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Transcript of joint press conference: Canberra: 1 June 2011

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Transcript of joint press conference, Canberra WED 01 JUNE 2011

Prime Minister

PM: Thank you very much.

I’m very pleased to be here today with the Minister for Defence and with his team, his ministerial team, including Ministers Snowdon and Clare and Parliamentary Secretary David Feeney, for us to announce the new command arrangements for the Australian Defence Force.

As is well known, the appointments of the Chief of Defence, Angus Houston, and Vice-Chief and the three Service Chiefs all expire in the coming weeks. I wanted to ensure that we had a transition process which was orderly and that the incoming holders of those officers would be in a position to work alongside their counterparts before formerly taking on those roles.

So, in the interests of a smooth transition in leadership, we are announcing the new office holders today.

I'm very conscious that these changes in command come at a very testing time for the Australian Defence Force, a time of sorrow and loss, and a testing time for our mission in Afghanistan.

I'm absolutely confident the new leadership team will meet these challenges with the same professionalism and the same determination that has been demonstrated so strongly by their predecessors.

The following appointments to take effect from 4 July will be recommended to the Governor-General in Council.

First, Lieutenant General David Hurley to be appointed as the new Chief of the Defence Force.

Air Marshal Mark Binskin to be the new Vice Chief of the Defence Force.

Rear Admiral Ray Griggs to be the Chief of Navy.

Major General David Morrison to be the Chief of Army and Air Vice-Marshal Geoff Brown to be the Chief of the Air Force.

General Hurley is currently the Vice Chief of the Defence Force. He is going to bring a wealth of experience to his new position as Chief. He has held several senior command positions within the ADF, including as Land Commander Australia, Chief of the Capability and Development Group and Chief of Operations.

Air Marshal Mark Binskin is currently the Chief of the Air Force. He has extensive operational command experience, having served as the Chief of Staff at headquarters, Australian theatre, in 2003, and then as director of Combined Air and Space Operations Center, the centre that was responsible for the conduct of coalition air operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Rear Admiral Ray Griggs is currently the Deputy Chief of Joint Operations. He has broad seagoing and operational experience. He commanded the Anzac Class frigate Arunta on operations in the Middle East and the Australian Amphibious Task Group. He also has extensive capability management and development experience, and held a senior position in the Defence Strategic Reform Program.

Major General David Morrison is currently serving as Army's forces commander. He has wide-ranging command experience, having served as the head of military strategic commitments and Deputy Chief of the Army. In that position, he led the review into Army's command and control structure, which resulted in reform initiatives to ensure Army is able to sustain its current and future operational tempo.

Air Vice-Marshal Geoff Brown is currently the Deputy Chief of Air Force. He's got extensive flying experience on almost everything: helicopters and F-111s amongst them.

Air Vice-Marshal Brown has commanded at all levels of the Air Force, including as the commander of the Air Combat Group. During Australia's 2003 contribution to the war in Iraq, he commanded the F/A-18 and C-130 operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I want to offer my warmest congratulations to General Hurley and to his team. I am looking forward to working very closely with them on the challenging agenda that lies in front of us, an agenda that includes war fighting operations and peace operations, an ambitious capability

development program, Defence's Strategic Reform Program, and the vital and ongoing task of nurturing what is the most important asset of the ADF - and that's its people.

Finally, I'd like to say a few things about the outgoing team, first and foremost about Angus Houston. We are going to have a number of occasions to mark Angus's remarkable service to the Australian nation. I've been joking that we will refer to it as the Festival of Angus. The Festival of Angus will be starting very, very soon.

Angus Houston, I think, is well known to the Australian nation. He's well known because of his remarkable record of service to it.

He was appointed Chief of the Defence Force on 4 July 2005. He is the second-longest serving Chief of the Defence Force, and I believe he could have claimed that record by

serving a mere further 13 days. And he is only the third RAAF officer to reach the four-star rank of Air Chief Marshal.

In his six-year tenure as CDF, he has led our people during a period of sustained operational tempo, the most intense since the Vietnam War.

He was there when we recommenced our operations in Afghanistan in September 2005, and when we expanded our early operations to include the training work we are now doing with the Afghan 4th Brigade. He was there to oversee the deployments in Iraq and to East Timor and the Solomons. He's been there to support our border security operations. He was there to do the security necessary for the Commonwealth Games, to oversee the consular evacuations from Lebanon. He's been there to lead his people as they've helped Australians through natural disasters: Cyclone Larry, the Victorian bushfires and, most recently, our summer of devastation, particularly in Queensland.

