Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 2 2015 Contents 16 Defence Issue 2 2015
WITH THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY
“YOU SPEND A
LOT OF TIME WITH
AUSTRALIANS, AND I’M
What other recommendations in the First
Principles Review have implications for you
and your portfolio?
The whole issue regarding being more efficient,
more industry friendly, is going to be important
for me. I do a fair bit of industry liaison and the
one message I constantly receive from industry
is they want certainty.
They want a Capability Plan that they can
take to the bank, if you like, and they want
to know what direction we’re taking as a
Government, and a level of consistency and
Industry doesn’t like surprises in that
regard and they want to be able to invest with
confidence and see a real partnership between
themselves and the Government.
The White Paper and the Force Structure
Review will be released soon. What are your
My role and probably my first priority as a
Parliamentary Secretary is to provide support
for the Minister and the Prime Minister and
the Cabinet in ensuring that the defence and
security interests of all Australians are well
served by the Government.
I think the White Paper in that sense is a
critical document because it will provide the
strategic overview of where the Government
sees its future defence challenges.
The real key to the success of the White
Paper is going to be making sure the Australian
people are well educated and are proper partners
in the way Defence moves forward.
I don’t think we’ve been very good at selling
the story as a Defence Force to the Australian
people about why we need such a highly
capable Defence Force; what its role is in the
century, whether it be in a combat mission
or a humanitarian response.
So I think we’ve got a real challenge for
people who are interested in Defence, people
who work in Defence and people who are
passionate about Australia’s national security
and Defence needs. We’ve got a challenge to
actually explain to the broader Australian public
what it is that we’re doing and why we’re doing
it, and why it costs so damn much.
If you’re going to spend in excess of
$30 billion of taxpayers’ money each year,
you need to explain to them why you’re doing
it. And I don’t think we’ve been that great at
telling that story in recent times.
And that’s probably not a criticism of
Defence itself, it’s just a challenge. We need to
get better at doing it.
Earlier you touched on the Australian
Defence Force Parliamentary Program. In
April you and a group of MPs visited the
Australian Air Task Group in the Middle East
region. What was that experience like?
The ADFPP is something that’s been running
for about 12 years now and it’s had bipartisan
support throughout its history.
The great thing about the program is it gives
Service men and women the chance to talk to
Members of Parliament face-to-face and explain
some of the challenges of their work, some of
the opportunities that are provided for them
in the ADF, and it also, perhaps even more
importantly, gives the parliamentarians first-
hand appreciation of the job that’s being done
You can read as much as you like, but until
you get on the ground and share a meal with
personnel, and then perhaps get out and do
some PT, you really don’t appreciate their daily
lives. So MPs get a lot out of the program, but I
think Service men and women get a lot out of it
What issues do current or former ADF
members contact your office about more
than any other?
One area I was surprised by when I took on the
role was the activity in the Honours and Awards
part of the portfolio. There’s a lot of emotional
attachment, and that’s understandable. People
feel very passionate about their medallic
I have to give credit to the Department
for meeting a huge demand this year, in the
Centenary of Anzac. And the Defence Honours
and Awards Appeals Tribunal is working well.
Cases require a great deal of investigation but
I have terrific confidence in the system and I
think it’s working well.
Do you envisage any changes to the
Honours and Awards function over the next
One thing I would prefer is if all service
personnel could receive their medallic
entitlements as soon as they finish their
deployment. They should get their medals
before they return home. It’s an important
symbol of respect from the Australian people,
recognising their service.
This is the current practice but I would really
like to emphasise this as it was made clear to me
when talking with troops in Afghanistan how
much the medal meant to them as they return.
What are your portfolio priorities in the
The Defence estate work is critical. From the
Left: Darren Chester
during a visit to the Air
Task Group in the Middle
East in April as part of the
Australian Defence Force
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