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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4195

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted?

Opposition members - No.

Mr BARNARD - Then I shall move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent my making a statement.

Mr Snedden - Leave is granted.

Mr BARNARD - I wish to inform honourable members of decisions that the Government has made concerning the future organisation, higher management and policy direction of the Armed Services and of the departments and agencies which support them. The defence of this country is too important a matter to be administered by a demonstrably inefficient grouping of organisations whose objectives are not always the same, whose functions are sometimes duplicated and whose very existence as separate bureaucracies bedevils great affairs with unnecessary conflicts. As from last Friday the separate Departments of Navy, Army and Air ceased to exist and a new Department of Defence was created.

Within the framework of the Department of Defence the three Service Boards will continue to operate on a temporary basis. The Minister for Defence will remain President of the Military Board and the Naval Board but the civilian members of all three Boards will now be nominees of the Secretary of the Department of Defence. (Quorum formed.) The Department of Supply continues in existence, financed from the defence vote, under a directive from the Prime Minister maintaining at least for the time being a relationship with the Department of Defence through which the Minister for Supply and the Minister for Defence collaborate in the execution of relevant defence policies. The Department of Supply will continue to participate in defence committees. All this is preliminary to the introduction - which can only occur after the drafting and entry into effect of necessary legislation and regulations - of a new distribution of functions including those defence functions carried out in the Department of Supply.

I wish to inform the House of the Government's intention in these legislative changes which will be brought in before the end of the autumn session in 1974. First, the Government has decided to give legal status to its Chief Military Adviser (the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee) - an office created by an earlier government in 1958 by administrative decision. We will create a new office with a statutory basis and with enlarged authority. It is proposed that this office should be entitled Chief of Defence Force Staff', a title based on Part 111 of the Defence Act describing the defence force, and that he should be given command of the defence force and authority over the Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of the General Staff and Chief of Air Staff who will be the professional head of each Service. The Chief of Defence Force Staff will be a statutory officer in the Department of Defence responsible directly to the Minister for Defence. He will continue to be a 4-star officer.

The responsibilities of the Chief of Defence Force Staff will be:

(a)   He shall be the Principal Military Adviser to the Minister for Defence to whom he shall be responsible.

(b)   He shall command the Defence Force in accordance with the provisions of the legislation.

(c)   He shall be the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

(d)   Together with the Secretary, Department of Defence, he shall be responsible for providing advice to the Minister on matters in which there are joint responsibilities..

His detailed functions will be appropriate to his responsibilities and will be spelt out in a ministerial directive.

The responsibilities and functions of the Chief of Staff of each Service will be:

(a)   The Chief of Staff of each Service is to be the professional head of that Service.

(b)   He shall command his Service, under the authority of the Chief of Defence Force Staff and subject to the provisions of relevant Acts, regulations and ministerial directives.

(c)   He shall be responsible to the Minister for Defence, through the Chief of Defence Force Staff:

(i)   For the implementation in his Service of prescribed or approved defence policies, directions and programs;

(ii)   For providing forces from his Service for assignment to joint operations, and for the planning and for the issuing of single Service operational orders and for the conduct of single Service operations.

(d)   He shall consult the Chief of Defence Force Staff on major matters related to his Service.

(e)   He shall advise, through the Chief of Defence Force Staff where necessary, the Minister for Defence on matters within his responsibilities.

These changes carry the full recommendation of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chiefs of Staff of Navy, Army and Air, as well as the Secretary of the Department of Defence.

The Government has decided that it is no longer possible or desirable in the single Department to administer three Services by separate boards of management with separate civilian staffs as at present. A central organisation is needed to advise the Minister on policy, and to administer what formerly fell to 5 departments and 3 boards, the effective use of resources put at the disposal of the 3 Services, and of their supporting facilities such as dockyards and science laboratories. Substantial authority will pass from Service boards to individual Chiefs of Staff and subordinate commands. They will manage supply and personnel activities under oversight, by the central department organisation, of the use of finance and manpower in conformity with approved strategic concepts and other policies of government.

The staffs of the separate departmental organisations will be rearranged in functional groupings in the Department of Defence supporting the 3 Services. As a result the Secretary of the Department of Defence will be responsible for advice to the Minister on general policy, and on the management and utilisation of defence resources. Some responsibilities will be shared between him and the Chief of Defence Force Staff. There will be arrangements which recognise the professional military interests of the Services. Firstly, the allocation of exclusive statutory functions to the Chief of the Defence Force Staff and the Chiefs of Staff, for example, for the command and discipline of members of the Services; secondly, directives by the Minister as to the responsiveness expected of the Public Service structure to the operational priorities of Chiefs of Staff; thirdly, the integration of Service officers into various parts of the Defence Department organisation; and fourthly, a committee system to give proper distribution of representation of various responsibilities and to reconcile the competition among the Navy, Army, Air Force, Scientific Service and the production and civilian elements of resources. In coming to its decision the Government has had the benefit of a report prepared by the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange. I present for the information of honourable members the report referred to, copies of which are available.

