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Estimates: Department of Defence

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 19 Oct 2011

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee

Estimates hearings, 19 October 2011

Department of Defence

  • Senator David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence
  • Mr Duncan Lewis, AO, DSC, CSC, Secretary
  • General David Hurley, AC, DSC, Chief of the Defence Force
  • Air Vice Marshal Kevin Paule, AM, Acting Vice Chief of the Defence Force

Full transcript available here

Senator RHIANNON: How much does the government pay Australian security firms that are operating in conjunction with the Australian military in overseas countries; and what are the names of those companies?

Senator Feeney: If you can give us one moment to assemble the relevant team.

ACTING CHAIR: While we are waiting I will let the officers know that Senator Bernardi's questions will be to 1.16 and Senator Macdonald's to 3.1. So if officers can please be ready as soon as the senator before them has finished their questions.

Air Vice Marshal Paule: We do not currently have any contracts with private security contractors overseas in support of our operations at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: So those occasional reports that the bases are secured by private companies are not true?

Gen. Hurley: They might be secured by private companies; they are not contracted by us.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for clarifying that. Who are they contracted by?

Gen. Hurley: I do not know. It would depend on the base, the location, the country and the operation.

Senator RHIANNON: As they are securing your base, what is their exact role in the field and what is the relationship between the security firm and the defence forces? How does that work?

Gen. Hurley: For example, in Tarin Kowt there is a mixture of a private security company that is contracted through ISAF and works together with our people who run the base in terms of providing security at the main entry points and so forth. We would interact with them in terms of the processes that they use, quality assurance and so forth. But we would not manage the contract per se because we would not be paying for it. We would be working with them to ensure that we are happy with what they are providing.

Senator RHIANNON: This question is about private US firms. If there are US firms providing the security, do you work out the operations with them in terms of who is responsible for what. Is that how it plays out?

Gen. Hurley: If there was a private US firm—and to my knowledge there are none, but I could be incorrect—providing security for us, they would be managed by the organisation that is letting the contract. It would depend on the base. We only assist in the running of one base, and that is at Tarin Kowt. At Kandahar and elsewhere we do not have anything to do with the running of the bases—we are just lodgers. But where we have a particular interest, such as at Tarin Kowt, we would be ensuring that the quality of what they are doing is up to scratch and talking to the contract manager. But we do not necessarily tell them what they must do under the contract.

Senator RHIANNON: You do not tell them what they must do, but if it is our base that we are operating from wouldn't we have the ultimate responsibility?

Gen. Hurley: It is not our base in the sense of us owning it. We are helping to manage it. On Tarin Kowt, there are US, Australian, Afghan, Slovakian and Singaporean soldiers. There is a whole host of ISAF countries there. So we are interested in the quality of the product, but we do not manage the contract.

Senator RHIANNON: I am still trying to understand the relationship between the Defence Force and private companies. Are you saying that at times the private companies would determine aspects of their operations or are they always at the direction of individual defence forces or the combined defence forces?

Gen. Hurley: The contract would be entered into with an element of ISAF. That contract would stipulate what the requirements for security are. That would be delivered under the management of the contract owner. We are not the contract owner, but we obviously, as you are indicating, have a very keen interest to see that what they are delivering is up to scratch from our perspective.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to ask about private companies administering aid in the field. What assistance does the Defence Force offer private companies delivering aid projects in Afghanistan?

Gen. Hurley: Could you define 'private companies' in that sense. Are you talking about NGOs or—

Senator RHIANNON: A private company; not an NGO but a private company that undertakes an aid project of some form.

Gen. Hurley: On a profit basis?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Gen. Hurley: I do not think that we have those arrangements in the particular areas where we are operating in at the present time. My only hesitation is about the precise detail about the arrangements for the security of the building of the road from Tarin Kowt to Chora for which there was a company hired under Dutch contract, I believe, to provide the security for that. But our interaction would have only been in determining where they were and what they were doing rather than managing what they were doing.

Senator RHIANNON: What is the Australian government's attitude to private Australian companies administering aid in countries where the Defence Force is operating?

Senator Feeney: I will have to take that on notice on the basis that none of us here are aware of there being private Australian companies undertaking such work. Before I say that categorically, I would want to take it on notice and check.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take on notice the list of the companies, what countries they operate in and the relationship?

Mr D Lewis: It might be better if you directed that question to the foreign affairs hearing. I think they are up tomorrow. Certainly AusAID will have all of the data around this. I am not sure we are able to answer that question. It is not really in our space.

Senator RHIANNON: We are definitely doing that, but because I have information about a relationship between the military and the private organisations in delivering certain projects I was asking it here. If you could still take it on notice, I would appreciate it.

Mr D Lewis: We can take the bit about the relationship with the military. I am just saying that there may be companies there of which we have no knowledge.

Senator RHIANNON: I totally agree with that. Can I have the details of the names and relationships of those ones you have knowledge of.

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