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STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
Senator MARK BISHOP
Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations
Lt Gen. Gillespie
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE
(Senate-Thursday, 6 September 2007)
WEBBER, Mr Norman Alan
BURGESS, Mr Mark Anthony
CHAIR (Senator Payne)
Senator MARK BISHOP
O’CALLAGHAN, Mr Paul
Senator MARK BISHOP
WENDT, Ms Neva
Major Gen. Smith
Senator MARK BISHOP
SMITH, Major General Michael G (Retired)
GILLESPIE, Lieutenant General Ken
NAGY, Mr William
Senator MARK BISHOP
McKASKILL, Brigadier David
McLAUGHLIN, Commander Rob
Lt Gen. Gillespie
SCOTT, Captain David
O’BRIEN, Mr Timothy
CROSSLEY, Mr David
ROWLANDS, Mr David
Senator MARK BISHOP
MEERT, Mr John
- Mr Burgess
Content WindowSTANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE - 06/09/2007 - Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations
CHAIR —Welcome. I remind witnesses that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of a Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits any questions asking for opinions on matters of policy, and it does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policies or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted. I also remind you that any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question is one which must be made by a minister and should be accompanied by a statement setting out the basis for the claim. General, would you like to make an opening statement before we go to questions?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —No.
CHAIR —As I understand it, you took a number of questions on notice at our hearing on 24 July and, on 1 August, we returned a set of questions to Defence, which we have not received answers to as yet—which makes it quite difficult for the committee today.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I am sorry. I have no knowledge of the second set of questions; I do know about the first.
Capt. Scott —We answered those questions, Senator, and forwarded them through the chain. Where that has broken down I am unsure. Certainly I am of the opinion that they have not come back. I will chase it up, of course.
CHAIR —I appreciate that. The committee, however, is not in the fortunate position of being in possession of them. We will do some simultaneous checking, if some of your staff who are here or who are glued to their wirelesses at Russell could do it for us at their end. I have some clarification: they do not seem to have come out of the minister’s office. That deals with that at your end and does not make it any easier for us, most unfortunately.
Thank you very much for coming back again today and for providing the committee with more of your time. We have had some very interesting witnesses in recent hearings—in Sydney, Melbourne and here this week—which have done a great deal to enhance our perceptions and perspectives on the nature of the inquiry that the committee is undertaking. You will probably know that we have had some emphasis on the R2P concept, the ‘responsibility to protect’ concept. One of the things that I think we would be interested in hearing from you is how, if in any way, that would change Defence’s approach to its operations if it became the primary consideration, if that was a decision which was made. We have further proposals and have further developed the concept of a peacekeeping centre or institution which would be outside Defence—so not within, for example, the peacekeeping centre at Williamtown but external to that process.
The third thing that I would like to advance is that in recent hearings the last time we spoke about this you mentioned, General, the engagement, for example, of the AFP within the ADF and that level of communication and coordination. We have since had evidence from both AusAID and the AFP that in relation to AusAID in their Fragile States Unit they started quite positively with a member of Defence seconded or deployed into that unit. But that stopped, and I would be interested to know whether that is a full stop or something that Defence is going to consider again. As far as the AFP is concerned, is there any contemplation to perhaps insert some members of the ADF around the IDG process in the AFP to make that a more two-way arrangement? I will leave you with those three easy things to kick off.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —If we talk about R2P first, I do not necessarily think that any further development in the R2P area would have a profound effect on us. By and large, the principles that underpinned it, that were agreed in the UN in 2005, are the sorts of principles that we would apply to our considerations and advice to government anyway. They are sound and they are humanitarian. It is interesting to note that the military principles which underpinned that and were part of the submission were not accepted and so they lie in limbo at present. But the principles that are laid out, which we are well associated with, are the sorts of principles that would apply in the ADF anyway. If there were a greater enactment of the R2P philosophy and a greater acceptance of it by governments and the United Nations itself, I do not think that would cause us any profound concern at all.
