|June 04, 2009
Article from: Australian Associated Press
THE Australia Defence Association has praised Joel Fitzgibbon as a "good" defence minister who outperformed others in recent decades.
The Rudd Government now faced the difficult task of getting a new minister up to speed quickly in a complex portfolio, executive director Neil James said, hours after Mr Fitzgibbon was forced to resign.
"I am happy to say Fitzgibbon has been a good minister. He has certainly been better than some we have seen in recent decades," Mr James said.
He said Mr Fitzgibbon had related well to the soldiers he encountered in trips to operational areas. He'd also been prepared to thump the table to get a better deal from NATO nations in Afghanistan.
But Mr James acknowledged the former minister had not always been as tactful as he could have been in his dealings with service chiefs and the defence department's secretary.
"On the downside, I think his biggest disadvantage was his political weakness being an ex-Mark Latham protege," he said.
Mr James said the process of breaking in a new minister could take up to six months due to the complexity of the defence organisation. He said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had the opportunity to expand the number of ministers and parliamentary secretaries overseeing defence.
Mr Fitzgibbon resigned as Defence Minister this afternoon after revelations an army general was instructed to attend meetings with the minister's brother, Mark Fitzgibbon, at which defence health contracting was discussed.
Major-General Paul Alexander, who is in charge of defence health services, told a Parliamentary committee that Defence Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon's office had told him to attend the meetings attended by Mark Fitzgibbon, the chief executive of insurer NIB Health.