an essay on

governance and accountability in the australian defence organisation

By Lieutenant Commander N.P. Tate, RAN

… there is widespread dissatisfaction with Defence’s performance in Canberra - from ministers, central agencies within the public service, industry, and even from within the Defence organisation itself. In essence, we have a credibility problem.

Dr Allan Hawke - 2000


1. In 2001, the former Secretary of the Department of Defence identified that changes to the Department designed to resolve its credibility problem were largely confined to the Canberra bureaucracy “pointing to the success of our tactical and operational leadership. Pound for pound, I believe we produce the best sailors, soldiers and air force personnel in the field.[T1] [1]” This was tacit acceptance of the relatively widely held belief that whilst the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is a competent fighting force, the wider Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) suffers from poor management practices and hence has little credibility. Since those remarks, Defence embarked on an improvement process focussing on its governance and accountability.
2. The aim of this essay is to review the current Defence organisation and its governance and accountability framework. This essay will address the current governance and accountability structures of the ADO; the strengths and weaknesses of the current structures; and possible alternative structures to enhance good governance and accountability.
governance and accountabilitY

3. Governance and accountability have gained recent popularity of use[2], particularly with the corporate sector and increasingly in the public sector. As their popularity has increased, so have the number of definitions, however, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has been developing a definition for use in the Public Sector. The Commonwealth Auditor General has defined governance...