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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Program 1--Forces executive
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Program 1--Forces executive
Senator Robert Ray
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher
- Sub program
- System Id
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
(SENATE-Monday, 10 May 1993)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Senator Robert Ray
Program 1--Forces executive
- Subprogram 1.1--Strategic operations and plans
- Subprogram 1.2--Military strategic and force development
- Subprogram 1.3--Personnel
- Subprogram 1.6--Australian Defence Force superannuation
- Program 2--Navy
Senator Robert Ray
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher
- Subprogram 3.3--Base logistics
- Subprogram 3.5--Support
- Mr Hannan
- Program 4--Air Force
- Program 5--Strategy and intelligence
Program 6--Acquisition and logistics
- Subprogram 6.1--Major capital equipment
- Subprogram 6.2--Facilities
- Subprogram 6.3--Logistics
- Program 7--Budget and management
- Program 8--Science and technology
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS
- Program 1--Benefits
- Program 2--Health
- Program 3--War graves
- Program 5--War Memorial
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
- Program 1--Schools
- Program 2--Higher education
- Program 3--Vocational education and training
- Program 4--Employment
- Program 5--Education assistance and income support
- Program 6--Corporate services, portfolio advising and international participation
- Mr Hickey
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE B - 10/05/1993 - DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE - Program 1--Forces executive - Subprogram 1.3--Personnel
Senator HILL --Could I ask a couple more questions on Somalia?
CHAIRMAN --Senator Hill, before you got here I made it clear that I was going to give preference to the members of the committee, while not denying any other senators their opportunity.
Senator HILL --That is all right.
CHAIRMAN --Okay. I am asking other members of the committee first.
Senator TEAGUE --I want to ask a question about page 56.
CHAIRMAN --I think it would be better if we went through gradually, so if Senator Hill has a question on page 51, I am quite happy for him to ask it now.
Senator HILL --I will ask a question that will probably stretch your tolerance a bit, Mr Chairman, in that--
CHAIRMAN --As long as we do it efficiently.
Senator Robert Ray --There is not a lot of room there!
Senator HILL --I have found the Chairman to have considerable tolerance in the past. Following up on this Somalian question, it interests me why we apparently decided not to contribute to the UN force, bearing in mind the credit that has been given to the Australian contribution to the US-sponsored force, and the experience that that has now obviously built up, not only of the location but of the customs, language, and the task. Also presumably there is a feeling of some people in the international community that we are leaving when the job is half done. Was it purely a funding decision?
Senator Robert Ray --No, it was not. I do not believe it is simply capacity related. It is often confused when we make a contribution overseas; but it is based on our own sense of equivalency. Where do we sit in the world as a world power? We are not right up there near the top, as you know, and we should make an equivalent contribution, taking in the totality of what the UN is doing and reflecting that. We think that in the last year-and-a-half we have made an over-equivalent contribution. It is in our interest, I think, to keep that in some balance and to have everyone contribute.
You say that we are pulling out of Somalia but, as we have indicated, we will be part of UNOSOM II. That will be a contribution of movement control officers and certain other people such as military police, numbering up to 53. Similarly, at the same time we will have 45 in the Western Sahara--502 for at least a six-week period--and that will increase during the election period. We are contributing there. We are continuing to contribute in not so much a United Nations activity but in the Red Sea and in the Sinai, neither of which are strictly United Nations ones, but they are really in support of United Nations aims. I would say we are making a contribution equivalent to our world size.
We had a choice in terms of Operation Restore Hope as to whether we wanted to put in a company and leave it there for a year. Because it was virtually impossible to have a self-supporting company there, we put in a battalion and we set a time limit. It was agreed by everyone when we went in that this was a necessary process to take Somalia from one stage to another stage. We always knew that there would never be an absolute time in which we could pull out and say, ` We have absolutely achieved all ends and all aims'. That will be covered, at the time, by other countries that came in later. It is more a question of equivalence than capacity. We cannot also have an open-ended commitment from a financial point of view, and no-one has suggested it, I know.
Senator HILL --We are pulling out of Somalia and now we are contemplating going into Mozambique. It seems, with respect, a little scatter gun in its approach.
