Chapter 1 - Background
In this chapter, the Committee outlines the
background to and conduct of the inquiry and the approach taken in the
compilation of this report. It addresses the following topics:
- previous reports;
- the need for an inquiry into recruitment and retention;
- the conduct of the inquiry; and
- the scope, structure and approach to this report.
Over the last 20 years, there has been an
extensive range of reports on the Australian Defence Force (ADF) touching on
personnel issues. In fact, internal reports on personnel issues,
especially on recruiting, have been issued about every two years. This plethora
of reports has had the unfortunate consequence of maintaining a state of
turmoil; they have not allowed Defence to settle down and work through a series
of recommendations before the next report was issued.
The Committee sees little point in listing all
the reports that have touched on Defence personnel issues. However, the more
notable reports of inquiries into Defence are listed below.
In April 1986, Ms Sue Hamilton from the Office
of the Status of Women presented her report into the main problems facing
spouses of service personnel.
The report was titled ‘Supporting Service Families’ but is more
commonly known as the Hamilton Report.
This report made major recommendations on quality of life and
conditions of service issues.
In November 1988, the Joint Standing Committee
on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade report on Personnel Wastage in the ADF.
The inquiry was conducted by the Defence Sub-Committee, chaired by Mr Manfred
This report made 48 recommendations to correct a reported high
level of personnel wastage in the ADF.
In essence, many of the recommendations were not implemented or
not implemented fully and remain valid today.
In December 1995, the Department of Defence
released the report ‘Serving Australia: the Australian Defence Force in the
Twenty First Century’.
This report included 120 recommendations on personnel management
and conditions of service.
On 31 March 2001, the Defence Personnel Executive conducted an
audit of the Glenn Report to determine which of those recommendations have been
achieved. This was included in an answer given by the Hon Bruce Scott MP on 8
November 2000 to House of Representatives Question on Notice No. 1712.
Defence Efficiency Review
In March 1997, the Defence Efficiency Review
Panel submitted a report to the Minister for Defence recommending measures to
improve efficiency and effectiveness of management and financial processes
across the Defence program.
The recommendations of this report were implemented as part of
the Defence Reform Program (DRP) during the period 1997–99.
This program included the formation of a single Personnel Executive
for personnel administration and management across the Services, and increasing
the Commercial Support Program (CSP) of outsourcing non–core Defence
From Phantom to Force—Towards a More Efficient and Effective Army
In August 2000, the Joint Standing Committee on
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade reported on the suitability of the
Australian Army for peacetime, peacekeeping and war.
Chapter 7 of this report discussed personnel recruitment and
retention issues and recommended that the Australian Army adopt a unified
Defence White Paper
In December 2000, the Government released a
Defence White Paper (Defence 2000—Our Future Defence Force).
This paper announced a requirement to increase ADF strength to
about 54,000 full time personnel by 2010 as well as an intention to change the
strategic role of Reserves and improve recruitment and retention of personnel.
The need for an inquiry into
recruitment and retention
On 9 November 2000, as part of the White Paper
2000 development process, the Department of Defence Community Consultation Team
delivered a Report to the Government on community attitudes towards Defence.
The key findings of this Report commented on:
‘...the strength of feeling within the community that the vital
role people play in ensuring the ADF is an effective fighting force has not
been given adequate recognition by governments or the Defence organisation over
the past ten years or so.’
In particular, the report asserted that:
many serving members are frustrated by inadequate training
opportunities and conditions of service, leading to low morale and poor
there is significant concern about ADF personnel leaving at the
point in their career at which they have the knowledge and experience the organisation
the outsourcing of support function for the Defence Force has
been a major contributor to de-skilling and low morale within the Defence
there is strong public support for the Government to treat
employment in the Services as a unique vocation or way of life.
The Government acknowledged the findings of the
Community Consultation Team by announcing in the Defence White Paper an
intention to increase the strength of the ADF to 54,000 and improve recruitment
and retention of personnel.
Despite this announcement, during the Senate
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee additional estimates
hearing on 21 February 2001, the Department of Defence reported declining
recruiting numbers and increasing separation rates among ADF personnel. It was becoming obvious that
the ADF was undergoing serious recruitment and retention problems. A public
inquiry became highly desirable.
Subsequently, on 5 April 2001, the Senate
referred the following matter to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
References Committee for inquiry and report by 27September 2001:
Whether the current recruiting and retention strategies of the
Australian Defence Force are effective in meeting the organisation’s personnel
requirements (including reserves).
On the 27 September 2001, the Senate extended
the tabling date to the last day of the 39th Parliament. However,
the Committee was determined to honour its commitment to report either at the
end of September or early October 2001.
