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Chapter 6 - Assurance


Parliamentary business

In 2017–18, Defence provided 17 written submissions to various Senate, House of Representatives and joint committee inquiries. Defence witnesses appeared at 24 hearings and provided evidence on a range of issues. Defence took a total of 704 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 six government responses to parliamentary committee reports throughout the year.

To assist parliamentary committee members to gain a better understanding of Defence issues, Defence provided 25 private briefings on a range of subjects.

Table 6.1 provides a summary of Defence’s parliamentary contributions in 2017–18 and the three preceding years.

Table 6.1: Defence’s parliamentary contributions, 2014–15 to 2017–18

Parliamentary contribution
2014–15
2015–16
2016–17
2017–18
Written submissions
10
11
21
17
Whole-of-government submissions
3
3
Government responses
7
12
14
6
Public hearings
25
36
19
24
Private briefings
12
14
24
25
Total
54
73
81
75

Parliamentary committees

Table 6.2 lists Defence’s involvement in inquiries and reviews by parliamentary joint committees between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018. Defence’s involvement in hearings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is provided separately below.

Table 6.2: Defence’s involvement with parliamentary joint committees, 2017–18

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
Inquiry into and report on all aspects of the conduct of the 2016 Federal Election and matters related thereto
Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Inquiry into the benefits and risks of a Bipartisan Australian Defence Agreement, as a basis of planning for, and funding of, Australian Defence capability
Review of the Defence Annual Report 2015–16
Joint Standing Committee on National Capital and External Territories
Inquiry into Australia’s Antarctic Territory
Inquiry into the Strategic Importance of the Indian Ocean Territories1
Parliamentary Joint Committees on Intelligence and Security
Review of Administration and Expenditure No 16 (2016–17)2
Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit
Australian Government Contract Reporting—Inquiry based on Auditor-General’s report No 19 (2017–18)
Report 470: Defence Sustainment Expenditure
Inquiry into the 2015–16 Defence Major Projects Report 2015–163
Inquiry into the 2016–17 Defence Major Projects Report
Joint Standing Committees 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 Program4
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 information5
Inquiry to examine the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Singapore concerning the Republic of Singapore Air Force Flying Training Institute Detachment at Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce
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
Inquiry to examine the agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Solomon Islands Concerning the Basis for Deployment of Police, Armed Forces and other Personnel to Solomon Islands
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
Report 12 of 2017: Human rights scrutiny report
Report 3 of 2018: Human rights scrutiny report

Notes: Defence’s involvement in hearings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is discussed separately. Defence major projects and medium works referred or notified to the committee in 2017–18 are shown in tables 6.3 and 6.4.

  1. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  2. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  3. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  4. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  5. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.

Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works

In 2017–18, Defence witnesses appeared at 11 hearings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Defence referred 10 major projects and notified eight medium works to the committee in 2017–18.

Table 6.3: Defence major projects referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, 2017–18

Project Location
Value ($m)
Joint Health Command Garrison Health Facilities Upgrade Project Multiple
212.5
Engine Test Cell 1 Upgrade Project at Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley
23.7
JP157 Phase 1 Replacement Aviation Refuelling Vehicles Multiple
40.4
SEA1654 Ph 3 Maritime Operations Support Capability Multiple
220.5
Larrakeyah Barracks Redevelopment Larrakeyah Barracks
223.0
Facilities to Support Naval Operations in the North Multiple
272.5
Garden Island Critical Infrastructure Recovery Project Stage 2 Garden Island Defence Precinct
286.5
JP2110 Ph1B Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear Capability Facilities Multiple
23.0
AIR 2025 Phase 6 Jindalee Operational Radar Networks Multiple
50.7
Point Wilson Waterside Infrastructure Redevelopment Victoria—Jagajaga
218.9
Total  
1,571.7

Table 6.4: Defence medium works notified to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, 2017–18

Project Location
Value ($m)
LAND 9000 Chinook Configuration Alignment Program Royal Australian Air Force Base Townsville
7.0
Defence Site Maribyrnong Remediation Defence Site Maribyrnong
3.0
Robertson Barracks Small Arms Range Project Robertson Barracks
6.9
Proof and Experimental Establishment Vibration Test Facility Port Wakefield Port Wakefield
8.5
DEF799-1 Geospatial Intelligence Satellite Multiple
10.3
SEA 1778 Ph1 Deployable Mine Counter Measures Multiple
3.8
Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce—Upgrade of Potable Water Infrastructure Royal Australian Air Force Base Pearce
7.1
Building 106 Extensions and Alterations, Environmental Test Facility Proof and Experimental Establishment Port Wakefield
5.2
Total  
51.8

Senate committees

Table 6.5 lists Defence’s involvement in Senate inquiries from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