Senator Robert Ray --I do not believe it is scatter gun. We are not pulling out of Somalia and going into Mozambique.
Senator HILL --The larger component of the force is being pulled out.
Senator Robert Ray --In terms of the equivalence--how many countries would be involved--we have said that we think it is fair to take it through to fruition or termination, whichever comes first in Western Sahara, and to then make a similar sized group available for Mozambique. I think that is quite a logical order.
Senator HILL --Has the UN been able to put together its full force for Somalia?
Senator Robert Ray --In terms of UNOSOM II?
Senator HILL --Yes.
Senator Robert Ray --I would doubt it.
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher --The transfer to UNOSOM II from UNITAF occurred last week. There are a large number of forces in Somalia--in the order of 20,000--and these will pass to UNOSOM II. Some countries have yet to indicate their commitment--India for one. There is a large force with the UN in UNOSOM II, and it will be larger, ultimately.
Senator HILL --So I think you are saying to me that the UN is confident of putting together the full force.
Senator Robert Ray --I think the better way of expressing it is that it probably has enough commitments to put a full force in but that there would be some doubt with one or two countries as to whether those commitments will be kept.
Senator HILL --The work that has been put in is only going to be of benefit if the international community can adequately take it to the next phase. That is why I am asking. Australia has invested in peace and stability in Somalia, and I think we have done a good job. But it will be short term, unless the next phase can be achieved satisfactorily.
Senator Robert Ray --I think the situation in Somalia is that there has been a vast improvement but the static picture is still not very good. However, the level of forces that the UN currently has committed to stay there will be sufficient. You might have to ask Senator MacGibbon about that. He is more up to date on the situation than anyone else in this room.
Senator MacGIBBON --I would like to put it on the record that the ADF contribution in Somalia is outstanding. It reflects very, very favourably on the capabilities of the forces.
Senator Robert Ray --Thank you for that but, of course, we are looking at a different philosophical question here. Again, when people were urgently needed, we were able to get a fully sustainable battalion there. But part of the price for that, which we said right up front, and which everyone accepted at the time, was that it would have a limited duration and serve a limited purpose. It has done that, as Senator MacGibbon says, and I think everyone agrees that it has done it well. We now go into UNOSOM II, and our contribution for that will be 53. You might argue that it could be larger, and, yes, it could be, but then, as I pointed out, we are doing other things around the globe that other countries are not doing.
CHAIRMAN --The Americans took a similar view--they have also withdrawn from Somalia.
Senator Robert Ray --The Americans have always had a specific view on UN operations--a view that is different from any other member of the UN.
Senator HILL --I want to ask about the report that was published last week on the ethnic presence in the military and how that might be increased and so forth. What did that report cost?
Senator Robert Ray --Including printing, $225,000.
Lt-Gen. Baker --That includes the surveys and all of that.
Senator HILL --When was it commissioned?
Cdre Sloper --Mr Bilney directed the survey be undertaken in October 1991.
Senator HILL --Was a certain sum budgeted for the task?
Cdre Sloper --Not specifically at that time, but we were able to allocate the money out of two successive years of our recruiting budget.
Senator HILL --Did you call for tenders?
Cdre Sloper --That is correct.
Senator HILL --Surely tenderers would have tendered for a certain sum. On what basis were they contracted?
Cdre Sloper --There was criteria laid down for the research. Six companies registered interest and their submissions were evaluated against the criteria and against the costings.
Senator HILL --Are you saying that these people tendered for the sum of $225,000?
Cdre Sloper --That is correct.
Senator HILL --Was there a time frame?
Cdre Sloper --There was an initial time frame established but we had approval to slide the time frame right when we had some problems getting the data.
Senator HILL --Was that the best price you got?
Cdre Sloper --No, it was not. It was about the middle of the range in pricing but it gave us the best response in getting data together.
Senator HILL --Why do you say that? How did you assess that?
Cdre Sloper --Some of the others were unable to meet the criteria. The cheaper ones were unable to meet all the criteria we requested and some of the others were able to meet the criteria but were more expensive.
Senator HILL --What criteria could the cheaper ones not meet?
Cdre Sloper --It was due to the amount of data and how they were going to conduct the survey.
Senator HILL --What does that mean?
Cdre Sloper --Basically, they had different methods of approaching the research. We were directed to try to find a series of questions about ancestral background, attitudinal issues and whether or not there were discriminatory practices in defence force recruiting. The different companies proposed different methods to conduct the research and at different costs.
Senator HILL --Who selected the successful tenderer?
Cdre Sloper --I was the chairman of the committee, and I had two assistants. I also used the experience of the Office of Government Information and Advertising.
Senator HILL --What do you think of the result of the work?
Cdre Sloper --Minister, do you want me to answer that?
Senator Robert Ray --I think Senator Hill is going for methodology, et cetera, rather than an overall editorial of what you think of the actual recommendations.
Cdre Sloper --I was quite pleased with the results, particularly on recruiting. From our point of view, no discriminatory practices were identified. The calibre of the people was recognised. They identified several areas where we should bring in practices--areas of potential discrimination, even if we do not have them.
Senator HILL --Do you think that to sort of take a swing at the Battle of the Coral Sea commemoration in the week that it was occurring in Canberra was useful for Australia-US relations?
Senator Robert Ray --Do not answer that.
Senator HILL --Do you prefer not to comment?
Senator Robert Ray --I was just asking the Commodore not to comment himself. That is a question properly directed at me. Some of the media spin put on the report could have been a little less vigorous, I thought. I do not think it came from government, and some of the spin put on the report tended to go to extremes.
Senator MacGIBBON --To go back to Senator Hill's question, were you satisfied with the scholarship in this report?
Cdre Sloper --Yes, Senator, I am satisfied with it.
Senator MacGIBBON --Do you examine theses or anything like that?
Cdre Sloper --Yes.
Senator MacGIBBON --Frankly, I thought the scholarship was pretty mediocre throughout, except when it got to the section we are talking about, where I thought it was entirely lacking--because there is no evidence advanced for all that nonsense they are talking about the ADF being a force deriving its practices from another country. There is no evidence for that anywhere in this document or in the other one. They are just assertions.
Senator Robert Ray --They are assertions that, of course, have yet to be given ministerial endorsement. The report is, as most reports are, before Ministers, and we will evaluate the report--its strengths and its weaknesses--and determine a course from it. We will not take any research or any recommendations as God-given, Senator. Any assertions in there will all have to pass muster, as you have said.
Senator MacGIBBON --Are you prepared to give an undertaking that you will not use the ADF as an instrument of social change or policy?
Senator Robert Ray --I always regard my philosophy towards the ADF as being that it is an organisation that is required to go through immense change, because we are in that type of world today. For instance, concepts such as micro-economic reform and others cannot pass the defence forces by. But I also have to recognise that the defence forces are different from the rest of the community. They have their own ethos, their own traditions; and the great trick in this is to bring about change without, if you like, kicking sand at those traditions. That is the challenge that Minister Faulkner and I will have over the next three years. So some changes will come about, but it will not be used as a social laboratory. It will not be a vanguardist approach to change in the Defence Force.
Getting back to the original problem, it is quite clear, if you look at who is in the defence forces at the moment, that second generation migrants are underrepresented. What that report wanted to do was say, `Is Defence going out of its way in some ways to discriminate?'. It clearly came up with the answer, `No, they are not'. I have always suspected the reason for the sort of ethnicity ratio in the defence forces has a lot to do with the original reason why migrants came to Australia, which was to get away from defence forces and to get away from police forces, et cetera. I am sure that, if you did a survey of the police forces around Australia, you would find similar imbalances. We know about them in terms of South East Asian groups, which are simply very, very difficult to induce to join the police force, which in turn gives community policing a very difficult time.
The same thing happens with the armed forces. I believe that over time, in a third generation, you will see the same mix as the rest of the community in the armed forces and the police, et cetera: it will take a couple of generations. The main thing in the report, the main motivation of Minister Bilney's, was to make sure that the defence forces were not in some way discriminating against certain segments of the community. The answer in that report is `No, they are not', and it only reconfirms what I always thought was the case.
