Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2015 Contents Darren Chester’s time as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for
Defence has exposed him to extraordinary people, eye-opening
experiences, high-stakes challenges ... and a whole new language.
ACCESS ALL AREAS
GOING TO SPEND
IN EXCESS OF
$30 BILLION OF
EACH YEAR, YOU
NEED TO EXPLAIN
TO THE MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
You’re approaching two years in the job as
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for
Defence. What are some of the highlights
Too many highlights to summarise in a few
minutes. I’ve had extraordinary access to the
men and women of the ADF in their own
workplace, from patrol boats off Darwin to the
Rim of the Pacific Exercise in 2014, through
to my most recent Australian Defence Force
Parliamentary Program (ADFPP) experience in
the Middle East Region.
The ADFPP provided an extraordinary
opportunity to see exactly what the Australian
personnel are doing in terms of trying to help
Afghanistan get itself back to a position where
it can govern and offer its citizens a safer and
more civilised way of life.
I think the Australian public sometimes
forgets that the activity in Afghanistan is
ongoing and we’re playing a very important
role in building a nation that will hopefully be
able to look after itself at some stage in the near
But it’s a long and difficult task and it’s an
honour to be able to get on the ground and see
the hard work the Australian men and women
What have been some of the challenges
We work in an acronym-rich environment and
the first thing I found was that Defence had
its own language. When you’re a Member of
Parliament you deal with health, education,
transport – a whole range of issues.
When you come to Defence it’s like learning
a foreign language. So I did encourage Defence
personnel in our early briefings to try to keep
the acronyms to a minimum. It was a challenge
in the early days.
The other challenge was that if you don’t
come from a Defence background, you’re never
exposed to the full depth and diversity of the
activities that are involved across the three
Services and the public service.
Defence is an extraordinarily large
organisation. Parts of it are very technical with
a wide variety of skills required to, for example,
support an operation. I think probably the
greatest learning curve was to see what goes on
behind the scenes.
Defence is about to go through a lot
of changes as First Principles Review
recommendations are implemented. What
are you focusing on?
In terms of First Principles the biggest issue for
me is the estate consolidation recommendations.
The previous government put together a report
in 2012 which made many recommendations,
and some of those are being acted on at the
There have been some announcements made
about some major pieces of estate which will be
offered for sale.
I guess, from our perspective, there’s an
incentive there now for Defence – the public
service as well – to be motivated to pursue this
more vigorously because the proceeds from the
sales will be reinvested in Defence.
We have a massive Defence estate across
the nation. Some of it has outlived its useful
purpose and won’t be part of our future Defence
needs and we need to have a strategic approach
to consolidating the Defence estate in a way
that makes sense regarding the White Paper, the
Force Structure Review and the Capability Plan.
Disposing of all of the unnecessary estate
holdings is a big job – how will it work?
It’s going to be taken on a case-by-case basis,
as the Minister has indicated. There will be
a fair bit of activity over the next 12 months,
and we’ll be making announcements as much
as possible in close partnership with the local
And, instead of seeing this as a threat or a
problem, I think there’s a real opportunity for
local communities to repurpose some significant
parcels of land, like Bulimba, that will have a
long and ongoing use for the community well
after Defence has vacated the site.
Issue 2 2015 Defence 15
WITH THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY
Links Archive Issue 1 2015 Issue 1 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page