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Purpose 4: Upholding national security and strategic interests

Analysis

In 2019–20, PM&C responded to multiple and compounding threats to the safety, security and prosperity of all Australians. Such threats included extensive bushfires and the once-in-a-generation health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a rapidly deteriorating strategic environment and the escalating challenges of foreign interference and malicious cyber activity.

Disaster response and crisis coordination was a key focal point for PM&C this year. Domestically, we supported the Prime Minister in responding to the devastating bushfire season, collaborating internally and across the public service to ensure our advice to the Prime Minister on disaster recovery brought a whole-of-government perspective, considering social and economic impacts.

Swift crisis management was required in the face of the unparalleled human security and biosecurity challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. PM&C established a COVID-19 Taskforce to lead the Department’s initial response to the pandemic, restructuring the workforce to support the Prime Minister’s needs and provide policy advice to National Cabinet and the APS. A dedicated reporting function was created within the taskforce to provide a twice-daily comprehensive COVID-19 brief for the Prime Minister. This function was supported by a specialist data analytics team (including experts seconded from across the APS), which compiled data provided from Commonwealth, state and territory sources as well as private sector and international sources on the COVID-19 pandemic. The data team’s up-to-date information, statistics, trend analysis and modelling on the COVID-19 pandemic was an essential component in guiding government decision making and tracking of the impact of measures taken.

As part of our commitment to whole-of-government responses to National Security priorities, PM&C convened the Secretaries Committee on National Security (SCNS). Chaired by the Secretary of PM&C, SCNS is a Secretary-level committee and serves to provide coordinated advice to the National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC) on national security policy and issues of relevance to Australia’s economic, political, international, trade, intelligence and defence interests. Over 40 SCNS meetings were convened through 2019-20.

In other domains, PM&C worked across government to strengthen Australia’s defences against malicious cyber activity. PM&C supported the Department of Home Affairs to develop the $1.67 billion 2020 Cyber Security Strategy to keep Australians secure online. This vision will be delivered through complementary actions by governments, businesses and the community. As part of this Strategy, PM&C supported the Prime Minister and Minister for Defence to announce the Government’s $1.35 billion commitment to enhance Australia’s cyber security, as part of the Australian Signals Directorate’s Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response (CESAR) package.

In related areas, PM&C led whole-of-government projects on data security to secure existing government data and provide the policy settings to protect government data as a national asset into the future. PM&C supported the Prime Minister and the Department of Home Affairs to establish and announce an $87.8 million Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to enhance Australia’s operational and investigative capacity to disrupt and deter acts of foreign interference and espionage. PM&C also supported Treasury on the largest reforms to Australia’s foreign investment framework in 20 years. This included expanding national security powers under the Foreign Acquisition and Takeovers Act 1975 to ensure Australia’s foreign investment screening keeps pace with emerging national security risks.

In 2019–20, the pace of change in our region and globally continued to accelerate. PM&C supported the Prime Minister to strengthen and diversify international partnerships, including through the implementation of the Government’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Pacific Step-up. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PM&C supported the Prime Minister’s extensive engagement with foreign counterparts in bilateral and multilateral meetings, including the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu; the G7 summit in France; the UN General Assembly in New York; the East Asia Summit in Thailand; visits by the Prime Minister to Vietnam, Timor-Leste, the United States, Fiji and Indonesia; and visits to Australia by the leaders of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, the Netherlands, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Indonesia, as well as the NATO Secretary-General and President of Israel.

PM&C adjusted to the unique circumstances of the global pandemic to support the Prime Minister’s pursuit of objectives internationally and opportunities to collaborate while international travel was not possible. The Prime Minister held virtual summits with the Prime Ministers of Singapore and India, participated in the virtual G20 Leaders’ Meeting, and held multiple summits with the Smart COVID-19 Management Group (which includes leaders from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Israel, New Zealand and Norway). PM&C supported the Prime Minister to maintain regular contact with international counterparts as they prepared for and responded to COVID-19. PM&C assisted the Government to provide immediate assistance to Pacific island countries to prepare for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically refocusing Australia’s aid program to mitigate the health and economic impacts of the pandemic and assist with the region’s economic recovery. PM&C also supported the Prime Minister to advocate internationally, including to G20 leaders, the United Nations Secretary-General and World Health Organization Director-General, for an independent review of the source of the global pandemic. A mandate for the review was secured in a resolution adopted at the 73rd World Health Assembly. PM&C also supported the Prime Minister in announcing two Australian contributions to the global effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic—a $352 million commitment announced at a European Commission-led pledging conference; and a $300 million commitment announced at the Global Vaccine Summit.