On the issue of a combined centre, I personally think that is a matter of policy. I would like to think that with our reach out to organisations and interdepartmental committees at the present time we attempt to do that. I spoke to you and we hear about understanding that no one department owns these sorts of operations when we mount them and that you need a whole-of-government approach. In fact it is wider than government when you have NGOs and other groups out there and the United Nations et cetera. We certainly understand the need to do that. The AFP and the ADF have started on the right path. The relationship will get stronger as time goes on. There is now an ADF member in the ADF Warfare Centre associated with those things. We lecture on the police courses. Policemen are coming onto our staff college courses, and the association between our Joint Operations Command and the International Deployment Group is pretty fresh and vibrant, I think, and will grow over time as we look at the two agencies with a significant role to play in these sorts of operations working closer together.
On the issue of AusAID, we have reinvigorated that, I think, probably since we spoke to you in July. There has been a huge amount of work done by AusAID, AusCare and us, for example, on the humanitarian support direction we might take in Afghanistan over the coming months and years. So my view is: if there is a centre, that is a matter for policy. We work really hard as an organisation and through the IDC processes that we have and the engagement activities that we participate in to make that a reality today anyway. For example, Brigadier McKaskill’s successor in the Warfare Centre is in Darwin at the present time participating in an Asian regional forum venue which is looking at humanitarian affairs, disaster relief and reconstruction, and we are participating in another one in Japan later on this month along the same lines.
We actually use the humanitarian and reconstruction process to engage our regional neighbours in a way that is non-threatening in a military sense—because that is a very real risk, which has been recognised from time to time in our past and which will be recognised again in our future. This allows us to build transparency and understanding. It is a process that we use quite legitimately as a tool for making our regional neighbours understand, when these things come to pass, that we are not looking at it as a military operation; we are looking at it as what militaries can do in a humanitarian sense and trying to build transparency and support in that regard. If we have a centre, that does not cause us any concern, and I think that we are working hard towards it at the present time in the way that we conduct ourselves.
CHAIR —Perhaps the area that was left out of those observations, for which I thank you, was the engagement with NGOs. I know that on the last occasion you had some very positive remarks to make in relation to that. Since then, we have heard from some NGOs which have acknowledged that—and some which have not, but that is the way it works. Do you think that sort of centre would help to enhance that process? A sticking point for some groups does seem to be that they find themselves expected to carry out a particular role in effectively the same space as you are in as the Australian Defence Force, but not always with the best communication—at least, that is the view that has been put to us. The proposition further advanced is that if you formalised it a little more, perhaps through this institution or centre, then that might really go a long way towards dealing with the gap.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —Without being unfair, I think that there are some NGOs who are progressive and who are causing us to extend ourselves academically and professionally about where we might go in the future and the sorts of relationships we might have. There are other NGO groups who, without doubt, see the participation of military forces in humanitarian operations as being an anathema to their sort of ideology.
CHAIR —We did notice that.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —Some groups we will never please in that regard. It is okay if you are in a very clinical humanitarian situation, but if you add to it a security dimension and the fact that the United Nations and the governments of the world have decided that there is a need to protect their nationals and NGOs—and remember that much of the humanitarian support is not from non-government organisations; it can be from government organisations—then that is where we get the operating space that creates those sorts of frictions. I think I recall saying when we met here in July that that became apparent in May last year in Timor, where the priorities of the NGOs and the priorities of the ADF in the security context were slightly different, and that creates friction. Friction is not a bad thing; you learn lessons from it, and I think we did. But there are some groups who would never see that we should be involved in these sorts of things.
Sometimes you have just a pure humanitarian case. I think you could say that about Aceh, for example. In Aceh, the military was involved but we were not conducting security operations; we were simply part of the humanitarian space that was there. Why were we there? The sorts of things that we do as a military make us able to plan quickly, react quickly and bring the sorts of capabilities to a problem spot that others take a while to warm up to do. We went, we did that and, at a very appropriate time shortly thereafter, we left and left it to other organisations to do. But if you have a security dimension then that is always going to result in that friction between some groups and the ADF or any other military that is participating.
CHAIR —Thank you. I appreciate your putting those statements on the record.
Senator FORSHAW —How much of this sort of negative reaction or friction from NGOs results from the fact that, I assume, military personnel have authority to direct NGO representatives on the ground, and in that way the NGOs sense that their work is being interfered with? I am assuming that there are a lot of circumstances in which you would be able to direct them to do something or not to do something—not to go here or not to go there.