He became known to the Australian people when I think his name became synonymous with honesty in the service of our nation. He is now even better known to Australians as a man of courage and compassion, and I really want to congratulate him for his service to the nation and I'm looking forward to the Festival of Angus.

I do want to thank both him and his wife, Liz. Every success as they move on to the next stages of their life, and I've enjoyed spending some personal time with them, as well as the professional time that we've spent together.

I would also like to thank Vice Admiral Russ Crane and Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie for their service to the nation.

Vice Admiral Crane will retire as Chief of Navy on 7 June after 40 amazing years of service to the navy.

Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie will retire as the Chief of the Army in July after 43 years in the Australian Army. He too has had a truly remarkable career.

They have held those jobs and performed their service to the nation with commitment and with an absolute devotion to duty. We honour them for that and we wish them well in the next stage of their lives.

I'll turn now to some comments from the Minister for Defence.

MINISTER SMITH: Well, thank you, Prime Minister.

Firstly, I'm very pleased to join the Prime Minister today to present the new Defence leadership team, the next generation of Defence leadership over the forthcoming three years.

They are big jobs. They carry with them heavy burdens and heavy responsibilities as we, together, work to protect and defend and enhance Australia's national security interests.

But can I firstly, as the Prime Minister has done, pay respect and regard to the work which the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston has done over the last six years.

He has faithfully and effectively served five ministers for Defence. He was respected and held in high regard by the Australian community before he became Chief of the Defence Force and that regard and respect has only enhanced, and Angus will be a big loss.

And as the Prime Minister has said, at the appropriate time and the appropriate occasions, full respect and honour will be paid to not just his six years as Chief of the Defence Force, but for his very lengthy career in the Air Force itself.

Can I also acknowledge and pay tribute to the contribution of Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie, a 43-year career in the Army and the Defence Force, and at his most senior positions at a time of very difficult and high tempo for the Australian Army and for the Defence Force, and he has been of great assistance to me and the ministerial team since we came to office, or came to our respective portfolios.

He has a most distinguished career, and his contribution also will be acknowledged for the credit that it brings to him and the credit that it has bought to the Australian Army and the Defence Force.

Can I also acknowledge the contribution of Russ Crane as Chief of Navy. Russ Crane has had over the last three years a very difficult job and a series of important challenges which he has to his great credit fronted up to and addressed. Whether that has been difficulties in our

amphibious fleet, or cultural difficulties, he has not shirked the problems, and he deserves great credit for that.

Russ has asked me if he can retire on 7 June, slightly earlier, but that is his Navy service birthday - 40 years of contribution - and so from that earlier date, the new Chief of Navy will act in Russ's position.

Can I congratulate Lieutenant-General, soon to be General David Hurley on his appointment, and congratulate the team members. We met last night. I had a cup of coffee. They had a beer. But the Prime Minister and I and the portfolio ministers are very, very pleased with the

new team.

We will hit the ground running. Lieutenant-General Hurley will accompany me to Singapore on the weekend for the Shangri-La Dialogue, an important meeting of Defence ministers and Defence chiefs of staff throughout our region, and later next week in Brussels we will have another NATO/ ISAF Defence Ministers' Meeting. General Hurley will accompany me on that.

General Hurley is a most appropriate appointment as Chief of the Defence Force, and he has a long and distinguished career. Most importantly he is very thoughtful about the challenges for the future.

In my view, the work that I have done with him, he is a man of decency and integrity, and I'm looking very much forward to working very closely with General Hurley over the forthcoming period.

Can I also congratulate his team. I have worked with them over the last six months and have a great deal of confidence in them to address the significant challenges that we have.

These appointments and announcements, given the events of this week, are made in difficult times. They are made in difficult times which underlines the seriousness and the responsibility of these jobs.

The men who have been appointed today have the responsibility of putting our men and women into the field in danger in the course and in the pursuit of our national interest. They have the job of ensuring their training and their equipment, and at a time of significant

operational tempo, our mission in Afghanistan, our stabilisation and peacekeeping roles in East Timor and in the Solomon Islands, this is a significant contribution that we make for a country of 23 million people - but the responsibility and the burden is great.

There are some significant challenges ahead for us. I've referred to Afghanistan which speaks for itself, given the events of this week, but we continue to have significant challenges so far as accountability is concerned, both personal, and institutional accountability in Defence. We have significant capability and acquisition challenges, and we have significant Budget challenges through the 2009 White Paper, through our Strategic Reform Program, and our Force 2030.

