Australia appoints new defence chiefs


Lieutenant-General David Hurley is the new Chief of the Australian Defence Force. Hurley replaces Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston as defence chief from July 4, the Canberra Times reports today. Hurley, 57, was Air Chief Marshal Houston’s understudy as vice-chief of the defence force, and has long been favourite for the top job.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday Air Marshal Mark Binskin, currently chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, would fill the position of vice chief of the defence force. The new navy chief will be Rear-Admiral Ray Griggs, currently deputy chief of joint operations, while the new army head will be Major-General David Morrison, now the army’s forces commander, the paper says.

The new air force chief will be Air Vice-Marshal Geoff Brown, currently deputy chief. Retiring will be Air Chief Marshal Houston, army chief Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie and navy chief Rear-Admiral Russ Crane.

Insiders said the long-awaited announcements, which put to rest months of speculation within the senior ranks of the ADF, clear the way for the implementation of recommendations from a top-secret report on Defence accountability. It has been suggested the report may recommend dismantling the controversial ”Defence diarchy” which critics say undermines accountability and responsibility at the highest levels, the Canberra Times said.

Hurley did not appear concerned about the possible reforms or recent vigorous exchanges between the ADF and the minister yesterday. “Robust interaction between the department and the minister is something you would expect,” he said. ”That [should not] be taken as dissent or some sort of war between the minister and the generals”. Under the ”diarchy”, the department secretary, Ian Watt, and the Chief of Defence Force, have equal power but different responsibilities.

This has been blamed for confusion, blame-shifting and buck passing. ”What other organisation [of this size and importance] has two leaders?” a former senior Defence administrator told The Canberra Times. Dr Watt defended the current arrangement. ”The diarchy works,” he said. ”In any civilian/military organisation worldwide there is a senior civil person and a senior military person. It is not about titles; it is about relationships.”

The Defence Accountability Report, the work of Professor Rufus Black, has been the talk of Russell for months. Speculation doing the rounds yesterday was it may have even recommended placing the secretary in overall charge of Defence with Chief of the Defence Force and the chief executive of the Defence Materiel Organisation answering to him. ”That’s bullshit,” was one Defence insider’s response. Executive director of the Australia Defence Association, Neil James, concurred.
”I am no supporter of the diarchy, but it would be possible to create something worse,” he said.
”The CDF must answer to the minister, that is what civilian control of the military is about.”

The contents of the ”Black” report have been a closely guarded secret for months. It is believed that at least as of last week the individual service chiefs had not been given access to the recommendations. Professor Black, an ethicist and the Master of Ormond College at Melbourne University, was commissioned by outgoing Air Chief Marshal Houston and Dr Watt in early 2010.

The professor, who is now working on a review of Australia’s intelligence community, reportedly delivered his recommendations which apparently include a comprehensive blueprint for reform to the two chiefs on January 24.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith ”formally received” a copy of the document on February 15.

He has been ”reviewing it” ever since, the Canberra Tims says. The Canberra Times has been told funds were set aside in the budget for the implementation of reforms. Dr Watt said the report was a straightforward and practical document. ”It’s a review about accountabilities, they [the recommendations] affect every leader in the [Defence] organisation,” he said.
”Implementing the Black review when the Government has finished considering it will be an important task for the Secretary [himself] and the CDF but it will be an important task for many of us.” Dr Watt said the reforms would need to be made with the active support of leaders across Defence.