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Chapter 6 - Assurance


Parliamentary business

In 2016–17, Defence provided 21 written submissions to various Senate, House of Representatives and joint committee inquiries. Defence witnesses appeared at 19 hearings and provided evidence on a range of issues. Defence took a total of 579 questions on notice from Senate estimates, House of Representatives/Senate notice papers, and parliamentary committees. Defence also contributed to three whole-of-government submissions and tabled 14 government responses to parliamentary committee reports throughout the year.

To assist parliamentary committee members to gain a better understanding of Defence issues, Defence provided 24 private briefings on a range of subjects.

Table 6.1 provides a summary of Defence’s parliamentary contributions in 2016–17 and the three preceding years.

Table 6.1: Defence’s parliamentary contributions, 2013–14 to 2016–17

Parliamentary contribution 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17
Written submissions
8
10
11
21
Whole-of-government submissions
1
3
Government responses
8
7
12
14
Public hearings
12
25
36
19
Private briefings
25
12
14
24
Total
54
54
73
81

Parliamentary committees

Joint committees

Table 6.2 lists Defence’s involvement in inquiries and reviews by parliamentary joint committees from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017. Defence’s involvement in hearings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is discussed separately below.

Table 6.2: Defence’s involvement with parliamentary joint committees, 2016–17

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Review of the Defence Annual Report 2015–16
Inquiry into principles and practice—Australian defence industry and exports
Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit
Inquiry into Defence sustainment expenditure
Inquiry into the 2015–16 Major Projects Report (ANAO audit report no. 40, 2016–17)
ANAO briefing on Tiger—Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter report (ANAO audit report no. 11, 2016–17)
Report 456: Defence Major Equipment Procurement and Evaluation, and Great Barrier Reef Regulation1
Report 458: Defence Major Projects Report (2014–15)1
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
Review of Administration and Expenditure No. 15 (2015–16)
Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
Inquiry to examine the framework agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the French Republic concerning cooperation on the Future Submarine program
Inquiry to examine the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the French Republic regarding the exchange and reciprocal protection of classified information
Inquiry to examine the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Japan concerning reciprocal provision of supplies and services between the Australian Defence Force and the Self-Defense Forces of Japan
Women in Combat Duties—inquiry into the withdrawal of Australia’s reservation under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia
Pivot North—inquiry into the development of northern Australia2
Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
Inquiry into the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Territories
Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement
Inquiry into the Commonwealth procurement framework

Note: Defence’s involvement in hearings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works are discussed separately. Defence major projects and medium works referred or notified to the committee in 2016–17 are shown in tables 6.3 and 6.4.

Notes:

  1. Defence provided responses to reports 456 and 458 of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit in November 2016.
  2. Defence provided a revised response to the Pivot North inquiry in March 2017.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works

In 2016–17, Defence witnesses appeared at eight hearings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Defence referred 11 major projects and notified 19 medium works to the committee in 2016–17 (tables 6.3 and 6.4).

Table 6.3: Defence major projects referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, 2016–17

Project Location
Value ($m)
LAND 17 Phases 1B and 1C—Indirect Fire Support Facilities Multiple sites
57.1
AIR 3024—Woomera Range Safety and Control System Remediation SA
48.6
JP 500 Phase 2A—Electronic Warfare Operational Support SA
24.9
Australian Cyber Security Centre ACT
36.3
Garden Island East Critical Infrastructure Recovery, Stage 1 NSW
213.4
Russell Buildings R5 and R6 Infrastructure Upgrade ACT
75.4
LAND 155—Enhanced Gap Crossing Capability Multiple sites
23.4
HMAS Moreton Unit Relocation QLD
15.6
JP 2008 Phase 5B2—Satellite Ground Station – East Facilities Project NSW
34.0
Explosive Ordnance Logistics Reform Program Multiple sites
230.9
HMAS Cerberus Redevelopment VIC
463.1
Total
1,222.7

Table 6.4: Defence medium works notified to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, 2016–17

