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Wednesday, 5 March 1980
Page: 560

Senator HAMER (Victoria) - It is an unusual role for me to be defending the Department of Defence. But I am delighted to be able to perform that role on this occasion. The matter of public importance proposed by the Opposition and the way in which its members have argued so far shows the most extraordinary confusion of thought. Senator Button, for instance, appeared to think that our armed forces, including apparently the Royal Australian Navy, should have been intervening in Afganistan. Quite apart from that, the words of the matter of public importance reveal the confusion of thought of honourable senators opposite. It reads:

The Government's decision to proceed with the building of Casey Military Academy.

That wording is wrong on two accounts. Firstly, the Academy is not called the 'Casey Military Academy'. Its proper name is Casey UniversityAustralian Defence Force Academy. Apart from that, the confusion of thought is revealed by the fact that the Royal Military College at Duntroon will be replaced by a tri-service academy. This will not be a military academy. It will be an armed forces academy. The distinction is fundamental and goes right to the root, I think, of the confusion of thought of members of the Opposition. This concept has been approved five times by governments including, on one occasion, by the Australian Labor Party Government- what Senator Melzer rather interestingly and accurately described as the dreadful Whitlam Government. It is interesting that it has been approved by all the Ministers for Defence, including the Labor Party Minister for Defence, who have had the opportunity to study the problem. When they had studied the problem they came to the conclusion that the Academy was the correct solution. The establishment of the academy has been endorsed by the Chief of Defence Force Staff and by the three service heads. It was reaffirmed by them after they studied the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.

In view of the confusion that is occurring, I think it might be helpful if I said something about the way in which officers are trained at present. Senator Melzer asked: What about the 70 per cent who do not go to the Defence Force Academy? In all the Services there are four main sources of officers. At present about 30 per cent of the officer corps is produced by the three separate service colleges, Duntroon, Point Cook and Jervis Bay. Where are the remaining 70 per cent? Who are they? They fall into three categories. Firstly, there are the direct entry officers, mostly university graduates. They would mainly be doctors and dentists. There are some other specialists. That is one category. They obviously do not require academic training at the Defence Force Academy. The second category is the short service commission officers who come in for a period of seven or nine years. They have limited careers carrying out special jobs in their own Services. They require neither common training nor academic training. They require specialist training for a limited role in their own Services.

Senator Mulvihill - Could lower-deck personnel come up through that category?

Senator HAMER - I am just coming to that matter, Senator Mulvihill. The final category is that of officers who are promoted from the ranks. They tend to be rather older, and, again, they are performing specialist roles in their own Services. They do not require academic training. I am not talking about that 70 per cent. We are talking about the 30 per cent who at present go through the three separate colleges and from whom all, or very nearly all, of the senior officers in the three Services will come. What is the system of training these officers? The Navy has a Naval

College at Jervis Bay. The officers do a degree course. They do one year at Jervis Bay and then they go to the University of New South Wales. This is generally regarded- a point I will come to in a moment- as an unsatisfactory division. The Navy would much prefer the officers to be trained together all the time.

In the case of the Royal Australian Air Force, the general duties officers, the air crew, the pilots and the observers go to Point Cook. Then they are trained at Melbourne University. That is only one part of the Air Force. The engineers, the technical people, are trained at a separate establishment in Melbourne; they go to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The supply officers go to the Darling Downs College of Advanced Education in Queensland. It is a very unsatisfactory system to have officers separated at the beginning and trained in three separate, distant establishments. The Army, at Duntroon, has the only service college capable of supporting its own tertiary education on campus. A branch of the University of New South Wales is on campus at Duntroon. But, for the very small numbers involved, it is wildly expensive. At the moment, there are 200 staff members for 60 graduates a year; I repeat that there are 200 staff members for 60 graduates. That is absurdly uneconomic on the scale operating at Duntroon at the moment. The cost at the moment is $41,000 per cadet per year. This is absurdly extravagant because the establishments conducting tertiary education are too small to be economic.

As far as I can follow the debate so far, I think it is common ground that officers in the Services need tertiary education. I emphasise again that I am talking about the 30 per cent who are career officers from whom the senior ranking officers will emerge. They do need tertiary education. The Services submit- I have heard no dispute of it- that they need some officers trained in the sciences, some in engineering and some in the arts. If we put all these officers together- I would like to make it quite clear that I am not talking about unification of the Services which the Canadians have done- they would still remain in their separate Services. I am talking about whether it would be economic and beneficial to give all these officers their tertiary training together. Of course, they would have to return to their own separate service and their specialist service training, where they would link up with the people doing short service training who only have that specialist training. This academic training is additional.

