Defence has had a successful year in 2017–18, with some significant achievements based on a trio of key pillars: transformational reform; an ongoing commitment to building our capability; and aligned strategic policy supported by international engagement. These achievements could not have occurred without the expertise, passion and perseverance of our people. Our workforce, with its unique civilian and military components, will continue to strive for a truly united One Defence.
Over the past 12 months, Defence has had a clear focus on reform. We have made strong progress, particularly in implementing the majority of recommendations of the First Principles Review. Rather than resting on these laurels, our challenge now is to take the next step: to manage holistic reform and continual improvement through a One Defence approach, to deliver better business outcomes across the whole of Defence and real change for all our people.
We must also continue our cultural reform. I want Defence employees to work in an environment where leaders are accountable for a positive culture of collegiality and mutual respect. Defence leaders must therefore clearly promote and embody the behaviours we expect in such an environment. We must call out and deal with behaviour that does not meet these standards.
As always, consistency and professionalism are key.
Three years on from the launch of the First Principles Review, I am pleased to say that we have completed 71 of the 75 recommendations and implemented significant changes to ensure we operate as a strategic, effective and efficient organisation. Reform is a multi-faceted, gradual process that takes hard work. It is a cause I believe in deeply, and an endeavour that I will pursue continually.
Diversity of our workforce is another area of good achievement over the last 12 months. The overall diversity of our Australian Public Service (APS) workforce in Defence has continued to increase, with the number of women in the APS increasing from 41.8 to 42.4 per cent. The number of women in Executive Level positions increased by 266 from 7,698 to 7,964. For the Senior Executive Service (and equivalent), the number of women increased by four from 44 to 48. We have also seen an increase in the number of APS Indigenous staff, increasing from 2 to 2.2 per cent. Results were similarly encouraging for those within the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
The number of women on Defence boards increased by 5.6 per cent to 45.8 per cent. This improvement has been supported through implementation of the Defence women on Boards Action Plan 2017–19, which is designed to meet the Government’s gender diversity target on boards of 50 per cent.
As well as building a strong and positive Defence culture, we are committed to strengthening our military and intelligence capabilities through the acquisition and sustainment of major assets. This commitment was a major element of the Australian Government’s 2016 Defence White Paper. It is an ambitious, but critical undertaking. This year, we have made significant steps on key capability deliverables including the Hunter class Future Frigates, Land Combat Vehicle System, Offshore Patrol Vessels, and the critical infrastructure and other enabling capabilities needed to operate and sustain our evolving capabilities.
The Naval Shipbuilding Plan is a national enterprise, the likes of which we have not embarked on before. We are growing the skills of our own people and developing a variety of trusted partnerships with industry that Defence has not had before. Success will see the significant strategic, economic and employment advantages to Australia that a national naval shipbuilding and sustainment capability can bring.
The first Defence Industry and Innovation Programs Update Report was released in May 2018. The Next Generation Technologies Fund, focused on the priority areas identified in the Defence White Paper, received more than 800 proposals and is funding collaborations with more than 40 companies, universities and publicly-funded research organisations. The Centre for Defence Industry Capability supports Australian businesses entering or working in the defence industry. The Centre’s adviser network has assisted over 750 businesses, three quarters of which are working with us for the first time.
Defence has continued its commitment to ensuring regional and global stability and security through international collaboration. On 20 July 2018, the then Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, participated in the 10th annual Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations held in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ministers committed to strengthening the dynamic Australia-UK partnership for the 21st Century, including intensifying efforts to strengthen international rules and norms.
2018 marked the 100th anniversary of Australian and United States (US) forces fighting alongside each other at the Battle of Hamel. Minister Payne led a Defence delegation to Palo Alto, California, in July for the Australia US Ministerial Consultations, the principal forum for our bilateral discussions with the US. Security and bilateral defence and intelligence cooperation under our enduring Australia-US Alliance are as important today as when the ANZUS Treaty was signed back in 1951. Accordingly, Ministers affirmed our two countries’ commitment to work side-by-side as part of the global coalition against terrorism, and continue a deep commitment to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, including through supporting strong regional organisations.
The Defence Counter-Terrorism Review, announced by the Prime Minister in July 2017, made recommendations to review Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act (1903). Defence conducted this work in 2017-18 and, in July 2018, a number of changes were tabled in the Parliament that would make it simpler for states and territories to request ADF support and strengthen the ADF’s ability to respond to a range of threats across multiple jurisdictions.
Through 2017–18 Defence worked hard to support the establishment of an independent Australian Signals Directorate as a statutory agency on 1 July 2018. The Directorate will remain in the Defence portfolio and the Department of Defence will continue to support and collaborate on matters of cyber security and intelligence.
Defence has made some great progress in the past year, and I thank all Defence people for their dedication and commitment. There is always more to do and I look forward to working with the recently appointed Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, AO, DSC, and the entire Defence team to anticipate and meet the challenges of the next year.
