not a matter of negligence or a failure to pursue a particular allegation from the Defence Force. I do not want to go any further into a public explanation of that. I just hope that you would be aware that we have absolutely no tolerance for that sort of activity, and I think you would be aware also that we are taking all steps that we believe sensible and possible to combat sexual harassment and other offences in the Australian Defence Force.
Senator WEST --Air Vice Marshal, I do not want to appear to be questioning your commitment or the senior management's commitment to this issue, because I know that your commitment is real and is very valued. But, unfortunately, somewhere between the senior management level and the private equivalent level, there are a few glitches in the stream; and I have personally experienced a great deal of difficulty convincing one young woman--an ADF personnel member, but now a former member, I think--that, if she were to actually use her discretion to go up the chain of command and bypass some of the log jam, she would get an appropriate hearing. Eventually the problem was forced to such a situation where she did, and she found a major who was compassionate, took all the right actions and addressed the issues.
I am concerned that, somewhere between the very junior personnel and the senior management, whilst those two groups of personnel have common goals and common concerns and want to see it stopped, there are one or two that are making life a bit difficult. That is the only reason I am following these questions up. It is not because I doubt senior management's concern about the issue--because I know from experience that your concern is very valid and very genuine and that you are doing everything you possibly can--but because there are a few out there who are still trying to get away with it.
I am wanting to rattle swords and make noises so that those people who think they can still get away with it know that it is not going to be possible because there are three people who have, and will continue to have, a major interest in this. The two female members on this committee--and also the gentlemen and the minister at the table--have an interest in this. We want to work with you to make sure that no fast work occurs to slide this under the table and people cannot say, `The AFP took a lot of time and was too late to do anything.'
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Thank you, Senator. I am pleased to accept your assistance. We are prepared to take all the assistance we can get because this is a difficult issue. But on the matter of the AFP, they are jurisdictional issues and there are requirements put upon us. At times we are obliged to wait like everybody else for AFP processes to take place. If you believe that, once we go to the AFP, we are then somehow remiss because it takes a long time that may not necessarily be our problem.
Senator WEST --No, I would not want you to think that either. I would like a progress report because I would like to see that the pressure is just kept there to make sure that it does not get stuck in someone's too hard basket.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --We can give you that, but I think that particular incident is not as straight forward as it might seem.
Senator WEST --I can only go off a media report and we all know how inaccurate media reports can be sometimes. Also in the same article in relation to--
CHAIR --Senator West, I do not wish to interrupt you but I would remind honourable senators that we have approximately one hour left for the consideration of the defence portfolio before we move on to foreign affairs and we are still on program 1.
Senator WEST --I am going to move, but I think this is an issue of major concern. There was another article in relation to Katherine Williams who resigned. I would like you to make some comments on that, but you can take it on notice. The article was in the Sun-Herald on 15 December 1996. I am also aware that Major Quinn has done another review of women in the defence force. Is it possible to have a copy of that report?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes, it is.
Senator WEST --Until I have read the two reports I cannot get the full comparisons.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I am pleased to read into the evidence that Major Quinn has found that there has been some reduction in sexual harassment.
Senator WEST --That did not ever get reported, but the fact that it is a public document is very good. Clare Burton has done some work too, has she not? Is it possible to have a copy of that too?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --That report is freely available.
Senator WEST --Thank you. I appreciate that. I think I will leave sexual harassment until I come to the compensation payments in the three services.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --As you wish, but it may be that it is a general issue, at any rate, about the way we process that.
Senator WEST --Would it be more convenient to deal with it now?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --If we knew the nature of the question I could probably give some more guidance.
Senator WEST --In the three services we have increased provisions for general compensation payments. I want to know how many of those are for the resolution of HREOC type disputes?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I cannot answer that so it would be best to see whether the programs can selectively and individually answer that. We will have to wait and see what they say. You will be aware of the process. It is just that there is a centralisation of the process.
Senator WEST --Yes, that is why I was thinking that that would have to be asked in those three specific--
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Where compensation is agreed, I would have to seek out where that comes from. It is probably a program transfer.
Senator WEST --Yes. I am happy to wait till we come to those programs. Have the three forces now got some commonality in their reporting processes?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes, they have.
