Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 5 2010 Contents 12 www.defence.gov.au/defencemagazine
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Taking care of business
CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCE’S COLuMN
There is a certain rhythm of work in Commonwealth Government
departments and agencies. Regardless of which one you work in,
there are almost always regular weekly and monthly meetings.
A few times a year we front up to Parliamentary committee
hearings.` And every three years a federal election is held.
Although the Government’s current term doesn’t
formally expire until 16 April 2011, the Prime
Minister has stated that there will be an election
held in the next several months.
Different arrangements apply between the time
when an election is called and when an election
result is clear and a new Government is formed.
Referred to as the caretaker period, this is when
there is no longer an operating Parliament.
Although the business of government continues
and ordinary matters of administration are still
addressed, the nature of the relationship between
our department and the Ministers’ offices changes.
Caretaker conventions refer to the special
arrangements that apply to government business
during an official federal election campaign.
Given our proximity to an election, it is important
that all of us are familiar with the caretaker
conventions. The Guidance on Caretaker
Conventions 2010 is available from the Department
of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website
Preparation for a smooth transition to the caretaker
period, and to an incoming Government (whether
returned or new) is already underway. Ministerial
Support and Public Affairs Division is taking the
lead on providing advice to Defence officers on
caretaker conventions, and is also conducting
A separate article on the intricacies of caretaker
conventions appears in this edition.
Very soon after the caretaker period commences,
we will activate a caretaker advice intranet site.
Should you have any questions or concerns on how
the caretaker period and the caretaker conventions
may impact on your day-to-day business, an email
advice line (email@example.com)
is now also up and running.
Effectively handling Defence business during the
caretaker period and ensuring there is a smooth
transition to the incoming government will be one
of our top priorities for the year.
strategic Reform Program
As you should know, our other top priority, after
operations, is the implementation of the Strategic
Reform Program (SRP). Since April, I have spoken
on the subject both inside and outside Canberra
and met with some of you. I have been impressed
with your level of commitment and enthusiasm,
and that you are very positive about the SRP and
Defence’s future. All members of the Defence
Committee have been making similar visits.
What we hope to achieve with these visits is to
share our perspectives on the reform program,
to better inform you about the SRP, to give you a
better understanding of what it means both for
the organisation and for us as Defence employees,
and to help and encourage you to become actively
We want you to think critically about reforms and
to participate in helping bring them about, rather
than watching from the sidelines.
If you don’t have the opportunity to attend a
presentation on SRP, obtain a copy of one of the
many speeches that have been given and read it,
speak to your boss about what it means, talk to
your team members, and familiarise yourself with
the fact sheets on the SRP website. The more you
know, the better-equipped you will be to become
The key point is, to meet Australia’s future
capacity, we need to deliver Force 2030. This will
create a Defence organisation that can better
handle the future environment — it will provide a
more balanced, networked and deployable force.
SRP is the vehicle that helps us get there — the
link between Force 2030 and SRP is fundamental.
To embed and sustain Force 2030 we need the
cultural change, reform behaviours and business
transformation that SRP will help deliver. It is not
simply a cost-reduction exercise. We must embed
reform behaviours, such as cost-consciousness,
innovation and continuous improvement.
So what can you do to make a difference? We all
need to be open to new ideas and see ways to
improve the way we work. Be confident to put your
ideas forward. Spend time and resources wisely.
Think laterally and be aware of the flow-on effects
of actions taken today and how they can impact on
The CDF and I, and all the Defence Committee
members, have been very clear to the Senior
Leadership Group that they need to engage
and commit to the SRP. In turn, they need to
communicate and consult with you on the reform
initiatives. If you are finding this process difficult
your branch head is there help.
Finally, on behalf of the Department, I would like to
pay my respects and offer my deepest sympathies
to the families of Sappers Jacob Moerland and
Darren Smith, who tragically lost their lives in
Afghanistan following an improvised explosive
blast, and Privates Tim Aplin, Ben Chuck and Scott
Palmer, who died in a helicopter crash in southern
Afghanistan. The tragic losses are a reminder of
the dangers that the ADF faces day in and day out
in Afghanistan and the importance of building the
best possible Defence organisation to support and
sustain those operations.
The last six weeks have
been a particularly sad time
for the Australian Defence
Force (ADF). We have lost
six outstanding soldiers on
operations in Afghanistan.
Sapper Jacob Moerland
and Sapper Darren Smith,
along with Darren’s explosive
detection dog Herbie, were
killed by an improvised
explosive device on June 7.
Private Timothy Aplin, Private
Scott Palmer and Private
Benjamin Chuck were killed
in a helicopter crash on June
21. Most recently, Private
Nathan Bewes was killed
by an improvised explosive
device on July 8.
These men represented the very finest qualities
of the Australian Army. They were tough,
courageous and determined. They took great
pride in being Australian soldiers and nothing
was more important to them than looking after
their mates and serving their country. They were
highly skilled and dedicated, applying themselves
to the profession of soldiering with vigour and
enthusiasm. I am exceptionally proud of the way in
which they conducted themselves while deployed.
These men were undertaking very important
work on behalf of our nation and impressed their
fellow soldiers – both Australian and Allied –
with their expertise and mission focus.
In addition, some of our people have been
wounded in action. I am very thankful that some
of these soldiers were not severely hurt and they
were able to remain in theatre as they wanted.
However, there are seven soldiers in particular who
are doing it tough at the moment, and they are the
members of the Special Operations Task Group
who were onboard the helicopter that killed three
of their mates. These soldiers have been brought
home to Australia and are receiving the very best
care possible, though two remain in a critical
condition. They remain very much in my thoughts.
At times like these as we grieve for our dead and
assist our wounded, it is easy to focus more on
what we have lost than all that these soldiers
and their fellow ADF servicemen and women
have achieved in Afghanistan. You should have
no doubt that our mission is vital to our national
security and we are making a very big difference to
the lives of the people of Afghanistan, particularly
in Uruzgan province.
I want it to be clear to you though that I am aware
our achievements have come at a very high cost. I
have attended the funerals of the soldiers we have
lost and spoken with their families. I have been
overwhelmed by their devotion, resilience and the
pride they have shown, not only for their loved
one, but also for the Australian Army. They have
suffered terribly, but their strength proves that the
values of courage, integrity and loyalty are not only
demonstrated by our soldiers, but also by their
families. I am always cognisant of the important
role played by our defence families, and the
burdens they must sometimes bear.
Having spent time with these families and the
soldiers’ closest friends, I am convinced that these
six soldiers would not want our resolve to waver.
In fact, I am certain it would be the contrary.
They would want us to continue to focus on our
mission, support our soldiers and help the innocent
people of Afghanistan. Our resolve should be
strengthened with their sacrifice.
On a separate but related note, one of the greatest
ambassadors for the men and women of the ADF
and our mission in Afghanistan has been our
Minister, Senator John Faulkner. You will all be
aware that he recently announced that regardless
of the outcome of the upcoming election, he will
not remain as our Minister.
The men and women of the ADF serve our nation
well, particularly those who are currently deployed
overseas, not only in Afghanistan, but all over the
world. In return, Senator Faulkner, as our Minister,
has served us extremely well and with unwavering
dedication, integrity and compassion. I thank
him most sincerely for his leadership during a
particularly difficult and busy period.
“Having spent time with these families and the soldiers’
closest friends, I am convinced that these six soldiers
would not want our resolve to waver. In fact, I am
certain it would be the contrary.”
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