Conduct of the inquiry
The Committee advertised the inquiry in major
national and Department of Defence newspapers during the period 6–20 April
2001. These advertisements called for written submissions to be lodged with the
Committee by 18 May 2001. Details were also posted on the Committee’s website
[www.aph.gov.au/senate_fadt]. In view of the level of interest in the inquiry,
particularly among serving members, the Committee accepted late submissions
until such time during the drafting of the Committee’s report that it no longer
became practicable to include in the draft information from new submissions.
During the period 18 July - 31 August 2001, the
Committee toured major Defence bases throughout Australia. A list of units
visited by the Committee is in Appendix 3.
At each base, the Committee conducted an
introductory meeting with the Base Commander, who was sometimes accompanied by
his senior officers, and held open discussion groups with Defence personnel.
At most bases, two discussion groups were
conducted: one with ranks up to corporal (or equivalent) and the other with
officers and senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs). At most bases, senior
NCOs and officers did not attend the meetings with other ranks to enable those
serving members to feel comfortable talking frankly about the issues in the
inquiry. A few spouses attended several of these meetings and two separate
meetings were also held with spouses. Each group of serving members comprised
between about 20 and 60 personnel. These discussion groups provided the
Committee with consistent evidence on recruitment and retention issues,
although each base often had its own problems, either as a result of the nature
of the work carried out at the base or its geographical location. These
meetings were regarded as formal hearings and were recorded by Hansard.
However, unlike normal hearings, the personal details of individual witnesses
in each discussion group were not recorded. The Hansard transcripts of evidence
taken at all the Committee’s hearings have been placed on the Hansard web site
As a result of the relatively short time that
the Committee had to conduct the inquiry, the Committee often ran out of time
during hearings at bases, thereby not allowing some ADF members to speak. The
Committee encouraged ADF members, who either did not have the opportunity to
speak or to say as much as they wanted, to put comments in writing to the
Committee. This procedure generated quite a number of additional submissions,
including some from ADF members who had not been able to attend the hearing.
The Committee also visited several Defence Force
Recruiting Units or Career Reference Centres and a number of Defence Community
Organisation (DCO) offices. Details of these visits are also contained in Appendix
3. At a number of bases, DCO representatives attended hearings conducted by
the Committee. The Committee also took evidence from or were briefed by
national and state representatives of the National Consultative Group for
An initial public hearing was conducted on 25
June 2001 at which the Department of Defence gave evidence. Public hearings
were conducted in Perth on 20July, Sydney on 1 August and
Canberra on 17 September, when selected witnesses were invited to expand on the
detail provided in their written submissions and to answer questions. Further
public hearings were conducted in Canberra with the Department of Defence on 27
August and 20 and 21 September. A list of witnesses who provided evidence at
public hearings is in Appendix 2.
As at 26 September 2001, the Committee had
received 228 submissions (58 were not released). Given the nature of the
inquiry and that the majority of submissions were lodged by serving members of
the ADF, the Committee was prepared to protect the identity of those members,
if requested by them, by either withholding their names and addresses from
published submissions or withholding their submissions from publication (Appendix
1). The withholding of names and addresses option allowed many submissions
to be published, which might otherwise have been withheld from publication.
Although the Committee strongly preferred submissions to be placed on the
public record, it did not want to deter serving members from making submissions
if they were uncomfortable writing publicly about recruitment and retention
The distribution of submissions by State and
Service is detailed in Table 1.1 and Table 1.2 below.
Table 1.1 Distribution of
submissions by State
the ‘other’ category comprises e–mail submissions that came from onboard naval
ships or where no physical address was given.
Table 1.2 Distribution of submissions by Service
Committee’s approach to the
The terms of reference for this inquiry
indicated that the Committee was to examine current recruitment and retention
strategies in the ADF. In order to develop an understanding of these
strategies, the Committee adopted an approach influenced by the following
the reasons people enlist in the ADF;
the unique nature of military service;
the ‘psychological contract’; and
linkages between recruitment and retention
The reasons people enlist in the ADF
From the evidence collected, it was apparent
that people enlist in the ADF for one or more of the reasons outlined below.
Patriotism: numerous personnel openly expressed pride in
their uniform and the fact that they were serving their country. Others
expressed disappointment in recruiting advertising that portrayed the ADF as a
‘job’ rather than appealing to national pride. As one Service member explained
in her submission:
I have a very strong allegiance to the Royal Australian Navy. I
am proud to wear a Navy uniform and belong to such a distinguish[ed]
Personal: many experienced Defence personnel advised the
Committee that they had joined the ADF for the personal challenges of military
life: adventure, fun, the opportunity for travel and action. Some related
impatience with resource shortages and inflexible policy guidelines that
prevented challenging training. One witness explained:
A lot of young fellows, particularly the recruits I put through
Kapooka, went to armour, artillery and the infantry because of the adventure.
