There is no greater constitutional responsibility for any Federal Government and elected Federal representatives than the defence and security of our nation and of our people.
Despite this, since Federation, not a single Defence white paper and capability plan has ever been fully funded and fully implemented. The reasons for this are complex and longstanding. One of the most significant factors is that, historically, Defence strategic guidance and funding can significantly change when Governments turnover. Additionally, Australian citizens and their elected representatives have little understanding, or control over, long term defence strategic planning and what it takes to generate and sustain military power.
To provide longer term certainty in Defence planning and reform implementation, the Defence Sub-Committee (Sub-Committee) of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT), has initiated an inquiry into the possibility of securing long-term bipartisan agreement and certainty, while maintaining contestability. Consistent with this aim, the Sub-Committee is seeking to engage more strategically over the long term to provide more effective Parliamentary oversight and engagement in defence policy implementation. The review activities of the Sub-Committee have been re-aligned to the Defence Annual Report (DAR) reporting cycle and the Sub-Committee is taking a more focussed approach to analysis and testing of reported reform progress.
The Sub-Committee’s examination of strategic reforms reported in this DAR has provided encouraging evidence of positive reform progress being made on the First Principles Review implementation. The Sub-Committee notes that these reforms are a long-term multi-governmental journey. It is the Sub-Committee’s view that the Parliament, through the Defence Sub-Committee of the JSCFADT can, and should, provide greater oversight of and supporting for long term reforms.
This Review of the Defence Annual Report 2015-16 is the first undertaken by the Defence Sub-Committee of the 45th Parliament. In line with the Committee’s intent to provide more effective Parliamentary oversight and support the Review focuses on six key themes:
Implementation of strategic programs,
First and foremost, the Sub-Committee recognises the dedication and commitment of the servicemen and women of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their Australian Public Service counterparts. The Sub-Committee commends them on the outstanding service they provide to our nation. The Sub-Committee also acknowledges that the members of the ADF are supported by a network of families, friends and loved ones and to them all we give our thanks.
The Sub-Committee notes and commends the Federal Government for its comprehensive approach to long-term certainty in capability delivery and organisational reform.
The Sub-Committee acknowledges the efficiencies and benefits gained through the establishment of the Australian Defence Headquarters and the allocation of Joint capability Authority responsibilities to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force.
In this report, the Sub-Committee has made a series of recommendations on immediate and longer terms reforms and has also identified issues that it will continue to monitor closely in 2018.
The Sub-Committee is deeply appreciative and has immense gratitude and respect for the service made by all veterans and notes the challenges that many of them, and their family and friends endure as a consequence of their service.
As Chair, I sincerely thank the Deputy Chair, the Hon David Feeney MP, and all Sub-Committee members for their commitment, engagement and contributions to the Sub-Committee’s bipartisan direction and activities.
Lastly, on behalf of the Sub-Committee, I acknowledge and place on record our deep appreciation and sincere thanks to Colin Blyth, Defence Advisor, James Rees, Amber Perry and all Secretariat staff for their ongoing professionalism and hard work during the conduct of the inquiry.
Senator Linda Reynolds, CSC
Defence Sub-Committee Chair