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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Senator Robert Ray
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher
Rear Adm. Taylor
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE B
(SENATE-Tuesday, 8 September 1992)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
Senator Robert Ray
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher
Rear Adm. Taylor
Program 1--Forces Executive
Senator Robert Ray
Rear Adm. Stubington
- Subprogram 1.1--Strategic operations and plans
- Subprogram 1.3--Personnel
- Subprogram 1.4--Natural Disasters and Civil Defence
- Subprogram 1.5--Executive support
- Subprogram 1.6--Australian Defence Force Superannuation
- Subprogram 1.7--Defence Housing
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE B - 08/09/1992 - DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE
CHAIRMAN --I welcome the Minister, Senator Robert Ray, and officers of the Department. I remind witnesses that when they are called to answer a question they should clearly identify themselves to assist the Hansard reporters.
I indicate that Senators Kemp, Parer and Tambling have placed questions on notice prior to the hearings. With the Committee's agreement, they will be incorporated in the Hansard record.
[The questions appear at the conclusion of today's proceedings.]
CHAIRMAN --Minister, would you like to make an opening statement?
Senator Robert Ray --No, thank you.
CHAIRMAN --Before the Committee begins with program 1, Forces Executive, on page 47, are there any general questions on the information provided in section 1, Defence Portfolio Overview, commencing on page 23?
Senator TEAGUE --I have in front of me page 25 of the overview, headed `Budget Summary' and I ask: given the overall Budget decision for zero real growth and an indication in this budget of minus half a percent decrease next financial year, has the Government abandoned the commitments in the Dibb report?
Senator Robert Ray --I am not sure which commitments you are referring to in the Dibb report. I think a more appropriate term coming out of the Dibb report was `the White Paper'. We are confident that the majority of the White Paper can be implemented this decade. The reduction in expenditure over the next three years will come to a figure of $129m. To meet that figure, we will have to make administrative savings of $43m a year over those three years. At this stage, it is not impacting on our capital equipment acquisition, which remains on track, according to our timetable. I think the reality is that Defence has done particularly well in the last three years to maintain its position at zero. I will not draw any odious comparisons, as you are proposing to do. We will leave that for another day.
Senator TEAGUE --At least we will put our money in at the sharp end.
Senator Robert Ray --If you want to take the $50m off next year, $150m the following year and $200m the following year, straight into Consolidated Revenue, that is not putting it in the sharp end; that is putting it in the back pocket of the Department of Finance. What you then propose to do--and you have not shown how to do it--is to save another $300m, not specified, either in one year or over a number of years. When your defence statement eventually comes out, 12 or 15 months late--no doubt you will produce it when I am overseas--you might be able to show how you can do that, and we can debate that at the time. So it would be incorrect to say that you are going to make savings and put them in at the sharp end, when you are putting the first large tranche of savings straight into Consolidated Revenue.
Senator TEAGUE --I will not carry on the line of questioning, except to say that there will be $300m extra per annum at the sharp end.
Senator Robert Ray --Per annum?
Senator TEAGUE --Yes.
Senator Robert Ray --That is an interesting comment. It is the first time that has been said. Thank you.
Senator TEAGUE --I mean in terms of an annual budget.
Senator Robert Ray --So, even though you are not allowed to draw on Consolidated Revenue for redundancies, you are going to generate savings in the Defence budget of $300m a year.
Senator TEAGUE --As I say, I will not continue the debate.
Senator Robert Ray --I think it would be futile if you did.
Senator TEAGUE --It is clear that we will be wanting to see a greater defence capability as a result of the changes that we will make following March or May next year, whenever you decide to go to an election. The next question I have, Mr Chairman--
Senator Robert Ray --You have made the comment, Senator. Let me continue. You would not be surprised to know that it is also our intention to put as much of the expenditure as possible in at the combat end.
Senator TEAGUE --We are agreed on that point. The next question I have relates to the bringing forward of $59m to enhance employment in this financial year. What is that, other than a disguise of a $59m increase in the Budget?
Senator Robert Ray --As you know, most of Defence thinking, planning and spending proposals are done over a five-year period. What we have proposed this year, in a recessionary period, is to bring forward $59m worth of expenditure in the main and spend it this year rather than in the out years, and it will be repaid in the out years. You might look on it in terms of a loan to invest now, to be repaid later. But because we have to repay it later, I think you could assume--and you would assume correctly--that we have in mind spending this money in valuable areas, not in mickey mouse schemes or anything else but where you would normally spend it.