In response to the deteriorating strategic environment, PM&C worked closely with the Department of Defence to support the design and delivery of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which set out the new strategic objectives that will shape all elements of Defence planning. PM&C also supported the delivery of the accompanying 2020 Force Structure Plan, which outlined the necessary adjustments to Defence capability plans required by the new settings. PM&C worked closely with colleagues in the Department of Defence and Department of Finance to support the timely delivery of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, which supported the Government’s vision for a strong, sustainable and innovative naval shipbuilding industry in Australia. PM&C also provided high-quality advice on investment programs to increase Australia’s military and border patrol capabilities while building the sovereign defence industrial base and preserving job opportunities.

In 2019–20, PM&C achieved its purpose of coordinating a whole-of-government approach to uphold national security and strategic interests. We achieved all four performance measures under this purpose. Achievement of Purpose 4 is supported by evaluation through case studies and results presented for each key activity.

Results: Key Activity 4.1

Key activity

Measure

Target

Support the Prime Minister’s engagement with foreign counterparts and business leaders to strengthen and diversify Australia’s partnerships internationally, especially in the Indo-Pacific, contributing to a more successful and prosperous Australia.

PM&C supports and strengthens the Prime Minister’s international agenda by providing high-quality and timely briefing for the Prime Minister’s engagements.

Implementation by the APS of commitments made by the Prime Minister to foreign leaders.

Quality of advice received supports the Prime Minister in engagement with international counterparts and is demonstrably focused on advancing Australia’s interests through:

· strengthening the Indo-Pacific partnership

· clear articulation of important matters for Australia

· supporting the Prime Minister in achieving Australia’s foreign policy agenda and ensuring high-quality submissions and briefings on matters to do with foreign and trade policy

· ensuring that leader-level commitments the Government made during meetings with foreign counterparts are developed and implemented by agencies with support from PM&C.

Source

Corporate Plan 2019–2023, pp. 14–15

Result

Achieved

Methodology

Evaluation through case study

Analysis

In 2019–20, PM&C supported an elevated tempo of engagement in a time of strategic complexity and change with agile policy development; comprehensive briefing support; and innovative, virtual solutions.

PM&C’s achievements against this measure

PM&C delivered 21 visits (incoming and outgoing), six virtual summits and approximately 84 leader-level calls, including the virtual G20 Leaders’ Meeting; the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States of America; and the Australia–India Leaders’ Virtual Summit. (Refer to the following case studies).

PM&C assisted the Government to provide immediate assistance to Pacific island countries to prepare for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department supported the Prime Minister to advocate internationally, including to G20 leaders, the United Nations Secretary-General and World Health Organization Director-General, for an independent review into the source of the global pandemic.

Case study: Prime Minister's visit to the United States of America, 2019

From 19 to 27 September 2019, the Prime Minister visited the United States of America (US) at the invitation of the President of the United States, the Hon Donald J. Trump. During the visit, the Prime Minister attended the first State Dinner at the White House for an Australian Prime Minister since 2006. The Prime Minister’s visit sought to further strengthen Australia’s close security and economic ties with the US and to underscore the importance of the Alliance and bilateral relationship.

PM&C coordinated a whole-of-government effort to deliver concrete visit outcomes and high-quality, comprehensive briefing to support the Prime Minister’s visit and advance Australia’s national interest.

The Prime Minister met President Trump and members of his Cabinet; key US government, business and community figures; and Australian expatriates. He undertook engagements in four cities—Washington, Chicago, Wapakoneta (Ohio) and New York—and delivered two keynote speeches, accompanied by a large media contingent throughout the visit.

Important outcomes included:

  • deepened personal ties between the Prime Minister and key US leaders
  • a new mechanism to strengthen and align US and Australian Indo-Pacific strategies
  • a Joint Statement of Intent between the Australian Space Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • science and technology announcements, including a new Frontier Technology dialogue, hydrogen safety cooperation, and cooperation on lithium-ion recycling
  • measures to improve the security of critical minerals supply chains.

The visit was an example of strong collaboration across PM&C on policy, planning, logistics and briefing to enable the delivery of a range of high-profile prime ministerial commitments.

Through the delivery of high-quality advice and logistics, the Prime Minister was supported to effectively pursue Australia’s national interest and a strengthened relationship with the US. PM&C has continued to work with agencies following the visit to ensure that commitments the Prime Minister made during his visit are developed and implemented effectively.

From left to right, the First Lady of the United States, Mrs Melania Trump, Mrs Jenny Morrison, the President of the United States, the Hon Donald J. Trump, and the Prime Minister of Australia, attend the State Dinner at the White House.
The Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, Mrs Jenny Morrison, the President of the United States, the Hon Donald J. Trump, and First Lady of the United States, Mrs Melania Trump, attend the first State Dinner at the White House for an Australian Prime Minister since 2006. Credit: Adam Taylor, Office of the Prime Minister

Case study: Australia - India Leaders’ Virtual Summit, 4 June 2020

The June 2020 Australia–India Leaders’ Virtual Summit elevated bilateral ties to a new, historic high against the background of a region undergoing profound and rapid strategic change.

