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Thursday, 29 October 2009
Page: 7651

Senator McEWEN (3:30 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, I present the report of the committee Review of the Defence annual report 2007-08 and seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator McEWEN —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate the tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—


Mr President,

This review of the Defence Annual Report 2007-2008 focuses on the activities, achievements and undertakings of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Department of Defence from July 2007 to June 2008. During this period ADF personnel remained heavily engaged in a wide variety of operational deployments world-wide, with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq balanced by an increased commitment to Afghanistan marked by the tragic death of four ADF members and the wounding of a number of others.

During the 2007-2008 reporting period, in addition to the significant operational tempo, Defence also maintained a focus on reform following a number of recent reviews, inquiries and investigations, as well as the development of a new White Paper.

The review of the Defence Annual Report is an important opportunity for the Defence Sub-Committee to inquire into a broad range of Defence issues as part of the process of accountability of Government agencies to Parliament I know that both the Defence Sub-Committee, and the wider committee, take this responsibility very seriously. I would like to thank the Chair of the Defence Sub-Committee, Arch Bevis, the Committee members, and the Secretariat staff for their fine efforts.

This year, the Defence Sub-Committee selected a broad range of issues for examination at public hearings held in Canberra on 16 April, 19 June, and 21 August 2009. This extended timeline for the hearings was required to accommodate commitments of relevant Department of Defence personnel.

The major topics included joint/air/land capability and procurement, personnel issues, energy and the environment, and several other issues of interest.

The Committee has noted that, in the field of procurement, Defence must demonstrate that the post-Kinnaird reforms are sufficient and well-implemented delivering projects on time, on budget, and with required levels of capability.

The Committee also examined the ADF’s air capability and procurement noting an unprecedented changeover of platforms that Defence is managing across its air capability and elsewhere, including the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control platform, the Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

The report acknowledges that the JSF will be the most expensive single acquisition in Defence’s history. As our sole or principal air fighting platform it will be, arguably, our most important defence acquisition.

In addition, maritime assets will comprise a large part of the Defence procurement program for the next decade or more. The failure of the Seasprite project —a ship-based helicopter capability for the Royal Australian Navy —is a powerful indicator of the importance of improved acquisition procedures. The true cost of the project’s failure is not only to be counted in dollar terms; it is also to be counted in terms of lost capability where it may in fact be needed.

Mr President, recruiting and maintaining personnel continue to be significant challenges for the ADF. The Committee recognises that Defence has taken considerable effort to develop a sufficient and sustainable cohort of skilled personnel, capable of satisfying the increasingly technical requirements of modern defence forces.

In particular, the Committee welcomes the move by Defence to adopt a more flexible pay structure so that it is better placed to attract, develop and retain skilled personnel. However, there is emerging evidence of weakening in the current pay process and the Committee has therefore recommended that Defence place a high priority on developing a more agile and responsive system.

The Committee has also inquired into external constraints facing Defence such as climate change and the steps Defence had taken to prepare for oil depletion and oil shocks.

Mr President, the Committee would like to thank all of the individuals and organisations that participated in this Review of the Defence Annual Report 2007-2008. 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, Mr President, the Committee would also like to acknowledge the families of the Australian Defence Force 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.