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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6448

Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (4:49 PM) —I thank the member for his question. It is an important question. Reserves are going to be an essential part of the capability of this Defence Force in many ways that are perhaps non-traditional as well as traditional. One of the things that concerns me about our reserves is that nowhere in the organisation had we mapped the civilian skills that exist in our reserve pool personnel. We would not know, for example, what particular civil occupation a reserve member had. In the challenging circumstances we operate in these days we have multidimensional, complex environments in which the civilian skills that our reserves could bring to bear would be highly desirable and sought after. I have directed the department to enter into a process of mapping those civilian skills. I know that one of the things that drives interest and involvement in the reserves is the possibility for deployment, for using their skills and for doing their bit. We have certainly noted the impact of Operation Anode in the Solomons. It has had a tremendously positive effect on encouraging the retention and involvement of reserve personnel, and they have done a superb job in the Solomons in Operation Anode, as have many other reservists who have contributed as individuals or as what we call ‘brick capabilities’ to many of our other operations.

It is a determination to provide them with more opportunities in that respect. I know it is often said that a reservist only signs up to get away from his or her day job, but if you offer them the possibility of a deployment using those skills it is a different equation. We will be pushing forward in that respect, and I believe that will encourage participation and recruitment in the reserves. There is a whole raft of other measures that we intend to take in that respect, and I have been engaging closely with the VCDF and his staff on the future of our reserves. It is part of my portfolio responsibilities. That involves an analysis that will now look through what sort of capabilities we should park within the reserves, because we have a great challenge these days with the technology that we require. It involves a high degree of training and preparation to be able to operate those systems. Even artillery these days, with systems like the Excalibur round, require a high degree of expertise, so there will be a reorientation of the capabilities that we park in the reserves about the expectations in roles we have for them.

I think that when we move through that we will also introduce greater flexibility in the way careers are managed. I am very keen on this aspect because I see that as one major impediment. What we need is a thoroughly integrated Defence Force. In the Army we really need to make great progress in making sure that takes place with a seamless transition in and out of reserve careers and permanent careers. I think that in itself will encourage greater reserve participation, but that analysis is ongoing at the present time. I am not at all going to say here that this is not going to be a challenge—because it will be a challenge, across the board, in relation to our recruitment and retention issues into the future—but the work is underway and I am confident that we will deliver a satisfying and rewarding career for reservists. I look forward to ensuring that the structure is there to make sure that happens.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr MJ Washer)—The Committee will now consider the Veterans’ Affairs area of the portfolio in accordance with the agreed order of consideration.