Budget Estimates - Monday 3 June 2013 - Foreign Affairs Defenec and Trade Committee
Senator LUDLAM: The 2013 white paper has acknowledged that climate change has security implications for Australia in the form of climate induced migration and resource conflicts. I think there are four or five paragraphs on that subject. The UK Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense have developed fairly detailed climate change strategies for the military, but there does not appear to be any consideration in the latest Australian Defence white paper on what implications that changing security environment will have on procurement decisions. There is an acknowledgement there. There is no explanation of how it might affect anything that we actually do. Am I mistaken in that regard?
Mr Sargeant : As you say, the white paper does talk about climate change. It talks about the types of problems that are likely to occur as a result of the interaction of climate change and the nature of the strategic environment we are in, which is predominantly a maritime environment with much coastal development and so on. When we think about that in Defence from a capability perspective, we look at the types of capabilities that are going to be useful in the sort of events that might be precipitated as a result of climate change. In our capability set we have two landing helicopters dock amphibious ships, which are very large and very capable, a C-17 Globemaster strategic lift aircraft and MRH90 multirole helicopters. They are the sort of capabilities that are useful when you are responding to crises or natural disasters or other events where climate change may be one of the causes. We have within Defence quite an elaborate process of monitoring our strategic environment and ensuring that the capabilities we have and ADF levels of preparedness are able to respond to the sorts of contingencies that may occur. So we are watching it all the time.
Senator LUDLAM: Is Defence considering producing a more substantial separate document or an appendix or something on climate security, such as has been done by some of our allies?
Mr Sargeant : We have not been asked to do it by the government. All our work on climate change is within the context of monitoring our strategic environment and adjusting that capacity to respond to that. So we have not separated out climate change as a separate, specific issue, which would drive the force structure or which we would look at separately from other events.
Senator LUDLAM: You need to be asked to do that before you would undertake that kind of work? I can direct this to Senator Feeney, which is no problem. It is not something that you would undertake of your own motion?
Air Marshal Binskin : To that end, we do have an energy establishment strategy which is looking at our facilities infrastructure and how we make that as energy efficient as we can and, logically following on from that, how we hold commanders to account for minimising energy use. That is one part.
Senator LUDLAM: That is the mitigation side, I guess.
Air Marshal Binskin : The mitigation and proactive side of it. CDF has recently commissioned the head of joint capability coordination division, which is in my group, to develop a Defence energy strategy, which will take into account the challenges that are going to come out in the next few decades. They are things like alternative fuels-biofuels-the management of energy resources and all those sorts of things within the ADF.
Senator LUDLAM: That is useful. When are you timetabling that for completion?
Air Marshal Binskin : That is just starting now. I do not have a full timetable for that yet.
Senator LUDLAM: Is that something that Defence initiated?
Air Marshal Binskin : Yes.
Senator LUDLAM: Defence energy strategy.
Mr Sargeant : I will correct what I said before. We actually are doing studies within the department about the potential impacts of climate change and the costs of Defence capability and infrastructure as well as heritage and ecosystems at selected Defence sites. The purpose of the studies is to look at the risks associated with climate change impacts on major bases, looking out to 2040, 2070 and 2100. As part of that, we will be looking at mitigation and adaptation strategies over time.
Senator LUDLAM: This is useful stuff. As well as what you have introduced, I was not aware that you had initiated an energy strategy. What I am really trying to get to, though, is what kind of conflicts the ADF is likely to be called on to be in the midst of. How is climate change shaping those? This is useful background for us. I am still surprised to see a defence white paper that effectively ticks it off and acknowledges that there is an issue there after reading what has been written in the United States and by the British MOD, where it is starting to shape many, many aspects of their security thinking, including procurement decisions. It does not appear to be occurring so much here in Australia.
Senator Feeney: I will address that proposition. You will see in the white paper that there is discussion around stabilisation operations and the future the ADF has in that field of endeavour. That builds on Australian experience in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Clearly in the strategic thinking going on inside Defence, it is well understood that climate change, be it storms or tsunamis or food security issues or resource security issues, provides another set of stressors on nation states. The white paper does talk about our region and how there are a number of nation states experiencing those and other stressors and how we need to remain cognisant of them when we are assessing our strategic environment. I would say that this is something well understood inside Defence and inside our strategy group, and that is reflected in the white paper.