Table 6.5: Defence’s involvement with Senate committees, 2017–18

Senate Economics References Committee
Inquiry into the future of Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry1
Inquiry into the future sustainability of Australia’s strategically vital steel industry and its supply chain
Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Bill 2017 [provisions]
Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee
Inquiry into the digital delivery of government services
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
Intelligence Services Amendment (Establishment of the Australian Signals Directorate) Bill 2018
Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
Inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security
Inquiry into the Department of Defence’s management of credit and other transaction cards2
Inquiry into the impact of Defence training activities and facilities on rural and regional communities3
Inquiry into the operation of the Australian Defence Force’s Resistance to Interrogation Training4
Inquiry into the use of the Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force
Inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-service personnel5
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Judiciary Amendment (Commonwealth Model Litigant Obligations) Bill 2017
Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
Intelligence Services Amendment (Establishment of the Australian Signals Directorate) Bill 2018
Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances
Defence Determination (Short-term overseas duty travel and benchmark schools) 2018 (No 2)
Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Air Services Amendment Bill 2018
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 Systems6

Notes:

  1. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  2. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  3. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  4. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  5. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18.
  6. The Department of Defence was involved in this inquiry during 2016–17 and 2017–18

House of Representatives committees

Table 6.6 lists Defence’s involvement in House of Representatives inquiries from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

Table 6.6: Defence’s involvement with House of Representatives committees, 2017–18

House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation
Inquiry into Regional Development and Decentralisation

Senate estimates and questions on notice

Defence attended four estimates hearings of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in 2017–18. A total of 469 questions were taken on notice.

In 2017–18, Defence was asked a total of 46 questions in the Senate and House of Representatives. For parliamentary inquiries, Defence was asked a total of 189 questions during 2017–18.

Table 6.7 provides information on Defence’s activities in relation to the Senate estimates process from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018. Table 6.8 presents a breakdown of the parliamentary questions on notice.

Table 6.7: Defence’s involvement with Senate estimates, 2017–18

Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Supplementary Budget Estimates 2017–18 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 25 October 2017. A total of 144 questions, consisting of 227 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.
Supplementary Budget Estimates (Spill-Over) 2017–18 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 15 December 2017. A total of 11 questions, consisting of 63 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.
Additional Estimates 2017–18 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 28 February 2018. A total of 141 questions, consisting of 568 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.
Budget Estimates 2018–19 Defence witnesses appeared at a hearing on 29–30 May 2018. A total of 173 questions, consisting of 429 parts, were taken on notice from the hearing.

Table 6.8: Defence’s questions on notice, 2014–15 to 2017–18

Source of questions on notice
2014–15
2015–16
2016–17
2017–18
House of Representatives / Senate notice paper
134
142
37
46
Senate estimates (October, February and May)
359
314
432
469
Parliamentary inquiries
134
80
110
189
Total
627
536
579
704

Judicial and administrative tribunal decisions

In Gaynor v Chief of the Defence Force S86/2017, the High Court of Australia dismissed, with costs, the application for special leave to appeal from the whole judgement and order in Chief of the Defence Force v Gaynor [2017] FCAFC 41. The significance of the Full Federal Court’s decision was that the implied freedom of political communication 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.

In Secretary, Department of Defence and Thomas (Freedom of Information) [2018] AATA 604, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal set aside the decision of the Information Commissioner to give Mr Thomas access to certain documents—namely, text messages between the Chief of the Defence Force and Vice Chief of the Defence Force—on the basis that giving access would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest.

In Rowley v Chief of Army [2017] FCA 1119, the Federal Court of Australia dismissed the applicant’s application for judicial review of sentences of imprisonment imposed on him by a Defence Force Magistrate under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982. The proceeding gave rise to a constitutional challenge to certain military justice procedures and provisions of the Defence Force Discipline Act. This in turn raised some significant questions (concerning the extent of the defence power in times of peace and the ability of the executive to imprison someone by executive act without judicial oversight of that process). In rejecting the applicant’s constitutional arguments that it was not within the defence power to impose a sentence of imprisonment in peacetime and/or without making provision for an appeal to a Chapter III Court, Her Honour concluded that the ‘imposition of punishment including deprivation of liberty is within the defence power’ and observed that the challenge ‘fails to grapple with the fact that a service tribunal does not exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth but is concerned with the imposition of discipline within the Defence Force’.

