US-Australia Press Conference On Defence

Published: Fri 3 Mar 2000 06:18 PM
Date: 03/03/2000
Summary ID: C00000552930
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Thanks, Colin. Good morning to all of you and thank you for coming this morning. I know there's been much media speculation about a number of issues following recent addresses that both myself and the Secretary Allan Hawke have given. So, following the leadership Conference in Wollongong earlier this week, we thought it would be a good idea to talk to you about our agenda for change. Because we think this agenda is very important, it is a serious issue not just for us in the Defence community, but also for all Australians, as evidenced by the recent media and public interest. And it's important for Australia's future security that our community does understand the issues that are challenging defence, so all of us can participate in finding the right solutions. There is no doubt that we stand at a crossroads, as far as our strategies, capability and budget are concerned. This has, in part, been brought about by an increase in operational tempo. Last year, greater than at any time since 1972, combined with an ever-increasing change both within and outside defence in the way all of us go about our various businesses. Our Minister, John Moore, has made it clear that we had to demonstrate that our departmental processes can be as effective as our excellent operational performance. And this is crucial if we are to meet the challenges that face us. As part of our management and leadership improvements, we'll be working on better defining the roles and responsibilities of the service chiefs to reflect their corporate strategic role, as well as relationships between our various headquarters. We are determined to align the structural arrangements at the top of the organisation with an appropriate accountability and responsibility chain. Our new performance framework is being kicked off over the next two months with commissioning letters for the service chiefs, and their civilian equivalents, which will define the key relationships in more details, as well as setting out priorities, expectations of behaviour, and resources. I'd like to emphasise that we're embarking on a continuous organisational renewal program, driven by the need to make fundamental linkages between government policy and the Department's corporate strategy. Ultimately, the performance measures, for every person in Defence, will be linked to what the Government requires of the organisation. This is a continuous reform program. It's worth remembering that Defence has been undergoing profound changes for the last ten years. Acquiring cultural change, especially in an organisation as large and complex as ours. And these cultural changes require hard work and dedicated commitment over a long period of time. But we now hand over to Allan Hawke, who will go into more detail about our performance framework.
DR ALLAN HAWKE: Thanks, Chris. Well, Wollongong was actually the culmination of a series of half day sessions that I had with the top 200 or so people in the organisation. And it involved basically me reporting back to them on what they were telling me. That exercise, and some previous work that had been underway in the organisation, identified six critical issues that we were facing. And they were the strategic outlook; the role of the service chiefs; leadership, the force structure; how we were going to get the next lot of savings from the organisation; and, last but not least, the nature of relationships between the department, the government, ministers and private officers. So, a number of those, the strategic outlook and the role of the Service chiefs were being dealt with either by the Government or by CDF and myself, leaving essentially the last four of those issues for consideration at the Wollongong Conference. CDF and I spoke to the Conference on the Sunday afternoon. My address was actually delivered by Mick Roach on my behalf. And then we were, of course, here on the Monday for National Security Committee Meeting. And the group that was there undertook some work on those issues of leadership, force structure and how we're going to get the next lot of savings from within the Defence portfolio. So we were back there on Monday evening, and then Tuesday morning each of the groups reported back to us. CDF and I in turn responded with our views of their presentations after lunch. We set out the future directions, and we set in train a number of tasks to be carried out in fairly tight timeframes. We'll be having a recall day, of all of that group, on the 23rd June here in Canberra, where we'll report back on the actions that have been taken as a result of the Wollongong exercise. But what we call our Organisational Renewal Agenda revolves around a 'results through people' philosophy. Results, because at the end of the day that's what we're here to achieve. People, because results come through people. So we'll be putting a lot of effort into both the result side of the equation and the people side. In the immediate future we'll be in consultation with the Minister, putting in place a revised budget output structure. Some changes to the top structure organisational arrangements, a stronger focus on people, their performance and their development, and what we call a performance framework to facilitate all of this. A performance framework simply means putting in place for the functional units and individuals what is required to deliver what the Government wants in Defence. Over to you.
QUESTION: In your speech a few weeks ago you raised the question, without answering it, about the role of the Diarchian. Sort of suggested that there was an implication that perhaps there might be need for change? Or are you completely satisfied with present arrangements?
DR HAWKE: No, I'm actually completely satisfied with the arrangements. I drew on a concept which CDF had mentioned that diarchy can be like a good marriage. I made the point that that's not always an oxymoron. And, if it's a good marriage, it works very well. And if the marriage is not so good, then I think it's up to the Minister to do something about that. The plain fact is that CDF has particular responsibilities, mainly on the uniform side of the house. I have responsibilities under the Public Service Act and other Acts like the Financial Management Accountability Act, which go to essentially the civilian side. And we have some shared responsibilities. I'm quite comfortable with the diarchy. I'm more than comfortable working with this CDF.