It does not really matter a row of beans, for instance, in a $200m budget for repair and maintenance, whether it goes to $215m this year and to $185m in one of the out years, because these are things you can bring forward or delay according to the fiscal circumstances that the Department finds itself in at the relevant time. I think it is quite appropriate that Defence plays a role in the stimulation of employment. If you look through the individual schemes, you will see that most of them are brought forward infrastructure matters, commercial support for vehicles, et cetera.
The one area that is broader than that is the additional 300 in the Ready Reserve, which will give us a greater capacity down the track, if it is required, for more ready reservists to transfer into the regular service than we would have had scope for, which is something, I know, in a different context, some of the rest of you have been looking at in a more dramatic way, which I disagree with. They are the broad areas that the money is going into. So you have to look at it in terms of a five-year program, rather than Defence. I am not making a big claim that Defence has gone up by 0.7 this year in expenditure, because really over the five-year period that balances out.
Senator TEAGUE --Where, precisely, will the $59m be spent?
Senator Robert Ray --Capital works. There are really two separate sections of money. I might add that there is an extra $28m borrowing capacity for the Defence Housing Authority on top of the $59m, and I should also point out to you, Senator, that there is a figure of about $6m or $7m extra which carries over into the next financial year because Ready Reserve is configured for calendar year rather than financial year.
Senator TEAGUE --So it is $59m plus $7m plus $28m?
Senator Robert Ray --Yes. For capital works it is $23m, and I can go through the detailed projects there for you; housing, $28m, which is the Loan Council money; building and repairs, $15m; commercial vehicles, $5m; Ready Reserve, $5.7m; minor equipment and stores, $10m--coming to a total of $59.2m. To give you a flavour of the capital works projects involved here: Bandiana army base in Victoria, $2m; Puckapunyal and Seymour, $4m; Cerberus, $1m; the Aeronautical Research Laboratories, Fishermans Bend, $1.5m; medium works in Victoria and South Australia, $5m--principally at Fishermans Bend and RAAF Edinburgh; HMAS Stirling in Rockingham, Western Australia, $2m; RAAF Tindal, $2m; Singleton army base, $2m; and RAAF Scherger, Cape York, $4m. That is the capital works.
Senator MacGIBBON --Minister, could I ask a question on the same topic? The sum of $59m is brought forward and there is $7m of expenditure that was not made--that is $66m in aggregate. I have not had time to work out the figures. Is that included in the zero growth figure?
Senator Robert Ray --No, it is not. It is an additional figure this year. Let me make the point that, if you look at the Forward Estimates, it will be paid back in the third and fourth out year, I think it is.
Senator MacGIBBON --Yes, but it is not clear from page 25 whether that is included or not.
Senator Robert Ray --It is zero, plus the $50m-plus. You really cannot include the $28m Loan Council money one way or the other in that, but it is another stimulatory measure.
Senator TEAGUE --I have a general question. I might as well ask it at this point. I would like to have on notice a current list of quasi-autonomous non-government or statutory authorities associated with the Department of Defence. Could I have a list of all bodies attached to the Department, not directly departmental but--
Senator Robert Ray --You are not talking about the local kindergarten committee; you are looking at quangos and associated lists. Is that right?
Senator TEAGUE --Yes. I would want to know the cost of maintaining each of those quangos within the Defence Department, including a broad breakdown of costs and the extent of the activities of each body. The Defence Housing Authority is clearly one and the DSTO is another.
Senator Robert Ray --The DSTO is not, but it might have subsidiaries.
Senator TEAGUE --Could I have a complete list of all legislation for which the Department of Defence is responsible? I know this is published from time to time, but may I have the current list of such legislation.
Senator Robert Ray --We will get it for you. It is in the handbook and the annual report, but we will dig it out specially for you.
Senator MacGIBBON --On page 27 there is an announcement of $151m for fringe benefits tax. Have you taken any steps with Finance to point out that this is a nonsense and that you would be better off looking after that money than the Department of Finance?
Mr Jones --The amount we pay for fringe benefits tax does vary from year to year, but Defence was originally supplemented in the first instance. To the extent that we can make savings that attract fringe benefits savings, we can keep them; to the extent that we give members of the Defence organisations increased benefits that attract FBT, we have to pay the additional amount, as a matter of government policy.
