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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 38

Senator McEWEN (4:24 PM) —On behalf of Senator Forshaw and the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, I present the report of the committee, Review of the Defence annual report 2006-07. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to to the report and to incorporate my tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

Senator McEWEN —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The statement read as follows—

The Review of the Defence Annual Report 2006-2007 focused on the activities, achievements and undertakings of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Department of Defence during the period July 2006 to June 2007.

At the end of this reporting period, Defence had over 3,800 personnel deployed on overseas operations and around 450 personnel engaged in protecting Australia’s northern borders and was successfully conducting 14 operations and military campaigns across Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific and Australia. During this period, the ADF also carried out five short-notice emergency relief operations in Lebanon, Tonga, Indonesia and Solomon Islands,

In September 2006, around 400 Australian soldiers of the 1st Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) arrived in Uruzgan Province as part of Australia’s commitment to the reconstruction and stabilisation of Afghanistan. The 1st RTF achieved outstanding success and provided a solid foundation for subsequent RTF rotations. In April 2007, a Special Forces Task Group and an Air Force Radar Reporting Element were also deployed to Afghanistan, taking Australia’s commitment to Operation Slipper to over 800 personnel. Australia’s commitment to the reconstruction and stabilisation of Afghanistan continues today.

In late June 2007, the ADF became a major support agency to the government’s Northern Territory Emergency Response Task Force (Operation Outreach) to provide logistics, communications, mobility and liaison to this whole-of-government initiative,

During the 2006-2007 reporting period, in additional to the significant operational tempo, Defence also maintained a focus on equipment acquisition as well as seeking improvements in the areas of finance, management and accountability.

The review of the Defence Annual Report is an important task and an opportunity for the defence subcommittee to inquire into a broad range of Defence issues as part of the process of accountability of government agencies to parliament. The defence subcommittee takes this responsibility very seriously.

This year, the defence subcommittee selected a broad range of issues for examination at public hearings held on 10 July 2008 and 29 August 2008. The major topics included the Defence Materiel Organisation (DM0); the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF); Personnel issues; and several other issues of interest.

The first topic examines a number of key DMO responsibilities, including significant funding slippages in DMO’s Top 30 Projects list and Australian industry capability.

Topic two JSF examines the Joint Strike Fighter (F35); the background of the project, the progress to date and cost estimates. The issue of future air combat capability was also raised with the CDF and is discussed in this section of the review.

Under the heading of ‘personnel’, the committee examined the progress of the Military Justice Reforms, recruitment and retention, personnel shortages in critical trades and the issue of reportable fringe benefits for selected Defence conditions of service and allowances,

Under the heading of ‘Other issues’, the committee examined the ADF’s preparedness to conduct peacekeeping operations; the current and future role of armour; interoperability of new communications platforms with legacy systems; and the Hardened and Networked Army.

To conclude the review of the Defence Annual Report 2006-2007, the Chief of the Defence Force made himself available at the end of the second public hearing for wide-ranging discussions on current issues across the entire Defence Annual Report.

The committee would like to thank all of the individuals and organisations that participated in this review of the Defence Annual Report 2006-2007. We would also like to express our ongoing appreciation to the men and women of the ADF for the outstanding work that they continue to do in Australia and around the world.

Finally, the committee would also like to thank the families for the support they provide and the sacrifices they endure, to enable our service men and women to contribute to Australia’s security.

Question agreed to.