Senator WEST --What are those figures showing in the last six months.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I do not know that I can give you the last six months, but I can give you figures for the last 12 months.
Senator WEST --I will take those on notice because I am conscious of the time. I would like the figures on the incidence. When cases are referred to HREOC or those sorts of agencies do they remain listed within the individual service figures as sexual harassment or do they get moved off somewhere else into another category and disguised?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I really have to take offence at that. We do not try to disguise any of it. We just do not try to do that. The figures are the figures are the figures. I have in front of me a sheet, for example, which says `Summary of active complaints to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission' to 21 February 1997. These figures I have here are maintained until those matters are resolved. A total of 34 are still current and still outstanding. Once they are completed and resolved, they are put into the historical record.
Senator WEST --Maybe with the commonality of reporting you have overcome a problem that I was alerted to.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --As I recall, the last time we met in this forum there was some concern because the figures were different. This time around I can assure you the figures are the same.
Senator WEST --That is fine.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I have them right here if you want to hear what they are.
Senator WEST --Yes, fire away.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --It depends what you want them for. I have them for the ombudsman, I have them for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, I have them for everything.
Senator WEST --I will take them all on notice.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --It would be useful if you would tell us which ones you really want.
Senator WEST --I am interested in the number that have been referred to the ombudsman and to HREOC. What other organisations can they be referred to?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Last time we got bogged down with the ombudsman, but that is different to the sexual harassment issues.
Senator WEST --Yes, but I am interested in the sorts of cases where you can be up for compensation or whatever and where they get referred because a case has not been resolved or something like that.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --We will give you the figures for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Senator WEST --I would like the figures for the ombudsman as well. If I do not ask for them now, I will ask for them when I get the ombudsman's report so that I can compare them.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes, they are for different reasons. They are more career development and other grievances.
Senator WEST --Yes, I understand that.
Senator HOGG --I just need a bit of guidance from the people at the table. There was something on page 25 which is obviously just before program 1. My difficulty is that I cannot find where it is in the other programs. On page 25 under note 1 the last line talks about an increase for product liability claim of $2.7 million. Can someone tell me what program that is under?
Mr Lewincamp --That is under the acquisition program, program 6.
Senator HOGG --I will save my question for there. There is a resources summary at the bottom of page 30. I believe it gives us a transitional arrangement going from executive support to corporate support. It shows that the budget estimate was $194,221,000 and the revised estimate is $163,256,000, which is a reduction in the order of $31 million, and staffing goes up by $93 million. If I turn to pages 106 and 107 and look at superannuation, which gives me an outline of the moneys outlaid under the three per cent superannuation benefit and the superannuation guarantee levy, I can see that there is an increase in the three per cent superannuation benefit under program 1.5, if I am interpreting that correctly, but there is no increase under the superannuation guarantee levy.
Mr Lewincamp --I can explain the later point. The superannuation guarantee levy does not apply to permanent staff of the ADF, it applies to contractors and others for whom we have to make a superannuation payment. That would explain why the $1.4 million does not show up there. As to the other changes--
Senator HOGG --What about the other $31 million? What is that change attributed to?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Could you let us know which page you are on?
Senator HOGG --I am sorry I did that before. I am looking at page 30, the table headed `Resources' and 1.5 corporate support. The 1996-97 budget estimate was $194,221,000 and the revised estimate is $163,256,000.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --That is correct.
Mr Lewincamp --Senator, I would believe that that would be where we held the amount for the folding in of the leave loading.
Senator HOGG --Right. Thank you.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --It is disaggregated in subsequent pages.
Senator HOGG --No, it is just that it seemed a substantial amount of money and I wanted to see why. Thank you.
Senator FORSHAW --I would like to ask one other question which goes to an area in 1.3. On page 38 there is a variation with respect to rental payments due to a Defence Housing Authority market rental increase. The amount is $2,130,000. Can someone tell me what the level of increase was--what percentage? Presumably it was tied to some market movement.
Mr Lewincamp --It is tied to market movement. Each year DHA does a revaluation of its housing stock and that leads to changes in rental payments. I would have to ask the DHA representative to say what that percentage actually was.