Senator MacGIBBON --But you have made no formal approach to Finance to waive that charge?
Mr Jones --I believe it is a Government decision that we should pay those charges.
CHAIRMAN --Are there any further questions, up to and including page 44?
Senator TEAGUE --I am still on page 25. With regard to operating costs, there is a decrease from 30.7 per cent of Defence outlays in 1991-92 to 29.7 per cent in the Estimates before us for this financial year. The comment is that it largely reflects the impact of a range of Defence efficiency initiatives. Could I have an expansion on that? Why are the operating costs going down as a percentage of the Defence budget?
Mr Jones --We are starting to see the early effects of some of the force structure review initiatives announced last year and associated reviews, such as the logistics redevelopment and the regional support review. So you are starting to see some reductions in those areas. However, the main influence on the change in the percentages this year has been due to the introduction of the new military superannuation scheme. This has put the apparent cost of the personnel element up as a percentage and tended to drag the other two elements down a bit. But because of the way we measure these things, that does not, as yet, represent a dramatic change to those numbers.
Senator MacGIBBON --I have a question from page 32. It relates to the continuation of major deployment in Cambodia. What is Cambodia costing us? Has that been quantified? How much is the Australian Department of Defence putting in that is not compensated by the UN structure?
Senator Robert Ray --The rule of thumb with UN recompense is somewhere between 50 per cent and 60 per cent. You do not get back the totality of the cost. Of course, when we make the totality of the cost, we can do it as additional cost. We would be paying those people anyway, but there is an extra cost in terms of the allowances.
Vice-Adm. Beaumont --The expenditure for Cambodia in 1991-92 is $12.5m. The total package is $49.1m of supplementation provided to the portfolio. Recovery from the United Nations is expected to be $21.9m, and so far we have got back just $0.311m.
Senator Robert Ray --I should make it clear that $49m is the additional cost for the Australian defence forces. That is projected for two rotations of 18 months for Cambodia. So the additional cost is $49m. My 50 to 60 per cent guess was about 20 per cent out. It looks like we will get about 40 per cent recovery from the UN. And that is, as you know, historically, a slow process.
Senator MacGIBBON --When you say the additional cost is $49.1m, do you mean that that includes salaries and allowances, or just--
Senator Robert Ray --It includes such things as extra allowances and extra expenses.
Senator MacGIBBON --So, really, the true cost is probably twice that figure then.
Senator Robert Ray --I would think so, other than to say that if they had been deployed in Australia, that being their normal task, we would have to pay those salaries anyway. It is a major contribution.
Senator MacGIBBON --My reason for asking is that this one is a big force--550 plus. It is relatively long term, and it is all very well to say that we would pay them if they were in Australia. We certainly run the defence forces for the benefit of the Australian community, but we would not run our hospital service for the world and pat ourselves on the back, and no more should we really be running Defence that way. The true cost ought to be put out.
Senator Robert Ray --The additional cost is $49m for that 18 months. Government has decided to supplement the Defence Department, or the Defence ADF, for that cost and, in turn, they will absorb the $21m when it is paid.
Senator DURACK --I ran into the Foreign Minister today. In fact, he left the Senate before. It was not his fault that Question Time continued.
Senator Robert Ray --That is gracious of you. I do not think anyone else conceded that.
Senator DURACK --He was going to Cambodia to take part in re-evaluations of the whole situation there, in view of the recent attitudes of the Khmer Rouge. Has Defence made any re-evaluation of the risks involved to the operation, as a result of the change of attitude of the Khmer Rouge and the present crisis that is now confronting the whole operation?
Senator Robert Ray --I might ask the Assistant Chief of Defence Operations to tackle that one.
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher --With regard to the safety of our contingent, there has always been an element of risk from mines, disease, deficiencies in infrastructure, banditry, and the possibility of being caught accidentally in inter-factional clashes. While the risks are serious, they are assessed as manageable by personnel with the training and equipment of our contingent. They are acceptable, Mr Chairman, I believe.
Senator Robert Ray --I think I might add--
Senator DURACK --That was not my question.
Senator Robert Ray --That is why I was about to add on. Quite clearly, with the Khmer Rouge not properly involving themselves in the cantonment process and the de-arming of their forces, one would have to say that the risk has not decreased. The initial risk of going in before the cantonment process would have been regarded as higher than if the cantonment process had been completed. That process has not been completed, and I therefore do not think the risk has gone up; but it has not decreased as anticipated.
