The Defence Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is conducting a new inquiry, focussing on important aspects of the Department of Defence Annual Report 2022–23.
Key themes of the inquiry’s focus include:
- Assistance to Ukraine
- Defence Health System
- Capability Assurance Mechanism
- Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Weapons related issues
- Armaments manufacture, procurement, and inventory
- Other issues as communicated to Defence.
Chair of the Subcommittee, Mr Julian Hill MP, explained “the Committee has decided to exercise its oversight powers and conduct a public review of the Department of Defence Annual Report 2022–23.
“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 was the most significant hostile act against a European country since the end of World War II. The international community of NATO and non-NATO contributors, including Australia, are continuing to aid Ukraine’s efforts in its fight to retain its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Subcommittee is interested in examining Australia’s response to this crisis; specifically, the facilitation of military aid focussed on platforms, munitions, and the contribution to Operation Kudu which is the ADF commitment to the training of armed forces of Ukraine recruits in the United Kingdom.
“A comprehensive and well-equipped health care system for our serving personnel remains a critical enabler to ensure the ADF’s warfighting preparedness. Defence is currently undergoing structural change based on the force posture requirements as detailed within the Defence Strategic Review. This is occurring at a time of significant workforce challenges, and it is through this lens that the Subcommittee is interested in analysing Defence’s approach to health care, considering the recent report by the Auditor-General and current performance issues. The focus for this line of inquiry will include the general architecture of its uniformed and contracted health related capabilities, supporting both current personnel and the recruitment function, and the interrelationship with external providers.
“It is imperative that Defence can effectively identify and manage the complexities associated with material procurement and sustainment including the acceptance of new capability into service. The Subcommittee is interested in reviewing Defence’s approach to capability assurance including ‘test and evaluation’ and how that impacts and informs accountability and risk identification considering case studies to identify potential systemic issues for attention.
“Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Weapons have an ever-increasing role within militaries worldwide. From systems capable of predictive analysis, to platforms that can prosecute targets without human intervention, careful consideration is warranted as Defence continues to evolve its capabilities by integrating emerging technologies. The Subcommittee is interested in examining the role of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Weapons within the ADF and the requisite policy settings that need to account for and address relevant moral, legal, ethical, and regulatory matters within Australia and internationally. This may be informed by a case study to be identified.
“The Defence Strategic Review references the importance that Australia possesses a diverse array of munitions capable of long-range strike across the Sea, Land, and Air domains. The Government has announced plans for the rapid procurement of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and Precision Strike Missiles, as well as the creation of a newly appointed Head of Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance. The Subcommittee is interested in examining the plans and process for the acquisition of specific munitions from coalition partners, the requirements to enable domestic manufacturing and storage, and the comparison of current stock holdings vice what is required during high intensity conflict”.
The Subcommittee is now inviting written submissions by Monday, 5 February 2024.