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Defence Department Head Removed By Government

September 25, 2002

Ric Smith, currently Ambassador to Indonesia, soon to become Secretary of the Defence Department The Secretary of the Defence Department, Dr. Allan Hawke, has been effectively sacked by the Federal Government. It was announced yesterday that Dr. Hawke's contract would not be renewed when it expires next month. The current Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Ric Smith, will take over in November.

The change follows a significant shake-up of Defence Department chiefs last May.

The announcement came as a surprise within the federal bureacracy. It is seen as reflecting two concerns:

  • that Dr. Hawke has failed to implement reforms to the Defence Department.

  • deteroriating relationships with the Defence Minister, Senator Robert Hill, arising out of the children overboard issue.
Secretaries are the highest-ranking public servants in government departments. Once referred to as "permanent heads", they are now appointed on contracts, usually for 3 years. Hawke was appointed in 1999, following the acrimonious removal of Paul Barratt by the previous Minister, John Moore.


Listen to Simon Crean's Question To The Acting Prime Minister


Extracts from a report in the Canberra Times [Sep 25, 2002].

Defence Chief Axed

by Lincoln Wright

..Dr Hawke's removal as Secretary is seen by insiders as a direct result of a perception at senior Government levels that he had failed to deliver necessary reforms at Defence, especially to the procurement process. Defence's financial management system is also understood to be in a shambles and the subject of serious review by the Auditor General.

Dr Hawke had also been thought to be having trouble getting on with Robert Hill, Minister for Defence, since the last election.

Dr Hawke, a protege of a former Defence Secretary, Tony Ayers, was Secretary of Veterans Affairs and later Transport and Regional Services before being sent to Defence. A highly regarded manager and policy analyst, he has been spoken of as a future Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, though much of his expertise has been in Defence.

..Opposition Defence spokesman Chris Evans congratulated Mr Smith on his appointment last night, but added Dr Hawke's removal was a surprise decision given the incomplete reform agenda at Defence.

"At a time of unparalleled operational activity, Defence continues to lack the critical political and organisational support to allow them to do their job as effectively as possible," Senator Evans said.

Dr Hawke began his career as Defence Secretary with a now-famous speech outlining Defence's problems, what he called a "due diligence" summary detailing the department's executive problems.

Apart from establishing the new Defence Materiel Organisation, Dr Hawke oversaw the 2000 Defence White Paper, the border protection operation last year and the latest deployment of special forces.

But persistent problems with acquisitions and expensive cost blowouts have been a major concern in senior Government circles. Along with how Defence manages its budget, they were apparently decisive in his removal.

In particular, senior Government figures had been unimpressed by Dr Hawke's handling of intractable problems on everything from - to name just a few - the Collins Class submarine, the Seasprite helicopter, the Anzac Ship Project and the Bushmaster Infantry vehicle.

Recently, the Government officially conceded, to its political embarrassment, that 16 major Defence capital projects were $5.1 billion over budget and, in some cases, years overdue.

A senior political insider said last night that Dr Hawke had made progress on procurement and financial management. "In fairness to him, it's a bloody difficult job." But the source went on to say there was a perception that when a crisis hit, people would often say, "Where's Allan?"

Although the ultimate decision not to re-appoint Dr Hawke as Secretary was made by Mr Howard, it had also been rumoured that there were personal problems between him and Defence Minister Robert Hill.

In July 1999, the then Defence Minister John Moore fired his Department head Paul Barratt in controversial circumstances, one of which was said to be personal problems with Mr Barratt.

The Barratt case was a cause celebre in bureaucratic circles, involving a Federal Court court injunction against the sacking and an embarrassing unfair dismissal case.

Dr Hawke's replacement at the head of Defence had been rumoured for some time, as had Mr Smith's possible appointment. Mr Smith has a strong background as a strategist at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but it is expected the Government wants reform of procurement and financial management.

Dr Hawke's three-year contract was due to end in October.

Mr Smith, who served at Defence as the Deputy Secretary for Strategy and Intelligence in 1994-95, will take up his new job on November 11 with a three-year contract.

Dr Hawke is expected to take some leave and then be posted overseas.


This is the text of a statement released by the Acting Prime Minister, John Anderson [Sep 24, 2002].

APPOINTMENT OF THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Richard (Ric) Smith AO to be the Secretary of the Department of Defence. Mr Smith will succeed Dr Allan Hawke at the end of his current term of appointment in October.

Mr Smith is currently Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia and has served in a number of other senior posts with distinction. In 1994-95 he held the position of Deputy Secretary (Strategy and Intelligence) in the Department of Defence. He will take up his appointment as Secretary of the Department of Defence on 11 November 2002 for a period of three years.

I record my appreciation of the work undertaken by Dr Hawke in his time as Secretary of the Department of Defence. It's been a time of renewal within the Defence Organisation, as well as exceptionally high operational tempo. Dr Hawke has made an important contribution to Defence capabilities. From a personal perspective, as the Minister for Transport and Regional Affairs, I appreciated his significant contribution as Secretary of my Department.

At the completion of his term of appointment on 20 October Dr Hawke will take leave and be available for a senior appointment overseas in 2003.


This is the text of a statement released by the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill [Sep 24, 2002].

Following the announcement by the acting Prime Minister that Mr Ric Smith will succeed Dr Allan Hawke as Secretary of Defence, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Hawke for his contribution to the portfolio over the last three years.

It has been a challenging time to be at the helm of the Defence Department.

Dr Hawke has overseen the development of the 2000 Defence White Paper and new Defence Capability Plan and major internal restructuring - particularly the establishment of the Defence Materiel Organisation - at a time of intense operational tempo.

In my term as Defence Minister the Department has maintained effective support for the Australian Defence Force at a time when our military is deployed at its highest levels since the Vietnam War, in particular to the international coalition against terrorism.

Dr Hawke's contribution in relation to these challenges has been greatly appreciated.

I am pleased that Dr Hawke will continue to serve the Government in a senior and important role and wish him well in the future.


This is the official biography of Ric Smith, as it appears on the DFAT website.

Mr Smith is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Born in Perth (1944) and educated at the University of Western Australia, he taught in Western Australian High Schools before joining the then Department of External Affairs in 1969. Between then and 1989, he served in Australian posts in New Delhi, Tel Aviv, Manila and Honolulu.

From 1989 to 1992, Mr Smith was Head of the Pacific, Africa and Middle East Division, and in 1992 was appointed a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In this capacity he oversighted the then Asia Division and was the Senior Official for Australia at successive ASEAN Regional Forum meetings. From March 1994 to the end of 1995 he served on secondment to the Department of Defence as Deputy Secretary.

Mr Smith was named as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 1998 Australia Day Honours List. He is married, and he and his wife Janet have two adult sons.

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