QUESTION: Admiral Barrie, will you be around at the time that your contract expires quite soon, will you be around to follow through these? What are your plans? What's the Minister said about that?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Oh, Catherine, I'll certainly be around, if not as a participator, to watch carefully what's going on. But, and I think as you all know, my contract is for two years. It's renewable if both parties desire. Clearly it's a decision for the Government to make. That's really all I can say at this stage.
QUESTION: Would you like to continue at CDF?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: When I entered the job at CDF my own thinking was this was a job that needed to go for four years.
QUESTION: You talked about the need to get more savings from the portfolio. In the pursuit of that aim, have you identified which of any of the projects under review are likely to be cut in any way? And, specifically, Admiral Barrie, do you support the purchase of kid class destroyers to retain air warfare capability and will RAN.
ADMIRAL BARRIE: I'll just talk to the kid class for a minute and then I think Allan should take the other part of it. Look, I don't think we're near making a decision about air warfare destroyers. This is clearly a question of the Navy examining the role of its surface fleet and its capability requirements. Any decisions that were going to be made on those issues will come out of the White Paper process. And the decisions on force structure the Government needs to make. But the one thing I think we do need to remember, when we get around to making those decisions we ought to have high quality information. That's what we're going through at the moment is an information gathering exercise. So that's how the current activities ought to be seen.
DR ALLAN HAWKE: Just in terms of the long-term savings issue. We have, of course, been making savings under what was called The Defence Efficiency Review and the Defence Reform Program. And we are in fact ahead of the game in terms of delivering those savings. We have actually programmed into the rest of our budget and forward estimates those savings to be used in Defence. So we're still - we're still actually working towards getting those savings. There may be a small group with a small financial penalty where we don't get the full quantum. You'll recall that the original figures were something like about 780 or 800 million or so. And then there was a suggestion there were a number of one-offs which might bring the total to a billion dollars. Well, we won't get the full lot of that for a number of reasons, including some Government decisions relating to that issue. But that doesn't mean there are not further savings to be had in the organisation. And I think it's incumbent upon us to be contemplating what sort of savings might be made and how we could go about getting those. The last point goes to the capital equipment program. And all I can tell you is that at this stage no decisions have been made about any of those. My expectation is that they would be taken, if they are going to be taken, in the budget context. So that means during that sort of March, April, early May timeframe.
QUESTION: Admiral, with all these regional aspects to Defence policy, are you satisfied that New Zealand's pulling its weight in Defence matters?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Oh, look I find it very hard to conceive, when you look back over the history in this part of the world, that if there was a need for us to go and fight anywhere that the New Zealanders wouldn't come along. But I think it's also important for us to recognise right now there's a new government come to the helm in New Zealand. New Zealanders will make their own decisions. And I think, frankly, we should just wait and see what happens.
QUESTION: But it's one thing to just come along and it's another thing, isn't it, to have the capability to support a very big operation?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, look, every time I've seen the Kiwis in an operational circumstance I have to tell you that they're pretty good.
QUESTION: [indistinct] the last couple of years under the closer Defence relations if New Zealand now says that it does not believe that they're virtually a single strategic entity with Australia. I mean that's doing away with a very basic plank that you've been working on over the last couple of years?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, I think we should wait and see again. I mean, we're going through our own White Paper process here. And, clearly the New Zealanders are going through their own process. My answer would be, let's wait and see. It's early days.
QUESTION: Dr Hawke, the initialling letters are obviously going to be crucial. Can you tell us some of the elements that you're looking for? What you want the service chiefs to be doing?
DR HAWKE: Well, CDF's actually been leading that exercise. But it goes to the nature of relationships. It goes to the nature of their roles, accountabilities and responsibilities. And my expectation is that when we complete this, these won't be unclassified documents. So our intention would be to try and finish this in the next month or so. And you can have a look for yourself then at how it details it. Do you want to add anything?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Yes. This is leading edge work. There is no other country in the world that's doing it. Why it's leading edge is because it describes, on two or three sheets of paper, the nature of the relationships of the service chiefs with all the important entities. And that's not an easy process to actually set out in a document. But it's very important in describing those relationships, simply because for the very first time we'll have a clear articulation of precisely what we expect. How those relationships need to work. What the priorities are, and so on and so forth. Something that has been done in no other Defence organisation or here before.
QUESTION: Can you give examples of some of the things that you want?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, I prefer not to at this stage. All I could tell you is what happened in the two workshops that we've had to start drawing them up. What I think it will be important to do is to pick them apart once they've been issued. And certainly for our part we'll be looking at people inside the organisation to pick them apart and come back to us and question and test the commissioning letters as well.
