Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14022


Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (12:01): The Defence Legislation Amendment (First Principles) Bill of 2015 is seen by many as an essential step to achieving stable Defence capability and a confirmed chain of command and responsibility. In speaking today, I would like to acknowledge the work of the research team in the Parliamentary Library. Primarily the purpose of this legislation is, quite naturally, to amend the Defence Act established in 1903, which now has sections that are both cumbersome and redundant. A brief overview includes a recognition of the Australian Defence Force as a single entity, a formal articulation of the authority of the Chief of Defence Force, and the role of the Vice Chief of the Defence Force as Chief of Defence's deputy. There is a removal of the statutory authority of the service chiefs in order to clarify the command and authority of the Chief of Defence.

We need to clarify of the status of our Defence cadets and we need to recognise the role of Defence Force Reserves. Over the past two years I have had the honour to meet members of our cadet units, including the Airforce Cadets—No.330 Squadron Shoalhaven, TS Jervis Bay and TS Albatross, our two local Navy cadet units. The young men and women in these groups are absolutely fantastic. These voluntary youth organisations are owned and sponsored by the Australian Defence Force. They participate in activities around the Shoalhaven, learning the skills and discipline associated with being part of such a group. TS Shoalhaven is now a unit of some 70 such wonderful young people. There are some amazing adults who mentor these young people, and I take this opportunity to thank the leaders John and Toni Huisman, Bill and Danielle Carter, Sharon and Andy Muzzell, just to mention a few. Many of these great cadets go on to join our Defence Force units, and we are all the better because of them.

This bill aims to implement the recommendations from the First Principles Review of Defence Force. It was the fulfilment of a commitment made by the coalition during the lead up to the 2013 federal election to 'undertake a first principle review of the departmental structure and its major processes'. The Minister for Defence announced the composition of the panel appointed to carry out the review in 2014 and, while doing so stated that the review would 'make recommendations designed to ensure Defence's business structures support the Australian Defence Force strategic plan to 2030'. The focus of the review was to make sure that the Australian Defence Force was fit for purpose, able to respond to future challenges and to deliver against its outputs with the minimum resources necessary. As such, the review team was given very broad terms of reference which, in addition to the structure of the Department of Defence and the Defence Force itself, also included the adequacy of materiel acquisition and sustainment practice to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Defence overall. The government released the First Principles Review on 1 April 2015 and it agreed, or agreed in principle, to 75 of the 76 recommendations made in the report.

The review found there was a proliferation of structures, processes and systems with unclear accountabilities, which in turn caused institutionalised waste, delayed decisions, flawed execution and duplication, over-escalation of issues for decision and low-engagement levels amongst employees in parts of the organisation. The review proposed substantial change across Defence to ensure it can deliver on the future requirements that will be outlined in the government's forthcoming Defence White Paper. In the process of review, through extensive discussion and analysis, the effectiveness or otherwise of the current structure within Defence and the way it manages its core business were evaluated. The majority of the recommendations relate to matters of internal structure and practice, and implementation of most of them—including the re-integration of the Defence Materiel Organisation, commonly known as the DMO, back into the department as a part of the new Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group—does not require legislative change. As a consequence, the majority of the recommendations do not need to be covered by the bill; they can be readily implemented. However those areas which require legislative change relate particularly to a key recommendation of the review, and that was to 'establish a strong strategic centre to strengthen accountability and top-level decision making' in Defence.

Another recommendation was to improve the flexible work arrangements in line with a number of recommendations contained in the Australian Human Rights Commission's review into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force. This recommendation was seen as a very relevant tool to increase the retention rate of women in our Defence Force. Last week we launched the White Ribbon campaign, where many Australians wear a white ribbon to signify our respect for women and our self-challenge to reduce domestic violence. Considering the needs of women in Defence is particularly significant. On the Wednesday ambassadors from Australian Defence—including Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC RAN , Vice Chief of the Defence Force; Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO, CSC RAN, Chief of Navy; Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, AC, Chief of the Defence Force; and Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, DSC, AM, Chief of Army—joined many politicians to witness a flyover of Parliament House. The flyover consisted of two Army Black Hawks, a Navy Bell 429 helicopter, a C17A Globemaster 111 and a C130J Hercules marked with the white ribbon to raise awareness of family violence and encourage commitment to making a change in culture to non-acceptance of such behaviour.

In all spheres, but especially in Defence, there has been an outstanding effort in this regard, so it is equally important that this aspect of workplace flexibility is addressed formally in the first principles review and part of the legislation before the House. While the capacity to provide flexible working arrangements is not new to Defence, this is yet another positive step of change. In addition, the release of the review itself has generally been well received, with a number of commentators expressing the view that implementing the review would improve the operation of the department and the ADF. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute's published analysis of the review was positive, describing it as a 'sensible, serious and purposeful' document.

Item 7 of the bill repeals and replaces parts II and III of the Defence Act. As part of the focus, the review highlighted the need to update legislation to formally acknowledge the key role played by the Chief of the Defence Force and the Vice Chief of Defence in the modern Australian Defence Force. In sections 8 and 9 of the Defence Act, there is a clarification that the minister has general control and administration of our Defence Force and that the command structure of the ADF is confirmed to reflect how it actually works.