Senator LUDLAM: I am aware that there was a Pacific environmental security forum in Sydney last month, which the US Pacific Command co-hosted with the department here, with 18 countries present.
Senator Feeney: I had the privilege of launching it.
Senator LUDLAM: That is exactly the kind of forum I am talking about. Is this a shift towards establishing regional cooperation amongst defence forces in response to climate change? Is that what was on the table at that meeting?
Senator Feeney: All of the presentations given at that conference are open source. The presentations made by a range of countries, including Australia, all went to the practicalities of how we can cooperate and assess future requirements for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. So it was a solid interaction by regional militaries and think tanks and others about how to deal with some of those questions.
Senator LUDLAM: So it was not just a military collaboration. There were civil society organisations and researchers and so on present as well?
Senator Feeney: I would have to take on notice the exact attendance, but it was a combination of Defence personnel, military personnel and others.
Senator LUDLAM: Moving away from climate change but still on the white paper, I note that the Defence white paper does address the issue of UAVs, or drones, and indicates that they suit the ADF's requirements. I would like to go into a bit of detail about where the Australian government and the ADF's thinking is on that. General Hurley, in February 2013 estimates, said that he would not be surprised if weaponised drones eventually make their way into the Australian armoury. Paragraph 832 says:
Defence is investigating options and analysing the value and notes that legal considerations are an important element.
So the language in there is fairly careful. Are considerations and options and analyses underway on incorporating weaponised drones into the ADF anywhere?
Air Marshal Binskin : It is good to see that you separate UAVs and drones in the question because they are two separate but connected issues. In the nearer future, and if I looked at operations in Afghanistan today, while Australia does not have UAVs or remotely piloted aircraft that are armed, we do utilise those as a response whenever we need combat air to support our troops when they are in contact. In that sense, the aircraft are employed just as a manned aircraft is. We abide by very tight rules of engagement. We abide by the international laws of armed conflict when we employ those systems. Whether we get remotely piloted aircraft or not is a part of our capability development process in the coming years. All the considerations that you just talked about are considerations that we would discuss and take into account. But if you take it further out now for the next decade and the decade after, as you start talking more about autonomous aircraft-this is where we do get into the drones-that is where we will see more debate around the legalities of those systems. At the moment, there is a human in the loop the whole time as you go through the detection, identification, positive identification and then the decision to engage or not. The real question will come much into the future as we talk about an autonomous way of doing that and whether that will occur or not.
Senator LUDLAM: I am going to jump straight there, since you have taken us there, because that is an important distinction to make. Are you aware of a global campaign that has been launched by groups, including Human Rights Watch, around a legally binding instrument on fully autonomous armed vehicles?
Air Marshal Binskin : I am aware that it has started. Do I have in-depth knowledge of it? No, I do not. But I also understand the discussions that are going on at the moment, where people tend to blur policy and decision-making with the tool that does the task, if that makes sense. At the moment, there is a huge debate around the current armed UAVs. The real debate is actually around the policy and decision-making, not around the tool that is doing the task. I think people are naturally going down that route whereas the real discussion should be this future discussion on autonomous employment.
Senator LUDLAM: No. I think there are legitimate issues around the use of ones that are piloted remotely. We will come back to them in a moment. On the Human Rights Watch campaign, there is now a UN Special Rapporteur call for a complete moratorium on vehicles that are armed and autonomous. Does that have a bearing on discussions or thinking that the Australian government is having around the use of these weapons?
Mr Richardson : No.
Air Marshal Binskin : No. It does not. Not at the moment. It is a debate that I think needs to be had in the future. We co-launched the drone power website with the Williams Foundation about two weeks ago, which was-
Senator LUDLAM: You keep pre-empting what I am going to ask you.
Senator Feeney: It is a non-Defence organisation.
Air Marshal Binskin : It is a non-Defence organisation. We support it because it is encouraging this discussion. Rather than make a discussion on emotive or myth grounds, it is to bring out the debate on factual and legal grounds.
