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Subject: Big guns come under fire
Volkodav    4/5/2009 7:07:00 AM
Patrick Walters, National security editor | April 04, 2009 Article from: The Australian JUST weeks before he is due to deliver the Rudd Government's landmark defence blueprint for the next generation, Joel Fitzgibbon finds himself fighting for his political life. The bizarre allegation that the Defence Signals Directorate may have spied on its own minister and the revelations about his friendship with Chinese-Australian businesswoman Helen Liu have damaged Fitzgibbon and highlighted a deeper systemic crisis within Australia's defence administration. When defence chiefs first heard the news from press reports nine days ago they were doubly shocked and amazed. Shocked that DSD could be accused of what would amount to a criminal offence and stunned that the Defence Minister had declined to tell them about the story about to be unleashed in Fairfax newspapers. Whatever the doubts about the veracity of the initial story, it generated an immediate political effect. Fitzgibbon was forced to admit he had failed to declare two paid trips to China as a guest of Liu's. But more than a week after the Fairfax press ran the story we are yet to see any hard evidence that suggests the Defence Department deliberately conducted a secret investigation into Fitzgibbon amid concerns about his ties with Liu. The assertion that a DSD officer accessed Fitzgibbon's office computer systems and found Liu's banking details has been firmly rebutted by the Defence Department. Defence so far has turned up nothing to substantiate the claims concerning DSD or that departmental officers had raised concerns about Fitzgibbon's China connections. Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Ian Carnell is undertaking a forensic search into DSD's information technology networks that could take several months. Carnell's probe will try to ascertain whether anyone in DSD may have breached carefully prescribed guidelines on domestic interception of electronic communications. Embattled Defence Department chief Nick Warner's carefully drafted statement issued a week ago bears careful scrutiny. "Neither the Defence Signals Directorate nor any other part of Defence has had any access, authorised or unauthorised, to personal information within the Minister's office, including telephone contact numbers," Warner added carefully, noting that these were preliminary findings and Defence would continue to investigate the matter in co-operation with Carnell. ASIO, unusually, also went to the trouble of publicly declaring they had no security interest in Liu. If there is a genuine defence provenance to the claims published in the Fairfax press it would not have been orchestrated within DSD. It is more likely to reside with an individual in either the department's defence security or intelligence realm who felt his concerns about Fitzgibbon's ties with Liu were not being taken seriously by his superiors. A tale that apparently began with an anonymous letter sent to The Age has produced a further serious erosion of trust between Fitzgibbon and his department, particularly at the top level. Fitzgibbon knows he was guilty of poor judgment in not declaring the two China trips. The wisdom of subletting accommodation from the Liu family in Canberra, given his sensitive ministerial responsibilities, also should have generated further reflection. Kevin Rudd has made it clear than any further transgressions of the kind Fitzgibbon reported last week will end his tenure as Defence Minister. With the Prime Minister thinking about a ministerial reshuffle later this year, Fitzgibbon's performance over the coming weeks will be crucial for his immediate political trajectory. Like all of his recent predecessors who have held the defence portfolio, Fitzgibbon has struggled to exert his authority over that huge, lumbering beast and its $22 billion annual budget. Relations between Fitzgibbon and his top departmental advisers were never smooth from the start. Mutual suspicion early on has gradually evolved into a mutual lack of confidence. "It's sour but the work continues," observed one senior official earlier this week. On Fitzgibbon's part there is a palpable sense that at times he has been badly let down by his department and given misleading advice, contributing further to a steady erosion of confidence. Early on Fitzgibbon's party political instincts came to the fore in the handling of sensitive procurement issues alarming his bureaucratic advisers. In the view of his critics he pushed too hard in wanting Defence to seriously consider the F-22 fighter, never a serious option, embarrassing the Pentagon in the process. Fitzgibbon's own steep learning curve in the portfolio has been hampered by a parliamentary office short of experienced advisers with a deep knowledge of the defence business. He lost his first chief of staff, Daniel Cotterill, after just nine months in the job. More importantly he recentl
 
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Aussiegunneragain       4/5/2009 7:28:03 AM
While I don't think Fitzgibbon is the man to reform Defence I think White's comments are extremely unfair. The notion that a new Minister should be held responsible for the snail pace of reform in that monstrosity just after 15 months is a cop out by one of the blokes who has in the past been responsible for the problems there.
 
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gf0012-aust       4/5/2009 11:05:24 PM

While I don't think Fitzgibbon is the man to reform Defence I think White's comments are extremely unfair. The notion that a new Minister should be held responsible for the snail pace of reform in that monstrosity just after 15 months is a cop out by one of the blokes who has in the past been responsible for the problems there.
what is also fails to acknowledge is that Defence procurement works under the direction of processes defined by the Govt.  They can't change the process unless the Govt directs them to do so.  Where that has been different is where the Minister exercises their own discretion to tick something off.
This govt in particular has made unilateral decisions without considering long term sustainment issues etc,....