One of the significant attributes that Lieutenant-General Hurley will bring is his previous experience as chief of the Capability Development Group, and if you speak to people in the system universally regard that as the best head of the Capability Development Group that we've had. That will be of considerable assistance as we face these challenges.

There are also new and emerging challenges and I cite but one example, and this will challenge Defence and challenge our nation as it does others, but new and emerging national security issues like cyber and cyber security will challenge us.

So we see what we regard as traditional challenges, military enforcement, combat, accountability, and Budget and capability challenges, but there are also new and emerging ones, and cyber is perhaps the best example.

The Prime Minister and I have every confidence that our new team is up to that challenge.

I'd like to ask General Hurley to make some remarks and then the Prime Minister and I and General Hurley are happy to respond to your journalists.

GENERAL HURLEY: Prime Minister and Minister, thank you very much for those kind words.

This announcement today in the shadow of the news of the death of three of our officers and soldiers in Afghanistan will serve as a powerful and constant reminder to this new leadership team of the enormous responsibilities that are being transferred to us.

We acknowledge our responsibilities to the Government, the Parliament and the people of Australia, but we are keenly aware that this can only be achieved through the commitment of the service men and women and their families that we will have the honour to lead. Our job is to lead these wonderful Australians, and to ensure that their service is valued and respected.

In that vein, on behalf of Mark, Ray, David and Geoff, I thank our wives and our families for their support over many years, and for their forbearance for the next three years. I also thank

the Prime Minister and Minister for their confidence in us and for the great honour that they have given us, appointing us the leaders of the ADF.

We also look forward to working alongside the secretary, Dr Ian Watt, and continuing the strong, integrated approach to Defence leadership.

Today also marks the beginning of the final period of service for the CDF, as you have heard, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston; for Ken Gillespie, the Chief of the Army; and for Russ Crane, the Chief of the Navy. They have not only been great leaders of the ADF in their respective services, but great mates through good and bad times. I thank them and their

families for their hard work, their commitment, and their selfless service to Australia. They'll be a hard act for us to follow.

Thank you.

PM: So we're very happy to take questions on the announcement today and on Defence matters. For other issues of the day we'll take them a bit later, provided we don't freeze to death in the meantime.

Anybody got a question?

Yes, Dennis.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, yourself and the Minister have mentioned new challenges. Is there any consideration, now that you have a new team, new challenges, to reviewing the 2009 White Paper?

PM: Well, I'll get to the Minister to answer that.

MINISTER SMITH: Well, as you know the White Paper was released in April 2009. The White Paper itself has an effective inbuilt review mechanism, it's called the Defence planning guidelines. There was no need to publish or to consider Defence planning guidelines in 2010 less than a year after the publication of the White Paper.

We are currently, as one of our projects, working very carefully through what we describe as our 2011 Defence planning guidelines, and any adjustments that we need to make as a result of changed strategic circumstances will be announced in due course as a result of the standard

Defence planning guidelines consideration.

I wouldn't expect that to occur before the end of this year.

JOURNALIST: One of your existing challenges has been to handle the fall out of the Skype affair. Do you have any detail about when you think that inquiry into the affair will be finalised, and hence when will we get some clarification on the future of the head of ADFA?

MINISTER SMITH: Well, a number of responses.

Firstly, Mr Kirkham's inquiry is ongoing with this caveat - getting towards the end of his inquiry, Mr Kirkham wanted to interview the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Hurley, who is responsible in a command sense for Commandant Kafer. As a

consequence of that and so as to avoid any possible perception of conflict of interest, Lieutenant-General Hurley, as Vice Chief of the Defence Force, transferred responsibility for the inquiry to the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshall Binskin, and the detail of that is being


We are awaiting Mr Kirkham QC's report on all of the aspects of the so-called Skype affair. In the meantime, as you would be aware, two cadets have been charged with offences, and those matters are before the courts.

In the meantime Commandant Kafer is doing other duties, reporting to the Chief of the Australian Defence Academy, and he will continue in that role until Mr Kirkham's inquiry has been received and decisions made as a consequence of that.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) not ask when,what his timetable might be?

MINISTER SMITH: Well, I'm not proposing to seek to impose a timetable on Mr Kirkham. He is a well-regarded QC. He is diligently doing his work and I'm leaving him to it.

JOURNALIST: A question for Lieutenant-General Hurley. What's your reading of the situation in Afghanistan, as far as the timetable for Australia's withdrawal from that?