Senator LUDLAM: You have answered my question. Defence has been engaged with the Sir Richard Williams Foundation?
Air Marshal Binskin : Yes. We support the Sir Richard Williams Foundation's research in this area.
Senator LUDLAM: Is there a particular study underway at the moment into Australia's use of these things?
Air Marshal Bi nskin : Through the Williams Foundation?
Senator LUDLAM: Yes.
Air Marshal Binskin : The Williams Foundation is supporting this discussion and debate. I do not have all the details of their engagement here.
Senator Feeney: I might be able to assist here for a moment. The foundation you speak of is supported through the Defence grants process. I would say with a reasonable level of confidence that Defence has not guided that foundation in the individual pieces of work that it pursues.
Air Marshal Binskin : In fact, we do encourage it because it is a debate that needs to be had.
Senator LUDLAM: But are you aware that the foundation is funded in part by Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, which are very large US weapons contractors?
Air Marshal Binskin : The foundation is, because it is predominantly aviation oriented. That would make sense.
Senator LUDLAM: So the companies that produce these weapons are funding the entity that Australia is using as a bit of a touch point for having the debate on whether we should adopt them. Does that strike you as a bit-
Air Marshal Binskin : It is the decision of those companies to invest in the Williams Foundation.
Senator LUDLAM: You are aware that they are, though?
Air Marshal Binskin : Yes. It is very open. You jump on the website and they are all right there. That is right. So there is nothing being hidden there, I do not believe, from the Williams Foundation.
Senator LUDLAM: No. It is right out in the open. So is there a particular study, or is this more advocacy? You said there is a conversation, which is a good one to have.
Air Marshal Binskin : It is a good conversation to have because it is not just focussed on the military use of remotely piloted aircraft or, in the future, drones. It actually is looking at addressing all the domestic and civil uses, the regulatory sides, the legal side and safety. It brings in the discussion around CASA and the ability for these to fly in civil airspace and what the restrictions may or may not be. So it tries to bring it all together. In a lot of ways, this is the future.
Senator LUDLAM: Yes.
Air Marsh al Binskin : It is interesting as a pilot saying that, but it is the future.
Senator LUDLAM: I know there is some contest there inside the air force certainly. I spoke to CASA last week about that. I must admit that why I bring the conversation here is that I am more interested in the vehicles that kill people than the ones that monitor crop yields and that sort of thing.
Air Marshal Binskin : We can look at the remotely piloted aircraft and the issue right now. As I said, regardless of the weapons system that is being employed, whether it is a soldier and a rifle, a fast jet with a pilot in it or a remotely piloted aircraft and a weapon, we go through the same process. We have the same rules of engagement and the same laws of armed conflict that we abide by-the same stepped process of identifying or detecting, positively identifying a target and doing collateral damage estimates right up to the point of the decision to engage or not engage. Whether it is a soldier and a rifle or an operator of a remotely piloted aircraft, it is the same decision process that is gone through.
Senator LUDLAM: Are you aware of very high numbers of civilian casualties that we have seen resulting from the use of UAVs by the USA in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Air Marsha l Binskin : I know of the civilian casualties that have come from air strikes. I would not be able to break down between remotely piloted and piloted platforms. I know there have been issues with both. So just having a pilot in the aircraft or not having a pilot in the aircraft is not what leads to civilian casualties, unfortunately. What I would say, though, is in many cases, having a pilot sitting at a console, not in the platform, actually makes the identification task and the engagement task easier because he or she is not rallying around at 500 or 600 knots under four to six G manoeuvring in a fairly violent environment, deconflicting with wingmen and all that while they are trying to assess the sensors that they have. With remotely piloted aircraft, those sensors are sitting in a stable environment with a cup of coffee on the table without all the environmental pressures. They have probably got a better picture and a better ability to make those targeting decisions.
Senator LUDLAM: I was able to visit the guys flying the Herons when I was in Kandahar. I thoroughly take on board the distinction. But the pilots also had skin in the game, and the guys with the cup of coffee are operating in an environment that feels more like a computer game than a war.
Air Marshal Binskin : Yes, it is.
