(Transcript from World News Radio)
From July this year Air Marshal Mark Binskin will be Australia’s Defence Force chief.
He’ll succeed General David Hurley, who steps down on July the 4th.
The new vice-chief will be Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, who is currently the Chief of Navy.
As Amanda Cavill reports, the change at the top comes at a time when the Defence Force faces budgetary, strategic and reform challenges.
In the past, defence chiefs have been appointed for three-year terms but that will now be extended to four years.
It’s a move Prime Minister Tony Abbott says will give those at the top more time to implement significant changes.
“Three years is a relatively short period of time. For instance, in Government they say it takes 12 months to learn the ropes and then you’ve got 12 months to do something and then you’ve got 12 months thinking at the next election and I guess with a 3-year term at the top of the Defence Force there are similar problems of short-termism. It’s a modest extension but I think it will help to promote good management and good governance inside our military.”
The new leadership team will have a major role in drafting and implementing the new Defence White Paper, due to be released next year.
Outgoing ADF Chief General Hurley has been vocal about the need for the Australian Defence Force to equipped to deal with changing priorities in the region.
China has announced a 12 per cent increase in its defence spending, and Japan and the Philippines are boosting their spending in response to the rise of China.
Indonesia has also signalled an intention to expand its military spending in line with its economic growth.
General Hurley recently told the National Security Institute the Defence White Paper should take a fresh look at Australia’s defence priorities amid a tough budget situation and dramatic shifts in power in the region
“Australia’s future will be affected by security relationships and developments across our region – some of which we will have little direct influence over. The US-China relationship is the key one but so is the relationship between China and Japan. And as other ‘middle power’ states rise, we will need a stronger voice if we are to be heard. The decisions of these states will also influence how we shape our security environment and so we must work closely with them.”
Mr Abbott has pledged to increase defence spending to two per cent of Gross Domestic Product, which he says delivers on his promise to boost much-needed defence funding.
“We have small but highly capable defence forces but there are many, many challenges. We live in an uncertain and at times dangerous world and while Australia is always looking for more friends rather than for new adversaries you just never know what’s around the corner. We have to be ready for a wide range of contingencies in all sorts of different parts of the world and that’s why it’s important that over time we move to 2 per cent of GDP as our defence spend.”
In recent years the Australian Defence Force has been beset by a number of scandals involving sexual, mental and physical abuse.
Those, and the issue of gender equality in frontline positions, are two other key challenges facing the Defence Force within the next five years
Air Marshal Binskin says the mixture of experience and new people will be particularly important in addressing cultural and other issues for the services, both internally and externally.
“I have to say I’m extremely honoured and very proud to have been selected to take over as Chief of Defence Force in July this year. I know that I’ll take command of the ADF at a time of military significance as we go into the centenary of Anzac commemorations. It’s a time of transformation for the ADF and it’s a time for continued reform for the ADF. I’m comfortable that I will be able to meet the challenges and be able to face those challenges with the team that I’ve got supporting.”
The 54-year-old Air Marshal Binskin joined the Navy in 1978, flying Skyhawk jets.
When the navy disbanded its fixed wing aviation arm, he transferred to the RAAF in 1984, flying Mirage and F/A-18 Hornet jets.
He has flown more than 3500 hours in single-seat fighter aircraft.
He rose to command the Air Force in 2008 and was appointed Vice Chief of the Defence Force in 2011.