The Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (the Committee) is empowered under its resolution of appointment to conduct inquiries into annual reports of certain agencies.
On 17 March 2021 the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade resolved to report into the Department of Defence Annual Report 2019-20, and referred it to the Defence Sub-Committee for inquiry. The following areas were identified for particular focus:
Space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance;
Defence estate in the north and north-west; and
Throughout the course of the public hearing held on 25 June 21, additional focus areas were identified and discussed. These included strategic fuel security, fuel storage and logistics, and the Defence Science, Technology and Research (STaR) Shots program.
The Defence Annual Report
The review of the Defence Annual Report is an important task as it provides an opportunity for the Committee to inquire into a broad range of Defence issues as part of the broader process of accountability of Government agencies to the Australian Parliament.
Defence Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) 2019-20 states:
Government outcomes are the intended results, impacts or consequences of actions by the Government on the Australian community. Commonwealth programs are the primary vehicle by which government entities achieve the intended results of their outcome statements. Entities are required to identify the programs which contribute to government outcomes over the Budget and forward years.
The outcomes identified in the PBS for the Department of Defence were:
Outcome 1: Defend Australia and its national interests through the conduct of operations and provision of support for the Australian community and civilian authorities in accordance with Government direction.
Outcome 2: Protect and advance Australia’s strategic interests through the provision of strategic policy, the development, delivery and sustainment of military, intelligence and enabling capabilities, and the promotion of regional and global security and stability as directed by Government.
The Defence Annual Report 2019-20 reports against purposes detailed in the Corporate Plan 2019-20. The Defence Annual Report 2019-20 maps Defence’s 2019–20 PBS outcomes to the Department’s purposes and programs.
The Committee initially resolved to focus primarily on four areas consistent with its approach to longitudinal review of Defence Annual Reports. These areas are:
Space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – Activity 3.1a and 3.1b;
Cyber warfare – Activity 3.1b and 3.2b;
Defence estate (north and north-west) – Activity 4.1b; and
Defence workforce – Activity 4.3a.
Other matters considered in this inquiry are:
Strategic fuel security; and
Science, technology and research
Conduct of the Inquiry
The Committee publicly announced the inquiry by media release on 8 July 2021 and requested written submissions by 4 August 2021.