Senator LUDLAM: And there are very high levels of casualties reported by United States UAV operators in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Air Marshal Binskin : I would say to you, though, that while they are in a more relaxed environment, they take the responsibility every bit as strongly as someone that might be sitting in the cockpit overhead. In fact, in some ways, they are under more pressure.
Senator LUDLA M: Are you concerned about the proliferation of these vehicles, which are getting cheaper and cheaper and easier to fly and more and more ubiquitous in their use against Australian troops?
Air Marshal Binskin : In their use against Australian troops?
Senator LUDLAM: Sure. They are not going to remain in the hands of the United States and Australia.
Air Marshal Binskin : No. In fact, that was part of what the discussion for the Williams Foundation was. This is not only an issue that we would need to contend with in operating. From a defensive point of view, it is something we need to take into account as well.
Senator LUDLAM: Is the US flying UAVs out of Australia at present?
Air Marshal Binskin : No.
Senator LUDLAM: Are there any restraints-I am going to come to the marine deployment in a second-on the US spacing them in or transiting them through Australia at airfields where the US is operating, such as at Tindal?
Air Marshal Binskin : No. I will go through the various tiers. If you are looking initially at the Global Hawk type platform, the large strategic ISR platforms, we consider those requests on a case by case basis, just like we do any foreign aircraft coming through. They go through a diplomatic clearance process to come through. If you are looking at the small tactical UAVs similar to the Shadow that we used in Uruzgan, you will see that they are employed with marine forces. You may see them coming down as a part of the rotations through Australia. But they will be operated in restricted airspace clear of urban areas.
Senator LUDLAM: As part of the rest of the training that they are doing?
Air Marshal Binskin : Yes. That is right. It is just a sensor that they employ.
Senator LUDLAM: So Australian air traffic controllers at least are given advance information as to the objective of any drone mission through Australian airspace or UAV mission?
Air Marshal Binskin : Like any aircraft coming through, they will go through the normal diplomatic clearance process.
Senator LUDLAM: So there are several references in the DWP on the basing of US marines through Darwin.
Air Marshal Binskin : It is not basing.
Senator LUDLAM: We had to get it out of the way, did we not?
Air Marshal Binskin : I know.
Senator Feeney: At least we are consistent.
Senator LUDLAM: So am I. We have been assessing the increments-the first 250. The later assessment that was conducted by Deloittes was for up to 1,100 troops.
Air Marshal Binskin : That is right.
Senator LUDLA M: That report was issued in May. They consulted with us. I met with two of their researchers and they said the draft was going to you in early March. The report was tabled 10 April. Did Defence request many changes to the reports before they were published?
Air Marshal Binskin : I will have to get Air Vice Marshal Hart in. He is the head of joint capability coordination. He is responsible for coordinating. I will get you an answer on that. I do not believe so. It was done in consultation with us, but I can get an answer for you on that.
Air Vice Marshal Hart : The team from Deloittes worked very closely with us as they produced the final report. There were some modifications to some of the wording and the language but not substantial change at all to their findings or their assessments.
Senator LUDLAM: Do you want to describe the general character of the changes that you made?
Air Vice Marshal Hart : It was more about making sure that we had the language that accorded with the fact that we do not yet have government decisions on future phases et cetera. So it was more about making sure that the language was consistent with statements made to date and just making sure it was in the context of the overall rotation of US forces through Australia.
Senator LUDLAM: That is interesting. How is Defence intending to report back and distribute that analysis to people who participated? I found out from a press release. Is there going to be a process that goes back to the people who were consulted to provide them with a copy of the report, for example?
Mr Richardson : It is publicly released.
Air Vice Marshal Hart : It was publicly released about two weeks ago.
Mr Richardson : We are not going back to individual contributors.
Senator Feeney: It is in the source document.
Senator LUDLAM: The part of the report on economic impacts does not shed any light on the extent of cost sharing. Are these considered to be minor details that are still being worked out? I presume that you are well aware that US Senate hearings revealed a preliminary cost estimate of the deployment at $1.6 billion to establish what President Obama has called an enduring presence in Darwin. I gather he would not have cleared his language by you guys in advance. How much of that $1.6 billion would be shared by Australia? Why has that not been under any sort of analysis in the report?
