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Senate Estimates: Department of Defence

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 4 Jun 2013

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee

Estimates hearing, 4 June 2013

Department of Defence

  • General David Hurley AC, DSC, Chief of the Defence Force
  • Air Marshal Mark Binskin AO, Vice Chief of the Defence Force

Senator RHIANNON: I want to pick up on Australia's national action plan on women, peace and security. I was interested to see that Defence is one of the agencies that is working on this. What measures have the ADF put in place to implement the national action plan on women, peace and security in Afghanistan? I have noticed that over the past year the Minister for Defence has not reflected on Australia's role in Afghanistan in promoting women's rights or addressing escalating security concerns facing women and girls. I would appreciate an update.

Gen. Hurley: I think I would struggle to particularly align what we have been doing through the provincial reconstruction team efforts in Afghanistan to precise elements from both the UNSCR 1325 and the national action plan. I would be happy to take on notice to do it, because I am pretty sure we can. But in terms of many of the projects that we have undertaken in Oruzgan and at the national level, the role of women and the consequences of actions for women have been a very important consideration.

Senator RHIANNON: I am sure you will appreciate that was a very general answer with no specifics.

Gen. Hurley: That is why I said I am happy to give you a bit more detail.

Senator RHIANNON: Is there anybody here who can give us an update? This has been happening for more than a year now. It took the government 10 years to even come up with a plan. There seems very little energy or ability to provide information about what is happening. Putting aside for a moment my detailed questions, can you provide any update at all on any aspect of what the ADF is doing with regard to the national action plan on women, peace and security?

Mr Richardson: I will say by way of introduction that a lot of what you go to there is AusAID and not ADF directly. Secondly, in his opening statement yesterday morning, the acting CDF did in fact outline some broad security gains and he provided some statistics in relation to some matters that go to women. We could repeat that if you are interested.

Senator RHIANNON: Firstly, in response to your referring me to AusAID, I understand, Mr Richardson, that the ADF is one of the agencies that has responsibilities under this national action plan. So while I will be asking questions of AusAID, I understand that the ADF has its own clear responsibilities. That is why I am asking these questions.

Mr Richardson: We will go over what we outlined yesterday.

Air Marshal Binskin: I have taken the lead—and I have only just done this—within the department for UNSC resolution 1325 and the subsequent national action plan on women. As you would appreciate, it goes across many areas within Defence. Rather than leave it in the personnel area or the strategy area, they each have their particular parts to play. I have come in and will be starting to tie it together and be accountable for bringing it together within the department. Work has been done in specific areas. The Civil Military Centre—the team at Queanbeyan who work for me but who have people from DFAT, AFP, AusAID and the New Zealand government involved—have taken some of the responsibility for promoting women, peace and security. You would have seen some of those forums around the place. You would have seen in our bid for the UN Security Council in the last year a lot on women, peace and security. The Civil Military Centre, under me, has been doing that. We can provide you with a bit more information, if you like, on notice.

I have a bit more information on what is going on in Afghanistan. We noted that it is DFAT and AusAID. Defence has had a fair part to play in the security side of it. I will look at some of the things that have been happening there. Through national programs funded through Australia's support for the Afghanistan reconstruction trust fund, which has been $262 million since 2003, Australia has contributed to increasing girls school enrolment from virtually zero under the Taliban to about 2.9 million today. I think I said about 40 per cent yesterday in my opening statement. It is 38 per cent. It has increased the number of functioning primary health care facilities by 300 per cent and those with skilled female health workers from 25 per cent in 2003 to 74 per cent in 2012.

Senator RHIANNON: Are these actually part of the national action plan, or is this your general work that is relevant to women?

Air Marshal Binskin: You have asked two questions. I will try to give you a summary of what is happening in Afghanistan. This has not been a part of our national action plan. This has been a part of our focus on growing Afghanistan and the capability within Afghanistan.

Senator RHIANNON: I am sorry if there was a confusion in my question. To save yourself and the committee time, it was in the context of the national action plan. It was what ADF is doing in Afghanistan that sits under the plan.

Air Marshal Binskin: I guess it does not formally sit under the plan. It is not a formal part of our response to the national action plan per se, but it is delivering the output that you are after. So it is delivering a better outcome for women and girls in Afghanistan.

Senator RHIANNON: I obviously totally agree and am interested in the outcomes for women, but I want to understand what you are doing that is your responsibility under the plan.

Air Marshal Binskin: I will have to take that on notice and formally structure the answer for you.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. If you are able to provide this, that would be good, but maybe it is not possible: are there any other countries where the work under the plan is being advanced by the ADF according to its requirements for the national action plan?

Air Marshal Binskin: So is that like Timor and the Solomons?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. Or even if there are any other countries that, for whatever reason, we have not picked up.

Air Marshal Binskin: Okay.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you the official who is responsible for the implementation of the plan within the ADF?

Air Marshal Binskin: Yes. I am the accountable person.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. When did you come into the job?