GENERAL HURLEY: Thank you. I think you'd be well aware of the Government's position, public position on the transition time frame in Afghanistan and the Prime Minister's own words about our continuing commitment to Afghanistan post 2014. We're in sync with what NATO ISAF are planning to do and all our campaign planning is done along those lines.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident we're making progress there?

GENERAL HURLEY: I certainly am and I think you've heard the CDF comment on that publicly recently.

JOURNALIST: Do you think General, your Minister has in recent months had some very public criticisms of the quality of advice and sometimes decision making in the senior levels, if not the top brass and leadership team of Defence. What assurances can you give him that anything will change or improve and has he asked you for such assurances on appointment?

GENERAL HURLEY: Well I think robust interaction between the Department and the Minister is something you would expect from us. We're asked to give frank and fearless advice. We do. I don't think that at times it should be taken as dissent or some sort of war between the Minister and the generals. We're doing our job and we will continue to do so.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there's a report today that a Pakistani journalist who's been found dead after publishing a report that there were links between the Pakistani military and al-Qaeda. He had allegedly told friends and colleagues that he'd been threatened by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence. Can I ask what your response to that is and whether you have confidence that those links between the Pakistani military and al-Qaeda are being broken?

PM: Well, I'm not going to comment in detail on an individual case where it's impossible for me to independently know all of the facts, but just dealing with it from the point of view of

first principles, of course we support press freedom around the world as an inherent check and balance in democracies and anything that stops press freedom, particularly the intimidation of acts of violence against journalists is obviously abhorrent.

Second, as you would have heard me say in the past, we are engaged with Pakistan on counterterrorism matters. We believe the best path forward is to continue that engagement and we will be continuing that engagement. We are involved in training and other work to assist Pakistan and we believe that that is important to continue.

You are right as you have in the past Karen to point to the importance of what's happening in Pakistan and the importance of what's happening there to our mission in Afghanistan. We're very, very conscious of that and we are on a strategy to stay engaged on counterterrorism questions.

JOURNALIST: Your response to reports that the Taliban are claiming that the ANA soldier who shot our soldier yesterday or day before yesterday was an insurgent and a sleeper within the ANA ranks?

PM: Well, I'll get the Minister to comment too, but the Taliban are very canny purveyors of propaganda. We've seen that before and we'll see it again. So, you would expect them to be trying to make the most they can out of this incident in their cause and in the cause of the insurgency that they represent.

For the actual details of the incident we are going to investigate them fully. That's already underway and when we can give people full details then we will, but I'm not surprised that the Taliban is engaged in its cheap and very destructive propaganda.

MINISTER SMITH: Thank you Prime Minister. I think it falls into the category of ‘they would say that, wouldn't they.’

I've made and been at pains to make two points in recent week and months. Firstly, that we know we've made progress in terms of gaining ground in Oruzgan province but we've always known that as the northern summer fighting season commenced that the Taliban would seek

to recover ground and that we had to steel ourselves for fatalities and casualties and terribly that has occurred.

Secondly, because we have made progress and taken ground and held that ground, we've also known that the Taliban, strategically, would look to high-profile instances to try and influence the views of the domestic constituencies of the international security systems force,

nations including our own. So we've seen a number of high-profile propaganda efforts and attacks: attacks on the defence ministry in Kabul; assassination of a number of police commissioners to seek to undermine the political resolve so far as the Afghanistan effort is concerned.

So far as the terrible incident yesterday is concerned or the day before is concerned, I've made some remarks earlier today. We now have a slight variation to the facts which I've already put on the public record. I won't detail those unless people need or want to, but what we don't have at this stage an advance of an exhaustive investigation is what motivation there was so far as the individual Afghan National Army soldier was concerned. He'd been

undergoing training for three or four months. He'd been with the 4th Brigade in Oruzgan for a month.

We don't know what the motivation was, but as I've said yesterday and today this is a jolt and a shock to our system but in the aftermath of that our resolve remains firm and the professionalism of our people on the ground in Oruzgan will naturally take over.

This incident also needs to be put within its proper perspective, which is we're currently training, as we speak, 3,500 thousand Afghan National Army member of the 4th Brigade and the entire Afghan National Security Force compliment in Afghanistan itself is close to 300,000.

