Defence has risen to extraordinary challenges during the 2019-20 reporting year. Our Australian Public Service (APS), contractor workforce and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) have together responded in the face of bushfires of unprecedented scale, duration, and devastating impact. Our people and their families have all felt the effects of COVID-19 and shown fortitude and dedication in carrying out the Government’s direction and supporting their fellow Australians. I am proud of their achievements and sincerely thank all staff for their contributions to protecting the nation’s security and well-being at home and abroad over the past twelve months.
None of us could have foreseen the scale of the natural disasters that the nation faced as we undertook the tasks set by the Government and our four newly sworn-in ministers last year. In an early speech to the portfolio’s Senior Leadership Group, the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC clearly articulated her expectations in terms of Strategy, Capability and Reform.
The portfolio has embraced these priorities wholeheartedly and has made substantial progress in support of the Government’s agenda, as evidenced in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan. These capstone documents mark a significant evolution in Australia’s strategic posture and are a clear-eyed response to the challenges to our national security interests both in our region and further afield.
Although the 2016 Defence White Paper accurately foresaw the key trends, the pace of change has exceeded predictions and our strategic circumstances have deteriorated. This reflects rapid technological advances, greater political instability, the heightening of geostrategic competition in our region, and the use of coercive statecraft that is testing the limits of the rules-based international order.
The 2020 Defence Strategic Update lays out a revised set of objectives for Defence to contribute to whole-of-government efforts to safeguard Australia’s interests and the well-being of our citizens. The ADF will continue to be equipped for global operations in coalition with like-minded nations where our national interests dictate, but our focus is increasingly on our immediate region. The Defence policy approach is aligned with the Government’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Defence will continue to deepen and strengthen its long-standing and mutually beneficial ties with Australia’s neighbours and partners, with whom we share not only geography but also common interests in a secure, prosperous and resilient region. In pursuit of this goal we work closely and effectively with other arms of Government.
As the 2020 Force Structure Plan makes clear, the ADF will be designed, equipped, and postured to meet the challenges identified in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update. The Government is backing this with a substantial budget commitment needed to ensure Defence has what it requires to meet present and future challenges. Over the decade ending 2029-30, this will amount to some $270 billion worth of broad and far-reaching capability investment across the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) and five domains (Land, Air, Sea, Space, and Information and Cyber).
As our services further integrate and become more proficient at joint operations, these ambitious investments will translate into an ADF that is even more capable of shaping, deterring and responding to future challenges.
Our interoperability and the cooperation between the services and across government extends to close industry partnerships. This includes cooperation through the Defence Australian Industry Capability (AIC) Program, which ensures that Australian companies have the opportunity to participate in high-value, high-tech projects that support the development of Australia’s sovereign defence industrial base. A great result of this program was the acquisition contract for 211 Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles that included an Australian industry commitment of almost $1.3 billion. More than 300 Australian companies are associated with the construction of Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels. And, in the past year, Defence has further invested in a range of Australian industrial capabilities.
Our focus on support and partnership with industry will continue to grow and will ensure Australia’s sovereign defence industry capability has a secure future in line with the priorities set by our ministers for building our domestic industrial base, bolstering our skilled workforce, and increasing exports and the global competitiveness of Australian defence industry.
The significant resource commitment government is making to the portfolio imposes particular obligations upon us all to ensure that Defence is agile, responsive and efficient in fulfilling the Government’s direction.
Key to meeting these expectations is our commitment to ongoing reform. By aligning strategy, capability and resources, and pursuing an ongoing reform program, we will realise the full potential of the “One Defence” enterprise that delivers on our mission to defend Australia and its national interests.
During 2019-20, the ‘Defence 2022 – Embedding One Defence’ reform program achieved several milestones that built on the First Principles Review. These included: workforce reform; enhanced integrated service delivery; business transformation; and heightened support for Australia’s Defence industry. Continuous reform is essential to building our response capacity and will remain a focus of the portfolio’s senior leadership.
The community expects Defence to lead by example. We maintain an inclusive culture that drives diversity and high performance. Defence’s Values capture the habits and ways of thinking that are necessary to fulfil this expectation and create an organisational culture that makes Defence a constructive, collegiate, efficient and effective workplace. The behaviours create an organisation that is able to attract and retain the skills and people we need. Our continued focus on culture aims to reflect the highest standards of professionalism, respect and accountability. This process continues through Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture 2017-2022, and these values must be reflected in all levels of the organisation.
Defence has achieved a great deal over the past year, none of which would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our people. Our commitment to ‘One Defence’ and our collective flexibility and hard work has positioned us well to build upon this years performance. I look forward to working with the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell AO DSC, over the coming year to ensure Defence continues to improve and adapt to face the challenges of the future.