Senator FORSHAW --If you could, thank you. It might enable me to ask some other question there as well.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Madam Chair, on DHA issues, there are two reviews done. We review a proportion of the housing and see what the movement has been in market rental, and the move in market rental is then forwarded across to Defence as an additional payment which Defence makes. So Defence makes a payment and they also adjust the group rents scheme payments, which are made by members of the ADF to, in general respects, line those two up.
The actual percentage move last time it was reviewed, which was 1 July, was a charge of two per cent--I can have that confirmed in a moment--as a component of the rental increase. There is also a further costing, which is to change the bulk subsidy from a figure of some 57 per cent down towards 50 per cent, and that change is being applied in an incremental way. When you add the two--the rental charge due to market movement and the increase in rental due to subsidy reduction--the figure, as I recall, came to 4.05 per cent. That has been applied and some of these changes are actually variations on that theme.
Senator FORSHAW --Mr David, when we met last year I asked some questions regarding the impact of the government's announcement to look at Holsworthy as the airport site and the impact of that upon the DHA Delfin development, and so on. Can you give me an update as to how sales are going and what is happening there?
Mr David --When I was before this committee last time, Senator, sales had been falling off, but not dramatically. Through to December, the sales were plateauing at a lower level than they had been before. But the market activity and inquiry rates at Wattle Grove have increased quite markedly since December and we are experiencing very high levels of inquiry and sales since December.
Senator FORSHAW --What do they know that I do not know, Mr David?
Senator Newman --Interest rates.
Mr David --To some extent, it might be due to pent-up demand; people might have held off for a while. It is a very attractive development and I think the demand is coming back.
Senator FORSHAW --I also had some questions about defence housing loans. I do not know whether it is appropriate to deal with that now or later. Could you give me some guidance on that?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --We can take it now if you wish, Madam Chair.
Senator FORSHAW --My question arises out of expressions of concern by service personnel to me and, I know, to other members of parliament regarding the operation of the schemes. I preface my question by indicating that I am not an expert on it. I would like a quick explanation of how the schemes operate. The message that is coming through to me and to others is that those who, under a previous scheme, could get up to $25,000 are somehow locked in and cannot access higher loans which are available. Can you clarify all this for me?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I can.
Senator FORSHAW --I assume this is something that is coming through that is a matter of concern to some people in the force?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes. What you are referring to is that there are two schemes. One is the defence service homes loan scheme and one is the defence home owner scheme. Recently, the defence home owner scheme was substantially increased in terms of the moneys that can be available. Indeed, they went from $40,000 to $80,000. The defence service homes loan scheme did not. It remains at $25,000.
The eligibility for those two schemes differs. At some stage--and I cannot recall the date--people who had some eligibility for the defence service homes loan scheme were invited to make a decision as to whether they would leave their liability to the defence service homes loan scheme or whether they would transfer across to the defence home owner scheme. Some made the decision to change and some did not. So there are many who are still nominally eligible under the defence service homes loan scheme. The defence home owner scheme having been increased, there was some concern that the defence service homes loan scheme should have been likewise increased.
The reality is that the two schemes are different. The two schemes have different characteristic all the way through them such as eligibility, how much service has been acquired, length of time you can pay it off and flow over to spouse and estate on death. The two schemes are different. The defence home owner scheme and its enhancement of the cost is seen as a step to assisting retention because the more service you give the more years of subsidy you achieve. So it is linked to a form of retention incentive. On those grounds it was determined that the two schemes would remain separate.
Senator FORSHAW --Thank you for that. My understanding is that the real concern came about with the increase from $40,000 to $80,000 whereas when there were two separate schemes it was $25,000 and $40,000. That increase really went through the service and those people who were on the previous scheme now feel like they have been unfairly treated or discriminated against. What are we doing about that?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --The two schemes remain separate.
Senator FORSHAW --Is it still open for people to opt out of the former scheme into the new scheme?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --No, that is not the case. A decision was taken and those who elected to remain under the defence service homes loan scheme belong there.
Senator FORSHAW --Do you concede that people who may have made that decision at that time did it on the basis that the new scheme had a limit of $40,000, but now that has been doubled and they may feel that playing field has changed somewhat?
