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Cosgrove Appointed Chief Of Defence Force

In the aftermath of the “children overboard” affair, the government has announced a shake-up of the Australian Defence Force which promotes Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove to Chief of the Defence Force and sees the departure of two key players in the ‘children overboard’ affair.

The Australian Defence Force is headed by a Chief from one either the Army, Navy or Air Force. Each of the services also has a Chief.

Cosgrove, who first came to public prominence for his role in leading the peace-keeping mission in East Timor, is currently Chief of Army. He is to be promoted to the rank of General and become Chief of the Defence Force. He replaces Admiral Chris Barrie, who is to retire.

Cosgrove was the only one of the four most senior military leaders to be untouched by the children overboard affair.

Admiral Barrie became the government’s staunchest defender in the controversy, until he was forced into a humiliating backdown in March, prompting the famed question from journalist Laurie Oakes as to whether Barrie felt like a “dill”.

Admiral Barrie told the Senate inquiry into “a certain maritime incident” that he considered resigning during the controversy. Whilst Barrie is retiring, there has been speculation that he might wish to stay on.

Admiral Barrie’s deputy, Lieutenant-General Des Mueller, is also being replaced.

The Chief of Navy, Vice-Admiral David Shackleton, is to retire.

The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston, remains in his position, but misses out on the top job, a position he might otherwise have expected to be appointed to on the basis of seniority. Earlier this year, Houston told the Senate inquiry that he had informed the government last year that the children overboard claims were incorrect. His evidence was ridiculed in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister, John Howard, who said that Houston’s “exocet” had been “torpedoed” by Admiral Barrie.

Text of the announcement of Defence Force appointments by the Prime Minister, John Howard.


General Peter Cosgrove – Chief of the Defence Force

Vice Admiral Russ Shalders – Vice-Chief of the Defence Force

Lieutenant General Peter Leahy – Chief of Army

Vice Admiral Chris Ritchie – Chief of Navy

Air Marshal Angus Houston – Chief of the Air Force (the only continuing appointment at this level)

Admiral Chris Barrie – retiring Chief of the Defence Force


I am pleased to announce the appointment of Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove AC MC as the new Chief of the Defence Force (CDF).

Lieutenant General Cosgrove will commence his three-year appointment on 4 July this year and will be promoted to the rank of General. He replaces the current CDF, Admiral Chris Barrie AC, who is retiring from the ADF after 41 years of service. Admiral Barrie has served with distinction as Chief of the Defence Force since 4 July 1998.

Rear Admiral Russ Shalders CSC, Head Defence Personnel, will be appointed Vice-Chief of the Defence Force with effect from 15 July 2002 for three years. He will be promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral and replaces Lieutenant General Des Mueller AO who has served as Vice-Chief of the Defence Force over the past two years.

Rear Admiral Chris Ritchie AO, Commander Australian Theatre, will be promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral and appointed as Chief of Navy with effect from 3 July 2002 for three years. Rear Admiral Ritchie replaces Vice Admiral David Shackleton AO who is also retiring from the ADF on 2 July this year after three years as Chief of Navy.

Major General Peter Leahy AM, Deputy Chief of Army, will be promoted to Lieutenant General and replaces General Cosgrove as Chief of Army on 28 June this year. His appointment will be for a three year period.

On behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, I would like to express my gratitude to Admiral Barrie, who has served as Chief of the Defence Force for the past four years.

His advice to the government was crucial to the ADF’s state of readiness when the decision was taken for the Interfet deployment to East Timor. He has also overseen Australia’s involvement in the war against terrorism, most particularly in Afghanistan.

His military and strategic advice to the government has been of a very high order.

I would also like to thank General Mueller and Vice-Admiral Shackleton for their respective contributions to the ADF and the nation. I wish them all well in their retirement from the ADF.

The current Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston, was appointed on 20 June 2001. He has brought leadership and direction to that role and will continue to make a strong contribution to the ADF for the remainder of his term, which runs until 19 June 2004.

