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Much has changed since Defence’s Minister for Personnel, Materiel and Science The Hon. Greg Combet made his first public
speech as the newly-appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement in January 2008.
Not only has Mr Combet’s appointment since
changed, so too has the breadth and depth of
issues in his portfolio, which also includes the
non-Defence aligned role as Minister Assisting the
Minister for Climate Change.
With change also in the air for the Department
of Defence, Mr Combet has little time to test
the water in what has been heralded as an
Mr Combet will this year oversee some major
objectives dealing with future capability
development and acquisition, as the Department
begins building the force of 2030.
There will also be short and long-term measures
introduced to ensure the Minister’s core areas
of personnel, materiel and science remain robust.
And then there’s the Strategic Reform Program (SRP).
To ensure SRP success, Mr Combet told Defence
Magazine that new relationships are being forged
between Defence and industry, which will produce
far greater savings than mere budget cuts.
“Budget cuts across the board will not deliver the
long-term reform envisaged, mainly because such
cuts tend to reward inefficiency. It is important that
SRP is seen as a strategic reform program and not
a strategic savings program,” Mr Combet said.
“A shift to long-term, performance-based
contracting, for instance, could deliver significant
efficiencies at reduced cost. This will deliver real
efficiencies to the Defence Materiel Organisation
and at the same time give more certainty to
”It is important that SRP
is seen as a strategic
reform program and not a
strategic savings program”
Minister for Defence Personnel,
Materiel and Science,
the Hon. Greg Combet.
MAIN: Greg Combet and Chief of Navy Vice Admiral
Russ Crane chats with Petty Officer Clearance Diver Steve
Flint about the function of the wrist-mounted computer,
used for the communication of a diver’s vital signs to the
surface. RAN Clearance Diver Able Seaman Dave Wyatt
watches on in the background. Photo: LSPH Brenton Freind
industry with stronger incentives to perform
An example of this was announced at the Pacific
2010 International Maritime Exposition in Sydney.
The initiative under the Start Sustainment program
involves reforms to the naval ship repair sector. Mr.
Combet said they will help shape Defence and its
relationship with the ship repair industry for the
The principal element of the reform program is the
establishment of long term performance based
contracts for repair and maintenance activities in
lieu of the current arrangement that is based on
awarding a contract under a panel arrangement for
each and every maintenance activity.
These reforms will lead to greater certainty in the
naval ship repair sector allowing for increased
investment and better performance. This is good
for jobs, good for the taxpayer and good for the
Navy, Mr Combet said.
Under these reforms, the Defence Materiel
Organisation will reform the Navy’s Major Fleet
Unit Repair and Maintenance program as outlined
in the Smart Sustainment initiative by the batching
of our requirements.
The Australian Government spends $150 million
per annum on major surface ship repair and
maintenance. We would expect to see significant
savings from this reform because the companies
who win these three large, long term contracts
will be able to invest in their infrastructure, capital
equipment and their workforce. This initiative will
The year ahead:
Three key areas of Greg Combet’s Defence portfolio include personnel,
materiel and science. Here he outlines the year ahead in each of these
“We are looking to improve services in ADF health, to increase
diversity across the ADF and examine how the ADF can better support
“Since the Government delivered the Dunt Review into Mental Health
and Transition Services, Joint Health Command has been working very
hard to drive reform and change in the mental health area. This year
I would like to see us deliver on these recommendations with more
mental health staff engaged and a stronger focus on regional mental
“CDF and I launched his Action Plan to recruit and retain more women
in the ADF. I would like to see this plan implemented this year. We
got off to a strong start with Navy committing to expand its Women’s
Leadership Program, and include a mentoring program.
“We’re looking to deliver a multicultural recruitment strategy, which
will outline some ideas on how we might expand diversity in the ADF.
“Finally, I want to deliver further programs and support services to
Defence families during this time of high operational tempo, when so
many of our personnel are away from their partners and children.”
ABOVe: Penny Davidson of Defence Families Australia, Greg Combet and former National
Convener for Defence Families Australia Nicole Quinn inspect a completed DHA home ready
for a family to move in. Photo: Mark Brennan
MINISTEr DEFENCE PErSONNEL,
MATErIEL AND SCIENCE
Materiel and science:
“In the materiel and science portfolio, the Mortimer reforms will streamline DSTO/
DMO contributions to capability decision-making.
“By bringing the DMO and DSTO into the capability development cycle earlier, we will
improve the process, reduce risk and ensure closer links between all parts of Defence
involved in capability development.”
also provide better notice to Navy and ships’ crews
of the planned location of maintenance patterns,
Mr Combet said.More broadly, Mr Combet
foresees SRP challenges in the area of shared
services, and he is very encouraged by current
participation and cooperation across Defence to
produce efficiencies in this area.
“I think we can achieve a great deal if the three
Services and the Defence Department work
together, with a clear focus on systems reform,
cultural change, organisational development and,
most importantly, leadership,” Mr Combet said.
“The entire organisation has to get right behind
the Secretary, the CDF and the Service chiefs.
Alignment is critical if these reforms to succeed.
“Minister Faulkner and I, and indeed the
Government as a whole, are absolutely convinced
that without these reforms, our future capability
plan as announced in the White Paper is
unachievable. We are equally convinced that the
ADF and the Department can achieve the reform
ABOVe: Greg Combet chats with Corporal Paul Walkington (left) and Corporal Rory Algate (right), with
Caribou tail behind, while visiting Defence and BAE Systems facilities in Townsville. Photo: Mark Brennan
By Michael Weaver
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