That is what young men want to do. A lot of young men out there want to blow
shit up. Lets face it. That is fun. To an 18 year old, that is fun. That is
what he wants to do.
Security: the Committee heard that the offer of secure
employment was an important reason for enlistment. Defence personnel, more than
other employees, looked to the ADF to provide appropriate training, promotion
opportunity, welfare and financial incentives. Clearly, the ADF competes with
other employers in this area to attract and retain personnel.
The first measure of success for any recruiting
or retention strategy might therefore be how well that strategy addresses these
original reasons for enlistment. It is accepted that reasons for enlistment may
vary between generations. It is also accepted that a person will enlist for one
or any combination of reasons. For example:
I joined the Army for two reasons: firstly, to serve and protect
my country; and secondly, for a career.
The unique nature of military service
The Committee believed that it is important to
recognise the unique nature of military service because this is closely linked
to the reasons for enlistment. A second measure of the success of any recruitment
and retention strategy is how well that strategy acknowledges the uniqueness of
the profession of arms. While it might be argued that the nature of general
society is continually changing, the uniqueness of military service has not
Defence personnel declare on oath to serve when,
where and as required by the direction of government. Accordingly, the military
lifestyle is characterised by hazardous duties, irregular hours, and regular
relocation of member and family. The pressures involved in providing this
service have increased in recent years as community expectations of government
assistance and public scrutiny of government action have intensified. Yet, ADF
personnel have no recourse for industrial action, do not receive compensation
for overtime and do not maintain an independent public voice.
The ‘psychological contract’
An understanding of the broad reasons for
enlistment and an acceptance of the unique nature of military service led the
Committee to the concept of the ‘psychological contract’. The ‘psychological
contract’ is a set of mutual, unwritten beliefs or expectations about the
obligations between Defence and its people.
Defence personnel unconsciously form a ‘psychological contract’ upon
enlistment. Under this ‘contract’, they accept the unique nature of military
service in consideration for satisfying their patriotic, personal and security
goals. This simple concept can also be used to measure the effectiveness of
recruitment and retention strategies.
The effectiveness of recruiting strategies might
be viewed in terms of how successfully they communicate and reinforce the
‘psychological contract’ available in the ADF. Retention strategies should
focus on maintaining the ‘contract’. The key aspects of the ‘contract’
are loyalty and commitment. Members are unlikely to stay in the ADF if they
suspect that their ‘contract’ has been dishonoured or broken. They might
perceive their contract to be broken if they are not provided with challenging
training or jobs. This issue was addressed by one witness, who said:
What is apparent to us at the coalface is that the psychological
contract you made when you signed that written contract back when you were
recruited has been undermined over the time I have been in the Army. What I
mean by that is that all conditions of service that I signed up to, all the
things that people have mentioned about the introduction of AIRN and the
promises of DRP, where DRP indicated that money or people or equipment would
come forward to the land force, all those issues have not arrived.
Linkages between recruitment and retention
The Committee determined that recruitment and
retention should not be treated as separate subjects. Rather, the Committee
took the approach that both subjects were strategically linked. Issues that
influence retention of ADF personnel invariably impact on recruitment and vice
versa. As an example, changes to pay and allowances in the ADF not only
influence the willingness of existing personnel to continue serving, but also
the willingness of people to join the ADF. Accordingly, the Committee has
considered the effects on both recruitment and retention of any recommendations
made in this report.
Structure of report
The discussion of evidence received during the
inquiry is organised into six chapters. In Chapter 2, the Committee examines
issues associated with Defence Reform Program while in Chapters 3 to 6, the
Committee discusses issues more closely associated with recruitment and
retention of ADF personnel.
The evidence gathered by the Committee was
wide–ranging. Evidence provided in submissions and during hearings was
characteristically blunt, honest and passionate about the state of recruitment
and retention in the ADF. Unfortunately, this evidence paints an overall
depressing picture of morale in the ADF. Therefore, in order to derive full
benefit from the evidence provided, Chapter 7 offers a way ahead on key
recruitment and retention issues.
The Committee wishes to thank all of the people
and organisations who made written submissions, gave evidence at hearings or
contributed in some other way to the inquiry. The Committee would like to
acknowledge particularly the assistance given by the Department of Defence
during the Committee’s tour of bases and conduct of discussion groups with ADF
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