Lieutenant General Cosgrove is well known to all Australians for his outstanding command of the Australian led INTERFET mission in East Timor, his command of the Australian Army as Chief of Army and his appointment as Australian of the Year for 2001.

I believe Lieutenant General Cosgrove and the new leadership team bring a wealth of command experience and strategic expertise to the ADF.

I am confident they will build on the work done by Admiral Barrie and his leadership team and continue to enhance and improve our Defence Forces.

Appointments for the positions of Deputy Chief of Army, Commander Australian Theatre and Head Defence Personnel will be announced shortly.

Transcript of the Prime Minister’s joint press conference with the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill.,

PRIME MINISTER: Well ladies and gentlemen, the Defence Minister and I have called this news conference to announce a number of very significant, indeed the most significant defence appointments for Australia. Before making the announcements in relation to the new appointments, may I take this opportunity of saying a few words about a number of serving officers who will be retiring from the ADF.

First I would like to express, on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the Australian people, our sense of gratitude to Admiral Chris Barrie for the remarkable work he has done over the last four years as Chief of the Defence Force. During that time he has given very high quality military and strategic advice to the Government. His stewardship as ADF has straddled one of the most difficult and important periods in Australia’s post World War II history so far as the ADF is concerned. It has covered both the deployment of the INTERFET forces and Australia’s leadership role in that to East Timor. It has covered the period of the preparation of the White Paper and importantly also and most recently, it has covered Australia’s role in the war against terrorism. If it hadn’t been for the advice given to the Government by the ADF and most particularly by Admiral Barrie regarding the state of readiness of Australian forces in 1999 and the decisions taken as a result of that advice, we would not have been able to take the decision we did and to commit the forces we did to the East Timor deployment, which has been so much to the credit of Australia.

And I want to publicly record my thanks and that of the Government to Admiral Barrie and to all the other people involved in that advice. I also want to thank him for the role that he and his supporting officers play in the preparation of the White Paper, and I would very much like to commend him for that. And also I want to commend him most recently for the role that he played in relation to the war against terror because that has involved the deployment of Australian forces into a very dangerous theatre of military conduct.

I would also like to thank General Des Mueller who served as the Vice Chief of the Defence Force. He has often attended National Security committee meetings and has been very active and forthright in extending his advice to the Government in relation to a wide range of military matters.

And to Vice Admiral Shackleton who served as the Chief of the Navy over the past three years, I would like to thank him for the part he has played in that very important role. It has been a period in which the Navy has had some difficult tasks to undertake on behalf of the Government. They have not been, as you know, without comment and without controversy. I want to personally thank the men and women of the Royal Australian Navy for the very important and difficult work that they discharged on behalf of the nation at the request of the Government, particularly in relation to the role they had in northern waters concerning unauthorised boat arrivals. It was hard work. It was nasty work. And the Navy did it to the highest service standards in the Australian tradition. And I want to thank Admiral Shackleton and the men and women, particularly of the Royal Australian Navy, for that work.

And to those three men, I do wish them well in their future life and I thank them very warmly for the service that they have contributed to firstly their respective services and also more generally in relation to the ADF.

I would like, having said something of those who have served in these very senior positions, I would like to say something of the new appointments. I announce that Lieutenant-General Peter Cosgrove, currently Chief of the Army, will be appointed as Chief of the Defence Force. Lieutenant-General Cosgrove has brought great leadership in his role as Chief of the Army. He is well known for the outstanding role he played in leading the Australian component and also the total component of the INTERFET force which so successfully involved itself in East Timor 1999. He was Australian of the year in 2001 and is widely known and respected within the Australian community. I would like to congratulate Lieutenant General Cosgrove, he will be promoted to the rank of General on taking over the new office and I know that he will bring very great energy and distinction to that role.

I’d like to announce the appointment of Rear Admiral Russ Shalders, to the position of Vice Chief of the Defence Force. He’s had very considerable experience in a number of strategic areas and I think will bring a very good balance in that role to the work of the soon to be, General Cosgrove, in the position of Chief of the Defence Force.

