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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10184

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (11:13): I take the opportunity to also speak on the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. Before I do so, I caught most of the speech by the parliamentary secretary and member for Eden-Monaro and commend him not only for his speech but also for his personal role in respect of this legislation. He truly does have a good understanding of the defence forces in this country. It is a very genuine understanding. I thought his remarks earlier on today were very appropriate. As I say, I have no doubt that he also was instrumental in not only having this review undertaken but implementing the findings of it.

The bill updates defence administered legislation—specifically, the Defence Act 1903, the Naval Defence Act 1910 and the Air Force Act 1923—to ensure that the service chiefs' day-to-day administrative responsibility for their respective service cadets is subject to the direction of the minister or the Chief of the Defence Force. The amendments will also provide the Chief of the Defence Force with a delegation-making power in relation to cadet responsibility and direction. The bill also addresses inconsistencies in the three different cadet provisions by bringing the Air Force and Navy provisions into line with the Army provisions.

The Australian Defence Force Cadets is a youth development program for children and is similar to scouts or guides. Cadets are not Australian Defence Force personnel. This bill has no relation to legislation governing ADF officer cadets studying at the Australian Defence Force Academy or other defence training institutions. Labor's 2010 election policy document committed to these changes to the cadet programs' legislation. The reforms will create more organisational accountability and consistency.

The bill will provide the Chief of the Defence Force with authority to issue direction to service chiefs in relation to the administration of cadets and to delegate this authority to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force. Direction from the Chief of the Defence Force is subject to any direction issued by the minister in relation to cadets. Currently service chiefs have administrative responsibility for the cadet programs in their respective services, subject to direction from the minister. Cadet programs have in the past had problems with organisational accountability, particularly with duty of care and occupational health and safety issues.

The Review of the Australian Defence Force Cadets Scheme released in 2008, commonly referred to as the Hickling review because it was led by Lieutenant General Frank Hickling AO, was commissioned by the Chief of Defence Force and announced on 6 June 2008 by the then Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon. The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support, Mike Kelly, whom I referred to earlier, announced the review team members on 20 August 2008. The review panel submitted their report to the parliamentary secretary on 24 November 2008. The report was passed to Defence for their response to the recommendations. The review was required:

…to review the general accountability, probity and the transparency of the management of the Australian Defence Force Cadets (ADFC) to determine clear lines of responsibility to ensure that the ADFC is achieving its specific objectives in an efficient and effective manner.

The Hickling report noted that, under existing legislation, the service chiefs are individually responsible for administering their respective cadet organisations. They are also held accountable under the law for the safety of cadet activities.

The Australian Defence Force Cadets is a voluntary, uniformed youth development organisation established within the Australian Defence Organisation, comprising cadets, community based staff and volunteers. Cadets are organised on the basis of Australian Navy Cadets, Australian Army Cadets and Australian Air Force Cadets. Although the prime focus of the Australian Defence Force Cadets is on youth development, it also seeks to encourage young people interested in the Australian Defence Force to pursue careers in the Australian Defence Force, the Australian Defence Organisation or Defence industry and engender a positive attitude towards the Australian Defence Force. Young people can join the Navy and Army Cadets when they reach 12½ years of age and the RAAF Cadets when they are 13 years old.

Over the years I have developed and maintained a close association with many cadet groups and similar youth organisations in my area. The Royal Australian Air Force base in Edinburgh is home to a number of cadet units, and in fact, not surprisingly, we have all three codes represented there, if not within the base adjacent to it. We have the 613th Air Cadet Unit located at the RAAF base at Edinburgh, the TS Stuart naval cadet base just outside the RAAF base and the 49th Army Cadet Unit at Smithfield.

In addition, we have the Legion of Frontiersmen Army Cadet Unit at Ridgehaven and a parallel type of organisation, the Australian Air League, based in the region also. There are a couple of other organisations based at the Parafield Airport which are associated with similar activities.

I will take this opportunity to speak very briefly about those organisations because they are of course impacted by this legislation; more importantly, they are examples of what can be achieved through these organisations. Through my association with them over the years, I have observed both the young people who are involved in them and the people who are leading those organisations.

Firstly, I will speak about the people who are leading these organisations. Most of them originate from the Defence Force. Most of them are people who have spent some time in one of the three different codes within the Defence Force and have had personal experience in Defence matters. As volunteers, they then become engaged with the cadet units. Most of them I could say I know personally, and they show a terrific example of community leadership in every sense of the word. They genuinely care for the future of these young people and they also understand what these young people will need as they progress through life. What they endeavour to do is impart to young people those life skills which regrettably are lacking in too many of our young people today. They do that not only through what you might call the formal training provided, whether it is in the cadet units of the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, but they also do it by making sure that these young people get actively involved in community affairs. It is not surprising to see them at all the memorial services, whether it is Anzac Day, Remembrance Day services or Long Tan Day services that we have throughout the city, or other similar events, but they are also actively involved in a number of what I call civic events that occur throughout the year in the local council areas of that region.

Again, their participation and their involvement in our services add to the dignity of the service on the day. What most impresses me—and I have spoken to many of these young people at the services after the event and during the course of them—is the level of responsibility that they take by participating in the service. They are not only proud of what they are doing on the day and of the uniform in which they are dressed but they are proud to be involved in the activity and they take it absolutely seriously and do it absolute justice by their participation on the day.

I recall that, when I was mayor of the city of Salisbury, before each citizenship ceremony the air cadets would lead us into the room. They would fly the Australian flag and parade into the room ahead of me and all the other dignitaries. Equally, when the ceremony was completed, they would lead us out of the room. To those new Australians who came in and were becoming new citizens on the day it just added to the ceremonial occasion. For them it was a big and an important event and it added to the ceremonial occasion. Those young people, because the air cadets are allowed to join that particular group at a very young age, were in some cases five- and six-year-old kids and led right up to the 17- and 18-year-olds. They all stood at attention and did it absolutely brilliantly.

Importantly, what these cadet units do is teach our kids life skills which, as I said a moment ago, are sadly lacking. Because young people today in most cases live in urban areas, they have lost touch with the opportunities that we might have had in years gone by to develop life skills which you never know when you may need. In the event of an emergency situation, which can occur and arise at any time and at any place, it is nice to think that you have some ability to respond to that situation. That is what I saw happening when I visited the different groups on their display and open days and they showed the skills that they were being taught as part of their training. It is not just about the Army, Navy or Air Force discipline—it is also about teaching them all of those skills. The Naval TS Stuart cadets are a good example. Every year when I go to their presentation evening they go through the drills that they have been taught over the last 12 months and you see them using the skills that they have learned in preparation for perhaps joining the Navy and doing all the different activities that would be required of them on a boat. These are skills that will become invaluable to them as they go through their lives. In addition I believe it teaches them to become responsible community citizens, and that is something that is invaluable for whatever career they pursue, even if it is outside of the defence forces.

For all of those reasons I commend the program itself and I commend those young people and their leaders for the cadets programs we have throughout this country. I notice that of the 48 recommendations most of them were adopted by the government. I also had a quick look through the report and noticed that many of the submissions that were made came from existing cadet units, in particular the National Servicemen's Association. I have also had a close association over the years with the National Servicemen's Association in South Australia. That is an organisation that strongly believes in giving our young people an opportunity to get involved in some kind of national service type of program. I do not mean 'national service' in the military sense, necessarily; it can be national service in any other kind of civic force. It is interesting to see that that organisation took an interest in this program because many of the people who are acting as leaders in many of the cadet units that I am associated with were originally in the National Servicemen's Association.

Ultimately, this program will have two major beneficial effects. On the one hand it is a youth development program, and one that has a great deal of merit. In fact, it is almost with regret that I see fewer and fewer young people getting involved in cadet training throughout Australia. On the other hand, the second important outcome—it might not be the primary purpose of the program—is that it provides those young people who have an eye to joining the defence forces with the preparation they need in order to make the decision that they will finally have to make if that is where they want to go. It gives them a taste of what they are in for if they decide to join the Defence Force. I think that is incredibly important, because I have no doubt that a career in the defence forces quite often turns out to be very different to what a young person thought it would be. Being able to go through the cadet program would give them an insight into what to expect if that is where they want to go. In turn, it enables them to make the right decision when they come to it.

I know of young people who, having left high school, decided that they would join the defence forces, only to find out in a year or two that that is not what they were cut out for, not what they are suited for, and to have to drop out. You learn, and that is fine, but this is an opportunity for them to learn without having wasted—I should not say 'wasted' because it is not necessarily wasted—their time. They could have made a different decision.

In closing I again commend the parliamentary secretary and the Minister for Defence for this initiative. I spoke about some organisations in my area but I commend all of the organisations throughout Australia who provide a cadet service in their areas.