Project Location Value ($m)
Building Works at Royal Military College – Duntroon ACT
3.3
Garden Island (East) Building 130 Refurbishment NSW
5.6
AMAB 157—Partial Reconstruction of Papa Ramp at Al Minhad Air Base United Arab Emirates
11.3
Tank Integration Interim Facilities SA
7.6
First Principles Review Accommodation Implementation ACT
7.4
RAAF Base Curtin Fuel Instillation Works WA
10.3
LAND 136 Phase 1—Land Force Mortar Replacement Multiple sites
4.5
Joint Australian National University – Defence Cyber Facility ACT
12.0
Vehicle Wash Point, Shoalwater Bay Training Area QLD
6.8
QD 10750—Road Maintenance at Shoalwater Bay Training Area QLD
5.3
SN 10622—Solar Power Plant for Headquarters Joint Operations Command ACT
9.8
Infrastructure in Support of LAND 3025 Phase 1 at Holsworthy Barracks NSW
8.1
Helicopter Support Facility Hangar Remediation, HMAS Stirling WA
2.6
Next Generation Desktop End User Computing Project Multiple sites
5.3
Combat Training Centre (Tully Training Area) Replacement Stokes Litters and Suspension Bridge QLD
4.4
Defence Science and Technology Group Graytown Armour Testing Facility VIC
5.0
Defence Science and Technology Group Underwater Explosive Ordnance Test Facility, Nagambie VIC
7.6
LAND 500 Phase 1—Remediation of Tactical Land Electronic Warfare Multiple sites
14.3
Small Arms Range Project, Robertson Barracks NT
6.9
Total
138.1

Senate committees

Table 6.5 lists Defence’s involvement in Senate committee inquiries from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017.

Table 6.5: Defence’s involvement with Senate committees, 2016–17

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Inquiry into the Planned Acquisition of the F-35A Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter)
Inquiry into the Operation of the Australian Defence Force’s Resistance to Interrogation Training
Inquiry into Defence’s Physical Science and Engineering Workforce
Inquiry into the Defence Legislation Amendment (Military Justice Enhancements—Inspector-General ADF) Bill 2014
Inquiry into the Impact of Defence Training Activities and Facilities on Rural and Regional Communities
Inquiry into the Department of Defence’s Management of Credit and Other Transaction Cards
Inquiry into New South Wales Police Strike Force CIVET
Inquiry into the Mental Health of ADF Serving Personnel
Inquiry into the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Legislation Amendment (Defence Force) Bill 2016
Inquiry into Suicide by Veterans and Ex-Service Personnel
Inquiry into Veterans’ Affairs Legislation Amendment (Omnibus) Bill 2017 [provisions]
Senate Economics References Committee
Inquiry into the Foreign Investment Review Framework
Inquiry into the Future of Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry Part 2
Inquiry into the Future of Australia’s Naval Shipbuilding Industry Part 3
Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee
Inquiry into the Operation of the Administrative Arrangements Order
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee
Inquiry into the Regulatory Requirements that Impact on the Safe Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems and Associated Systems
Senate Select Committee into the Scrutiny of Government Budget Measures
Inquiry into the Scrutiny of Government Budget Measures

House of Representatives committees

Defence did not have any direct involvement in inquiries or reviews undertaken by House of Representatives committees in 2016–17.

Senate estimates and questions on notice

Defence attended four estimates hearings before the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in 2016–17. A total of 432 questions were taken on notice.

In 2016–17, Defence was asked a total of 38 questions in the Senate and House of Representatives. For parliamentary inquiries, Defence was asked a total of 110 questions during 2016–17.

Table 6.6 provides information on Defence’s activities in relation to the Senate estimates process from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017. Table 6.7 presents a breakdown of the parliamentary questions on notice.

Table 6.6: Defence’s involvement with Senate estimates, 2016–17

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Supplementary Budget Estimates 2016–17 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 19 October 2016. A total of 168 questions, consisting of 234 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.
Additional Estimates 2016–17 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 1 March 2017. A total of 105 questions, consisting of 268 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.
Additional Estimates (Spill-over) 2016–17 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 30 March 2017. A total of 21 questions, consisting of 55 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.
Budget Estimates 2016–17 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 29–30 May 2017. A total of 138 questions, consisting of 368 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.

Table 6.7: Defence’s questions on notice, 2014–15 to 2016–17

Source of questions on notice
2014–15
2015–16
2016–17
House of Representatives/Senate notice paper
134
142
37
Senate estimates (October, March and May)
359
314
432
Parliamentary inquiries
134
80
110
Total
627
536
579

Judicial and administrative tribunal decisions

In Chief of the Defence Force v Gaynor [2017] FCAFC 41, the Full Federal Court of Australia determined on appeal that the primary judge erred in the level at which he applied the test in Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997) 189 CLR 520, by finding the freedom of political communication as an individual right. On this basis, and upon finding that regulation 85 of the Defence Force (Personnel) Regulations 2002 (Cth) was valid, the appeal was allowed. The significance of the court’s decision is that the implied freedom test is not to be applied to an individual exercise of (statutory) executive power, but to the statute or regulation under which the administrative action is taken. Mr Bernard Gaynor has applied to the High Court of Australia for special leave to appeal from the whole of the judgment of the Full Federal Court.1

In FJ v Commonwealth of Australia [2017] VSCA 84, the Victorian Court of Appeal found that a damages action for pregnancy and childbirth is not barred by section 388 of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA). The Court of Appeal delivered a unanimous joint judgment of the three judges granting the applicant’s application to further amend her statement of claim; granting leave to appeal and allowing the appeal. The Commonwealth has lodged an application to the High Court seeking special leave from the decision of the Court of Appeal. The application was made on the basis that FJ’s continued pregnancy and childbirth is properly characterised as compensable injuries under the MRCA, and therefore an action for common law damages does not lie against the Commonwealth as it is barred by section 388 of the MRCA.

There were eight appeals dealt with by the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal during the reporting period. These cases (in order of judgment) were Angre v Chief of Navy (No 1) [2016] ADFDAT 1, Angre v Chief of Navy (No 2) [2016] ADFDAT 2, Williams v Chief of Army [2016] ADFDAT 3, McKenna v Chief of Navy [2017] ADFDAT 1, Angre v Chief of Navy (No 3) [2017] ADFDAT 2, Baker v Chief of Army [2017] ADFDAT 3, Douglas v Chief of Army [2017] ADFDAT 5, and Komljenovic v Chief of Navy [2017] ADFDAT 4. The tribunal’s judgments may be obtained from its website (www.defenceappeals.gov.au).

Note:

  1. The High Court has listed the special leave application for oral hearing on 18 August 2017.

Commonwealth Ombudsman and Defence Force Ombudsman reports

There were no reports by either the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Defence Force Ombudsman pursuant to sections 15, 16, 17 or 19 of the Ombudsman Act 1976 during the 2016–17 reporting period.

Auditor-General’s reports

In 2016–17, six performance audit reports by the Auditor-General relating directly to Defence were tabled in Parliament, as outlined in Table 6.8.

Table 6.8: Auditor-General’s reports on Defence, 2016–17

Report Date presented to Parliament Audit objective
ANAO report no. 11—Tiger—Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter 1 September 2016 Examine progress since 2007 in introducing into service a fully capable Tiger fleet and cost-effective sustainment arrangements
ANAO report no. 21—Reforming the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment 17 October 2016 Assess implementation of the five recommendations in ANAO report no. 19, 2014–15—Management of the Disposal of Specialist Military Equipment, and the related recommendation in Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit Report 449—Review of Auditor- General’s Reports Nos. 1–23 (2014–15)
ANAO report no. 29—Design and Implementation of Defence’s Base Services Contracts 14 December 2016 Assess effectiveness of design and implementation of the Base Services contracts
ANAO report no. 40—2015–16 Major Projects Report 28 February 2017 Provide the Auditor-General’s independent assurance over the status of selected major projects
ANAO report no. 48—Future Submarine— Competitive Evaluation Process 27 March 2017 Assess effectiveness of the Army’s workforce planning
ANAO report no. 44—Army’s Workforce Management 27 April 2017 Assess effectiveness of design and implementation of arrangements to select a preferred strategic partner for the Future Submarine program

In 2016–17, the Auditor-General tabled in Parliament three cross-portfolio performance audit reports involving Defence (Table 6.9).