Air Marshal Binskin: As to the national action plan—I will be very honest here—we have been slow in the uptake of the overall plan. The Civil Military Centre has taken responsibility and developed it quite extensively. But there have been other areas of this plan where we have been slower off the mark. In a formal accountability sense, it has been in the last few months.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much for the frank answer. How are you working with other departments, because this, up to a point, is a whole-of-government plan? Have you got a point of contact with other departments? Are you meeting with representatives from the other departments that have a similar responsibility to the ADF?

Air Marshal Binskin: In a formal sense, the more formal interaction would be through the Civil Military Centre, because they work across whole of government. We do support a lot of forums that are across government. In a formal sense, our Defence People Group will have relationships that they will be developing on this, but I do not have the exact details of what meetings they may have held in regard to the national action plan per se.

Gen. Hurley: There is a whole-of-government working group that looks at the implementation of the national action plan. Defence has been a standing member of that. The representative was from the Defence People Group. As the vice chief referred to recently, when I was looking at our progress on that and the discussion with the civilian and military members of our gender equality advisory board, I thought that we were not moving quickly enough in Defence. I have refocussed where the engine room for that will be. To sum up, we have been in regular contact with the relevant government agencies involved in the implementation and we continue to do so. But I have changed the point of leadership. Interestingly, we have a female officer who is presently serving in headquarters ISAF in Kabul who is leading on the NATO ISAF implementation of this plan. She will come back and work for the vice chief on the issue when she returns in a month or so from Afghanistan.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that update. Air Marshal Binskin, when you responded, you talked about the various forums et cetera. Obviously I am interested in them. In your response, could you also detail what is actually happening in the countries as well, both the response in Australia and the real changes that are occurring on the ground?

Air Marshal Binskin: Where I can, I will. Again, while the ADF has a number of actions for this, we would not do this on our own in those nations. It would be as a part of a whole-of-government response—so through DFAT and AusAID. In a lot of cases, it will be AusAID taking the lead, with us in support.

Proceedings suspended from 14:38 to 14:49 pm

Senator RHIANNON: I notice that the ADF's ODA spending dropped considerably in 2013-14. Why was that, please?

Mr Prior: For 2013-14, as a projection, it would be partly because we are winding down our activities.

Senator RHIANNON: Because of Afghanistan? Is that why we have dropped down to $0.4 million?

Mr Prior: Yes. That is largely it. You are talking about 2013-14, the budget year, are you not?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes. It is $0.4 million, is it not?

Mr Prior: Yes. Have you got a reference for that?

Senator RHIANNON: It is table 4 at page 132. It was Senator Carr's statement.

Mr Prior: It is not in our portfolio budget statement. Because we are reducing our activity, clearly it follows that we are spending less on those activities as well.

Senator RHIANNON: I want to check up on the $9 million or so spent last year. Could you give us a rundown on what that money was spent on, please?

Mr Prior: Are you talking about 2012-13?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Prior: Just to be clear, we read it into the record for the 2012-13 year to date the last time we appeared at a hearing. The total at that time was $10.190 million. Our latest estimate for the full year for 2012-13 is now $9,157,000. The breakdown I have in front of me is direct project costs of $8,091,000. Defence employee costs are $647,900. Defence employee support costs are $417,800. I do not with me have any further detailed breakdown beyond that, I am sorry.

Senator RHIANNON: Can you take it on notice?

Mr Prior: I can indeed.

Senator RHIANNON: With regard to the $0.4 million, is that all going to be spent in Afghanistan?

Mr Prior: I do not have that detail in front of me.

Senator RHIANNON: Is there anybody here who would know?

Gen. Hurley: We will come back to you with the firm details. In terms of operations next year, we will have ceased in the Solomon Islands in September this year. There might be some tail end of projects in Afghanistan. But we will not be in a position to start anything new in Afghanistan, and we are certainly not doing any in any other operational area at the present time.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that. I am interested in how the ADF is going to report on and monitor this ODA to ensure long-term sustainability. I am partly asking that because you had to revise your figures at the inquiry into Afghanistan with regard to what you define as ODA eligible. Could you explain how you manage this?

Mr Prior: Indeed. We did refine our calculations based on the engagement of other agencies in terms of the definition. We had been including some elements that were not strictly allowed to be classified as ODA, so that is what we went through. In terms of process, if this is your question—

Senator RHIANNON: Yes.

Mr Prior: As we prepare information to be submitted, we go to the authority and we seek their review and scrutiny of our calculations and our approach to definitions. We do not proceed to provide any numbers until they have been signed off by our colleagues.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say the authority and colleagues, do you mean AusAID?

Mr Prior: Yes, I do. They are fully engaged in reviewing all of our information before we submit it to them formally so that we ensure we do not make an error in calculating the ODA.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for clarifying that. Considering there has been the criticism both in the one that you have just dealt with about the misallocation of money as ODA and, more generally, military activities linked with aid, were they factors that were taken into account in downsizing ADF's ODA spending? Was it a deliberate strategy? I know you have explained that it is because you are leaving Afghanistan. Australia has activities in many places and there are many requirements. It is such an enormous change. Is there a strategy here?

Mr Prior: No.

Gen. Hurley: There is no strategy. It is simply a reflection of the fact that we will not be in a position to deliver any aid projects because we will not be in the location or have the assets to be able to do it.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.


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