The Defence Force Discipline Appeals Tribunal dealt with two appeals during the reporting period. These cases (in order of judgement) were O’Neill v Chief of Army [2017] ADFDAT 6 and Herbert v Chief of Air Force [2018] ADFDAT 1. The tribunal’s judgements may be obtained from its website (www.defenceappeals.gov.au). Notably, in Herbert v Chief of Air Force, a Royal Australian Air Force member unsuccessfully appealed against a conviction for obtaining financial advantage. The matter concerned the member’s failure to inform Defence Housing Australia that he had another person residing with him. As a result of this failure, he received an overpayment of rental allowance. As a failure to inform is an omission to act, there can be no criminal or disciplinary liability unless there is a legal duty to inform. The central issue was therefore whether a Determination made by the Minister’s delegate under section 58B of the Defence Act 1903 to provide for pay and conditions of service (including rental allowance) was a ‘law of the Commonwealth’ that imposed legal obligations on members. The Defence Force Discipline Appeals Tribunal decided that the Determination was a Commonwealth law that imposed a legal obligation to inform of changes to residential circumstances. This decision clarifies that the offence of obtaining financial advantage is potentially available where members receive payments they are not eligible for, whether that arises because of an act or a failure to act in accordance with the Determination.

Commonwealth Ombudsman and Defence Force Ombudsman reports

There were no formal reports to the Chief of the Defence Force pursuant to section 15 of the Ombudsman Act 1976, and there were no reports raised under section 16, 17 or 19 of the Act relating to the operations of the ADF during the period under review.

Auditor-General’s reports

In 2017–18 the Auditor-General published six performance audit reports in relation to Defence and one priority assurance review.

Table 6.9: Auditor-General’s performance audit reports on Defence, 2017–18

Report Date presented to Parliament Audit objective
ANAO report no 44—Defence’s Management of Sustainment Products—Health Materiel and Combat Rations 29 May 2018 To review the effectiveness of Defence’s arrangements for delivering selected non-platform sustainment.
ANAO report no 39—Naval Construction Programs—Mobilisation 14 May 2018 To assess the effectiveness to date of Defence’s planning for the mobilisation of its continuous shipbuilding programs in Australia.
ANAO report no 34— Defence’s Implementation of the First Principles Review 17 April 2018 To assess the effectiveness of Defence’s implementation of the First Principles Review.
ANAO report no 28—Defence’s Procurement of Fuels, Petroleum, Oils, Lubricants, and Card Services 19 February 2018 To assess whether Defence achieves value for money in the procurement of fuels.
ANAO report no 2—Defence’s Management of Materiel Sustainment 11 July 2017 To assess whether Defence has a fit-for-purpose framework for the management of materiel sustainment.

Table 6.10: Auditor-General’s cross-portfolio performance audit reports involving Defence, 2017–18

Report Date presented to Parliament Audit objective
ANAO report no 38—Mitigating Insider Threats through Personnel Security 11 May 2018 To assess the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s personnel security arrangements for mitigating insider threats.

Table 6.11: Auditor-General’s priority assurance review involving Defence, 2017–18

Report Date presented to Parliament Audit objective
2016–17 Major Projects Report 23 January 2018 To provide the Auditor-General’s independent assurance over the status of selected Major Projects.

Organisational capability reviews

The Australian Public Service Commission did not conduct a review of Defence’s organisational capability in 2017–18.

Freedom of information

During 2017–18, Defence received 520 requests for information under section 15 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. It finalised 485 requests, including requests carried over from 2016–17. An additional six requests, for amendment or annotation of records of personal information, were managed under section 48 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Defence also received 59 internal reviews of freedom of information decisions. It finalised 64, including cases carried over from the previous financial year. Defence remained fully compliant with the legislative time frames throughout 2017–18.

Defence managed an additional 781 requests for information which did not proceed to a formal Freedom of Information decision. Of these, 288 were requests for access to personnel records. These were processed in accordance with section 15A of the Freedom of Information Act, which provides for access to be given in such cases through established administrative channels. Defence received 57 courtesy consultations from other government agencies in 2017–18.

Defence managed 46 external review cases submitted to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner completed 17 reviews, and 29 are awaiting a decision from the Information Commissioner. Defence also managed five cases before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, of which three were completed.

Additionally, nine external complaints relating to Defence freedom of information cases were submitted to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Five of these were completed and four are awaiting a decision.

Contracts exempt from publication on AusTender

In 2017–18, Defence reported a total of 369 contracts, standing offers or variations, with a total value of $399,285,654 subject to an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act. These exemptions were generally applied under the national security provisions of the Act.

Information Publication Scheme

Entities subject to the Freedom of Information 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 detailed in Attachment B.

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.

In 2017–18, Defence continued to work closely with the Commonwealth Ombudsman to ensure improvement and consistency with the rest of government in the implementation and operation of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

During 2017–18, Defence received a total of 231 matters reported under the Defence Public Interest Disclosure Scheme. Of these, Defence accepted 156 matters as public interest disclosures and allocated them for investigation.

Feature: Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2018