I announce the appointment of Rear Admiral Ritchie, to the position of Chief of the Navy. He’s well known, not only in naval but in other circles and he will I think, fill that role with particular distinction and bring very great leadership to it.

For General Cosgrove’s replacement as Chief of the Army, we have appointed Major General Peter Lay, who is currently Vice Chief of the Army. Major General Lay has shouldered already a considerable burden in relation to army affairs in the roles that he’s had and particularly in supporting General Cosgrove in that position.

The Chief of the Airforce, Air Marshal Angus Houston continues in that role. He is a person who’s brought very great direction and leadership to that position in the 12 months in which he’s served in his current term of three years, he has the full confidence and support of the good wishes of the Government in continuing that very important leadership role as Chief of the Airforce.

Ladies and Gentleman, I think we have a very good, new leadership team. I again thank those who have served Australia so well in these very important positions. In the end, there is always a special role in Australian society for all the men and women of the Australian Defence Force. They ultimately expose themselves to greater danger in the national interest than any of the rest of us, and they continue to deserve in my view, a very special place in our society and I’m delighted at the quality of the people available. I think the new team will be as effective and as distinctive as the team that they are replacing. I wish them well. I’m going to invite Admiral Barry to say a few words and then Lieutenant General Cosgrove and then we’ll take some questions. Thank you.

ADMIRAL BARRIE: Thank you, Prime Minister. This is a terrific day for the Australian Defence Force and from my perspective an important culmination of an agenda which sees me being able to hand on a succession team which will deliver more effectiveness, better leadership and stronger management for the Defence Force in the 21st century. I know the choices have been tough and I know there will be some disappointed people in the ADF that they weren’t able to be selected. Nonetheless, this is a very strong team. It’s got a good range of skills and capabilities, very strong leadership profile. And so I look forward to the ADF going on and delivering even better results in the future. I’d also just like to take this opportunity to thank all the men and women in the Australian Defence Force and in the Department of Defence for all the support they’ve given me over four years. When I took on this job in July of 1998, I could not have dreamt of the challenges we would face. And certainly f! rom where I stand, I could not of dealt with those challenges without very strong support from all the people at work inside the organisation. To each and every one of them I say, thank you very much, I will be watching from afar but confident you are going to deliver the goods to the Australian community. Thank you.

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL COSGROVE: Prime Minister, Minister, colleagues, ladies and gentleman. I’d like to say just a few words. First and foremost of course, I’m greatly honoured by my selection of Chief of the Defence Force and very much aware of the great responsibilities that imposes upon the Chief. And I’ll be working hard to create around me the sense of teamwork and professionalism that is necessary to discharge that office. I’d like to very warmly congratulate and thank the outgoing team on the tremendous results and performance they produced in an extraordinarily busy time for the ADF and make a pledge that we will continue to look after the ADF in the best possible, professional style for all those many thousands of service men and women we’re responsible for, and of course for their nearest and dearest, and for the people. I’d like to say I look forward very much with the team to working for the Minister and the Government and through the Government for the Australian people. And I’d like to ! congratulate the new team, most warmly. They’re a tremendous bunch of people that I happen to know very well indeed. I’m very confident that this leadership team can look after the ADF in the manner that the Australian people will expect. I particularly note with…that I’ll have Air Marshal Angus Houston, a close friend and a very professional colleague and leader as part of the team. And finally, I’d say that my detailed thoughts on what my job will entail and any program at work I might set for myself and others I’ll naturally be working on now and I’ll say more of that after I assume the CDF. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given that the… children overboard, and Admiral Barrie is now retiring… take this opportunity to apologise or express any regret that …political use you made of his evidence before the children overboard inquiry?

PRIME MINISTER: I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to do that and I don’t intend to. I think my views on the role of the Defence Forces were clearly expressed a few moments ago. I think they did wonderful work for Australia in a very difficult operation and I thank them very warmly for that. And that is really all I propose to say on that.

