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Annual Report 2014–15

Volume 1, Part 3 : Governance and Accountability

Chapter 10
External accountability

Parliamentary business

In 2014–15, Defence provided 10 written submissions to various Senate, House of Representatives and joint committee inquiries. Defence witnesses appeared at 25 hearings, providing evidence on a range of issues; took 134 follow-on questions on notice (18 had not yet been tabled as at 30 June 2015); and either tabled or contributed to seven government responses to parliamentary committee reports throughout the year.

To assist parliamentary committee members to gain a better understanding of Defence issues, Defence also provided private briefings on a range of subjects, including matters related to the Defence White Paper, national security and capability.

Table 10.1: Defence’s parliamentary contribution, 2012–13 to 2014–15

Parliamentary contribution

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

Written submissions

24

8

10

Whole-of-government submissions

1

Government responses

2

8

7

Public hearings

16

12

25

Private briefings

4

25

12

Total

46

54

54

Parliamentary committees

Joint committees

Table 10.2 provides information on Defence’s activities in relation to its involvement in joint committees from
1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

Table 10.2: Defence’s involvement with joint committees, 2014–15

Joint committees

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Inquiry into government support for Australian Defence industry exports

Progress report for the inquiry into the care of ADF personnel wounded and injured on operations

Inquiry into the human rights issues facing women and girls in the Indian Ocean and Asia–Pacific region

Review of the Defence Annual Report 2011–12

Review of the Defence Annual Report 2012–13

Review of the Defence Annual Report 2013–14

Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security

Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 13 (2013–2014)

Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit

Report 447: EPBC Act, Cyber Security, Mail Screening, ABR and Helicopter Program: Review of Auditor-General’s Reports Numbers 32–54 (2013–14)

Report 448: Review of the 2013–14 Defence Materiel Organisation Major Projects Report

Report 443: Review of Auditor-General’s Reports Nos 23 and 25 (2012–13) and 32 (2012–13) to 9 (2013–14)

Report 442: Review of the 2012–13 Major Projects Report

Review of ANAO Report No. 50 (2013–14) Cyber Attacks: Securing Agencies’ ICT Systems

Review of ANAO Report No. 52 (2013–14) Multi-Role Helicopter Program

Review of ANAO Report No. 19 (2014–15) Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment

Joint Standing Committee on Public Works

Multi-User Barge Ramp Facility, East Arm, Darwin, Northern Territory

Project AIR 9000 Phase 7—Helicopter Aircrew Training System Facilities Project

Project AIR 7000 Phase 2B—Maritime Patrol Aircraft Replacement

Joint Project 154 Phase 1—Counter Improvised Explosive Device Capability Facilities and Infrastructure Project

Project JP3029 Phase 2—Defence Space Surveillance Telescope Facilities Project

Air 6000 Phase 2A/B—New Air Combat Capability Facilities

Development and construction of housing for Defence at RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory

17th Construction Squadron Relocation Infrastructure Project

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

Report 145: Treaties tabled on 26 August and 2 September 2014

Senate committees

Table 10.3 provides information on Defence’s activities in relation to its involvement in Senate committees from
1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

Table 10.3: Defence’s involvement with Senate committees, 2014–15

Senate committee

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Inquiry into the mental health of ADF serving personnel

The potential use by the Australian Defence Force of unmanned air, maritime and land platforms

Australia’s future activities and responsibilities in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters

Processes to support victims of abuse in Defence

Inquiry into the Defence Legislation Amendment (Military Justice Enhancements—Inspector-General ADF) Bill 2014

Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport

Inquiry into Australia’s transport energy resilience and sustainability

Senate Economics Legislation Committee

Inquiry into the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 6) Bill 2014

Senate Economics References Committee

Inquiry into Australia’s innovation system

Inquiry into the future of Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry

Senate Estimates and questions on notice

Defence attended three Senate Estimates hearings before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, in October 2014, February 2015 and June 2015. Defence was asked a total of 359 questions on notice from the three hearings.

In relation to questions taken on notice from the Senate and House of Representatives notice papers during 2014–15, Defence was asked a total of 134 questions. One response had not been tabled by 30 June 2015.

Table 10.4 provides information on Defence’s activities in relation to the Senate Estimates process from
1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015, and Table 10.5 presents a comparative picture of the number of Defence’s responses to parliamentary questions on notice for the last three years.

Table 10.4: Defence’s involvement with Senate Estimates, 2014–15

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Supplementary Budget Estimates 2014–15

Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 22 October 2014. There were 180 questions, consisting of 1,302 parts, taken on notice during the hearing.

Additional Estimates 2014–15

Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 25 February 2015. There were 67 questions, consisting of 275 parts, taken on notice during the hearing.

Budget Estimates 2015–16

Defence witnesses appeared at hearings on 1 and 2 June 2015. There were 112 questions, consisting of 321 parts, taken on notice during the hearing.

Table 10.5 Defence’s questions on notice, 2012–13 to 2014–15

Source of questions on notice

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

House of Representatives/Senate notice paper

167

18

134

Senate Estimates (October, February, June)

440

450

359

Parliamentary inquiries

97

35

134

Total

704

503

627

Judicial decisions and decisions of
administrative tribunals

On 22 September 2014, following a decision on 28 May 2014 of the Federal Court in Danthanarayana and Another v Commonwealth of Australia and Ors [2014] FCA 552, the first applicant served a further proposed amended statement of claim against the Commonwealth alleging negligence and contraventions of the Fair Work Act 2009. In accordance with the orders of the court on 28 May 2014, the applicant submitted the amended claim to the court and to the Commonwealth for consideration prior to leave being granted to file it. The Commonwealth has opposed leave being granted and is currently awaiting the court’s decision on whether the applicant will be allowed to file the further amended statement of claim.