Senator DURACK --So the answer is that there has been a re-evaluation. I asked had there been a re-evaluation.
Senator Robert Ray --From a variety of sources, obviously Defence Intelligence Organisation and others, we are constantly kept abreast of the latest developments there, and their assessment of those developments.
Senator DURACK --So the assessment is that there is no increased risk over the evaluation that had been made earlier.
Senator Robert Ray --That is as I understand it but, as I say, whilst there is no increased risk, one would have anticipated, on first deployment, a reduced risk by this stage.
Senator TEAGUE --What in fact are the casualties, up to this time?
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher --There have been no casualties.
Senator TEAGUE --No Australian casualties?
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher --No Australian casualties.
Senator Robert Ray --There are no casualties associated with UNTAC. As you know, the one casualty associated with UNAMIC was Colonel Stuart, who I understand has returned to pretty good health. I am a little surprised that more health problems have not emerged, although I have to say the force was very well trained and, if you like, propagandised as to the health risks associated with Cambodia. As for the other forces, I have had one or two reports. At least two Thais were killed in a mine accident, on a road that had been cleared the day before, simply walking up it the next day. So there have been some casualties from other forces.
Senator TEAGUE --What are the numbers, and what is the structure of the Australian contingent now in UNTAC?
Air Vice-Marshal Fisher --The Australian contingent totals 502 personnel, comprising a force communication unit of 488 and 14 UNTAC headquarter staff--including Lieutenant-General Sanderson. With the force communication unit are 40 additional signallers from the New Zealand Defence Force.
Senator Robert Ray --And for a period we had about 30 movement officers, who have subsequently deployed back to Australia. We put them over to solve some of the specific problems of, not our involvement, but the overall involvement to try to move things along.
Senator SCHACHT --So the movement officers went up there at the request of UNTAC to help out the log jam in logistics transport?
Senator Robert Ray --I am informed the last group is coming back tomorrow.
Senator SCHACHT --Will their costs and so on be picked up by UNTAC? Will we charge UNTAC for that?
Senator Robert Ray --We picked it up within the overall $49m figure.
Senator SCHACHT --Oh, is it in the $49m?
Senator Robert Ray --There is always a very minuscule amount of room for manoeuvre allowed by the Department of Finance. It is picked up in that.
Senator SCHACHT --I will just take this opportunity to congratulate a captain, I think it was, operating out of Battambang. If she had not been operating the airport, I suspect nothing would have been moving in and out of that place for three months. From what I saw there, they did an extremely good job at very short notice.
Senator Robert Ray --We have had, I might add, quite a few Australian parliamentarians through--Senator Tate, Senator Newman, Senator Bolkus. Senator MacGibbon, I think, was going to visit there. I think the people on the ground look forward to that. I intend to go there in about December.
Senator MacGIBBON --On page 38, under `Program Evaluation', there is a note that there are another six further reviews to be completed in 1992-1993, and one is on Army individual training. Could I have some indication as to what is involved in that?
Major-Gen. Fittock --It is a program review by the Inspector-General's people of all individual training within Army, which encompasses the whole of the activities of Training Command.
Senator TEAGUE --The Auditor-General's Audit report No. 1 was tabled today in the Parliament. It has a chapter 4, related to the Defence portfolio. It addresses a dozen areas in particular, but it prefaces its findings as follows:
Key findings and impacts
Department of Defence
The audits carried out within the Department of Defence have, in the main, a common finding, i.e. the lack of relevant, appropriate and useful information to facilitate efficient and effective management of the areas under review.
It then goes on with four particular comments on page 47 of the Auditor-General's report. That is a pretty critical generalisation about the Department of Defence. I am not sure that I immediately sustain that when I read the program performance statements that are in front of us. What chance has the Department had to read the Auditor-General's report and that general criticism in particular? What response do you have?
Senator Robert Ray --Almost an absolute majority of officials have yet to read it, because they do not get to see it before it is tabled. With your concurrence, Senator, because I would not think we are going to complete Defence tonight, it would be a better idea if you could return to that. Mr Chairman, we could make a time available to return to the general matter of the Auditor-General's report. It will at least give the officials of my Department the chance to read it and comprehend it. In some cases, as I understand the practice, they can get a view of a draft report at some stage. I am still not certain how many have seen the draft report before it became the final report. Does that suit your convenience?
