On 28 October 2014, the Senate referred an inquiry into the potential
use of unmanned platforms by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to the Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee for inquiry and report by 25
The terms of reference for the inquiry are as follows:
The potential use by the Australian Defence Force of unmanned
air, maritime and land platforms, with particular reference to:
- their role in intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance
operations, including in support of border security, civil emergencies and
- their cost- and combat-effectiveness in relation to
conventional military platforms;
- the Government's force structure review and defence capability
- challenges, opportunities and risks associated with their
- domestic and international legal, ethical and policy
- research and development capabilities and Australia's
- transport, health and air safety implications; and
- other related matters.
Conduct of inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website and in The
Australian newspaper. The committee also wrote to individuals and
organisations likely to have an interest in the inquiry inviting them to make written
submissions. The committee has received 25 submissions to the inquiry, two of
which were accepted as confidential. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)
and the RAND Corporation also provided the committee with additional
Public submissions are listed at Appendix 1. The committee held public
hearings for the inquiry on 14 April 2015, 4 May 2015 and 13 May 2015
at Parliament House in Canberra. A list of hearings and witnesses who
appeared before the committee is at Appendix 2.
All public submissions, additional information received, public hearing
transcripts and answers to questions on notice are available via the
committee's website: www.aph.gov.au/senate_fadt.
The previous Defence White Paper in 2013 considered that the 'importance
of unmanned air, maritime and land platforms to future ADF operations and the
future force needs further investigation'. It stated:
These platforms, particularly unmanned aircraft, are
proliferating not only among national defence forces around the world, but also
civil organisations and non-state actors. With stealth and the ability to
loiter for extended periods, these systems have advantages for intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance, including in support of Australia's border
security needs. Armed unmanned systems will be available in greater variety and
sophistication in years to come.
Defence White Paper 2015 and Force
On 4 April 2014, the Prime Minister and the then Minister for Defence, announced
that the Department of Defence (Defence) would produce a new Defence White
Paper to be released in mid-2015. The Defence White Paper 2015 website outlines:
A fully-costed Force Structure Review will underpin the White
Paper. The Force Structure Review will assess Defence's future capability needs
and propose a force structure that addresses Australia's defence objectives
within an agreed allocation of funding...
Following the release of the 2015 Defence White Paper,
Defence will publish a 10-year Defence Capability Plan and a Defence Industry
Policy Statement to provide defence industry with greater certainty about the
Government's key priorities and timeframes.
The Defence Capability Plan (DCP) is intended to provide industry with
guidance regarding Defence's capability development priorities and contain
major capital equipment acquisition proposals planned for Government consideration.
The last public version of the DCP was released in 2012.
The Defence submission noted that the 'Force Structure Review (FSR) will
consider the utility and cost benefit of unmanned systems within the ADF,
particularly where the opportunity exists to improve operational effectiveness
and reduce personnel risk in the land, maritime and air environments':
The FSR will continue to focus on the capability benefits,
and will develop a number of options for Government consideration that include
unmanned systems integrated into the force, but it will not specifically
include or exclude any system depending on whether it is manned or not. The FSR
is still developing the Preferred Future Force and it would be premature to
provide details as to what may or may not be under consideration at this point.
House of Representatives committee
report on privacy and safety
In July 2014, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social
Policy and Legal Affairs tabled the report from its inquiry into unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the regulation of air safety and privacy. The
committee recommended additional consultation in the development of air
regulation and that the Australian government consider introducing legislation
to provide protections against privacy-invasive technologies such as UAVs.
First Principles Review
On 1 April 2015, the Minister for Defence released the First Principles
Review (FPR). The Minister noted that the government had agreed or agreed-in-principle
to 75 of the 76 recommendations made by the FPR. In particular, the FPR
recommended that the Defence Materiel Organisation be disbanded and its core
responsibilities transferred to a new Capability Acquisition and Sustainment
Group within the Department. However, the government did not agree to the recommendation
relating to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) becoming
part of the new Capability and Acquisition Group 'at this time'.
Structure of the report
The remainder of the report is structured as follows:
Chapter 2 provides a brief background
to the use of unmanned platforms, including current use by the ADF;
Chapter 3 examines the effectiveness
of unmanned platforms as military assets;
Chapter 4 considers some of the
defence policy issues arising from the use of unmanned platforms by the ADF;
Chapter 5 looks at certain legal
issues arising from ADF use of unmanned platforms;
Chapter 6 considers Australian
research and industry engagement issues as well as acquisition and procurement
Chapter 7 considers the airspace
regulatory issues raised during the inquiry; and
Chapter 8 contains the committee's
view and recommendations.
The committee thanks all those contributed to the inquiry by making submissions,
providing additional information and appearing to give evidence at hearings.
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