A former special forces commander who spearheaded the coalition government’s efforts to “stop the boats” has been named Australia’s new Chief of the Defence Force.
Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, will replace Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, who steps down when his four-year term in the role ends in July.
The Vice Chief will be the current Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston.
“The leadership renewal of the Australian Defence Force that we’re announcing today will ensure that we have a seamless transition in the uniformed leadership of our defence forces at a critical time in our history,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Canberra on Monday.
Australian forces were engaged in complex and dangerous missions in the Middle East and elsewhere, he said.
As well, the Australian Defence Force was undertaking the largest modernisation of its capabilities in peacetime history.
Three other senior appointments were also announced.
Air Vice Marshal Mel Hupfeld will take over as Chief of Joint Operations, while the new Chief of Navy will be Rear Admiral Mike Noonan and the Chief of Army will be Major General Rick Burr.
General Campbell, who joined the army in 1981, came to public attention in his role heading Operation Sovereign Borders, the coalition government’s strategy to stop people smuggling.
He also spent four years as a national security adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
He said he deeply appreciated the confidence and trust being expressed in him and would build on former chief Mark Binskin’s legacy.
General Campbell ducked questions on what he perceived as the biggest threat to Australia’s security.
Air Chief Marshal Binskin said it would be wrong to focus on a particular country or region.
“It’s the concurrency of security challenges around the world and the diversity of those challenges,” he said.
General Campbell earned a reputation when he led Operation Sovereign Borders to stonewalling the media over “on-water operations”.
Asked what approach he would take to the media in his new role, he said: “I’m sure that my approach will be appropriate to the position and to the relationship between the Australian Defence Force and the media.”
Vice Admiral Johnston, who joined the Navy as a cadet midshipman in 1978, most recently has overseen the deployment of Australian troops and aircraft to the Middle East.
The current Vice Chief of Defence Ray Griggs is retiring from his position after more than four decades in the military.