Air Marshal Binskin : I think you had two questions.
Senator LUDLAM: There are probably five in there.
Air Marshal Binskin : That was not a part of the focus of that particular report. That report now goes to government for government's consideration to approve the next stage of the marine rotation through the Northern Territory.
Senator LUDLAM: It sounds like President Obama has already approved it. It is going to be an enduring presence, he said.
Air Marshal Binskin : No. In fact, he and the foreign minister-
Mr Richardson : It is a rotational presence.
Air Marshal Binskin : It is a rotational presence. He and the Prime Minister announced that a couple of weeks ago.
Mr Richardson : We determine that.
Air Marshal Binskin : But this particular report, the study that was done, is more looking at the benefits around the Northern Territory and the social impact. So you have that part of it. That will then go to government and government will make the consideration.
Senator LUDLAM: It is like a cost-benefit analysis that does not analyse the costs. That was not part of Deloittes mission.
Air Marshal Binskin : It was not a part of their task.
Senator LUDLAM: What can you tell us about the $1.6 billion? Firstly, do you agree with that estimate? Do you have any visibility over whether that is the case?
Mr Richardson : First of all, we have not been part of that. Secondly, we have not yet commenced detailed discussions about detailed cost sharing arrangements that might emerge over the next few years. At present, the cost to us of the rotational presence is marginal certainly this year and next year. Beyond that, we have yet to commence discussions.
Senator LUDLAM: I guess I can kind of understand that. There have not needed to be huge modifications or upgrades to Robertson or-
Mr Richardson : No. There has not been a requirement for us to spend significant moneys.
Senator LUDLAM: It sounds like there might be soon. Those Senate hearings in the United States indicated that certainly fairly senior elements in the US congress want partner countries and host countries to shoulder as much of those costs as possible.
Mr Richardson : Well, the US Senate might want that, but we are not accountable to the US Senate.
Senator LUDLAM: That is probably arguable.
Senator Feeney: US policymakers have talked about burden sharing since time immemorial.
Senator LUDLAM: Mr Richardson, you said there are no detailed discussions. What about broad discussions? Is the first you heard of that $1.6 billion when you were made aware of those congressional hearings?
Mr Richardson : Yes. I am not aware of any detailed estimate within the administration. Certainly we have not yet commenced detailed discussions.
Senator LUDLAM: Have you asked for the source of that figure?
Mr Richardson : No. In fact, the minister was across there the week before last and the CDF and I were with him. We will commence more detailed discussions over the next six months.
Senator LUDLAM: Why was this figure of $1.6 billion not discussed?
Mr Richardson : It did not need to be.
Senator LUDLAM: I am interested. Am I the only person who is interested to know what that money is about and whether we will be paying for it?
Mr Richardson : I do not get too fussed with amounts I hear before US congressional committees. The way their system works is very different to ours. The cost to us at present is marginal. We have time up our sleeve. We will commence those discussions, as I said, over the next six months.
Senator LUDLAM: What do you mean that we have time up our sleeves?
Mr Richardson : Well, it is going to be a marginal cost this year and it will be a marginal cost next year.
Senator LUDLAM: Would you figure that we are in a fairly good negotiating position?
Mr Richardson : I think it is fairly simple. Where you enter into cost-sharing arrangements, you have two entities. Each entity seeks to maximise the savings for themselves. We will enter the discussions within that context.
Senator LUDLAM: There is probably no use entertaining the $1.6 billion figure. We have nothing to underpin it.
Mr Richardson : No.
Senator LUDLAM: You have not asked for any of the calculations. I do not know what that is about. In the general principle of cost sharing for this enduring US presence in Darwin-maybe this is best to you, Senator Feeney-what is the Australian government's policy on taking on board the costs, the burden sharing, so to speak? Do we have a policy one way or the other?
Senator Feeney: I really have not got much to add to what you have heard already, and that is that certain announcements were made at the time that President Obama visited Australia. Defence is now progressing the rotation of marines through Darwin. As you have heard, that is at marginal cost to Defence at the present time and for the immediate future. I guess, beyond that, it will be subject to negotiation about what their requirements are, what our requirements are and what the respective financial positions are of the US and ourselves. All of that will happen within an alliance construct, where we are looking to provide each other with best value and maximise assistance to one another in our shared objectives.