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Yes, but the two schemes are substantially different. Once eligibility has been arrived at for the defence service homes loan scheme, for example, you are entitled to the $25,000 figure. On the other hand, to qualify for the defence home owners scheme you need to have done five years service and then the amount of support you get varies from then on. If you do one year beyond the eligibility period you only get the support and supplementation for about one year after you leave the services. The two schemes are so different. The fact that the total number has changed has not changed the underlying characteristic of the two schemes. I take the point that there is some disquiet that people believe they would like to have the addition money.
Senator FORSHAW --That was the point I was making that there is this disquiet and concern.
Air Vice Marshal Cox --Some of it is because of an inadequate knowledge of the differences between the two schemes.
Senator Newman --You can have the $25,000 at a subsidised interest rate for life.
Senator FORSHAW --The views that have been put to me--and I understand other members of parliament are aware of this--are that the people who made the choice at a certain time to stay with the existing arrangement feel that since then there has been an increase and they would have taken a different course of action if they had known at that time. You are aware that there is concern there and I think other people are as well.
Air Vice-Marshal Cox --There are a lot of variables in this. Somebody may have thought they were only going to stay in the Defence Force for seven years and subsequently stayed a lot longer. The longer they stay with the home owner scheme, the more benefit that flows from it. It is very difficult to go back and get a level playing field when the decision has been made previously.
Senator FORSHAW --In any event, I have raised it. You are aware of it. We will see where it leads from here.
CHAIR --Senator Margetts has indicated that she wants to return to the Tandem Thrust question to clarify some of the points that she raised there and I will allow her to do that.
Air Vice-Marshal Cox --Can we get what areas, in the environment or operational matters?
Senator MARGETTS --It is in relation to the question I asked about the environmental monitoring unit. At the time, I did not have the report--the Tandem Thrust 97 environmental assessment--done by Defence but I do now. I refer to pages 82 and 83, annexe D. It says, in relation to the functions of the Environmental Monitoring Unit that function No. H is to provide escorts for VIPs and official visitors as required in relation to environmental aspects of the exercise. Function I provides a point of contact for media enquiries related to environmental issues. Could you please explain why the answer that was given to me indicated that the Environmental Monitoring Unit would not be involved with those activities and would therefore not have a conflict of interest?
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --They will have responsibility for purely environmental matters, as you read out there. But there is a separate unit, which is quite a large unit, to handle other general visitors to the exercise. When I answered the question previously, I thought that that was a misunderstanding, that you were implying that the 11 people who were assigned to the environmental unit would be handling all visitors coming to the exercise.
Senator MARGETTS --I never indicated that I thought that those 11 people would be handling all visitors. My questions related a conflict of interest for a group who is meant to be monitoring and reporting as independently as possible, one would assume, on the environment but also has the role of talking to VIPs and the media about what a great job the combined navies are doing for the environment in the exercise.
Rear Adm. Oxenbould --The judgment is that at the moment both of those jobs can be managed with those numbers and that there will be other agents within the whole exercise. Everybody will be acting as an agent to ensure that the environment is sensibly handled and managed throughout the exercise.
Senator MARGETTS --I would like to know why, when I asked these questions, someone did not say, `Yes, the environmental monitoring unit will be involved in these funtions that you mentioned.'
Air Vice Marshal Cox --I do not have access to that. I am not sure that the question was fully understood. I am sure that no-one has been trying to mislead you. If the question could be posed, they will give the answer the best they can.
Senator MARGETTS --This document said that there will be 13 staff on the Environmental Monitoring Unit. You said 11. I noticed that eight of those will be from the United States. What detailed information will they have about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park?
Mr Corey --In relation to the numbers, this document was a snapshot in time in October 1996. The numbers will move all of the time. The numbers predicted at the moment are 11. The people from the US--
Senator MARGETTS --So you have reduced the number already for the Environmental Monitoring Unit.
Mr Corey --We have reduced it at this stage but if it needs 20 at some stage. It is a dynamic process. As for their expertise in barrier reefs, there are barrier reefs in other places besides Australia. The American forces operate in barrier reefs around the world. So these people are not people who know nothing about barrier reefs.
Senator MARGETTS --Can you tell me when the last exercise of this scale was carried out by the United States in a barrier reef of this significance?
Mr Corey --No, I cannot. I do not think there is a barrier reef of this significance in the world.
Senator MARGETTS --I think you are right.