I understand that the principle we have heard from some witnesses is that the military just should not be doing humanitarian work because that is not your role primarily, and they do not do military security work. But, on the ground, how often does that manifest itself, and how do you deal with those situations if you have NGO representatives who simply want to take a particular course of action, go into an area or whatever, and you are saying, ‘You can’t do it’?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —One of the things we have that NGOs and a lot of people who participate in the humanitarian disaster aftermath do not have is that we have a unified command structure. So, unlike a lot of them, there is a single point at the head of the military apex that you can go to and lobby, coordinate and do those things, and it permeates down. That is not necessarily true of the humanitarian organisations that arrive in an area. I think that a lot of the work that we have been doing with organisations like Mike Smith’s and others is to try and understand how we can better coordinate our efforts. Very rarely, you will come up against an intractable problem where an NGO will want to do a particular act where we know or suspect that the outcome in a security sense would not be one that we would want to live with, and then you confront it. We simply escalate it back up our command chain to whoever is the military commander in the area. If the NGO organisations were to have a similar coordinating mechanism then in my humble opinion a lot of that friction would go away.
Senator FORSHAW —Is that relationship, in terms of looking at the authority that the defence personnel may have over NGO representatives, laid down in the rules of engagement?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —No. In fact, in a lot of ways, we do not have authority over them. I can recall areas where we have given very strong advice that something should not happen and it has been ignored. Sometimes they have gotten away with it; at other times we have had to come and help. So there is no command authority over these organisations. It is easier when you deal in a country which still has a modicum of government, because then the government can act in a legitimate way to constrain the activities of people who are coming in, but if you have a country where the government has disappeared as part of that process then that becomes a little bit more tense and a little more challenging.
Senator FORSHAW —They are the circumstances I am thinking more of. I appreciate the nature of the authority you do have and you do not have, if I can put it that way, but I am clearly looking at situations where it has broken down to such an extent that, if you are patrolling the streets and having to take substantial steps to keep law and order, that in turn applies to NGO representatives.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I cannot think of any occasion in the last decade where we have undertaken major security operations in a humanitarian environment where we have arrived at an intractable problem between the NGO community and ourselves.
Senator FORSHAW —That is good.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —But there are some NGO groups who, through upbringing and all the rest of it, look upon the military with great suspicion: we are ‘warmongers’. We actually see ourselves as humanitarians. You go from each end of the spectrum to somewhere in the middle. I think, by and large, it works out pretty well. There will always be lessons to be learnt. There will always be groups who think they could have done better if we had taken a different approach or even if we had not been there. But I just remind you that we do not go there voluntarily; it is as a matter of policy that we go to do those things.
Senator FORSHAW —Thank you for that.
Senator MARK BISHOP —General, there has been some criticism of the ADF. I am going to just repeat it but not endorse it—put it on the table—and then ask you to respond. It comes from a range of the NGOs. Essentially, they say that the ADF refuses to engage with them, refuses to share information, often at conflicting purpose. In response to them, various members have suggested that there might be utility in a peak organisation of NGOs that could liaise unofficially with the ADF to exchange information. The ADF could impart its view of a situation and explain its doctrine and its rationale, so that those thinking processes that the ADF engages in could permeate through the NGO organisations and provide them with an informed understanding of your role. That has been the nature of the discussion. I do not necessarily accept or endorse it. Do you think that is a fair criticism? Is there value to the ADF in engaging in that sort of negotiation/information exchange at either an official or an unofficial level? Is there advantage to the ADF in imparting that knowledge to the NGO community about the way you do business as a way of bringing the two groups together?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I do not think the criticism is fair. I would be delighted to see an NGO coordinating body that we could work with in the places that we go to. In May and June last year in East Timor, which is probably the most recent case that people are quoting in terms of the relationships between groups, our mission statement was concerned with the security of the institutions and the people of East Timor, and we placed our military effort towards achieving that mission. Many in the NGO community believe that we should have given up that mission and supported them in the running of refugee camps and food aid, and handing over our vehicles to the movement of NGOs stores et cetera.
Again, if you take the left and right of arc on that, there are groups who believe emphatically that we should have done that and will be critical of us for not doing it; there will be others who understand that we were there for a different purpose and that we contributed to that sort of process where we could. That is in the nature of the organisation and the different roles that they have. If you can understand the roles, you can work cooperatively together to get outcomes.