Senator LUDLAM: I do not want to come out of here and verbal you, but does the Australian government have a policy that we may take on some of the costs of the deployment? You have not just ruled that out?
Mr Richardson : There could well be some marginal costs. Indeed, we take on some marginal costs now.
Senator LUDLAM: But $1.6 billion is not in the vicinity of marginal.
Mr Richardson : It is not costing $1.6 billion. The US congress can discuss whatever they like. The US has not yet and we have not yet commenced detailed discussions with the US. A money amount has not yet been discussed.
Senator LUDLAM: Wow.
Senator Feeney: I guess it is just useful to note, as I am sure you have, that this is an evolutionary process, as well.
Senator LUDLAM: It is one that has started. It is well underway. We do not know how much it is going to cost and how much Australia will have to-
Senator Feeney: We know the cost is marginal for the foreseeable future. But you have raised the various issues in previous estimates around Cocos and around Garden Island in Western Australia. All of those issues will unfold. They have not been determined or negotiated now.
Senator LUDLAM: I am sure they will be announced after the governments concerned have made their minds up, because this is how this has worked. I have something of an issue that an 1,100 troop commitment is a marginal cost that has not required any great expansion of the barracks or any great cost to be taken on.
Mr Richardson : It was 200 to 250 last year. It is 200 to 250 this year. I think it goes up next year to 1,100.
Senator LUD LAM: And are you not anticipating the cost of an 1,100 deployment to be gargantuan?
Mr Richardson : It will be greater than the 200 to 250. It will be greater. But we are looking ahead to when we have a marine deployment of up to 2½ thousand in 2016-17. That is what we are giving some consideration to. As I said, we will commence discussions with the US over the next six months.
Senator LUDLAM: In November 2012, a journalist in the Age revealed that there was a secret two-page statement of principles relating to the Australian and US military collaboration, which is called the Australian-United States force posture review working group statement of principles. It is a bit of a mouthful, but that is all we have. Is that an evolving document or is that a one-off that has been agreed to?
Mr Richardson : I am not aware of it.
Senator LUDLAM: That is a pretty big deal.
Senator Feeney: I suspect what you are referring to, Senator, is when the US consulted Australian officials when conducting their own US force posture review.
Senator LUDLAM: No. It is not what I am referring to at all. I asked for quite a period of time whether there had been any changes to the status of forces agreement.
Mr Richardson : No. There has not been.
Senator LUDLAM: I was told that there have not been. But there is this annex or this extra document which sets out the legal underpinnings of the deployment.
Mr Richardson : I am not aware of any annex to the status of forces agreement.
Senator LUDLAM: No. It is not an official appendage of the status of forces agreement, but it is the legal underpinnings of the present deployment rotation base, whatever you want to call it.
Mr Richardson : I am not aware of any legal underpinnings which are different to the current status of forces agreement.
Senator LUDLAM: This was reported-
Mr Richardson : Well, I do not know what was reported. I am just saying I am not aware of any-
Senator LUDLAM: Nobody knows of any piece of paper on which the legal standing of this deployment, apart from the status of forces agreement, has been written down and agreed to by Australia and the United States?
Mr R ichardson : No. It has been public documents. There have clearly been confidential discussions.
Senator LUDLAM: No. This document is not a discussion.
Mr Richardson : But there is no secret legal underpinning to the rotational deployment.
Mr Sargeant : There is only the status of forces agreement. In the future, depending on what agreements are developed in relation to potential cost sharing, there may need to be some agreements developed to support that. But at the moment there is nothing in addition to the status of forces agreement.
Senator LUDLAM: I will leave it there, Chair, and I will come back a little later in other sections.
Senator JOHNSTON: Can you tell us briefly what has been happening with the Defence Export Control Office?
