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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2910

Senator HAMER(5.50) —I have two areas of questioning. The first concerns divisions 234 and 241-equipment and stores and defence production. The second concerns personnel. I will deal first with the equipment and stores and defence production votes which are, of course, enormous. It is very important that these votes be efficiently managed and that equipment be wisely chosen. One of the most important recommendations, in my view, of the report of the Dibb Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities was the recommendation to centralise defence procurement planning under the Chief of the Defence Force. It has been disastrous to have it scattered among the three Services. It has produced an adversarial relationship. Individual services each plan their equipment without any coherence. They go into the endless committees that study these things, aware that something which goes to another service means that there is less chance for them to get what they want.

It seems to me that the most important single step we can make in the efficient administration of our very expensive defence procurement in order to produce an Australian Defence Force that is a coherent whole is to centralise forward planning for future equipment under the control of the Chief of the Defence Force. I ask the Minister whether any serious steps have been taken in this regard, when are we likely to see results and, finally in this area, whether the Force Development and Analysis Division, which is at the moment under the administration of Deputy Secretary B, when this organisation is complete, will be put under the Chief of the Defence Force.

One of the things that have caused vast friction between the military and civil components of the Department of Defence is the adversarial relationship which has built up. Nothing is more likely to provoke this sort of thing than if the professional officers are making recommendations and they are being second-guessed by a civil department which is not responsible under the same structure. I ask those specific questions of the Minister because, in my view, this is the most important modification of the organisation of the Department of Defence that can be made. There will still be very important roles for the chiefs of staff of each service. Incidentally, they are much better named the commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force because that is really what they are. They should be told to get on with training and running the forces they have. The future structure of the Defence Force should come directly under the Chief of the Defence Force.

The second area I wish to raise is the question of pay for Defence Force and civil personnel. I refer to divisions 230 and 232. There has been an explosion of senior ranks in the Services. It was caused primarily because when the Defence Department was amalgamated out of what were previously the separate service departments-a step which I think was very wise, but unfortunately very badly done-one of the more bizarre things that were done in the so-called Tange report was that civil servants were given quasi-military rank. Assistant secretaries were described as one-star officers or brigadiers, first assistant secretaries were described as two-star officers or major-generals, and deputy secretaries were described as three-star officers or lieutenant-generals. I do not know what description was given to the Secretary. I do not think any description would have been possible. The number of stars was not available.

This might have seemed to be a harmless bit of napoleonic mania but, unfortunately, it had some very unsatisfactory structural effects on the Defence Force. By the way, one might think that the number of lieutenant-generals in the Army might be higher than the number of quasi-lieutenant-generals in the Public Service. There is one lieutenant-general in the Australian Army and nine quasi-lieutenant-generals in the Public Service. This, of course, is a mania. It would not have mattered so much if it had just been, as I said, some sort of napoleonic complex. But it has had very serious results.

The problem hinges on the fact that when these equivalent military ranks were made, the criterion was pay. That might be a nice, simple way of doing it, but it had nothing to do with responsibility. In terms of responsibility, the service officers were linked one or two ranks too high with the Public Service. I will give one example: There has recently been a very important submarine project headed by a commodore. The Department wanted to appoint an assistant secretary to his staff. But according to the system, you cannot have an assistant secretary reporting to a mere commodore. He had to be promoted to an admiral so the assistant secretary could report to him. That is one example of the senseless explosion of ranks. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing the present strengths of the various service ranks, which I have previously shown to the Minister. It was provided to me in answer to a question I asked of the Minister for Defence (Mr Beazley).

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


Active strength

as at 30 Sept. 86

Serving in Canberra


% of active



Vice Admiral...




Rear Admiral...

























Air Force

Air Marshal...




Air Vice Marshal ...




Air Commodore...




Note: Figures for each Service exclude 3 Principal Chaplains who are based in Canberra.

Senator HAMER —The table shows that we now have 14 admirals and 27 commodores, 15 generals and 45 brigadiers, 12 air marshals and 29 air commodores. If we take the Navy as an example, there are 14 admirals and 27 commodores. We fought the Second World War with 45,000 men, 3 admirals and 4 commodores.

Senator Newman —How many ships?

Senator HAMER —There were many more ships, of course, during the Second World War. Now there are 15,000 men, 14 admirals and 27 commodores. Worse still, there is only one sea job for an admiral and no sea jobs for any of the 27 commodores.

This is an absurd situation. It has been caused by this linking of the ranks of public servants with servicemen, and the requirement to serve on joint committees, on which the Services must be represented by a person of a rank which is equivalent to the rank of the person from the Department of Defence. If the Defence Department provides an assistant secretary, the Army must provide a brigadier, the Navy a commodore and the Air Force an air commodore. It has caused an extraordinary explosion of ranks, with no sensible corresponding operational positions.

One answer I received some years ago was: `Well, it is a useful reserve for wartime expansion'. The last thing one wants is to have a large number of officers in reserve for wartime expansion who have no recent operational experience. It is far better to keep them in jobs in which they can be properly employed, kept up-to-date in their profession, and promote them as one needs them for wartime expansion, and not promote them too early. Of course, it will not be easy to change the position. The admirals, generals and air marshals rather like being admirals, generals and air marshals. Certainly, if one changed the relative rank structure of the public servants and service officers, one would have to increase sharply the pay of the officers. There is one officer on the staff of a senator who had the same job in the Navy on three occasions. It was an identical job. On the first occasion he was a lieutenant-commander, the second time a commander, and the third time a captain. This shows the explosion of ranks that has been going on.

This would not matter if it were merely a matter of public servants having delusions of napoleonic grandeur and the service officers being given status as admirals and generals. But it does matter, because they do not have current operational experience. Our headquarters staff, our command at the top, is grossly out of balance with our operational forces. In my view it is urgent that steps be taken by the Government to bring these two areas into a proper balance.