It will give full command of the Australian Defence Force to the CDF by removing legislative limitations that were established back in 1903. It will recognise the Vice Chief as the deputy of the Chief of Defence and provide for the service chiefs—Chief of Army, Chief of Navy and Chief of Air Force—to be subject to the direction of the CDF.

Strengthening these key military leadership roles will enable improved coherence and effectiveness in Defence command and decision-making. Currently the Defence Act provides that, subject to the powers of the minister, the Chief of Defence commands the ADF, and the service chief of an arm of the ADF 'shall, under the CDF, command the arm of the ADF of which he or she is Service Chief', which creates a potential ambiguity, a lack of clarity that has been confirmed by legal advice. It is even hard to read. The Chief of Defence's powers may be interpreted as being subject to—and potentially constrained by—the authority of the Service Chiefs to command their respective services. This uncertainty is compounded by other provisions of the act.

Within the new part Ill—'The Australian Defence Force'—proposed section 23 more fully incorporates the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force within the Defence Act's definition of the ADF, including specific reference to their respective chiefs and permanent and reserve elements. The service and training of reserves in the Navy, Army and Air Force are set out in proposed sections 24 to 26. New 3ivision 3 of part III of the Defence Act specifically provides for calling out of ADF Reserves elements.

Proposed sections of the Defence Act provide that the Chief of the Defence Force is to direct and administer the cadets—including the wonderful cadets in my local area—and in doing so the Chief of the Defence Force must comply with any directions of the minister. Importantly, this reaffirms the understanding that neither cadets nor anyone involved in the cadet program is inherently a member of the ADF by virtue of that involvement. Consistent with this distinction, the bill provides that the Chief of the Defence Force may make determinations by legislative instrument for the payment of allowances and benefits to cadets and their families. This is different from the existing arrangement where such payments are made by ministerial determination.

So to clarify: the Chief of the Defence Force will have full command of the ADF with the removal of the legislative limitations on the CDF's command power. The Vice Chief of the Defence Force is to be recognised explicitly as the deputy of the CDF and has both command and administrative responsibilities to the ADF as directed by the CDF. The service chiefs will be explicitly subject to the direction of the Chief of the Defence Force.

Proposed section 27 incorporates into the Defence Act provisions previously in the Defence (Personnel) Regulations 2002, which state that an ADF member's service does not create a civil contract with the Crown or the Commonwealth. Essentially, members of the Defence Force are not employees. Rather, their military service once entered into is an obligation to the Crown. This has been the case for hundreds of years and it means that the status of members of the Defence Force is subject to defence law, not civil law.

As mentioned earlier, the ADF has previously advocated for more flexible working arrangements for its personnel through the Project SUAKIN reforms. This aims to support ADF personnel in maintaining their required continuous service through allowing approved part-time service for full-time personnel. The Defence Legislation Amendment (Superannuation and ADF Cover) Act 2015 provides for flexible service arrangements within the Defence Act 1903, the Air Force Act 1923 and the Naval Defence Act 1910, with effect from 1July 2016. However, with the repeal of the Air Force Act and the Naval Defence Act, this bill makes sure these flexible service arrangements apply across all three service areas.

New division 3 of part III of the Defence Act, 'Calling out the Reserves', is in effect the same as the current division 4 of part III, resulting in no changes to the call-out provisions.

The review was critical of the fact that Defence has a number of geospatial intelligence functions. It noted the administrative inefficiency of this and that a more coordinated and better resourced facility would better improve support to the ADF. To this end, the bill amends the Navigation Act 2012, to position the Australian Hydrographic Service within the Department of Defence, as opposed to the Australian Navy. It is entirely sensible to make these changes in line with the way the defence forces functions in modern Australia. It is effectively a partial catch up with current process yet also it formalises a number of aspects that bring the Australian Defence Force in line with the recommendations of the first principles review.

Currently, the Defence Act does not recognise the ADF as a single entity in its own right; rather it encourages the view that the ADF is no more than a federation of the three services. The bill provides the foundation for a more unified and integrated Australian Defence Force. It streamlines the statutory treatment of the components of the ADF in the defence legislation incorporating the substantive provisions of the Navy and Air Force in the Defence Act. These provisions include the recognition of the Regular Army and Air Force, and the Permanent Navy, together with the reserve components of each of the services, and the ability of the Governor-General to call out the ADF Reserves under certain circumstances.

The bill consolidates the statutory treatment of Defence Force cadets, making provision for the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force cadets in a new part of the Defence Act, while retaining the existing provisions in current legislation regulating the relationship between Defence Force cadets and the ADF.

In substance the bill updates the Defence Act to clarify the control and administration of Defence in line with the first principles review's first principle, which is that Defence should have 'clear authorities and accountabilities that align with resources.' In doing so it seeks to ensure that the Defence Act is brought up to date with the way that Defence is controlled and administered at present. This legislation establishes the structure to achieve stability of defence capability and with bipartisan support positions the Australian Defence Force to plan, in conjunction with the proposals in the defence white paper for sustained planning and ultimately the safety of Australia and our people.