Air Marshal Binskin : I will read a couple of answers to various questions while Mr Sargeant grabs his pack. In correction, we said before that the negotiations are ongoing with the ANSF for gifting the Multi National Base at Tarin Kowt. Actually, the negotiations are ongoing with the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, who are overseeing all gifting to the Afghan government to ensure standardisation across the country on arrangements. That is for Senator Kroger. Senator Johnston asked about money for Afghanistan redeployment and what we are budgeting. The estimates for the costs of transport associated with redeployment are based on worst-case estimates, which require the use of aircraft for all movement out of Afghanistan and back. There has been no specific estimate made of Pakistan costs as they are expected to be less than the worst cost estimates in there. With regard to the memorial at MNBTK and the return of significant historical items, the memorial at MNBTK is currently being planned. Wherever possible, such items will be returned to Australia for posterity and to form the basis of the historical items associated with the campaign in Afghanistan. The ADF is working closely with key stakeholders, including the Australian War Memorial, the army history unit, chaplains and former battle and task group personnel to identify important items and return them to Australia. Where it is not possible to return the physical item, a photographic record will be utilised to maintain the item for posterity. Australia will maintain its presence in Al Minhad, as we know, in the UAE in 2014. Therefore, we have not considered any items of significance at the Al Minhad site in UAE that we might look to return. But, as you know, there are a couple of memorials there as well.
Senator KROGER: And there are some plaques and a small memorial.
Air Marshal Binskin : That is right. So we have not considered Al Minhad yet, but we will when we get to that part of the planning. We are supportive at the moment of Brendan Nelson and what he is doing with the War Memorial in opening an Afghanistan exhibition there. We think, as he does, it is something that is lacking at the moment. We have had thousands of people in Afghanistan but they cannot come back and show their families what they might have been a part of. So we are looking forward to being able to support Brendan in developing that new Afghanistan exhibition.
Senator FAULKNER: I do appreciate what you say, VCDF, about the memorials and their location. Has there been any discussion within Defence about any ongoing memorial at TK?
Air Marshal Binskin : No. Not that I know of, but it is something that we will need to chase up-you are correct-and work on with the Afghan authorities. We do want to have the sacrifices our people have made remembered in Afghanistan.
Senator FAULKNER: So that is something that perhaps we might be able-
Air Marshal Binskin : We will take that on, yes.
Senator Feeney: Chair, before we proceed, I feel the urge to remind you that the Chief of Navy will be leaving us at 5.30 pm, so you may want to redirect any questions people have. If there are questions of the committee to him, you may want to bear that in mind.
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Feeney. We had a discussion at the break. We have advised Mr Richardson that the Chief of Navy will come on for program 1.2 at 3.45 pm straight after the afternoon tea break. Senator Ludlam, you quickly wanted to do something?
Senator LUDLAM: By way of follow-up, I want to make absolutely sure that the folk at the table have not either misled the committee or inadvertently thought I might be discussing something else. I would like to table an article that refers to the 2010 agreement, the one that initially the Australian government claimed did not exist. It was FOIed and it was determined then that it did exist. That is so you have a copy of what I have in front of me.
Mr Richardson : Is this the statement of principles for the joint work of the working group on policy issues relating to deployment? I stand by what I said about legal underpinnings and the like.
Senator LUDLAM: I read the title to you. I will read it back again. It sounds very much like-
Mr Richardson : That is not a legal underpinning.
Senator LUDLAM: What is it?
Mr Richardson : Well, it is simply a statement of principles for the joint work of the working group that looked at policy issues for the deployment. It is not a legal document. It does not provide the legal underpinning for the deployment.
Senator LUDLAM: The legal underpinning for the deployment in the status of forces agreement.
Mr Richardson : That is right.
Senator LUDLAM: That document was signed between Minister Smith and Robert Gates in 2010. I have a copy of the article, so I think we are now talking about the same thing. Is that an evolving document or is it a one-off? Does that document change? Have there been further discussions on that?
Mr Richardson : I will take that on notice so that I am not responding to a media report. I will go back to the source document and respond to you properly. But I will reiterate that there is no legal underpinning to the deployment over and above what has been stated publicly and over and above the status of forces agreement.
Senator LUDLAM: If you are able to table that document so that Australian citizens can see what is actually in it, that would be appreciated.
Mr Richardson : I will take that on notice.