QUESTION: Defence has been through quite an extraordinary period of review and reform, or so we've been told over the last three years. But what does it say about that reform process that at the end of it you've now got to do a commissioning letter which actually tells people what their relationships are? Have we had more rhetoric about change than actual implementation.
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, it's true to say there has been substantial reform programming and you can see that efficiency is evident by a whole range of measures. But I just go back to what I said. What we're doing with this commissioning letter work is leading edge activity. No other country has done it. We are going to do it for the first time. I'm confident that it will be a process picked up in other countries when they see the benefit it delivers. But frankly it's just a tool which is ready for us and which we're now going to use.
QUESTION: [indistinct] the three service chiefs went to the Minister and were worried about how they were being placed into the structure. Are we still trying to work out where the service chiefs fit in the structure?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: I'm not trying to work it out. I have a very clear perception of where service chiefs sit inside our structure, as I've said before. I think we've always got to remember that the quality and the delivery of the combat capability of the Australian Defence Force depends very much on the role of the single services. And the service chief as the Head of the single services has a very important function to perform. I am not an advocate for banging them all into one organisation or anything like that. I think they are essential for delivering the high quality performance that we've seen recently in East Timor, for example. But, on the other hand, our performance there demonstrated and validated, in my mind, the emphasis we've been putting on joint operations. What the commissioning letter represents is us working collegiately on describing these relationships in detail in a way we have never done before.
QUESTION: [indistinct] bunch of motherhood statements, though. Is it going to be benchmarked in any way? And is it going to be a case that if some of the chiefs or a chief is not actually performing their end of the bargain with that commissioning letter what happens? What's the repercussions?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, the association of the commissioning letter with the performance management framework is a quarterly review. That, of course, is a discussion between the chiefs or the holder of the commissioning letter and the two of us. We have to be satisfied with people pulling their weight properly. But I think that when you see these things you'll realise they're enormously powerful.
QUESTION: How are they powerful? What's the end result? I mean you say they're enormously powerful, but, you know, what guarantees...
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Because it describes for everyone inside the organisation or out of it just how these relationships work.
DR HAWKE: Can I just add one thing to that? I think also this will be combined with a clearer accountability structure in terms of how the top structure aligns with the budget and the requirements of each of those individuals. And I think it's fair to say that under the system that we've got now those issues are not all completely aligned.
QUESTION: What I'm trying to get at though, is this part of like - essentially like a part of their contract so that if the service chiefs aren't actually adhering to these or living up to their duties under these, that it's like a contract and they can be terminated?
DR HAWKE: Well, I think the situation now is that they hold their office at the pleasure of the government, don't they? So that could happen now. So there won't be any change to that. And the issue is holding them responsible for delivering what they're there to do.
QUESTION: You mentioned at the Press Club, you used quite strong language and mentioned recalcitrants, suggesting some people may need to move on, you've got commissioning letters and working on a decommissioning letter and can we expect a lot of them?
DR HAWKE: No. What I am doing is working on - and the people in the organisation know this - I'm working on an assessment of each of the three senior levels of the organisation. That is the Deputy Secretary equivalents, the division heads and the assistant secretaries. And I will have completed that process by the end of April. And the individuals who are affected by that will hear direct from me on what their future is.
QUESTION: Admiral Barrie, [indistinct] criticism coming from the Government of your organisation. There's been less airplay about the performance of the Minister and his office, but there's been a lot of internal concern about the pace of decision-making and other issues coming out of that office. What's your view on that situation? Are you happy with the way the Minister's office is performing?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Oh, look, that's not a question I'm going to answer, Ian, except to say all of us in the Department need to understand the process of a democratic government. The Minister is our representative in the Cabinet and he's the person that's responsible to people of Australia through the Government for delivering an effective and efficient defence department.
QUESTION: [indistinct] making decisions and for getting things done, and if they're not doing that then that makes your job a little bit more difficult, doesn't it?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, they have their role to play in it as much as we do. I think if we just look back over the last year, in terms of our operational performance it's been superlative, second to none. What more standard can there be?
QUESTION: Admiral, you said - in fact Secretary Hawke said in the issues for discussion at Wollongong the relationships between the Department and the Minister's office was the number six agenda issue.
DR HAWKE: That's right. That's right because we regard the nature of the relationship between the organisation, the government, our ministers, parliamentary secretary and their private officers as fundamental to what we're here to do. And I think it's important that we have good relationships with all of the so-called stakeholders in our business. And we haven't always been as good at that as what we might have. We have been a bit inwardly focused. I don't think we've been as aware, as we might have, as what happens on the hill. The pressures that private officers and ministers are under, and we haven't served them as well as what we might and we are determined to fix that.