JOURNALIST: Lieutenant-General Cosgrove, senior military figures have been drawn into political controversy in recent months because of the children overboard affair. I’m wondering, as you take over, how will you seek to shape your relations with Government in the light of that experience?

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL COSGROVE: Be in no doubt the ADF must always work closely with the Government because after all, through the Government we are serving the people. And I expect that we will work to have a clear and professional and accountable relationship with the Government on everything we do. And I expect that is what every other senior leader and subordinate thinks I must do in relation to the Government. I will be looking forward to working extraordinarily closely with our elected leaders.

JOURNALIST: Lieutenant-General Cosgrove, how do you propose to repair some of the damage that we heard in testimony last week from the Australian Defence Association that has been done to the relationship between the military and the Government over this issue?

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL COSGROVE: That is an opinion put by one particular set of people. My observation as I travel through the Army is that folks in the Army are focussed on the job. They know that the Australian people rate them very highly and every time the Government has expressed its opinion about the ADF they have said that we are performing very satisfactorily and deserve some praise. I’m working on that basis.

JOURNALIST: Lieutenant-General Cosgrove, what do you think of the stand-off in South Asia at the moment. Do you have an opinion on the situation?

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL COSGROVE: You might want to ask the CDF that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there is some evidence at the Estimates Hearings today about the Secretary of your Department, Mr Max Moore-Wilton being in communication with his PNG counterpart on the day that the caretaker period came into operation before the last election, and a suggestion that inducements in the form of general aid and defence aid were offered in relation to PNG taking asylum seekers on Manus Island. What do you say about that, and the timing of those discussions?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I haven’t seen the material because I’ve been at a Party Meeting. As always, I will have a look at it. Prima facie there wouldn’t be anything strange about the Secretary of my Department being in touch with his PNG counterpart at any time. The caretaker convention doesn’t turn public servants into trappist monks. The caretaker convention means that you shouldn’t make any appointments or you shouldn’t initiate any inquires or initiate major changes of policy without consultation with the Opposition. The ordinary services and roles of Government don’t come to an end during the caretaker convention. I would be extremely surprised if Max Moore-Wilton had done anything that was in any way improper. I have every confidence in him. He is a person of very high calibre and probity. But I will have a look at the evidence as always.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, given your role in the commonwealth at this period, do you have any particular role to play in what’s happening between India and Pakistan as members…

PRIME MINISTER: Well Australia, of course, has a role to play not only as a commonwealth country but also as a close friend of both India and Pakistan. The Foreign Minister has already been very active. He’s been in touch with the Pakistan Foreign Minister yesterday. He’ll be talking to Jaswant Singh, the Indian Foreign Minister today. I discussed the issue generally with the secretary general of the commonwealth. Of course, as Pakistan is currently suspended from the councils of the commonwealth there is no proximate body to which both of them would be drawn in any commonwealth centred initiative. But we are active and if there is a further role at a Prime Ministerial level at this stage, I’ll naturally discharge it. The current efforts of Australia and the United Kingdom and of the United States have been at the foreign minister / secretary of state level. I think you know that the British foreign secretary Jack Straw is in the sub-continent at the moment and I understand that Rick Armatage, the Deputy Secretary of State to Colon Powell, will be going there next week. So, I don’t rule out further initiatives at certain levels on our part. I think what we’ve done to date is appropriate. It’s a very difficult situation, nobody should underestimate the potential for further deterioration, although the current impression is that there has been a slight pull back. But it’s an area that’s been bedevilled ever since, of course, partition and the circumstances of Kashmir’s accession to India at the time of partition, it’s been bedevilled by conflict and terrorist activity and there is not much trust between the two countries.

JOURNALIST: Are there any implications for our people in Afghanistan? If not immediately, perhaps in…

PRIME MINISTER: Well I’m not advised of any particular implications, I mean obviously one of the factors in the whole equation has been the role played by Pakistan in supporting the war against terrorism and I believe that General Musharraf deserves credit for that. It has not been a very easy role for him and he’s done it very well.