The question is- as I think we all agree it is necessary to provide it- what is the best way to provide this training? Well, I suppose we could continue as we are at the moment though there is no doubt at all that very substantial rebuilding would have to be done. Senator Melzer mentioned the necessary rebuilding of Jervis Bay. We would have to do something about the Air Force. We cannot continue having three groups of officers training separately. This is most damaging to unity of purpose. We must bring them together. If we were to do this, if we continued roughly as we are with three separate service colleges but did the necessary rebuilding, updating and centralising where necessary, the cost in December 1979 prices would be about $28m. This can be compared with the cost of the Defence Force academy, in the prices of the same period, of about $60m. But we must remember one point. If we are to have three separate Services, which by the nature of their size are bound to be uneconomic, we are talking about costs additional to the cost of having a single Defence Force academy of $5m to $6m a year for running the same facilities in three separate places. I think this would be a very unsatisfactory result.

I think the Government is right in deciding to go ahead with the Academy. Nevertheless, it is no light matter not to accept the report of a committee with such prestige as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works which made a prolonged study of the problem. Admittedly, the Committee is only an advisory body and the Government is entitled to take advice from where it sees fit. It may have other information that the Public Works Committee may not have fully comprehended. Nevertheless, we should look closely at why the Public Works Committee recommended what it did. I would like to make it quite clear, in case Senator Melzer misunderstands me, that I have no dispute that what the Public Works Committee recommended was clearly within its charter under the Public Works Committee Act. It was perfectly entitled to report on the desirability of the academy. I do not think that its members would claim to have any special expertise in the areas of defence in particular or of education secondarily. Some of its members do, but as a Committee it does not.

To some extent I think the members of the Committee were over-persuaded by romantics, that is by people who came before them and who had been to separate service colleges. One can see this in situations where old schools have tried to combine. All the graduates of those schools always say: 'Do not combine them. Leave them separate'. They take the approach: 'Look at me,

I am a very good officer. I went to a separate service college. Therefore, separate colleges should continue'. One should not attach too much weight to this romantic view put forward by retired people. Certainly in some ways it should be taken into account, but the Public Works Committee seems to have been over-persuaded by this type of evidence.

I wish to refer now to the Committee's key conclusions and recommendations. The first recommendation that should be considered states:

1.   Service motivation can be more effectively developed and maintained within the discipline of a single service.

We do not want service motivation; what we want in this country is defence force motivation. Any conceivable operations will be conducted not by a single service but by two or three services. The concept we must have in this country is not that there will be a navy fighting one battle, an army fighting another and an air force fighting a third. The defence forces must co-operate and common training for senior officers would go a very long way toward achieving that. The second recommendation to which I wish to refer states:

2.   The Committee rejects the view that association at cadet level will significantly foster inter-service co-operation and understanding. This objective can be more effectively fostered at a more senior level.

From my service experience, I totally disagree with that. I understand that each of the service chiefs also totally disagrees with it. Of course, they should have more expertise. The next recommendation reads:

3.   Each service has differing requirements and tri-service arrangements can lead to unsatisfactory compromises.

Of course, such arrangements can lead to unsatisfactory compromises but there is no reason why they should. We are talking about having a defence force academy carrying out academic training under service discipline, but individual service training would still be done in each of the service colleges and under individual service arrangements. I do not think that in any sense that is an unsatisfactory compromise. A further conclusion reads:

4.   The Committee believes that each service should be free to determine its own method of educating officers and there should not be an enforced uniformity of education.

In talking about tertiary education, one has to look for economies of scale. The Services would probably like to have separate education systems if they were economic, but there is no way in which the Navy, the Air Force or the Army separately can run tertiary establishments with any degree of economy. Based on those arguments, all of which I think are fallacious, the Committee concluded that it was not expedient to proceed with the construction of the proposed work. I think that the Committee is clearly wrong. I do not doubt its sincerity; I just think that it reached the wrong conclusions. I think that the establishment of a single defence force academy to give tertiary training to all of the officers is the only economic and sensible solution to the problem of armed service officer training.

The name 'Casey University' is not important although it seems to be a bugbear to some people. Personally, I would like to see the name Casey University' dropped, and the institution called the 'Australian Defence Force Academy'. Apparently the name 'Casey University' was not suggested by the Services nor was any name suggested by the Services. The name 'Casey University' was arranged by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales and the Secretary to the Department of Defence. The name is not a service requirement, and I am sure that no servicemen would be worried if the name Casey University' were dropped. It seems to be a sticking point to some people. Let us call it 'Defence Force Academy'. Its degrees will establish their own place. The Annapolis Naval Academy is not called a university but its engineering degrees are among the most highly regarded engineering degrees in the United States. If Australia has an academy giving degrees, as clearly it should, then they will find their own places in the market place. It does not have to be called a university to achieve that. Insofar as it is a sticking point, let us drop that name.

One further creative thing that the defence force academy can do and that cannot be achieved in any other way is run postgraduate courses for both service officers and civilians to look at particular Australian defence problems. This is not satisfactorily carried out in this country at the moment. A defence force academy could and should perform that role. For the benefit of Senator Melzer, I must tell her that provision has been made in the plans of the defence force academy for women officers to attend. I repeat that I think that this answer is the right one. It has been a very difficult decision for the Government. I understand the position of those members of the Public Works Committee who recommended a different answer but it is the responsibility of the Government to weigh all factors, including the views of the Public Works Committee, and make decisions. In this case, I am sure the Government has made the correct one.

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