Senator TEAGUE --Minister, I am happy to do that. In the preface of the report on a dozen items this time round there is a summation of the Audit reports tabled in the last financial year--some six of them. Without going over the particulars, I foreshadow that I want to put the question when we come to the discussion of this report: have each of these matters been addressed? If you have some way of tabulating those that you accept and those that you have acted upon, I would be glad to see a summary response to pages 48 and 49 of today's report which relates to those six inquiries of the last financial year. I will take all that on notice and come back to it.
Senator Robert Ray --Senator, we will try to get you the answer to that before we resume the discussion on this during the next session, whenever that is.
CHAIRMAN --It sounds a good idea.
Senator DURACK --I refer to the social justice section on page 42. I refer to the recent statement that I think you made, Minister, as a result of a lot of consultation with Chiefs of Staff about unacceptable sexual behaviour in the Defence Force. It seemed to me that the publicity of it was somewhat unfair to Defence's attempt, as I understood it, in this new document. I thought Defence perhaps sold itself a bit short in its explanation of what it was trying to achieve with this document. It appeared to me that with the result of the review of the old regulations in relation to homosexual conduct in the Defence Force, where the attempt was to bring it up to date, to make it general, instead of concentrating on the actual proclivities of human beings, it was based upon, as the title of the document indicated, `Unacceptable Sexual Conduct'. It was neutral in relation to homosexual or heterosexual conduct.
But much of the interpretation of it that I read seemed to suggest that there was no change by Defence in its attitude to this whole question. I wondered if you or somebody would comment in relation to the actual interpretation that the press seem to get away with, without its being adequately answered. That was the impression I got. I thought Defence was being unfairly treated in the press interpretation of it. I wonder if I have misunderstood what the purpose was, or whether the press did.
Senator Robert Ray --I doubt whether the actual document on unacceptable sexual behaviour would have been read by very many people reporting those matters. Those who have read it, including the Attorney-General who differs on the question of entry of homosexuals into the defence forces, also acknowledge that it is an excellent document. I think everyone who has read the document thinks it is a modern document, well-balanced and so on. Of course, when you promulgate that for the whole range of sexual activity, but then make a separate decision on sexual conduct relating to homosexuals, it is not unusual for the press to home in and feature that and ignore the substantive issue.
I am not even being critical of the press in that. I think it is just human nature to go for the more sensational stories. All the stories are pretty one-sided because, when the decision has been made to go in one particular direction, those that agree with it forget it--they nod their heads and that is it--and those that disagree with it make it a major story. But I think your assumption that the defence forces have not been given at least proper acknowledgment for a very modern policy in regard to what they did promulgate is right.
Senator DURACK --My concern is more that it seemed to me that Defence--or perhaps you--did not really defend the document sufficiently vigorously. The impression that was left in the public mind, I think, was that Defence had not changed its attitude on this subject at all and it was just the same old attitude that was conceived of as narrow-minded and prejudicial.
Senator Robert Ray --I accept your criticism of that but I will also make an explanation. It depends on your modus operandi in government. Having announced that decision, Cabinet then, on the request of the Attorney-General, gave it reconsideration within a day or two. From that point on, because we have had a Party committee looking at it and a direction from Cabinet to bring a joint submission to Cabinet on it, I have not felt free to go out and either publicly defend the decision or otherwise while it is still under consideration in government. As I explained in the Senate at the time, when you make a decision to retain existing policy it does not go through the normal processes of government. In other words, it does not go through the Caucus committees or Cabinet committees, et cetera. If, when you woke up every day, to reinforce existing policy you had to go through that other method, government could be paralysed.
But I acknowledged that there was an overlapping responsibility by Attorney-General's, in its view, that we could be in breach of international conventions. Therefore, at that stage the matter became more than just a responsibility of Defence; it became the responsibility of government. That in turn has sent the two Ministers, Michael Duffy and me, away to see whether we can bring back a joint submission to resolve our different points of view. I have not felt motivated, and neither has the Attorney-General, in the main, to go out and publicly debate that before we take our submission to Cabinet.
I suppose you can go back through history and find a couple of Ministers that have been very happy to debate everything before it goes to Cabinet. I am not of that style or that school. We do suffer a disadvantage, I acknowledge, in terms of not responding to some of the erratic reporting of this, notably in one Melbourne newspaper.