I do not accept the criticism. I do think sometimes that we do not explain ourselves well enough. As an organisation, we are perhaps not as well understood by NGOs as we should be. I think, and certainly from where I sit in directing it, we reach out regularly to try and do a better job. About information sharing, one of the things that I task my people with in Joint Operations Command, for example, is that for every new mission that comes up we understand that there is a bunch of missionaries and people who have been working in almost any area that we go to and that those people should be our first source of information for politics, language, the lie of the land, what is going on and what the major issues are. I do not see an information gap. In fact, I am encouraging our people to reach out to those people and do it. We have trouble sometimes getting interpreters. The NGO community is not a bad place to start because they have been involved in many of these countries. It is not as though they are newly in need; they have been in need for sometime and those sorts of things are there. Some groups will criticise us and it will be about mission understanding and the nature of what it is that we think we are charged to do. I think that we are getting better at information sharing. We are good at sucking it up, perhaps we are not as good at passing it out as we could be, and we will make advancements in that area.
Senator MARK BISHOP —Thank you for that considered response. You needed the opportunity to go on the record and effectively rebut those criticisms, which you have done. Would there be value to the ADF in a peak organisation of NGOs whom you could liaise with and engage in dialogue with on issues associated with missions?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —My view is that in operational areas there would be. There are not all that many operational areas we go into where the ADF operates unilaterally. It is more about working with the United Nations or a coalition group, but I certainly see that as being a benefit. During my time in military operations one of the frustrations always was that the community of NGOs was a fractured community. They had very different views on where they should be working and how they should be working. If you still have a modicum of government that is a good thing because you can shape it. Sometimes we should be looking to the UN and others to do more in that regard.
Senator TROOD —I just want to clarify a matter in relation to some correspondence that has passed between you and the committee. You were good enough to write to the committee in mid-August in relation to some items on the record. In particular you wished to correct something you had said in relation to a question that I had asked you, about whether or not we had ever declined to participate in a mission through a shortage of forces, or a limitation. You have corrected the record saying that we have declined to participate not solely because we did not have the forces. Could you amplify, for me, precisely what that means?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —We are trying to be very precise in saying that sometimes the government has considered approaches, from the UN for example, about Australian forces participating in a mission and we have looked at operational tempo and the allocation of forces as factors in advising the government, but we have never knocked a mission back because we did not have anything left in the larder. The tenure of the question, as I remember it at that time was, ‘Are you so stretched that you couldn’t do these things?’ The answer to that was no, but I needed to go back and be clinical in the answer and say that how many forces we have, what we might have in terms of concurrency, what could be out there and how the government might want to consider our disposition would always be part of the advice, but we have never knocked a mission back because we have gone to the government and said, ‘We don’t have the forces for this.’
Senator TROOD —That is helpful; thank you for that. We have had some evidence this morning in relation to the conditions under which Australian forces, particularly the Australian Federal Police, are deployed overseas, and the legislative protections that might exist in relation to the risks to which they are subject. I do not expect you to comment very directly on that but would you regard it as a fair proposition that when AFP forces and ADF personnel are deployed on the same mission and in the same operational environment they should have broadly similar kinds of protections, access to rehabilitation and things of that kind? Is there a need for that or is there something that distinguishes the ADF from the AFP that, perhaps, demands some different kinds of consideration in relation to their welfare?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I think I spoke about this last time I was here. The roles of the military and the police are quite different but are sometimes needed in the same operating space. The police are about law and order; the Defence Force is about security and perhaps the delivery of lethal force. It is the latter which makes them different from policemen, in my view, in how we conduct ourselves. We are working on the association between the two groups of people to make sure that the ADF does not get drawn into doing police work and the police do not get drawn into doing ADF work. I see them as being quite separate tasks. Sometimes, in situations like Aceh, we could all go under the same auspices, because we are not there for fighting or security; we are all there providing support in a humanitarian space to help people who have suffered greatly. So I am of the pretty unequivocal view that the ADF is a different beast entirely to the Australian Federal Police. If you want a discriminator it is that one force could be responsible for the delivery of lethal force and the other is about law enforcement.
