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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 3566

Mr Hamer asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:

(1)   Is he ex-officio Chairman of the Military Board.

(2)   If so, (a) how many meetings of the Board have been held since 2 December 1972 and (b) how many of these meetings has he chaired.

Mr Barnard - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Australian Military Regulations and Orders provide that the Minister is President of the Military Board.

(2)   I am informed that for the period 2 December 1972 to 2 November 1973 inclusive, the Military Board has met on thirty-one occasions.

As a deliberate decision, I have attended no meetings of the Military Board. The reason for this should be plain from my public statement of 19 December last year. In summary, that statement made it clear that consistent with the Governments' policy of developing integrated defence management, the Department of Defence would exercise greater authority and control over the execution of defence policy and the attainment of defence objectives. Further, the Secretary of the Department would be the principal adviser to the Minister for Defence on policy, resources and organisation and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee would be the Minis ter's principal military adviser. So it obviously follows that were I as Minister for the Army, for so long as that portfolio exists, to preside over meetings of the Military Board and thereby associate myself with its deliberations, I would find myself in the incongruous position of taking decisions, as Minister for Defence, on those deliberations when they involved matters that are subject to advice to me from the Secretary to my Department or the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

My decision not to attend meetings of the Military Board has not in any way impeded consultation between myself and the Chiefs of Staff both collectively and individually and between myself and other members of the Service Boards.

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