Senator DURACK --Are you saying that there are still some further questions to be resolved in relation to international agreements?
Senator Robert Ray --There is one view, shared by the Human Rights Commissioner and an element of Attorney-General's, that my decision to retain the ban on homosexual entry into the defence forces is in breach of an international convention. On my reading of the international convention, it seems to me to allow exceptions to be made. That is the nub of the argument, I guess. The subsidiary argument revolves around whether the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the defence forces would be thereby affected. They are the two critical issues before government.
Senator TEAGUE --I remember that six months ago, in answer to a number of questions on this point, I signalled acceptance of the Chiefs of Staff Committee position and your own, and the same was said by me and others in the Senate. Are you saying that there is a chance that this sound decision that you have reflected, from the chiefs of staff and from your own considerations, may be overturned?
Senator Robert Ray --That matter is before government and has not been resolved. You can draw your own conclusions from that.
Senator TEAGUE --Is there a date set for that joint Cabinet submission?
Senator Robert Ray --No, there is not. We have gone through almost a dual process. I do not know how your party system operates, but my Party wanted to have a look at it; it set up a subcommittee, three from the legal and administrative committee and three from the foreign affairs and defence committee, to look, to take some evidence and to give advice to Minister Duffy and me. Whilst the subcommittee members have heard all the evidence, they have yet to put a conclusive view to the Attorney-General or me from which we can achieve some guidance as to their views. They do not have the final say, I might add, but they are entitled to put their views to us. We are entitled to take them into account or disregard them, as we desire.
Senator TEAGUE --Minister, can you confirm that the joint chiefs will be able to view any new alternative position so they could give you fill advice about that?
Senator Robert Ray --I would like to make one thing very clear. The image that one or two of the scribblers have put forward that the chiefs have given me a firm and absolute direction on these matters and that I am in some way their puppet and that I am just responding to them could not be further from the truth. I do not say that out of any sort of ego trip of not wanting to be their puppet.
This decision was made by Ministers and Ministers alone in the end. The chiefs had a variety of shades of view on this subject, but they did concentrate most on developing the paper on unacceptable sexual behaviour, which I say is an outstanding paper, but in the end the decision made by Minister Bilney and myself was made by us alone. The key criterion in our minds was whether, currently, the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the defence forces would be affected. We came to an unambiguous answer on that and regarded our responsibility as being directed by that judgment.
Senator TEAGUE --Then, Minister, in any reconsideration of this policy, the joint chiefs' views about the effectiveness of the Defence Force will be a fully informed and continuing view on their part to you?
Senator Robert Ray --It may take the form of advice to me; it may take the form of an annex to the Cabinet submission, which is often the process whereby those views can be placed for the enlightenment of all Cabinet Ministers. So there are a variety of ways in which it can be done. As a joint Cabinet submission has yet to be written, I cannot anticipate that, but certainly if you asked me the reverse question--would I object to the Chiefs of Staff Committee putting an annex to the Cabinet submission stating their frank and open views--I would have no objection, nor, I think, would the Attorney-General.
Senator TEAGUE --Thank you.
Senator SCHACHT --Minister, I have not read the excellent document that you outlined.
Senator Robert Ray --You are in the majority, Senator.
Senator SCHACHT --I know. I am on a winning vote on this one. So I do not know whether this is covered, but the one thing I want to clarify is whether, in the present situation, if a member of the services says to a superior officer that he believes that so and so is a homosexual, there is a process of having a properly conducted hearing and investigation where the rights of the accused are fully protected under the normal standards of the law, so that there has to be some proof given to prove that point if the person denies it.
Senator Robert Ray --Absolutely. You are dealing with three different concepts: sexual preference, sexual conduct, and sexual behaviour or activity. Certainly, any homosexual activity is covered by the statement that Senator Durack referred to before. Sexual preference is basically irrelevant because if people do not know of the sexual preference we will not know of it and it will not particularly affect the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the defence forces.
It is this intermediate stage of conduct which falls short of activity but has an effect on morale, et cetera. It is a difficult area to deal with, and that is essentially the ruling that Minister Bilney and I have given to that second category. The third category is already covered and the first category is irrelevant because if it is not known it does not become relevant.
Senator SCHACHT --But if it is known because someone else believes they have some evidence that the person may be homosexual, and it is clear that it is not just someone saying, `You're out', there would be a full hearing if the person denied it, would there?