QUESTION: In your consideration of top level structures, will you be seeking to have more civilian control? Or at least more coordinated oversight of the acquisitions process in the light of the criticisms that things ballooned out of control partly because the service chiefs have got too much power over requisitions? DR HAWKE: Look, the top structure changes won't be fundamental in one sense, but they'll be significant in another. In other words, I don't see there being additional people in that Defence executive line if you like. There'll still be the three service chiefs, the vice chief and the existing number of deputies and equivalents. But there does need to be some changes, some minor changes I think, in the bits of the jigsaw to reinforce that. And if you want some examples of that, I think we need to establish a chief financial officer who basically reports directly to CDF and myself. We need to make sure that the head of the Defence personnel executive has responsibilities to CDF and myself. So there'll be some changes there and some other minor changes. It's true to say that we are interested in significant change in the Defence acquisition process. And just yesterday in Sydney the Minister chaired a meeting of the Defence Industry Advisory Committee, at which the Under Secretary Mick Roach and the Vice Chief of the Defence Force gave them a presentation on what we're likely to be undertaking in that area. We will be taking a submission back to the Government on Defence acquisition reform by the end of April would be m y guess. So that is a very significant issue for us.
QUESTION: We learned from the Prime Minister yesterday that the Government will start increasing Defence spending the year after next. Dr Hawke has described the present situation as parlous. With the present level of funding that you have, can Australia maintain the present range of capability, preparedness and comparability with regional forces? Or can it not?
DR HAWKE: The answer to that is clearly no. That is an issue that the Government is giving very serious consideration to. In terms of the immediate budget, it's clear to us and I think it's clear to everybody that there'll be no increase in the budget. So we'll be going through the normal expenditure review committee processes during March and April as preparation for this year's budget. In terms of the longer term, then the Government will be making decisions on the strategic outlook. They'll be making decisions about whether or not there is a public discussion paper which leads into the White Paper. And they've already commenced consideration of what sort of force structure they require to meet their assessment of the strategic outlook. Now, I can't think of a government that has been prepared to set aside more time and more seriously consider these issues than this government. They spent all day Monday looking at these issues, and the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear there's quite a deal of more work to be done by this senior group of Ministers before we get to the end of the process.
QUESTION: East Timor [indistinct] how would you rate the joint experience? And would it be a fair preliminary judgment that Air Force and Navy were probably able to find each other but Army had a bit of trouble actually talking to the other two services on the ground?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, I think there are a couple of perspectives on East Timor. My first caution that I would make is we do need to be careful not to learn the wrong lessons from East Timor. But let's set that aside for a minute. In many senses it was a fantastic validation of the reforms, the changes and the new structures that we'd put in place over the last ten to fifteen years. By world standards, no other country took on the Coalition leadership role, was able to deploy the forces and was able to support them as effectively as Australia did in East Timor. So in many senses, and I think this was recognised by Kofi Annan when he was here, in terms of UN requirements and UN multi-national force operations, Australia has set a new standard. And that makes me very proud, I'd have to say, as the Chief of the youngsters in our Defence Force. Both young men and young women who committed themselves to making East Timor such a success. In terms of the joint operations, I think again Australia has established a world benchmark. I think a couple of themes have been important to us over the last ten years. The first one is to eradicate duplication of effort throughout the single services and make sure that each service has professional respect for the capabilities of the other services and knows where to go to get that help when it's required. And I think we saw that in spades in East Timor. To be frank with you, I think our American and our UK colleagues were very - were exceedingly impressed by how our joint operations worked in East Timor. On the logistics front, it is worth remembering that we provided logistic support not just for the Australians in East Timor, but for the total force. And for a logistics organisation which had been planned and structured about supporting roughly 5,000 troops overseas, its performance amounted to supporting some 11,000 troops overseas and again did a superlative job. Just to finish off East Timor for a minute, that, of course, is a product of all the planning, all the thinking, all the work that's been undertaken over the last 20 years or so. What we need to embark upon now is the sort of planning and thinking and the work that will build the defence force of the future. That's really what the White Paper process is about. That is what the important decisions government will be making is all about, and that is why the challenge as it really confronts us in the Year 2000 is so significant.
PRESENTER: We'll have to really cut it off. Perhaps one more question.
QUESTION: [indistinct] you said we mustn't learn the wrong lessons from East Timor. What are the wrong lessons that we must not learn?
ADMIRAL BARRIE: Well, I think there are - well, there are a whole range of lessons that we learned out of East Timor. The way I describe it, many of the rocks we turned over had a lesson for us to learn. But I think the biggest lesson that we must avoid learning is thinking that next time around we'll be required to do East Timor again. The next military operation could be very different to East Timor and that is what we've got to prepare ourselves for.
PRESENTER: Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.
AGENCY REPORT For private research and not to be disseminated. Every effort made to ensure accuracy for the benefit of our clients but no legal responsibility is taken for errors or omissions.

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