‘More inclusive, capable’: at Defence, everything’s turning to white

The new white paper process into Australia’s Defence Force capability is working through a laundry list of wants and needs — and it’s not all toys for the boys.

Early consultation for the Defence Force white paper is shaping up to be the real festival of dangerous ideas. Offensive cyber warfare, better paid public servants, CSIRO funding, foreign medical specialists and other ideas likely to be unpopular with the government have been floated to play a role defending the nation.

The government may wonder if it was a good idea to open up the better people policy and whole of government participation has been the strong theme, with calls for the expert panel and white paper team to recommend more than just a hardware wish list and thinly veiled foreign policy goals. Importantly, how will any future capability be staffed if the APS is shedding jobs and there is little investment in the technical skills needed to replace those leaving due to retirement or redundancy?

Retired rear admiral James Goldrick and the government-appointed expert panel concluded a four-week national listening tour, hosted by the Royale United Services Institute, on Monday. He said they were eager to hear from those concerned about Australia’s future but not necessarily from the perspective of Defence.

However, that didn’t deter significant contributions from the ADF’s future leaders: mid-ranking officers and Australian Defence College students, including women and people of diverse heritages that represent how Defence will likely look over the course of the white paper’s 20-year scope.

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