The summit was an innovative solution to facilitating leader-level diplomacy during the COVID-19 pandemic, forming a new model for future engagement. Leaders’ statements were broadcast live online, reaching a new digital audience. Associated media received prominent and favourable coverage in India, with 195 separate news print articles alone reaching an estimated 370 million people.

PM&C led a whole-of-government effort to deliver the summit’s ambitious outcomes and format, providing comprehensive briefing and delivering a technologically seamless meeting—India’s first-ever bilateral virtual leaders’ summit and Australia’s second. PM&C partnered with the Australian High Commission in India, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other government agencies to agree to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and eight other agreements and memoranda of understanding with Indian counterparts, which were announced by leaders on the day.

In addition to strengthening ties between the two Prime Ministers, the summit resulted in an unprecedented step-up in the relationship, with new initiatives reflecting a broader, deeper and more mature and trusting connection with India. It included the launch of major initiatives in defence, maritime affairs, cybersecurity, governance, critical minerals and water management.

Most significantly, the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership now marks a new era in ties with a major regional power at a critical time. As implementation is taken forward, it will make Australia a more secure, prosperous and integrated player in the Indo-Pacific.

The Prime Minister is meeting virtually with His Excellency Shri Mr Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India whose image is on display on a large television screen. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, the Hon Marie Payne, is also pictured, seated in the meeting room.
The Prime Minister holds a virtual meeting with the Hon Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, from Australian Parliament House. Credit: Adam Taylor, Office of the Prime Minister

Results: Key Activity 4.2

Key activity

Measure

Target

Provide comprehensive, influential and timely advice and coordination on national security, with an emphasis on:

  • counter-terrorism and crisis management
  • border security, law enforcement, cyber security and counter foreign interference initiatives
  • defence operations and capability, including on the national naval shipbuilding enterprise
  • foreign policy.

Decisions in relation to national security matters are made and implemented on the basis of consideration of Australia’s national interests and the full range of equities, including social, economic and security interests, and implemented in a timely way.

Whole-of-government response during times of crisis is coordinated seamlessly.

Quality of advice received supports the government’s commitments on national security and a whole-of-government response is coordinated effectively during times of crisis.

Source

Corporate Plan 2019–2023, pp. 14–15

Result

Achieved

Methodology

Evaluation through case study

Analysis

In 2019–20, PM&C successfully implemented a range of activities that delivered a consistent, common understanding on interconnecting domestic, international and national security factors that supported an informed national response.

PM&C’s achievements against this measure

PM&C supported the Prime Minister to mobilise Commonwealth resources and efforts, working with states and territories on a collective approach to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. (Refer to the following case study).

The Department introduced new National Cabinet processes and twice-daily reports on national, global pandemic and economy relevant data and trends, to provide a ‘single point of truth’ for the Prime Minister’s Office, Commonwealth bureaucracies, and states and territories.

PM&C worked with the Department of Home Affairs to develop the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy which commits $1.67 billion over ten years to enhance Australia’s cyber security and an $87.8 million Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce in ASIO.

The Department worked with Treasury on the largest reforms to Australia’s foreign investment framework in 20 years.

Case study: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) national pandemic response

The global COVID-19 pandemic presented unparalleled human security and biosecurity challenges. The Government’s aim from the first days of the crisis was to restrict the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australians and Australian interests.

A nationally unified response was called for and was delivered due to extraordinary cooperation across the Commonwealth, state and territory public services. Led initially by public health officials, all service delivery agencies demonstrated extraordinary collegiality and agility in implementing new and expanded programs such as JobSeeker, JobKeeper and early access to superannuation; and working internationally to help Australians overseas to return home.

PM&C was involved in supporting the Prime Minister to mobilise all Commonwealth resources expeditiously and efficiently to support Commonwealth and state and territory governments’ collective management of the national crisis. Our efforts focused upon supporting pandemic response decision making by the Prime Minister and National Cabinet, and the Prime Minister’s international engagement.

PM&C supported new government coordination mechanisms (National Cabinet and the National Coordination Mechanism), which met with unparalleled regularity. Output included 12-hourly strategic updates to the Prime Minister, supported by complex data analysis of prevailing conditions and engagement with international partners, industry and the private sector to harness maximum national efforts and to ensure critical ongoing supplies of necessities to the public. PM&C ensured a coordinated and collaborative response by all governments through chairing regular meetings of senior officials from First Ministers’ departments in all jurisdictions—namely, the First Secretaries Group and First Deputies Group. These efforts ensured that pandemic responses were optimised and the pandemic’s impact on the lives and prosperity of Australians was contained.

