The excellence of the new military command arrangements probably depends from where you are viewing them. If you’ve been by-passed, or aren’t part of the ‘in’ crowd, the stunning excellence of the appointments probably won’t be readily apparent. From outside, however, three things are obvious.
The first is that Minister Marise Payne has made choices that are deliberate, informed, and aimed at both cementing reforms in place as well as keeping the process moving. None of the new appointees represent radical choices; on the other hand, none are steady as she goes types either.
Take the new Chief of Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell.
Yes, conventional. Duntroon graduate (class of ‘84); infantry (parachute) followed by SAS; Middle East command (2011) before being appointed Chief of Army in 2015. But hang on a minute, no, he’s not. Masters of Philosophy (Cambridge); Deputy Secretary of the PM’s Department, and time heading Operation Sovereign Borders, a task carried out professionally no matter what personal feelings he may have held at the time.
A contemporary comments that he hasn’t used his period heading the army to change much, and perhaps that’s true. Nevertheless, and unlike his predecessor (Australian of the Year) David Morrison, Campbell didn’t attempt to make a huge splash nor suddenly embark on wholesale structural reform. He knew doing so risked breaking the organisation, something many feel nearly happened back in the late ‘90’s. Instead he’s fostered the careers of individuals who he believed would benefit from wider experience and attempted to give others opportunities outside the service. Has he done enough? Probably not. Nevertheless, without his careful nurturing, the army certainly wouldn’t have recovered to the extent it has. After Vietnam it took decades to regain capability; today it’s a force in being.
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