Secretary of Defence
In 2018, Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel past and present commemorated 100 years since the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux in World War I; the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay in World War II; the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Coral–Balmoral in Vietnam; and 25 years since our peacekeeping deployment to Somalia. Together, these historic events provide a snapshot of Australian military operations over the past century. While the nature of operations and technology has evolved, our people remain committed to the tenets of courage, sacrifice, endurance and mateship.
Those traits were evident in the ADF’s work at home and abroad over the past year. Whether responding with humanitarian aid, as we did following the Papua New Guinea earthquake and Tropical Cyclone Gita in Tonga, or supporting the Iraqi Security Forces as they fought to reclaim their country from Daesh and liberate millions of civilians, the ADF has continued to demonstrate skill, professionalism and dedication to service.
Over the past 12 months, the ADF has achieved significant results in challenging and often dangerous tasks. As part of Operation OKRA, the Australian Air Task Group successfully completed its strike mission in Iraq and Syria, allowing our F/A-18 Hornets to return home in January. However, the end of air combat operations does not signal the end of Operation OKRA. Other elements of the Air Task Group continue to support coalition air operations against the remnants of Daesh.
Like the Air Task Group, our Special Forces personnel provided critical battlefield assistance to Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service—particularly during key battles in Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi and Tal Afar. Members of Australia’s Special Operations Task Group coordinated air support and administered life-saving medical treatment to wounded Iraqi soldiers.
The combined Australian–New Zealand Task Group Taji—our combined military training force—also proved successful over the past year, reaching a significant milestone in 2018. By the end of Rotation 6, the Building Partner Capacity Mission had trained a total of over 34,500 Iraqis, who remain the primary force to combat any terrorist resurgence.
Like our work in Iraq, throughout 2017–18 the ADF’s contribution in Afghanistan focused on training, advising and assisting the national defence and security forces to defend their country in the face of terrorism and other destabilising influences. The fragile security situation in Afghanistan was further complicated by the growing fight for dominance between the Taliban and Islamic State Khorosan Province. Despite some setbacks, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces kept the provincial capitals safe under government control over the past 12 months. With the help of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation-led Resolute Support Mission, they also protected key military and civilian infrastructure.
The ADF’s contribution to the global fight against terrorism includes support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Following an initial deployment of two AP-3C Orions to assist with surveillance and intelligence gathering, ADF land, air and maritime teams have participated in peer-to-peer engagement activities. All three peer engagement elements proved highly effective and were well received by over 4,400 Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel who completed these activities.
Our work with the Armed Forces of the Philippines highlights the ADF’s deliberate, coordinated approach to regional security. The deployment of a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and support personnel as part of an international contingent enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions is another example. Our contribution alongside our international partners as part of a coordinated effort to maintain economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea demonstrates the ADF’s ongoing commitment to tangible and meaningful engagement in our region.
In late 2017, the ADF embarked on its largest task group deployment in almost 40 years. Embarked in six ships, the 1,300-strong Joint Task Group Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017 led a range of regional engagement activities over 11 weeks designed to promote security and stability. The second iteration, Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018, commenced in May 2018 with four ships and around 1,000 personnel participating in planning and training activities with partner nations in the south west Pacific.
The scale of Indo-Pacific Endeavour was only surpassed by Exercise TALISMAN SABER in 2017. The Australian–United States exercise included around 33,000 participants and more than 220 aircraft and 36 ships. One of the key serials was the successful combined amphibious assault involving Australian, United States and New Zealand forces, which was observed by representatives from over 24 countries.
Despite our extensive overseas commitments, the ADF remains ready to respond at home. When Tropical Cyclone Marcus struck Darwin in March 2018, the locally based 1st Brigade was quick to help with the clean-up. At its peak, Joint Task Force 659 included 800 Navy, Army and Air Force personnel working to remove debris and to repair schools and public buildings. The ADF contingent was complemented by around 50 United States Marines who had recently arrived in Darwin as part of the Marine Rotational Force.
Included high on the list of ADF achievements in 2017–18 was the HMAS Warramunga crew’s completion of one of the most successful Middle East deployments on record. During their nine-month deployment, from October 2017 to July 2018, Warramunga’s crew intercepted, seized and destroyed approximately 31.8 tonnes of hashish and approximately two tonnes of heroin, valued at around $2.17 billion Australian. The C-130 Hercules marked 15 years of operations in the Middle East region, achieving 98 per cent mission success, while the P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft joined our border protection patrols under Operation RESOLUTE.
None of this work has detracted from our sustained commitment to ongoing reform. The newly released Defence Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2018–2023 includes Defence civilian employees for the first time, and the second iteration of the Pathway to Change cultural reform program was released following extensive consultation across all levels of the organisation. That this work has continued while the ADF exceeds expectations on operations is a testament to the leadership of former Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, and Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs.
On 6 July 2018 I was honoured to accept leadership of the ADF as the Chief of the Defence Force. This is a great organisation filled with people who every day do extraordinary things in the defence of our nation and its interests. We have an outstanding leadership team and together with the Secretary, we look forward to working together to keep Defence moving forward.
Angus J Campbell, AO, DSC
Chief of the Defence Force