This is a terrible incident. For us it has been the first one. There have been a handful, but if and when they occur in the future you would expect the Taliban and the insurgency to make the most of them in a propaganda sense irrespective of the actual facts.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) given there have been a handful of these cases, how concerned are you about the potential for the Taliban to infiltrate Australian and other coalition forces? Is enough being done on the background checks?

And secondly, President Karzai has again expressed concern over the civilian deaths. How worried are you about that and are enough safeguards in place?


In relation to the recruitment process, the screening processes, the NTMA, which is the body that organises recruiting process in Afghanistan does, as we’ve mentioned before, biometric recording, recruiting and a screening process. We receive them through that process into the brigade in Afghanistan. We have processes in place to protect our people. Obviously as one of the repercussions of yesterday's event is they're being thoroughly reviewed now and I daresay enhanced after discussions between the Chief of Defence Force and the Chief of Joint Operations this morning. We won't go into the details of that for obvious reasons.

These sorts of events, you know, send messages right up through the chain of command for people to be looking at each of those steps again to ensure our people can be safe as they can be, but we won't be able to prevent all this in the future. I mean, 400,000 people, the Taliban are an active enemy and we've got to deal with this warts and all.

In relation to civil casualties we've said in the past as well that we're with one with the Afghan Government, that these are real tragedies and we try everything we can to avoid them, a lot of procedures, filters in place, steps in place that people must go through to avoid these, and we share with the Afghan people in just mourning the loss of those lives. It's certainly not our intention. We're there to help them.

PM: We'll go here and then here and then come across. Yes?

JOURNALIST: I'm just wondering about in Mashal itself, in this base where this took place, has there been any approach from the Afghan soldiers, the officers there, anything to indicate what their demeanour is in the aftermath of this tragic event? What they've been saying to

their Australian colleagues?

GENERAL HURLEY: Look, certainly to our knowledge and what we've had reported the people there, the Afghan National Army leadership in Oruzgan province has been just as jolted as we have by this event. They have vigorously commented about the lack of support that this might say to us that they're going to give us. They've really recommitted themselves to us and they've put their troops out in the field straight away to try and hunt down this person. We haven't been controlling that operation. They've taken it on themselves. I think they realise how important it is to the relationship that they catch this person and bring him to justice.

JOURNALIST: An update on the search for the rouge Afghan soldier?

MINISTER SMITH: As General Hurley has just said there's an operation underway by the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan to seek to capture him. In addition to the local remarks or comments that General Hurley has relayed to you, you'd of course be aware of the comments of Brigadier General Kahn, the commander of the 4th Brigade in Oruzgan province absolutely condemning that which occurred and obviously in general partnership terms we're giving the Afghan National Army every assistance as they seek to capture the Afghan National Army officer who committed this atrocity.

JOURNALIST: Are you satisfied in Afghanistan with our force mix there, with our numbers of troops and the equipment they have? There were rumblings a few months back about extra artillery. Someone suggested tanks. There was talk of extra helicopters. Are you happy with what they have and how many there are in the mix, in the mix of the forces?

GENERAL HURLEY: For the task we have at hand at the present time, which is the training of the ANA 4th Brigade, we are quite appropriately postured and supported in relation to that both from our own Australian resources and from the US and other NATO and ISAF enabling capabilities that are there.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Mr Smith, the Air Warfare Destroyer contracts are showing some early signs of blowing out or having some problems, delays and so forth. Have you sought assurances from your new team that that will monitored closely and can you give Australians an assurance that this won't go the way of some other Defence contracts in the past and won't

become an ongoing sort of series of delays and blowouts?

MINISTER SMITH: The Minister for Defence Materiel and I, the Secretary of the Department, the Chief of Navy and the CEO of the Defence Materiel Organisation have been working very assiduously at this issue since February-March of this year.

You may recall that in March of this year I went to the United Kingdom on other matters. I took the opportunity there of visiting BAE in the United Kingdom to impress upon them the importance of the project to Australia, both the Air Warfare Destroyer project but also the landing helicopter docks project in respect of which they are working on both, and I did that because it was clear at that time that the work that BAE was doing on both jobs was causing stress in their Melbourne shipyards.

Last week I made an announcement, which was essentially agreed between all the parties, to reallocate a range of blocks away from the Melbourne workshops to either Newcastle, to Adelaide and five blocks to Navantia in Spain.

On our estimation that has reduced the prospective delay from two years to 12 months. No-one is under any illusions, no-one in the air warfare destroyer alliance, none of the private companies concerned, no-one is under any illusions as to the seriousness and importance which the Government places on this project, and the action that I took last week reflected a number of months of work and the new Chief of Navy, the new Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary and I, and Minister Clare, will be absolutely assiduous in bringing this project to a successful conclusion.