Senator MacGIBBON --I have no quarrel with that, and I think that the report, where it deals with the reasons why there is not the same representation in the ADF as in the current Australian community, is thorough and well done, and that there are good reasons why we do not have the same composition. But the other business of attacking the traditions and the basic way in which in the ADF operates totally lacks scholarship, in my judgment, and it would be very dangerous for the Government to accept that at its face value and try and turn the thing on its head.
Senator Robert Ray --It certainly will not be accepted at face value, as the saying goes, and we will put the heavy roller right over it to make sure that any of the recommendations we want to pick are well versed. Certain of the traditions and the ethos of the Defence Force will change over time. They have always changed; we do not have the same ethos in the Defence Force now as we had 40, 50, 90 or 100 years ago. But there will not be a systematic attack on the traditions and ethos of the Defence Force, because if you do that you lose the most valuable commodity, esprit de corps, and the thing that keeps the defence forces together--what some other people call `psychic salary'. You need those things; you need them not just in the armed forces. The police have them; football clubs have them; a lot of people have those sorts of traditions, and you just cannot take them head-on and destroy them. Some of those traditions have been changed--for instance, women in combat and homosexuals in the Defence Force--to meet modern community standards, but let me assure you that we are not going on a big charge over the hill on this one.
Senator MacGIBBON --I will be watching, Minister, every inch of the way.
Senator Robert Ray --I might even find you there with us on some of the changes, but we are not going in just for the sake of change.
Senator MacGIBBON --I can identify nothing that the services do from a functional point of view that I would seek to change.
Senator Robert Ray --We are not going into change for the sake of change or to rub some people's noses in the dirt for the fun of it, because in the end you will pay a major penalty in terms of the efficient operations of the Defence Force. Some people in the community say that the defence forces should be absolutely no different from the rest of society. It is not true, because when we press the button they have got to go and risk their lives, whereas the average member of the community does not have to.
Senator HILL --The thesis of the authors seems to be, however, that it was necessary to break down at least some of those traditions, that if you were to encourage a multicultural balance within the Defence Force you should re-examine celebrations such as of the Anzac tradition because it related to war on foreign lands, or of the Battle of the Coral Sea because it was principally American forces. I ask whether there has been any evidence on the ground that these traditions and celebrations of the Australian Defence Force have been prejudicial to recruitment.
Cdre Sloper --We have no grounds to say that any of that is detrimental. In fact, in our research of the attitudes of applicants the traditions and the stability play a large part in their interest in wanting to join the ADF.
Senator Robert Ray --I think you could rank all those things in some sort of order. I find celebration of the Battle of Trafalgar not quite as meaningful to me personally as it is to some people I know, whereas I find the celebration of the Coral Sea and Gallipoli and Kokoda and all the rest terribly meaningful. But I do not really want to dictate to others what they find meaningful. You have to have some celebration and I do not want to dictate to others what they find meaningful.
Senator MacGIBBON --You could hardly claim that the Battle of Trafalgar is a front page event in Australia. It never has been.
Senator Robert Ray --It was just an example. I do not want to take up too much time on it.
Senator HILL --Well, a quarter of a million dollars has been spent on this exercise, which basically says that the Defence Force should re-educate itself to more appropriate Australian symbols. I was asking the question as to whether in practice the apparent absence of uniquely Australian symbols, if that is the case, has been prejudicial.
Senator Robert Ray --I think what we are saying is that all the research we agree with is money well spent, and those gratuitous pieces of advice that we do not agree with is money badly spent.
Senator HILL --I think there is probably too much spent, but that is a different question. You must have a lot of money but I cannot imagine the private sector spending a quarter of a million dollars on a survey of this nature. I have a question about the School of Languages. I am told that it had very ambitious programs in educating Australian officers to speak second languages, particularly Asian languages, to levels that would far exceed that of DFAT, so you might be setting a very good example. What is the current position and what is the cost?
Major-Gen. Gower --Currently the whole matter of language training for ADF personnel is under review. Of particular importance is establishing the requirement, and there is an ADF working party looking at the requirement at the moment.
