NEWS

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces new Australian Defence Force chiefs

Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The man who led Operation Sovereign Borders has been confirmed as Australia's next Chief of Army, but has been prevented from speaking to journalists at a press conference about his appointment.

Lieutenant General Angus Campbell will take the job in May, while Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Davies will become Chief of the Air Force in July.

At a media conference in Canberra on Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government would announce changes to its border protection operations next week.

Mr Abbott would not say whether General Campbell, a former SAS commander and deputy army chief who has coordinated the government's tough policy of stopping asylum seeker boats, would be replaced by another military official or someone from a civilian field.

"I'm not going to pre-empt announcements that will be made next week other than to say that we will be sending a very clear message to people smugglers [and] their potential clients," Mr Abbott said.

"We are not relaxing our vigilance here because the instant we relax our vigilance, the risk is we put the people smugglers back into business.

"If the people smugglers go back into business, the boats start coming the deaths start again, that's the last thing anyone should want."

General Campbell brought a military approach to border protection, including rigid operational secrecy and strict co-ordination of different arms of government. But he also became the subject of controversy over the boats policy, in particular his and then immigration minister Scott Morrison's consistent refusal to provide information about operations.

The Prime Minister said Air Marshal Davis, who most recently served as Deputy Chief of the Air Force, had a wide range of operational and command experience, including deployment to the Middle East and a posting as Air Attache in Washington.

"I think we are very lucky to have two outstanding officers taking on these vital roles in our defence force," Mr Abbott said.

While both General Campbell and Air Marshal Davis were present for Thursday's press conference, both men were prevented from answering a number of questions from journalists.

"The protocol I understand is that prime ministers, ministers and [the chief of the defence force] speak at these events," Mr Abbott said.

"The distinguished appointees will no doubt talk to you on another occasion."

Both men were moments later asked to leave the media conference so Mr Abbott could take unrelated questions.

 

smh.com.au

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