Senator TROOD —I see that distinction. It is a very clear distinction, and I think it is an entirely appropriate one to make. But in the context of an operational environment the local population may see the force as integrated—they may see that these are RAMSI people or Australian people whether they come from the AFP or the ADF—and the personnel may all be at risk in many ways. Your forces may be at risk as Commissioner Keelty’s forces may be at risk, and in that sense they face potentially similar kinds of risks. I am wondering whether that circumstance changes the nature of the exercise, even though you and I and Commissioner Keelty can see quite distinct missions that you are undertaking on a particular mission.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I still see that there is a delineation between the forces. If you were to go to the Solomon Islands and have a look at AFP operations and military operations, you would see they are poles apart. If you had a look at where and how we live and if you considered that the ADF works, operates and is paid seven days a week, 24 hours a day whereas police work in shifts and attract penalty rates and those sorts of things, you would see that there is a significant difference between the two forces. The fact that they can work harmoniously together to achieve an outcome is the good thing that comes out of that. I do not think that trying to match the service conditions and all the rest of it is appropriate, because they come from different organisations, operate differently culturally and operate differently in theatre.
Senator TROOD —On another issue, one of the impressions that I have received generally from the evidence is that in many ways the ADF performs the functions that it is required to undertake in the various theatres in an exemplary way, that it is an effective force that coordinates well with the other parts of government as required and that the kinds of arrangements that we have in place seem to work very effectively. On the other hand, there has been a stream of evidence, although not overwhelming, that has suggested that the whole idea of peacekeeping as broadly defined is not well synthesised into the nature of the Defence Force’s responsibilities—in relation to doctrine and training, for example—and that the force has some way to go in coming to terms with the fact that a large part of its responsibility increasingly seems to be to undertake these low-level threat missions of one kind or another. Could you respond to that perception, please?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I agree with you in the first case. Since I deployed in 1989 to Namibia, the ADF have been involved in a string of peace operations. Without question of a doubt, they have returned great results to our nation and to the Defence Force. Do we need to change our processes? I think we probably recognise the need to change more than any other group that is looking at the problem at the present time. Why is that? I think the complexity in failing, near-failed or failed states has risen dramatically in the last 20 years with terrorism, insurgency and non-government groups and non-state actors participating. The difficulty is assembling military and aid organisations to do those sorts of things, and I think we turn ourselves inside out in a ‘lessons learnt’ sort of process to try and understand how that changes.
We have developed courses. We run CIMIC—civil military cooperation—courses to try and work our way through that. We have a ‘lessons learned’ process, where we sit back and analyse our performance—not only our performance on the ground in those places but also our performance here in Canberra. We ask: how did the organisations that mounted them do those? So I think we have a learning culture in our defence organisation. I do think that we produce great results. Our young people are first-class Australians. If there is a criticism that we are slow to react or to learn, I think that is a bit misplaced. We recognise, perhaps better than anybody, how complex the world is at the present time.
Senator TROOD —It is gratifying to know that you are conscious of these things. I think it is very important that you should be. You say you have a learning culture in relation to specific missions, but has there ever been any kind of overall assessment of where peacekeeping fits within the ADF as a function and an important part of its mission? Have you undertaken any kind of comprehensive analysis of that and what the implications are for force structures, training, doctrine and things of that kind? Has that particular exercise been undertaken recently?
Lt Gen. Gillespie —It happens from the top down, with the government issuing strategic guidance for what it is that they want the defence organisation to be able to do. We have updated the white paper again just recently which articulates the government’s view on those things. We have the defence strategic plan which gives us further guidance in that area. We have international engagement policy. So there is a plethora of policy documents that guide us in that direction. There has been a view—and I expressed that last time we were here—that we focus on what it is that Defence needs to do for the country: that is, be prepared to defend Australia and its interests, and we force-structure along those lines. We have found that we can adapt that force structure and our preparedness model to help in the sorts of environments that you are talking about. Sometimes that adaptation is a war-fighting adaptation. Sometimes it is like going to Aceh and doing it unarmed and just using military brute manpower to bring about an outcome. So I think we look at it pretty heavily.
I do think we have had some examples around the world where nations have restructured their defence forces because they see peace operations as being the way of the future, and when those nations have been called upon to do a serious job of war-fighting they have been found wanting. I am not going to mention names here but there are examples if you go and look at that.
So I do think that we look at it in force-structuring terms. We make sure that we have the kit necessary to do it. If we get a job going into any nation now, the very first thing that we do is to have a look at how we might equip the force. Does it need anything special? Do we need to do any training that we have not done before? And we do that on every operational deployment that we do.
Senator TROOD —I think we know the examples, and I do not press those upon you; I do not think that would be a sensible, rational or intelligent way to encourage reform within the department. But I was struck by something yesterday when we spoke to the official history unit that is preparing an account of Australia’s peacekeeping operations over a 60-year period, virtually. The thing that became very clear from their evidence was that we have, very effectively, been innovative; we have been very effective in adapting the national assets we have for the particular contingencies with which we have been confronted. But that had been a process of evolution; it had been a process of adaptation, of changing as we went along. There did not seem to be a point at which anybody had sat down and said, ‘Further demands are being made upon us to do these kinds of things; we have made changes along the way; perhaps it is time to just sit back and reflect on what we’ve been doing and where we are going, in a comprehensive way.’ At some point, organisations, in my view, should be doing that sort of thing. I am wondering whether or not that is something that might recommend itself to the ADF—apart from the policy statements, of course, with which you are very familiar.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —Those policy statements and the advice that we give to government are actually the end process of what you are talking about—sitting down, looking at our navels and seeing whether we have learned anything. In the complexity that we find ourselves in at the present time in the world, we developed a process of rapid acquisition. What we discovered is that, for almost any problem set that the ADF can be given to, you will find something that we do not have in our larder—because the nation could not afford to equip us for everything—and we are able to very quickly re-equip and retrain the group for a particular problem set. So I think we do have a learning culture. Part of Brigadier McKaskill’s organisation, the ADF Warfare Centre, is about contemplating our navels—lessons learned, rechecking our doctrine, seeing whether we want to make any change. The senior Defence committee process is about considering that sort of advice and what we do about it. People can criticise us if they like, but my view is that we do have a learning culture. It is not one of our weaknesses.
CHAIR —General Gillespie, in some of the submissions to the committee, most particularly the submission from retired Major General Tim Ford, there are some observations about the closeness—or lack of it, in fact—between Australia and senior leadership positions in the UN, which pertain to the peacekeeping discussion that we are having here and a criticism that we are not assertive enough in pushing ourselves forward for those sorts of opportunities. I wonder whether you have any comment to make on that. Could I also ask Brigadier McKaskill whether there is any engagement between the peacekeeping centre and those who run these processes within the UN anyway.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —I would not want to comment too much on senior people in the UN—I think that is a matter of policy that does not rest with Defence; it is a broader issue for government. In a Defence sense, General Ford is making those observations because we freed him up to fill a major UN appointment. General Smith filled a major UN appointment. General Ian Gordon is in the Middle East now.
CHAIR —Yes, but I think they both think those sorts of things should happen early in people’s careers so they can return to the ADF some of the advantages they gain.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —Again I would say that Mr Nagy, sitting here, has worked in the UN and New York. If you look at the medals sets of those of us here, we have all participated at different rank levels in the United Nations. It would be nice to have some senior Australian people in the peacekeeping department in New York. As I said, I do not think that is a matter for Defence; it is a wider policy issue about what we push there.
CHAIR —We can pursue that.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —But we consider very carefully every bid that we get from the United Nations asking us whether we want to contribute for these particular operations and appointments. So we have a say every time.
CHAIR —Did you have any remarks to add, Brigadier McKaskill?
Brig. McKaskill —My only comment is on the engagement portion. We speak with our counterparts in the UN, but that is on doctrine, where policy is going and how we bring in aspects of the UN training into our training—for instance, we conduct e-learning in UN courses and there are correspondence courses. That is where we plug into the UN side. Similarly, we plug into the region. In fact, Australia and Malaysia co-hosted the first regional forum for peacekeeping countries. We plug into those sorts of areas.
CHAIR —General Ford thinks there should be a UN senior mission leadership course held in Australia—or hosted by Australia at least. Do you have a view on that?
Brig. McKaskill —Not at this stage, because it had not been brought to my attention prior to that.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —Philosophically we have nothing against it.
CHAIR —Would it be an advantage, Captain Scott?
Capt. Scott —I think we see that there would be some advantages. We answered that in our response to that question in questions on notice. It will eventually come here!
CHAIR —Thank you. I will have a look at them when they get all the way to us. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. General Gillespie, as I said at the beginning, may I thank you again for your time today and for that of your officers and members of the department. We are grateful for the assistance that Defence has provided to us in this inquiry process.
Lt Gen. Gillespie —Thanks, it has been a pleasure. I am going to chance my hand at the APEC security arrangements now.
CHAIR —The very best of luck. If you cannot do it, General, I do not know which of us mere mortals is able to!