The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce legislation to establish a statutory Joint Parliamentary Committee on Defence. The purpose of the committee should be to improve parliamentary engagement with and oversight of the Department of Defence (Defence) and its portfolio agencies and should focus on the development and implementation of Defence strategy.
The Committee recommends that the legislation establishing the committee should be based on the provisions establishing the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), set out in Schedule 1 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. Similar to the PJCIS, the legislation should ensure that the committee will have:
power to review any aspect of Defence planning, strategy development, administration and expenditure referred by the responsible Minister or by a resolution of either House of the Parliament;
access to classified information from Defence and other security agencies necessary to fulfil its functions (including information necessary to understand Australia’s strategic defence and security environment), through the introduction of safeguards and restrictions for members and staff on the release of information, similar to those prescribed in Schedule 1, Part 1 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001; and
its members appointed by a resolution of the House or Senate on the nomination of the Prime Minister (for House members) and the Leader of the Government in the Senate (for Senate members), with a majority of government members.
The Committee further recommends that the committee should have:
power to initiate its own inquiries into the annual reports of Defence and its portfolio agencies, similar to the current powers of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which would enable it to investigate Defence strategy, capability planning and implementation of reforms arising from the First Principles Review; and
The Committee recommends that the committee assume the defence‑related responsibilities of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which should be re-established as the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Committee acknowledges that a number of existing parliamentary committees have oversight responsibility for different aspects of the Defence portfolio, including the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The Committee recommends that these committees retain their functions and where they identify issues related to Defence strategy or that require access to classified information, they may refer the issue to the proposed committee for inquiry and report.
Senator Jim Molan AO DSC
Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade