Thursday, 28 October 2010
Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program
I would like to bring to the attention of the House that this week the Australian parliament plays host to 15 members of the Australian Defence Force participating in the second part of this year’s ADF Parliamentary Program. Since its inception in 2001 the ADF Parliamentary Program has provided parliamentarians with an opportunity to undertake attachments to the ADF in order to gain firsthand experience of life in the armed services of this country. In August this year I spent time in the Solomon Islands with RAMSI, the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands, and I learnt a lot. In 2003 the program was expanded to undertake an exchange element, offering selected ADF members of all ranks the opportunity to experience one week in the parliament, observing the work of government and participating in the daily work schedule of parliamentarians. This week, 15 ADF members from the Army, Navy and Air Force are being hosted by senators and members of parliament. Participating ADF members represent a diverse range of specialist skills, expertise and experience and come from all corners of the country. This year the program also includes one member—and let us all make her welcome—Major Anastasia Roberts, who is an exchange legal officer from the British army currently serving with the Australian Army’s Headquarters Forces Command at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. This week my office is playing host to Major Micah Batt, who is currently employed as a staff officer at the Headquarters Joint Operations Command at Bungendore. Major Batt has indicated that the opportunity to exchange information in such a unique fashion provides ADF members with the chance to develop a deeper appreciation of the functioning of government as well as the interrelationship between Defence and the parliament. ADF personnel in the parliament this week are working with senators and members from across the parliament and are well placed to build on the knowledge learnt through the program to better advise, serve and support government intent now and into the future.
The first member for Farrer, David Fairbairn, elected in 1949, was one of the many ex-servicemen who came to this place post World War II, bringing with them a wealth of experience and knowledge about the defence forces—knowledge which was no doubt brought to bear in parliamentary debates, decisions and policies. We have lost much of that influence and expertise over the years and that is why this program is so important.
Finally, on the evidence of this week, Major Batt did suggest to me that, if the Speaker were looking for any assistance in managing the House during question time on a daily basis, he would be happy to provide the name of a reliable regimental sergeant major, to undertake extra drill sessions with unruly members of the House.