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Tuesday, 14 December 1993
Page: 4595

(Question No. 769)


Senator Newman asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 9 November 1993:

  With reference to the answer to question on notice no 232 (Senate Hansard, 1 September 1993, page 841) concerning the integration of the health staffs of the Headquarters of the Australian Defence Force and the Service Offices, and particularly on the issue of not allowing health professionals, other than doctors, to compete for three of the four most senior positions in the new organisations:

  (1) Did the Chiefs of Staff Committee agree that positions in the new organisation were to be available to all health professionals on a best candidate for the job basis.

  (2) If the responsibilities of the positions involved require broad military and health service experience, why is it that dentists, nurses and other health professionals who have this experience and who have excelled in their military careers, are unable to compete for three of the four most senior positions.

  (3) Is the practice of not allowing health professionals other than doctors to compete for these positions consistent with the practice in other Commonwealth and State health authorities in filling SES band one and two positions with responsibility for health policy formulation and health service management.

  (4) Does the Minister agree with the advice he has received on this issue.


Senator Robert Ray —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) The Chiefs of Staff Committee agreed that all positions not clearly requiring medical, dental or nursing qualifications were to be available to all health service professionals or general list officers.

  (2) The responsibilities of the Surgeon General and two of his Directors General are predominantly medical in nature necessitating medical qualifications as a prerequisite in addition to broad military and health service experience. The responsibilities of the third Director General are such that the position is available to both medical and other health professionals. All three Directors General have Service-specific responsibilities and are selected by their respective Service in accordance with Service prerequisites.

  (3) As indicated in my answer to question on notice no 232, this arrangement is entirely in keeping with modern military medical practice. The health services in the Australian Defence Force provide a service not available from the civilian sector: a field service in support of military operations. At the most senior levels of health management, the task is to situate the provision of health services in the military context. This involves the provision of health advice and the development of health policy with an appreciation of the impact that such advice and policy will have on the provision of military health services to meet military operational needs. Considerable military experience is necessary and, as the advice requested and the policies generated are predominantly of a medical nature, the Service medical officer stream is the best placed to provide candidates for these positions. Under the circumstances it is not valid to compare the unique military requirement with the practice in other Commonwealth and State health authorities when filling SES band one and two positions. The incumbents of these positions generally have the responsibility for health policy formulation and health service management only; they do not have any equivalent to the Service responsibility to provide medical advice to a Chief of Staff, to enable him to discharge his command responsibilities.

  (4) Yes.