JOURNALIST: Mr Howard, on a non-defence matter.

PRIME MINISTER: On a non-defence matter, yes.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Mr Kennedy should be interviewed for the ABC job?

PRIME MINISTER: I think that is a matter for the board. As you know I have confidence in the board, I have confidence in all members of the board, I think the decision as to who the next Managing Director of the ABC should be in the hands of the board. And I know they will approach that conscientiously and I think that it’s really a matter for them to decide how to go about it. I guess the only observation I’d make is that I think you should look as far and as wide as possible when you’re making decisions in relation to these things and the quality of people available, all of the people should be examined but exactly how you go about that…

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER: Beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER: Well Michelle you will sort of put any interpretation you like on it. Be my guest.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s a good idea to continue political appointments to the ABC?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we haven’t made any political appointments Dennis, we’ve appointed people of merit. I mean if you look at them, are you suggesting that Maurice Newman was a political appointment?

JOURNALIST: No, but there have been political appointments to the board?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I don’t think we appointed any former Liberal Premiers of States.

JOURNALIST: The point I make is that they are…

PRIME MINISTER: Look the present system is that the Government appoints the board and the board appoints the Managing Director. My concerns about the ABC have been expressed before and they relate to the balance of programmes. I mean if I can, seeing you’ve invited me to, I actually think the model ABC current affairs programme is the Insiders. I think the Insiders is very balanced and I think it’s a wonderful programme and it has some outstanding personalities appearing on it.

JOURNALIST: We’ll just go back to a defence matter, Admiral Barrie, did the Government at any stage seek to extend your term, this time? And do you have any regrets as you step off the stage?

BARRIE: Well I can’t answer the question about the Government seeking to extend my term. All I’ll say Ian, is when I took on this job in 1998 I had a four year perspective, it is my belief that you need that sort of period of time in leadership at the top. You’ll be aware that my initial contract was for two years and it was extended for another two years. I think I can leave the ADF now very pleased with the outcomes, I mean it’s a very different Defence Force that I leave after four years. It’s a very busy Defence Force, the operational tempo is something we haven’t seen since I’d say the second war. I think the leadership of the ADF is in very good hands, I think that’s just testimony for the team that’s going to take on this job now. So for those reasons, and I think also for the way the community now sees it Defence Force, I leave after four years feeling very pleased about the job that has been done. But that’s not to underestimate any of the challenges that lie ahead bec! ause those pressures are going to be with us, I think, for a long time yet.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned at all that your role in the children overboard affair may overshadow some of your achievements as CDF?

BARRIE: I think that’s always a very difficult question to answer in the terms of the way others might see it. But the way I see it is, no I don’t. I think it’s always been, I think an important objective of any leader in the CDF or any other senior position in the ADF to play a straight bat and that’s what I did.

JOURNALIST: Admiral, are you confident that your role in the children overboard affair, and other members of the ADF’s leadership who were embroiled in it, played no part in the appointments of the new team? Are you relaxed about that?

BARRIE: I’m very relaxed about it. This is a fantastic team.

JOURNALIST: Admiral Barrie, can I just ask you on your parting thoughts on Afghanistan given there’s going to be a third rotation of troops there, our people in the middle of the year and the guerilla nature that it seems to have become over there. Would it be fair to say we could be stuck there for a long time with no clear exit strategy?

BARRIE: Well I think Afghanistan is still a very difficult problem. The Minister and I were in Afghanistan not that long ago. I think we’ve got to be very sensitive to becoming complacent early on that we’ve solved the problem. And I see plenty of evidence that there’s still a lot of work to be done in Afghanistan, and I think the nature of that work may change as time goes on and there’ll be issues of humanitarian support and work, there’ll be issues of governance, the Loya Jirga and the outcomes of those sorts of processes. So I think there will be a lot of work to be done, whether or not that’s work for Australians and whether that’s work for the ADF, I think they’re the decisions that’ll be made by the Government in due course.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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