Table 6.9: Auditor-General’s cross-portfolio reports involving Defence, 2016–17

Report Date presented to Parliament Audit objective
ANAO report no. 16—Offshore Processing Centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea: Procurement of Garrison Support and Welfare Services 13 September 2016 Assess whether the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had appropriately managed the procurement of garrison support and welfare services at offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea
ANAO report no. 18—Confidentiality in Government Contracts: Senate Order for Entity Contracts (Calendar Year 2015 Compliance) 27 September 2016 Assess appropriateness of the use and reporting of confidentiality provisions in a sample of Australian Government contracts
ANAO report no. 46—Conduct of the OneSKY Tender 10 April 2017 Assess whether the OneSKY tender was conducted so as to provide value with public resources and achieve required timeframes for the effective replacement of the existing air traffic management platforms

Capability reviews

No external reviews of Defence’s organisational capability were conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission in 2016–17.

Defence Housing Australia

Defence Housing Australia (DHA) has a strong record of establishing and maintaining relationships with the communities in which DHA residential developments are constructed. During 2016–17, DHA continued to review its approach to ensure that communication plans were tailored to meet the specific needs of each residential development. DHA aims to make information about residential development projects publicly available wherever possible, in line with the requirements of the applicable local council or authorities.

Defence is satisfied that DHA had appropriate procedures in place during 2016–17 to engage with the community and stakeholders regarding its residential developments. Consultation is undertaken with the community and feedback is considered as part of the planning process for every residential development. DHA’s community engagement guidelines include communication strategies such as letter drops, internet sites, newsletters, digital and print media, and community information sessions.

Further information is available in DHA’s annual reports, which can be accessed at www.dha.gov.au/about-us/our-organisation/annual-reports.

Freedom of information

During 2016–17, Defence received 384 requests for information under section 15 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and finalised 381. This latter figure includes requests carried over from 2015–16. An additional two requests, for amendment or annotation of records of personal information, were managed under section 48 of the FOI Act. Defence also received 47 internal reviews of freedom of information decisions and finalised 45. The finalised internal reviews included cases carried over from the previous financial year. Defence remained 100 per cent compliant with the legislative deadlines in 2016–17.

Defence managed an additional 843 requests for information outside the FOI Act. Of these, 389 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 85 courtesy consultations from other government agencies in 2016–17.

Contracts exempt from publication on AusTender

In 2016–17, Defence reported a total of 248 contracts, standing offers or variations, with a total value of $434,141,533.29, which were exempt from being published on the AusTender website under provisions of the FOI Act. These exemptions were generally applied under the national security, defence or international relations provisions of the Act.

Information Publication Scheme

Entities subject to the FOI Act are required to publish information 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 Defence’s Information Publication Scheme website at www.defence.gov.au/ips.

Defence Public Interest Disclosure Scheme

The Defence Public Interest Disclosure Scheme continues to facilitate a strong reporting culture in Defence. The scheme facilitates and encourages reports of suspected wrongdoing, provides support and protection to disclosers, and ensures that suspected wrongdoing is investigated where appropriate.

Defence worked closely with the Commonwealth Ombudsman in 2016–17 to ensure continuing improvement and consistency with the rest of government in the implementation and operation of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

During 2016–17, Defence received a total of 269 matters reported under the Defence Public Interest Disclosure Scheme. Of these, Defence accepted 217 matters as public interest disclosures and allocated them for investigation.