Senator Robert Ray --I think what Senator Hill asked for was not so much where we are heading in the future, because that is a later question he had in mind, but rather how many people are currently at the language school, what the general cost is and where it is located; just a general summary.
Major-Gen. Carter --There are two elements to language training at the moment. The one referred to on page 51 of the performance statements is the School of Languages which is directed to specific needs for our attaches and people who need language training, for example, certain of the people in Cambodia need Khmer language training.They go there for that purpose and it meets a defined requirement.
In the case of Army, our view is that by the turn of the century we will probably need to have our senior officers competent in at least one of the Asian languages. For that reason, the Chief of the General Staff has recently enunciated a policy whereby we intend that all officers at about the rank of lieutenant-colonel will gain colloquial level competence in one of the languages of our region. Clearly, not all officers will have the capacity to absorb that, and those who cannot do the language side will undertake cultural studies. We consider this to be a necessary capability for advancement of our professional officers.
Senator HILL --For advancement to the rank or will those of the rank have to go back for further education?
Major-Gen. Carter --No, by the time they have achieved that rank. Certain of them will do it as part of their commissioning process, certain of them will take it as part of further studies. Once we have a baseline from which to proceed it will become part of the career development to be achieved by that rank.
Senator HILL --So all officers over that rank who are still expected to be in the force in the year 2001 in the intervening years are going to be educated in a second language of the region?
Major-Gen. Carter --Our intention is that by that year all officers in the Army will have some competence and certainly all those of the rank of lieutenant-colonel and below we can guarantee. A number of the more senior ones are proceeding down this track now and, clearly, it will be an expectation that we have of our future senior officers.
Senator TEAGUE --Which are the languages that are contemplated?
Major-Gen. Carter --Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malay--there are variations on that. Certainly Pidgin and certainly, if we continue to have a long-term involvement in Indochina, the Khmer language. We have in the past had a capacity for Vietnamese at the colloquial level; we have a capacity for Japanese. It is probably not an expectation that we can get into the tonal languages except for those attending the ADF School of Languages for a specific purpose.
Senator TEAGUE --And what about Korean and Chinese?
Major-Gen. Carter --Chinese is a tonal language. The matter of the Korean language I am unable to address from knowledge, but it would be one of those in the region and, largely, we intend that officers match their interest in the country with the language they seek to obtain. We are not seeking to exclude anything, that is what I am saying: if it is in the region it is open.
Senator TEAGUE --And the region is Asia-Pacific?
Major-Gen. Carter --When we say the region we tend to mean the area of direct military interest and Australia's region of strategic interest, as defined by Dibb and in our strategic guidance.
Senator HILL --What percentage of officers of minimum rank now speak a second language which is Asian?
Major-Gen. Carter --I cannot give you a percentage, but I would easily be able to retrieve the figure because we have defined requirements in our intelligence, special forces and military attache community, and it is easy to get the student loads and those who keep the language alive. If you want it I can retrieve it.
Senator HILL --I would be interested.
Senator MacGIBBON --Is that Army only or is it going to be across all three services?
Major-Gen. Carter --The in-depth instruction is across all three services. For the moment the program that I referred to of all officers to lieutenant-colonel is an Army initiative but, as General Gower said, the whole business of language training is under consideration now.
Senator HILL --How many are in the ADF School of Languages now?
Senator Robert Ray --My guess would be about 100. Most of the courses are 47 weeks. The approach taken--
Senator HILL --So it is seven weeks?
Senator Robert Ray --Forty-seven weeks.
Senator HILL --I was going to say that was pretty smart.
Senator Robert Ray --The approach taken is very much the drinking from the fire hose approach--it is strictly training rather than education. The product turned out after 47 weeks usually beats a four years honours course at university in terms of quality of language training because, being a military institution, if you fall behind in any week, you work the weekends, do you not?
Senator HILL --They have done very well, it seems, with language in Cambodia.
Senator Robert Ray --They are tough courses and they are not in what you might call the most luxurious accommodation at the moment, but there have been a few improvements recently.
