Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 3 2014 Contents Defence
ONE ON ONE
DM: DSTO falls within your portfolio
responsibility. Given that the Commission
of Audit proposed that DSTO be assessed
for its outsourcing potential, what do you
see as the future for that organisation?
Minister: DSTO is one of the most
amazing organisations within the Defence
infrastructure. There’s something like 2500
scientists, the second largest group of
scientists after CSIRO. The Commission of
Audit actually recommended that there be
some weight given to DSTO being sold off
to industry under the UK QinetiQ model.
The Commission of Audit recommendations
will be looked at during the First Principles
Review. But I think it’s fair to say, if you have
a look at the history of DSTO going back
10 or so years, there was something like
6000 or 7000 DSTO employees, and a lot
of that QinetiQ-type selling off to industry
has already occurred. What we have now is
a fundamental core of very smart scientists
who are providing combat-power options,
either for projects or current operations.
They are non-negotiable and they are
staying with Defence. All of our Five Eyes’
work, or our work with our allies and the
intelligence community, are all core to DSTO
and all of that must stay. That could be
current organisation does with DSTO. Those
elements would be very difficult to privatise
to a QinetiQ-type of model. We’ll look at the
Audit reviews and get some external advice
on where to go, but I think the nation can
be proud of what Alex Zelinsky, the Chief
Defence Scientist, has done with DSTO. It’s
an impressive organisation.
DM: Your portfolio responsibilities also
cover personnel matters, including areas
such as equity and diversity: what do you
want to see Defence deliver in this area
during your tenure?
Minister: I want to see it deliver cultural and
linguistic diversity. If we look at the Australian
population, about half were born overseas
or their parents were born overseas. About
15 per cent of the public service was born
overseas, but only 5 per cent of those in
uniform were born overseas. The current ADF
doesn’t really reflect our modern multicultural
Australian society. I want to see us maximise
combat power. Everything we do is not about
a social experiment, it’s about maximising
combat power and delivering operational
effectiveness in the battlefield. If I have
more linguists, more people in uniform who
were born overseas and who understand a
different culture, that delivers combat power.
I want to see our Defence Force grow and
maximise its cultural and linguistic diversity.
That is the most important area for me. I also
want to see more women in the Defence
Force. They are 50 per cent of the population
and we need to maximise their involvement
to help deliver combat power. In Afghanistan,
it is almost impossible for a male soldier to
engage with a group of local women. You
need a female soldier to engage with them.
Overarching all of that is that you will respect
the man or woman you fight alongside,
regardless of their background, colour,
religion or sexuality.
DM: Reports of unacceptable behaviour
at ADFA several years ago were a catalyst
for Defence’s current cultural reform
agenda. As someone who went through
ADFA, what was your reaction to those
Minister: I don’t think you can deny the
reports, they are very real. As more and more
information comes out, I think some terrible
things occurred. I was at the Academy in the
late 1980s and it was a tough place, but I
did not see any of that. You certainly heard
rumours. I was in Echo Squadron where
there was strong leadership and I never saw
any issues arise in that space. However, if
people feel they are under threat or harm
we need to stamp it out. ‘You will respect
the person you fight alongside’ is the motto
of this Government regardless of who they
are. That is the core message in Pathway to
Change. They have worked and trained hard
and you will respect them.
DM: In your business career, you founded
an IT firm: can we expect you to get
involved with CIOG in relation to the
Defence IT environment?
Minister: That’s a great question;
I’d enjoy that because I understand IT.
Malcolm Turnbull, his Parliamentary
Secretary and I are the IT background people
Stuart Robert launches Australia’s Invictus Games campaign at Parliament House. He is flanked by
the Commander Joint Health Command, Rear Admiral Robyn Walker, and the National President of
the Returned and Services League, Rear Admiral Ken Doolan (retd).
Photo: David McClenaghan
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