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Defence at a glance


The Defence mission is to defend Australia and its national interests.


Defence’s primary role is to protect and advance Australia’s strategic interests through the provision of military capabilities, the promotion of security and stability, and the provision of support to the Australian community and civilian authorities as directed by Government.


In the 2016–17 Defence Corporate Plan, the Defence purposes were revised from 10 in the previous year’s plan to a focus on three core outcomes that we deliver to Government:

  1. Provide advice to Government
  2. Deliver and sustain Defence capability and conduct operations
  3. Develop the future capability Defence needs to conduct operations.

Defence’s performance in achieving its purposes during the 2016–17 reporting period is described in Chapter 3—Annual performance statements.


Our employees conduct their duties in accordance with the Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct and the APS Values. The purpose of the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 is to maintain and enforce military discipline necessary for Australian Defence Force (ADF) operational capability. The ADF also has Service-specific values. These APS and ADF values and rules are the foundation for our work and govern the way we relate to our stakeholders and to each other.

Without diminishing the ADF and APS values, or their use, specific Defence values have been established to provide a common and unifying thread for all people working in Defence. These values are:

  • professionalism—striving for excellence in everything we do
  • loyalty—commitment to each other and Defence
  • integrity—doing what is right
  • courage—the strength of character to honour our convictions (moral courage) and bravery in the face of personal harm (physical courage)
  • innovation—actively looking for better ways of doing our business
  • teamwork—working together with respect, trust and a sense of collective purpose.


Through the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Government has identified Australia’s strategic defence interests as:

  • a secure, resilient Australia, with secure northern approaches and proximate sea lines of communication
  • a secure near region, encompassing maritime South-East Asia and the South Pacific
  • a stable Indo-Pacific region and rules-based global order.

Securing these interests will require Australia to build on its strong network of bilateral and multilateral relationships. Through regular dialogue and practical cooperation, Defence is strengthening its engagement with partners to support shared responses to shared challenges.


Defence is administered by a diarchy, which is the term used to describe the joint leadership of Defence by the Secretary of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force, under the general control of the Minister for Defence. The concept, which is supported by legislative and administrative arrangements, encompasses the individual and joint responsibilities and accountabilities of the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force.

Portfolio structure

As at 30 June 2017, the Defence portfolio consisted of:

  • the Department of Defence (including the Australian Defence Force)
  • trusts and companies
  • statutory offices created by the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 and the Defence Act 1903
  • the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and its associated bodies.

Responsible ministers

As at 30 June 2017, the Defence portfolio has three ministers:

  • Senator the Hon Marise Payne as Minister for Defence
  • the Hon Christopher Pyne MP as Minister for Defence Industry
  • the Hon Dan Tehan MP as Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security.


As at 30 June 2017, the Defence departmental net cash spend was $31.9 billion. More information about Defence funding can be found in Chapter 4—Financial performance.

Our people

As at 30 June 2017, the APS actual full-time equivalent workforce was 17,308, and the Australian Defence Force actual funded strength was 58,612 members.

More information can be found in Chapter 7—Strategic workforce management.

Where we work

Defence has extensive land and property holdings in Australia, including large training areas and bases close to the coastline. Defence also operates a number of operational bases around the globe.