Senator MacGIBBON --Being realistic about it, Minister, would it not be better to make it a desired goal rather than a compulsory objective? You may as well try to make everyone in the Army a musician. I mean, people do not necessarily have that skill.
Senator Robert Ray --We have taken that into account. Their estimate, at the moment, is that 15 per cent of people, no matter how much you try to beat a language into their head--and I would be one of the general community in that 15 per cent--will not be able to do that. Therefore, they will do courses maybe on Khmer culture or something else that will get them very much attuned to that country without the language skills. So there is an alternative for those who are tone deaf and cannot learn another language. They have got my full sympathy.
Senator TEAGUE --And this program begins next January, or has it begun already?
Major-Gen. Carter --The Army program we will commence over the next three to four years. We have stated the principle that it is to be achieved; now we have got to harness the resource, get on with the training of the trainers and make it a broad-issue program.
Senator TEAGUE --Just for the record, I for one welcome the initiative. I recall that 10 years ago, Minister, you and I were serving on a national language policy Senate inquiry for Australia and we looked at a whole range of activities, including such prospects, and there are many of us on the record saying that we need to be very skilled in our defence capacity for this whole region, and dialogue is a large part of it. We will look at this with great interest over the coming years.
Senator Robert Ray --You had a bit more hair and I had a bit less grey hair then.
CHAIRMAN --Page 52--
Senator HILL --What about ADFA? I understand that there have been criticisms in the past of a lack of oversight of expenditure by ADFA. Have there been changes as a result of those criticisms? I see that there is another nearly $1 million appropriated here.
Lt-Gen. Baker --We instituted an internal review of the management of ADFA to see whether we could improve our management arrangements. The recommendations that came out of that review are now under examination. We are satisfied with the product but I think we can take some changes to the management arrangements which are in place and we intend to do that.
Senator Robert Ray --We are pretty much bound in the management arrangements by legislation. That is legislation that I intend to change to open up for much more competition in future and that will come in the next omnibus defence Bill whenever it arrives, probably in the next session.
Senator HILL --Does ADFA offer languages?
Lt-Gen. Baker --There are some problems with offering languages at ADFA. If you want to start somebody from a basic language training, ADFA, of course, is a tertiary training institution and so there are some difficulties. Certainly within the cultural areas there is some language training done, but it requires somebody to have studied up to year 12; you cannot go right back to basics within the academy's program.
Senator HILL --So the answer is yes, but the limitation is that it is just a tertiary level training--
Lt-Gen. Baker --That is the role that defence force languages school picks up.
Senator TEAGUE --I have a question about the overseas representatives in these five new areas. Why were they not predictable eight months ago, at the time of the Budget?
Lt-Gen. Baker --For our overseas representative positions we operate with a ceiling. What we have done, partly as a result of changing international circumstances, is to review the distribution of those. For example, we have put another officer into New York as part of our mission to the United Nations. So these come up. What we are picking up there are variations in cost between cities; indeed, when we put a new person into Korea, for example, we had to pay two years rent in advance. Not all of those positions would have been clear at Budget time but are decisions made since then. That is how that variation comes about.
Senator TEAGUE --I put this question on notice: could I have a list of our overseas postings for the ADF?
Lt-Gen. Baker --In terms of representative positions?
Senator TEAGUE --Yes. I am not really interested in individuals so much as rank and service, where they are and how many.
Lt-Gen. Baker --We can certainly provide that.
CHAIRMAN --Would Honiara be associated with any additional activity because of the problems in Bougainville?
Lt-Gen. Baker --I think it would have taken place before that became apparent. It is part, I think, of the forum fisheries arrangement.
Senator TEAGUE --The developing of the Vietnam Logistics and Support Medal as part of the Australian honours system is welcome to me. Presumably that would be for award as soon as possible.
Senator Robert Ray --Mr Bilney has been dealing with this so I will get some advice. I am told that it has been gazetted. Someone is wearing it, so I assume it has been done.
Senator TEAGUE --When will the awards be completed? There is a great deal of interest amongst logistics support people.
Senator Robert Ray --We think another month, but we would like to clarify that. If there is a different answer, we will let you know.