Defence is currently the respondent in six applications to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where the applicants seek review of decisions by Defence to reject their claims for compensation under regulation 57 of the Defence Force Regulations 1952 in relation to Defence activities at the Salt Ash Weapons Range. The applicants are the lead group of 102 claimants whose claims for compensation under regulation 57 have been rejected by Defence. The hearing of these applications is listed to commence on 26 October 2015.

On 9 December 2014, the Federal Court heard the matter of Comcare v Commonwealth of Australia ACD88 of 2013. Comcare commenced the civil breach proceeding against Defence on 30 August 2013, seeking a declaration that Defence had breached its duty of care under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 by failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety at work of its employees; and the imposition of a pecuniary penalty and costs. The proceeding arose out of the death of Lance Corporal Mason Edwards and the wounding of another soldier during a training exercise at Cultana, South Australia, in 2009. The court has reserved its decision.

On 19 March 2014, in Stack v Chief of Army Department of Defence [2014] FCCA 520, the Federal Circuit Court granted the applicant an extension of time in which to bring an application for judicial review of a decision by the delegate of the Chief of Army in respect of the applicant’s retirement from the Army in December 1971. The delegate had determined that grounds did not exist to support the applicant’s claim that he could have been retired under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 due to invalidity or physical or mental incapacity. The substantive application under the Administrative Appeals (Judicial Review) Act 1977 alleges that the delegate, in making his decision, was not free from bias, failed to take into account relevant considerations, and took into account irrelevant considerations. Defence opposed the application. The application was heard on 3 November 2014 and the court reserved its decision.

Auditor-General’s reports

In 2014–15, the Auditor-General tabled six performance audit reports relating directly to Defence and the Defence Materiel Organisation, which are listed in Table 10.6, and one report on a cross-portfolio audit involving Defence (Table 10.7).

Table 10.6: Auditor-General’s reports on Defence, 2014–15

Report

Objective

Audit Report No. 17: Retention and Recruitment of Specialist Skills for Navy, tabled 18 December 2014

The audit objective was to examine the effectiveness of the Navy’s strategy for recruiting and retaining personnel with specialist skills. In particular, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) assessed whether:

  • this strategy supported the Navy in maintaining and building military capability and carrying out its mission
  • the plans and activities underpinning this strategy were effectively administered and implemented.

Audit Report No. 19: Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment, tabled 5 February 2015

The audit objective was to assess the effectiveness of Defence’s management of the disposal of specialist military equipment. The audit considered (i) whether Defence has conducted disposals in accordance with applicable Commonwealth legislative and policy requirements and Defence policies, guidelines and instructions; and (ii) where relevant rules have been departed from, the main reasons and consequences. The audit examined Defence records of selected disposals that have occurred over the last 15 years, especially the period from 2005 to 2013, including actions in response to disposals that did not proceed as intended.

Audit Report No. 27: Electronic Health Records for Defence Personnel, tabled 10 March 2015

The objective of the audit was to examine the effectiveness of Defence’s planning, budgeting and implementation of an electronic health records solution for Defence personnel. The scope of this audit covered the development and implementation phases of the Defence eHealth System, from project inception in 2009 through to the end of 2014, and included a focus on the quality of Defence’s advice to government.

Audit Report No. 30: Materiel Sustainment Agreements, tabled 21 April 2015

The audit objective was to examine Defence’s administration of materiel sustainment agreements and the contribution made by these agreements to the effective sustainment of specialist military equipment.

Audit Report No. 45: Central Administration of Security Vetting, tabled 9 June 2015

The audit objective was to examine whether Defence provides an efficient and effective security vetting service for Australian Government entities through the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency.

Audit Report No. 52: Australian Defence Force’s Medium and Heavy Vehicle Fleet Replacement (LAND 121 Phase 3B), tabled 25 June 2015

The audit objective was to assess the effectiveness of Defence’s management of the acquisition of medium and heavy vehicles, associated modules and trailers for the Australian Defence Force. The audit focused on the acquisition of the medium and heavy vehicle fleet from first pass approval in 2004 through to early 2015.

Table 10.7: Auditor-General’s cross-portfolio report involving Defence, 2014–15

Report

Objective

Audit Report No. 50: Administration of the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme, tabled 10 June 2015

The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the administration of the Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme by Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Ombudsman’s reports

There were no reports by either the Commonwealth or Defence Force Ombudsman under the provisions of section 15 of the Ombudsman Act 1976.

Information Publication Scheme statement

Agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) are required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the scheme’s requirements.

Further information is available on the Information Publication Scheme website at Status

/ips/">www.defence.gov.au/ips.

Freedom of information

Table 10.8 shows the number of requests for information managed under section 15 of the FOI Act in 2014–15. An additional 14 requests, for amendment or annotation of records of personal information, were managed under section 48 of the FOI Act. Defence managed 27 internal reviews of FOI decisions and provided assistance to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in relation to 11 external reviews. Defence was also involved in four matters before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Defence remained 100 per cent compliant with the legislative deadlines in 2014–15.

The FOI Directorate managed an additional 1,052 requests for information outside the FOI Act. Of these, 454 were requests for access to personnel records. These were processed in accordance with section 15A of the FOI Act, which provides for access to be given in such cases through established administrative channels. Defence received 67 courtesy consultations from other government agencies in 2014–15.

Table 10.8: Requests for access to documents received and completed or otherwise dealt with under section 15 of the FOI Act, 2012–13 to 2014–15

2012–13

2013–14

2014–15

Number of requests received

414

433

409

Number of requests finalised (including withdrawn and transferred to another agency)

422

420

414

Number of requests withdrawn

121

125

146

Number of requests transferred to another agency

1

13

7

Total requests finalised under section 15

300

282

261

Number of requests outstanding

32

45

40