The new Australian Defence Force Chief will be Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, Chief of Army since 2015, who became the operational public face of the Coalition government’s Operation Sovereign Borders.
Campbell replaces the present chief, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, 58, who will retire from the ADF in July.
With his promotion, Campbell has jumped over the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, who was involved in controversy over his relationship with a junior officer, whom he later married. Two reviews cleared Griggs of any impropriety. He is now leaving the military.
While the vice chief is frequently promoted to chief, as were Binskin and David Hurley before him, it is not an invariable practice. Neither Angus Houston nor Peter Cosgrove had been vice chief before taking the top role.
Campbell joined the army in 1981, graduating from Duntroon in 1984. Later he served in the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS).
In 2005, he joined the Prime Minister’s Department, rising to become Deputy Secretary and Deputy National Security Adviser. In 2011, he took command of Australian forces deployed in the Middle East area of operations.
He has a Bachelor of Science (honours) from the University of New South Wales and a Master of Philosophy in international relations from Cambridge University.
In his role in Operation Sovereign Borders, Campbell was known for his tight lips in face of questions, often ruling them out as “on water” matters.
Announcing the ADF changes, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Campbell brought leadership and experience to his new position. Defence Minister Marise Payne said he had shown leadership across many roles - “from operational periods of the highest tempo to what some might call a character-building period in Prime Minister and Cabinet some years ago”.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also praised the Campbell appointment, saying it was well-deserved and the Labor Party “wholeheartedly support it”.
The new Vice Chief of the ADF will be Vice Admiral David Johnston, currently Chief of Joint Operations, where his role has been “to plan, control and conduct military campaigns, operations, joint exercises and other activities” to meet Australia’s national objectives.
John Blaxland, Professor of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU, praised the appointments, tweeting that these were “a good call”. Both were “well-seasoned, intelligent and highly regarded officers”, he said.
He said Campbell understood the importance of closer engagement with our Southeast Asian and South Pacific neighbours.
Houston said Campbell was “an outstanding appointment”. He was very happy the government had appointed such a “strong and well-credentialed team”.
The new Chief of Army will be Major General Rick Burr.
Rear Admiral Mike Noonan becomes Chief of Navy, replacing Tim Barrett the present Navy Chief, who will also retire in July after a 42 year career.
Air Vice Marshal Mel Hupfeld will become Chief of Joint Operations - he is currently the head of Force Design.
Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, continues in his present position.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra