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Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Page: 5578


Senator HOGG (2:09 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill, Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm that the former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dr Allan Hawke, left office last Friday? Can he inform the Senate when the newly appointed secretary, Mr Ric Smith, will commence duty as secretary? Can he explain why he has left the defence department without a secretary at such an important time, when the department is playing a critical role in Australia's response to the Bali bombings?


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Dr Hawke completed what might be described as active duties last Friday. He is remaining on for a period of time to clear his desk. The acting secretary at the moment is the under secretary, Mr Roche, who is very experienced and well able to carry out that function. Mr Smith was due to start mid-November. He is now staying on a little longer in Indonesia, given the current circumstances. I have not heard any suggestion that he will start later than was anticipated, but that might change in the circumstances of the role he is fulfilling so ably in Bali at the moment. I will expect to know more on that matter next week.


Senator HOGG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Did the minister ask Dr Hawke if he would be willing, given the current circumstances and given the minister's comments that Dr Hawke is still clearing his desk, to continue in office until Mr Smith takes over? If Dr Hawke was not asked to do that, why not?


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I do not think that he was asked to do that because arrangements were put in place to suit him and his successor. As I said, arrangements have been put in place to ensure that there was a suitably qualified person to act as secretary. Therefore, in the circumstances, there was no need for a variation in the arrangements that had been negotiated with Dr Hawke.