It's a bit rich for the current govt to blame Defence for decision making inertia when they have been singularly responsible for some of it.  

As for White, dinosaurs are extinct for a reason.   
 

 
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DropBear       4/5/2009 11:23:48 PM
More importantly he recently lost Greg Combet, the highly regarded parliamentary secretary for defence procurement, who had been instrumental in resolving some fundamental procurement issues with Defence including the future of the Defence Materiel Organisation. Inexplicably, Combet's job assisting Fitzgibbon has not been filled.

If that were the case and Combet was the mesiah, then why was he sidelined? Clearly he wasn't right for the job otherwise he wouldn't have been moved on, surely?
 
Curious.

 
 
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gf0012-aust       4/6/2009 4:12:47 AM
If that were the case and Combet was the mesiah, then why was he sidelined? Clearly he wasn't right for the job otherwise he wouldn't have been moved on, surely?

curious
 
Nothing to be curious about :)
The average voter doesn't give a hoot about defence issues.  the general public has indicated however that they will stir their limbs over the environment and energy.
 
the environment and energy happen to be the portfolio issues that are more stuffed than defence and will influence a greater cohort of voters.
 
wong and garret are hopeless.  wong was blessed with the job to sideline garret, and now the PM has worked out that she's just as useless.  At a strategy level I'd guess that the one man cabinet has determined that Combet can achieve more faster in the gen publics perceived attention span.
 



 


 
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gf0012-aust       4/6/2009 4:15:38 AM

More importantly he recently lost Greg Combet, the highly regarded parliamentary secretary for defence procurement, who had been instrumental in resolving some fundamental procurement issues with Defence including the future of the Defence Materiel Organisation. Inexplicably, Combet's job assisting Fitzgibbon has not been filled.

If that were the case and Combet was the mesiah, then why was he sidelined? Clearly he wasn't right for the job otherwise he wouldn't have been moved on, surely?

Curious.

as an add-on.  Combet has earnt some respect from a few of the uniforms on some critical time sensitive projects - he's managed to walk the line between vendor and CoA pretty well.  So much so that some in industy are bemoaning his exit.

 


 
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Volkodav       4/6/2009 4:42:39 AM
So basically we need more engineers and professional project managers in parliament instead of the usual gaggle of lawyers, school teachers and failed business people we are usually lumbered with.
 
A bright prospect for the future is the possibility Combet may return to defence as the minister following the next election.
 
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Aussiegunneragain       4/6/2009 9:08:25 AM

So basically we need more engineers and professional project managers in parliament instead of the usual gaggle of lawyers, school teachers and failed business people we are usually lumbered with.
A bright prospect for the future is the possibility Combet may return to defence as the minister following the next election.


So apply for office then.
 
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Aussiegunneragain       4/6/2009 9:16:13 AM


While I don't think Fitzgibbon is the man to reform Defence I think White's comments are extremely unfair. The notion that a new Minister should be held responsible for the snail pace of reform in that monstrosity just after 15 months is a cop out by one of the blokes who has in the past been responsible for the problems there.
what is also fails to acknowledge is that Defence procurement works under the direction of processes defined by the Govt.  They can't change the process unless the Govt directs them to do so.  Where that has been different is where the Minister exercises their own discretion to tick something off.
This govt in particular has made unilateral decisions without considering long term sustainment issues etc,....
It's a bit rich for the current govt to blame Defence for decision making inertia when they have been singularly responsible for some of it.  
As for White, dinosaurs are extinct for a reason.   
They've been through 5 Defence Ministers in the previous Government and none of them could manage more than plugging holes to stop the boat from sinking. Reith and Nelson, whatever else you think of them, both had strong reform credentials in the tough areas of IR and education respectively, and Hill was a very senior and well thought of member of the former Government. Fitzgibbon doesn't even have the lobes for the minumum requirement for the DM of being a perpetual crisis manager, but that doesn't change the fact that is it a sh1t of an organisation for anybody to manage.
 
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DropBear       4/6/2009 1:34:59 PM
The average voter doesn't give a hoot about defence issues.  the general public has indicated however that they will stir their limbs over the environment and energy.
 
The average voter probably doesn't care or have an understanding about military procurement, but they do get miffed when they hear constant media speel (right or wrong) about equipment not working or coming in late.
 
the environment and energy happen to be the portfolio issues that are more stuffed than defence and will influence a greater cohort of voters.
 
True that "climate change" is the hot topic of choice, however, most folk can do something (no matter how small) to make themselves feel warm and fuzzy about the environment. The average punter can't step into Russel Hill and start giving advice on procurement. Hence, I would have thought that KRudd would rather see the great defence monolith sorted out during this term.
 
I agree that the smirking lesbot and Midnight oil muppet are fecking useless at nrm issues, but I would have thought it better politicly that Combet stay with Defence. Clean it up, get some brownie points and then use his gold stars to better the tree hugging community down the track.
 
Cest la vie I suppose.
 
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