The Secretary of the Department was directed by me, on behalf of the Government on 19 December last year, to produce, after consulting with other responsible authorities, a plan of reorganisation which conformed to certain objectives and principles which I specified. These government directions are reproduced at the beginning of Sir Arthur Tange's report. The Government has studied the report and it will be seen that the decisions which I have just announced are closely in accordance with his recommendations. We also endorse the more detailed departmental organisation which he recommends, subject to the usual scrutiny by the Public Service Board in order to give a classification structure and form to the purposes which the Government has laid down and which I am now conveying to the Parliament.

As regards those functions of the Department of Supply, other than scientific which the report recommends for transfer to Defence, the Government has decided to withhold decision on those particular recommendations until it receives the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Government Procurement, headed by Sir Walter Scott. As regards the defence research and development activities the Government has agreed to their transfer to Defence at a later date which will be determined by the passage of legislation. This could not be much before mid 1974. The future disposition of civil work in these establishments will be reviewed taking into account the report of the Scott Committee and the requirements of civilian departments for assistance from the Defence Scientific Service when those requirements are formulated.

As the report indicates, Sir Arthur Tange and the senior and experienced officer assisting him, Mr Bruce White, had extensive consultations with the Services, culminating in close discussion on many occasions collectively with the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chiefs of Staff of the 3 Services - present chiefs and others lately retired. He has reported that the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Sir Victor Smith, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Read, the Chiefs of Naval and General Staff, who were in office while the consultations were proceeding, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Peek and Lieutenant-General Sir Mervyn Brogan, and their successors, ViceAdmiral Stevenson and Lieutenant-General Hassett, agreed that the organisation is workable, subject to reservations upon certain points which have been recorded in his report, and subject, in the case of the Chief of the Air Staff, and the present Chief of Naval Staff, to their reservations being satisfied. They were all agreed that experience may demonstrate that further modifications and changes are necessary. Sir Arthur added that the contents of the report and the arguments were submitted on his own responsibility.

I made a point of discussing the report with the Chiefs of Staff before the Government reached its decision, particularly on those few aspects of the changed organisation about which they expressed uncertainties. I am satisfied that the recommended organisation should be put into effect. If experience shows the need for adjustment, adjustment will be made. I have made clear the Government's intention that Chiefs of Staff will always enjoy right of direct access to the Minister for Defence, in company where necessary of the Chief of Defence Force Staff. There are attendant financial benefits in this reorganisation. The report estimates that some 300 civilian positions will become redundant, mainly in administrative-type activities, soon after reorganisation, as will a further 1,000 civilian positions over a longer period. Equally important, the continuing reorganisation now initiated will apply more effective scrutiny of the use of manpower, and achieve more manpower economies in the years ahead. Thus the new organisation not only promises greater effectiveness in the management of Defence. It presents us with an opportunity to achieve this increased effectiveness at a reduced cost in the form of civilian wages and salaries.

It is an opportunity to divert funds from overhead to military equipment, and we will sieze that opportunity, I have decided that the total reduction in civil manpower should not be less than 1,500. If the Parliament adopts the new legislation before the middle of 1974, there is a good possibility that the total reduction of 1,500 could be completed by June 1975, by re-locating some public servants elsewhere and by not replacing some wastage. For too long defence administration has remained entangled in cumbrous procedures, working in an atmosphere which encourages division and contest, because of the fatal error 16 years ago in not abolishing the single Service departments as was recommended even then.

The new organisation will be the basis for more direct participation by officers from the Navy, the Army and Air Force in the business of planning capabilities on a defence rather than a single Service basis to satisfy the country's strategic needs. I am confident that the concerns of individual services will both be fully expressed and fully weighed in this new system. I am also confident that we will have a greater sense of joint endeavour, which is a prime objective. We will ensure that our strategic policies and defence relations are developed in close collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs. We shall certainly have a better application of all sources of advice - military, scientific, and other civilian - that ought to be brought to bear on recommending the total defence force of the country, its composition, its equipment and back-up, and the strategic concepts and policy objectives that defence expenditure is to serve.

In conclusion, having tabled the report for the information of honourable members, I pay a tribute to the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange, and to his assistant, Mr Bruce White, who have given effect to the recommendations I laid down last December and who have worked assiduously since then to produce a report which, in general terms, will give effect to the recommendations that were first made to a government about 17 years ago. I believe that Sir Arthur Tange and those who have worked with him to produce the report are to be congratulated on the efficiency with which their investigation and recommendations on behalf of the Government have been compiled.

Motion (by Mr Morrison) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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