Australia’s COVID-19 response was met with world acclaim. As a result of the Government’s management of this challenge, Australia was invited into the international ‘First Movers Group’—a group of 10 countries recognised for quickly and decisively containing COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatened lives, the economy and our standards of living, and it continues to be a substantial threat. However, the Government’s decisive actions so far blunted the potentially severe impact the virus could have had on Australians and Australian interests.

Results: Key Activity 4.3

Key activity

Measure

Target

Provide comprehensive, influential and timely advice and coordination on Defence Capability, operations and strategic policy, including the establishment of a sovereign and sustainable Australian defence industrial base.

PM&C supports the delivery of the $200 billion 2016 Defence White Paper Investment Program, including the $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise.

Quality of advice received supports the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, responsible ministers and agencies in the delivery of Defence capability.

The advice considers the views of all relevant stakeholders, including industry and the states and territories, where appropriate.

The program is delivered to agreed deadlines.

Source

Corporate Plan 2019–2023, pp. 14–15

Result

Achieved

Methodology

Evaluation through stakeholder survey

Analysis

PM&C effectively supported the Prime Minister and the Government in delivering its Defence policy, capability, and industry policies, including the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan. Independent external survey results indicated high levels of stakeholder satisfaction across this activity. The survey results also indicated that PM&C worked very effectively with other stakeholders to support implementation of the Government’s Defence priorities.

PM&C’s achievements against this measure

PM&C worked closely with the Department of Defence to deliver the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, the 2020 Defence Force Structure Plan and the Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

The Department provided the Prime Minister with high-quality advice on investment programs to increase Australia’s military and border patrol capabilities.

Results: Key Activity 4.4

Key activity

Measure

Target

Support the Prime Minister as chair of National Security Committee (NSC) to secure decisions and drive implementation.

A focused NSC agenda, with clear decision-making and management processes and effective implementation of decisions.

Quality of advice received supports the NSC agenda.

Source

Corporate Plan 2019–2023, pp. 14–15

Result

Achieved

Methodology

Various: data and stakeholder feedback

Analysis

In 2019–20, a key focal point for PM&C was disaster response, crisis coordination and recovery. We supported the Prime Minister with advice that included a whole-of-government perspective and took into consideration social, health and economic impacts. Existing committee structures were adapted to allow for flexible decision making and provide better support for the Government’s COVID-19 response. (Refer to the following case study).

PM&C’s achievements against this measure

PM&C managed an increased frequency of NSC meetings to respond to the 2019–2020 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the standing forward work program.

The Department established the dedicated NSC COVID-19 Taskforce to promote thematic consideration of interrelated issues.

PM&C allocated staffing to track the actioning of the COVID-19 response.

PM&C’s outreach and liaison across the APS ensured that advice provided to NSC was accurate and well consulted.

Case study: Establishment of the National Cabinet and NSC COVID-19 Task Force

In March 2020, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia, the Prime Minister – with support of Premiers and Chief Ministers – established a National Cabinet. Meetings are chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by state and territory leaders. The forum coordinates COVID-19 preparedness and response across all Australian jurisdictions. In addition, a National Security Committee (NSC) COVID-19 Taskforce was established to support the National Cabinet and ensure strategic direction and oversight of implementation of national COVID-19 response measures.

Cabinet and its committees were also restructured to allow for flexible decision making to support the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated increase in the frequency of Cabinet and committee-level meetings in 2020. Two new committees, along with their associated technical support, were established in a matter of days.

As a result of the changes, the Government was equipped with the capacity to consult rapidly across the federal and state levels on Australia’s COVID-19 response and preparedness. The new arrangements ensured that the health, economic, societal and public safety aspects of the COVID-19 response were subject to whole-of-government coordination and consultation. The establishment of dedicated committees ensured the people with the relevant expertise were present to inform the Government’s discussions and decision making.

PM&C responded flexibly and promptly to the Government’s changing decision-making needs as a result of the pandemic. It coordinated the Cabinet-level consideration of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the standing forward work program. It engaged in significant outreach across the APS, as well as with states and territories, to ensure the advice provided to Government was based on sound consultation and that it balanced competing concerns.

PM&C also continued to support the operations of Cabinet and its committees to ensure that Government decisions could be taken in a timely way, with the best possible policy analysis and advice.

PM&C, through significant liaison across the APS, supported the Prime Minister to secure prompt and collaborative decisions about how Australia responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as holding agencies to account for implementing and reviewing those decisions.