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Wednesday, 14 October 2015
Page: 7651


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (15:37): I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Today I introduce the Defence Legislation Amendment (First Principles) Bill 2015 to amend the Defence Act 1903.

In 2013 the Government made an election commitment to deliver a First Principles Review of Defence. The report on this Review was released on 1 April 2015. The Review determined that while Defence has an outstanding operational record, it is clear that there needs to be a better balance between operational excellence and organisational effectiveness.

To achieve this better balance, the Government has begun one of the most significant reform efforts to ensure Defence delivers the capabilities we need to ensure Australia is safe and secure.

The Government engaged a number of prominent and experienced individuals to conduct the First Principles Review. The Review made 76 recommendations, 75 of which were agreed or agreed-in-principle by the Government. We are committed, and the Defence senior leadership is committed, to delivering on these recommendations.

This requires Defence to move from its current, inefficient, federated approach, into a single, integrated organisation that delivers enhanced joint capability.

A key recommendation of the Review was to 'establish a strong, strategic centre to strengthen accountability and top level decision making' in Defence. As part of the focus on the joint force, this Review highlighted the need to update legislation to formally acknowledge the key role played by the Chief of the Defence Force (the CDF) and the Vice Chief of the Defence Force (the VCDF) in the modern Australian Defence Force.

This Bill amends the Defence Act to formally recognise the authority of the CDF and the VCDF so that:

The CDF will have full command of the Australian Defence Force by removing the legislative limitations on the CDF's command power;

The VCDF will be recognised as the 'Deputy' of the CDF. This amendment will clarify that the VCDF has command responsibilities as well as administrative responsibilities in relation to the Defence Force as directed by the CDF; and

The Service Chiefs will be explicitly subject to the direction of the CDF. A legislative amendment removing their statutory authority will ensure absolute clarity of the CDF's command and authority.

This Bill seeks to make some other changes to streamline the legislative foundation of the Australian Defence Force.

In addition to strengthening the command roles of the CDF and the VCDF, the Bill also streamlines the statutory treatment of the components of the Australian Defence Force in the Defence legislation, repealing the Naval Defence Act 1910 and the Air Force Act 1923, incorporating the substantive provisions of these Acts in the Defence Act 1903.

These provisions include the recognition of the Regular Army, the Permanent 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 Australian Defence Force Reserves under certain circumstances. These circumstances include: wartime; peacekeeping operations; support to community activities of national or international significance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Finally, the Bill also 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. The Bill also modernises the existing provisions to ensure the relationship between Defence Force Cadets and the Defence community is interlinked. The Bill also makes it clear that the Defence Force Cadets are a volunteer, community based youth development organisation. These provisions include the stipulation that cadets, and their instructors and officers, are volunteers and not members of the Australian Defence Force, not officials for the purpose of the Public Governance and Performance Act 2014 and are administered by the CDF.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.