PM: I'll just go to Andrew and then to David.

JOURNALIST: Minister and perhaps Lieutenant General Hurley, just on the biometric testing which is obviously looking to identify people, of the people who have been recruited into the ANA, have any of those people who were rejected, were they rejected because of the

biometric testing that identified them as possible insurgents, given that you do the same sort of testing for the detainees who are brought in to Tarin Kowt?

MINISTER SMITH: Well, I'll give you an answer then I'll ask General Hurley to add.

The point we've been making about the biometric testing is that we have biometric testing and therefore an identification of the ANA soldier who committed this atrocity. What that discounts is that this was, if you like, a last-minute infiltrator or imposter. We're not in a position to take it any further than that in terms of the motivation of the individual concerned, but I'll ask General Hurley to add on the detail.

GENERAL HURLEY: Just in relation to the biometric testing, obviously it gives us a means to track people who are in the ANA and when they move around the countryside. If we have had detainees who have been released in previous activities for a lack of evidence and so forth, they're biometrically checked. We keep matching databases, so it's one way for us to keep track of movement of people in and out of the ANA.

JOURNALIST: Have there been any exclusions?

GENERAL HURLEY: I'm not aware of any. I don't have that level of data.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask a question of the outgoing CDF? I'm not sure if we'll get another chance before you finish up. Just if you could reflect on-

PM: I’m sure you’ll get an invitation to the Festival of Angus.

JOURNALIST: Just asking if you could reflect on the highs and lows of the last six years and whether you've got any advice for your successor?

AIR CHIEF MARSHAL HOUSTON: That's a very big question, David, but let me say that I think we've got a great team to carry the leadership of the ADF forward. I have immense confidence in this team.

In terms of the highs, well, it's all about the people of the ADF. We have a wonderful Defence Force. Okay, we're not perfect, but the vast majority of people out there act with great generosity of spirit in everything that they do, and you've heard the Prime Minister mention the operations. 58 operations, 69,000 people deployed, and every time I've gone out

there and visited them, our people have uplifted me. They really have. And I think they perform superbly. It's been a story of success, what we've done on operations.

The low points: when we've lost people, and clearly what's happened the last couple of days and, indeed, last week, and all the other occasions, when we've brought brave, courageous people home after they've been killed on operations, most normally in Afghanistan, that's the low point.

Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Just regarding the ANA soldier, what will happen if he's captured? Will he be handed over to the Australians? If not, do you have faith in the Afghan legal system or the court martial system in Afghanistan?

MINISTER SMITH: It's always wise in these things to take it step by step. If he is captured he'll be dealt with in accordance with Afghan law.

PM: We'll just let Brendan have one, just because I'm soft of heart.

JOURNALIST: Angus, when you took over the job six years ago you set a number of priorities, but this followed the Senate inquiry into issues of bastardisation and military justice. You basically set as a goal sorting out a lot of these problems.

Now, how do you feel that that process has gone and how do you feel about the standard of the quality of people in the Defence Force at the moment and the impression that's been created recently that there's a high level of wrong attitudes towards women, and basically serious sexual problems through the service?

PM: That's taking a fair bit of liberty with the last question. That was about 10 in 1.

AIR CHIEF MARSHAL HOUSTON: Well, all I will say is that the outgoing leadership team has worked incredibly hard on culture. Russ Crane, with his new generation Navy, has done a remarkable job of changing the Navy from what it was to where it needs to go in the future. The emphasis has been on leadership and culture, signature behaviours.

And Ok, we've had a situation with Success, HMAS Success, that we all deeply regret, but I do not think that that is the norm for the Navy.

I visited many ships over my time as CDF and I've been deeply impressed by the dedication, the professionalism, and the commitment of those people and, indeed, most recently I have spoken to Navy people about some of these issues and a lot of junior Navy people would condemn what happened on Success just as I and the Chief of Navy have.

Now, more broadly, I think the Defence Force has turned around. There will always be incidents. We're talking about a force of 58,000 permanent people. About half that force are under the age of 25. There will be occasions when people misbehave and I think you've just got to accept that reality but, let me say again, we send these young people out on those

operations. They put their lives on the line and they do it wonderfully well, they really do, and I know many of you have been out there on our operations and seen our people perform.

I think that that's what you should focus on not the isolated incidents that we have from time to time.

Thank you.

PM: Thank you very much.