News National Defence reshuffle banishes Labor appointments

Defence reshuffle banishes Labor appointments

Steve Bracks
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A reshuffle of the defence chiefs will elevate one of the government’s top advisors to a key role in the defence force.

But it’s not the first time the Abbott government has moved to install his hand-picked heads in favour of Labor’s instalments.

The move will replace two decorated defence heads appointed under Labor.

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Tony Abbott issued a pre-election warning in April 2013 to the Gillard government not to appoint “mates” to plum roles because he would simply overturn them, News Limited reported.

So in September 2013, three days after taking office, the government struck fast to stop popular former Victorian Labor premier Steve Bracks from taking a New York City post as consul-general.

And ABC Insiders host Barrie Cassidy was dumped from an unpaid role as chair of the Old Parliament House Advisory Council for “spear carrier for the Liberal Party’s dominant right wing” David Kemp, as the Saturday Paper reported.

In December that year, Institute of Public Affairs ex-policy director Tim Wilson’s appointment as Human Rights Commissioner shocked many when he bumped Gillian Triggs out of the role. Ms Triggs became the HRC president and disclosed this year that a government staffer offered her another job to abandon her role.

The government denied Ms Triggs’ claim.

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell will be promoted to Chief of the Army. Photo: AAP

Who described the ABC as a “Soviet-style workers’ collective”? Ms Triggs was also appointed as one of four selectors of the boards of the ABC and SBS alongside former Liberal deputy leader Neil Brown. Guessed News Corp columnist Janet Albrechtsen? Correct.

So it comes as no surprise that new blood in the defence forces leadership will come from the Abbott government’s nearest and dearest.

The chiefs of the Army and Air Force are due for reappointments in mid-May and early July.

The new Army chief will be Lieutenant General Angus Campbell on May 16.

Lieutenant-General Campbell was the commander of the politically sensitive joint agency task force on the boat-blocking Operation Sovereign Borders.

Lieutenant General David Morrison assumed the role in 2011 under Labor after a career in the army since 1979. He held a lead role as colonel operations in the Australian-led East Timor independence operations.

He announced in February that he would step down in May.

The chief of the Air Force will be Gavin Davies, who will be promoted to Air Marshal on June 6, after the current Air Force Chief, Air Marshal Geoff Brown, steps down.

Air Marshal Davies is currently the Deputy Chief of the Air Force and has served in operational roles in command of the strike and reconnaissance 82 Wing. He was also posted to Washington as Air Attache. 

Air Marshal Brown was appointed under Labor in 2011 and will finish on July 3. He was praised for his “exceptional leadership” while overseeing growth in the Air Force and “heightened operational commitments” fighting Islamic State.

The defence forces are to be reviewed in a first-in-over-forty-years overhaul after a report leaked on Wednesday found the organisations were wasteful and “top-heavy”.

The Defence Materiel Organisation came under fire for its drawn-out procurement process and weighty 12,500 pages of procedures.

Mr Abbott announced the moves in Canberra on Thursday.

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