Defence culture has to change, says new chief

Reviews into defence

Reviews into defence

The new Defence Force chief has foreshadowed a wave of reforms'at the Australian Defence Force Academy following the Skype sex scandal.

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NEW Defence Force Chief David Hurley has used his first speech to acknowledge Defence must improve its culture to convince Australians it is "just, inclusive and fair-minded".

Speaking last night in Canberra to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, General Hurley also said Defence could not be immune to the financial pressures affecting the federal government and Labor's drive to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13.

"Across the organisation, Defence must therefore carefully consider its spending decisions and clearly demonstrate prudent financial stewardship," he said.

In his first speech since taking over last month, General Hurley said the organisation needed to "reassure the Australian people of its character and values".

"The challenge today is to continue to deliver a high-quality combat force while implementing fundamental changes to Defence culture and practices," he said.

Defence was rocked earlier this year when it emerged that a female cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy was allegedly filmed via Skype without her knowledge while allegedly having sex with another cadet. Two male cadets are facing the criminal charge of using a carriage service to cause offence, while the man involved in the alleged sex act faces another charge of committing an act of indecency.

The department is also facing reviews to reduce waste in spending and improve the maintenance of hardware.

General Hurley last night said four fundamental shifts taking place globally were redefining the strategic environment.

The first was the shift of global power to Asia on the back of China's momentum and India's emergence, warning that "multilateralism in the Asia-Pacific will make our world richer but harder to manage".

It was harder to judge the outcomes of the Arab Spring, as democratic uprisings in the Middle East had toppled dictators in Egypt, Tunisia and sparked a civil war in Libya and tensions in Syria.

"To survive, political leaderships will have to listen to the popular will. This cannot but change a region that stretches from northwest Africa to Pakistan. The result will be an even more complex region," he said.

He expressed concern about the global economy, which underpins global security.

General Hurley said Defence had been asked to respond to reviews that challenged fundamental elements of the organisation, including procurement and accountability, and six probes of its culture after the Skype case.

"When I look at the broad canvas that these reviews must illuminate, one thing is starkly clear, we cannot respond to the recommendations of these reviews in a piecemeal, review-by-review manner.

"Simply turning several hundred recommendations from red traffic lights to green over five years or more will not produce the change that people expect, nor will it improve Defence."