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National Security Adviser and Bastardisation

Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 23 Feb 2009

FADT Committee

Senator LUDLAM-I did have a question about the newly announced National Security Adviser. I realise it is not an officer of Defence. I was just wondering if you could inform us about the relationship, the reporting arrangements and so on.

Air Vice Marshall Houston-The relationship is a very close relationship. We work very closely with the National Security Adviser in a whole raft of different areas. The National Security Adviser is the Chair of the Strategic Policy Coordination Group and in that capacity he looks, in conjunction with that committee, at all the strategic issues that are confronting Defence and other departments. To a large extent, he coordinates the whole-of-government response to a crisis in the first instance or, indeed, the whole-of-government response to a set of circumstances that we are dealing with in the national security arena. We have a very close relationship with him at that level, and the secretary and I meet with him on a weekly basis to make sure we are all connected. When we go into the National Security Committee of Cabinet and the Secretaries Committee of National Security, again we work very closely with him on the submissions that are taken through the process to the National Security Committee. It is a very close relationship and one that works very well.

Senator LUDLAM-The last question I have while we are on the portfolio overview relates partly to some material that was published in the 2007-08 annual report and also to material that has been heard in confidence by this committee, through the inquiry into military justice. The 2007-08 annual report cites 765 complaints of unacceptable behaviour, as it is termed. I do not want to go into any of the details shared with the committee on a confidential basis through our inquiry, but the accounts that we have received of practices such as bastardisation in the Defence Force-particularly at Duntroon-are pretty shocking, hair-raising and quite unacceptable. It has been alleged that a number of senior officers still serving with the ADF participate in these practices of quite organised sounding intimidation of people there and at other locations. How seriously are you tackling issues such as bastardisation, and through what efforts in particular?

Air Chief Marshal Houston-I have been on the record numerous times and I know that the service chiefs have too. We will not tolerate any form of leadership behaviour which is negative or intimidates our people in any way. Bullying will not be tolerated and any form of adverse leadership-that is what I would call it-is just not acceptable in the modern ADF. We have made that very clear at all levels of leadership, and I would hope that some of those stories you referred to are very much in the past. To my knowledge, they do not exist at the moment. Certainly, in the Defence Academy, in the Royal Military College, in the naval equivalent's officer training, NCO training establishments, and indeed, in the recruit schools, I see no evidence of those sorts of behaviour that would suggest we have a bastardisation problem.

Senator LUDLAM-That is gratifying to hear. What efforts have you taken with personnel at an officer level, who obviously have quite a degree of control over their subordinates, to change that culture in the ADF?

Air Chief Marshal Houston-When I became CDF back in July 2005, one of the first things I did, was order an audit of all our training establishments. The audit was designed to assess the culture of our training establishments. That was done by three people who were completely independent of the system-they were not serving in the system. They went around our training system, they went to officer training establishments, they went to NCO training establishments and they went to all of our recruit training schools. They gave us a clean bill of health. They said that there was no systemic problem existing in the ADF. However, they did suggest that there might still be a couple of pockets around the ADF where the old behaviours might reemerge. So we, the leadership of the ADF, have been at pains to ensure that those little pockets have not been the source of further problems in that area.

Senator LUDLAM-I presume then that you reject the assertion that there are senior officers still serving who participate in practices like this.

Air Chief Marshal Houston-Most of those practices go back a long, long way. I cannot say here this afternoon with certainty that every officer in the Defence Force has never been involved in bastardisation. I cannot say that because I do not know. Basically, these practices were still around in the 1970s and into the early 1980s. We have a large number of officers who are still serving who went through that period of time. So I simply do not know.

Senator LUDLAM-Thank you for taking those questions.

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