Senator Robert Ray --Yes, and then there is still a discretion of the commanding officer as to what action is to be taken.
CHAIRMAN --It could be only an allegation, too.
Senator SCHACHT --That is what I am saying, if it is an allegation.
Senator Robert Ray --I must say that the sensitivity with which these matters are handled has improved fairly dramatically over the last few years, from some pretty ham-fisted and poor practices in the past.
CHAIRMAN --That has happened in the community, too.
Senator SCHACHT --Is it possible to give any indication of roughly how many, without any specific details, hearings or cases they deal with?
Senator Robert Ray --This matter has been under consideration for the last 12 months and it would be quite clear, if you were commanding officer, that you would wait until the overall attitude of the defence force was resolved and you may well delay any cases. I am not saying they have or have not been, but I think that would be the attitude of some commanding officers. I do not think it would be appropriate that we collect statistics per year on how many are dealt with in this particular way.
Senator DURACK --Senator Schacht has emphasised the nub of the problem, and that is that on entry you do not really know. If everybody behaves themselves you do not know, but the issue arises when you get a complaint about conduct. As I understood your document that you came up with, that was neutral in a sense between homosexual or heterosexual. In other words, heterosexual conduct could lead to the same sort of difficulty as homosexual conduct and--
Senator Robert Ray --I have not used the words in those terms.
Senator DURACK --No, but what I am concerned about is that the end result of whatever was said at the time--and I do not have all the documents in front of me--left the impression that the Defence Force was simply staying where it was and had not made any acknowledgment of any change. Clearly, with the large number of women now in the Defence Force, there is clearly a change that has to be dealt with. The purpose of your paper as I read it was to have a neutrality between homosexual and heterosexual behaviour. In other words, the decision was going to be based upon clearly proven conduct, not necessarily what sort of conduct it was.
Senator Robert Ray --Except tonight maybe I have been too definitional. I have broken it into three categories. I think my definition of conduct and the one you have expressed are slightly different. I have broken it into the categories of sexual preference. Sexual conduct, which could be short of sexual activity, could be in terms of self-pronouncements and other things. That is more in the conduct area.
So I have broken it into three categories where you have, quite properly in some ways, merged the conduct and activity together. The paper certainly covers sexual activity and overlaps towards conduct but not fully. But, you are right, it is neutral between either homosexual or heterosexual behaviour.
Senator DURACK --That is where I think Defence did not do itself justice in the sense of defending that paper because the fact was that it was a neutral situation. They were dealing with preferences.
Senator Robert Ray --If there is a failing, it is not a failing of Defence, it is a failing of myself, because I made it quite clear, having the Ministers make the decision, it was our job to either debate it or explain it, not the defence forces, having been a ministerial and political decision. Most times they feel very inhibited coming over the top of me and making their own pronouncements. I support them in their inhibitions.
Senator TEAGUE --I would like to ask a question with regard to the Gulf war as I did about Cambodia. What are the numbers of persons who have been deployed in the Gulf region in terms of intervening with shipping? Indeed, what are the categories of Australian personnel who have this year--1992--served in the Gulf region?
Senator Robert Ray --We do not have the exact figures but we can give you a general idea. I might get Admiral Taylor to respond?
Rear Adm. Taylor --The only figures I have available are the breakdown of the actual costs of each deployment. I do not have the figures of the number of people. I would have to take that on notice.
Senator TEAGUE --Could you describe the ships and the categories of persons that are--
Senator Robert Ray --A general configuration of one frigate, six on the ground when we have a frigate on deployment, which probably comes down to three. As you know, we have gone to a four-month gap on one occasion. We have discussed that with the United States. We had hoped, of course, that another country would pick up that and we could have an alternate deployment, but no country has come forward to do that. The Canadians, for instance, sent a frigate at the same time as we had one there. So normally it is the frigate crew plus six on the ground. There are roughly 230 in the frigate crew.
Senator TEAGUE --When did that four-month period begin?
Senator Robert Ray --The Darwin left the Red Sea, when, Admiral?
Rear Adm. Taylor --The Darwin deployment was from 13 February to 18 August. The Canberra's deployment will be arriving in November, departing in March, on station.
Senator TEAGUE --And there are no other categories.
Rear Adm. Taylor --No.
CHAIRMAN --We now move to Section 2, Defence Portfolio.