Federal Politics

License article

Operation Sovereign Borders chief Angus Campbell to become Australian Defence Force chief

Show comments

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promoted the former head of Tony Abbott's hardline anti-people smuggling program, Operation Sovereign Borders, to lead the Australian Defence Force as part of sweeping changes to the nation's top brass.

Mr Turnbull named Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, known widely as the inscrutable face of the secretive asylum seeker turn-back operation in 2013, the new Chief of the Defence Force from July.

Up Next

'We now don't have a family home to live in': Victim

Video duration

More Federal Politics Videos

'Sovereign Borders' chief new defence boss

Former head of Operation Sovereign Borders Lieutenant General Angus Campbell is the new chief of he ADF, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Monday.

General Campbell, famous for parrying media questions about Operation Sovereign Borders as "on-water matters", has been Chief of Army since 2015.

His elevation headlined a series of other promotions and retirements among the country's military leadership, although, noticeably, there were no women placed in the most senior roles.

Mr Turnbull said General Campbell's new appointment would allow for "a seamless leadership transition" for the armed forces which are currently undergoing the greatest modernisation yet seen.

"I want to congratulate Lieutenant-General Campbell," Mr Turnbull said.


"We're ... undertaking the largest modernisation of the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force in our peacetime history.

It is a massive national enterprise that we are undertaking and that is why we need the finest minds, the finest leaders at the helm of the ADF."

The current number two, Vice-Chief of Defence Force, Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, who has been the subject of salacious gossip and media attention over his private life, was overlooked for promotion. He will wind up his term in July.

Insiders denied that Admiral Griggs had been demoted in the shake-up, arguing simply that his current term as Vice-Chief of the Defence was merely coming to an end.

However, it is understood that recent attention on the collapse of his marriage, following an alleged affair with a more junior officer, had damaged his chances.

General Campbell pipped him and another contender for the top post, the current Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral David Johnston.

Admiral Johnston, who sources described as the next strongest contender for the  head of Defence post, was promoted though and becomes the new number two as Vice-Chief of Defence Force, responsible for the effective administration of the three services, the army, the navy, and the air force.

General Campbell's promotion to the $800,000 position will formally begin in July when he replaces Australia's current top soldier, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin.

Media reports have alleged that military investigators were told of Admiral Griggs' affair in October 2014, at the same time his then wife Kerrie, was told that their marriage was over.

It was also reported that she had found "draft love letters" to Chloe Wootten that had pre-dated this time, suggesting his affair with a more junior officer, the non-disclosure of which would have been in breach of military rules, may have been ongoing.

Ms Wootten has since married Admiral Griggs.

General Campbell's appointment is set to win broad support, with an opposition source saying he was highly regarded for his policy smarts, depth of thinking, and personal integrity.

"He is a man of principles," said one Labor figure, who also described him as "well known" and "someone who carries a lot of authority in Canberra".

The uber fit 57-year-old General Campbell still participates in long-distance runs, completing the Canberra Running Festival half-marathon on Sunday inside two hours.

Consequent to the shake-up, Major-General Rick Burr steps into General Campbell's shoes as Chief of Army and Air Vice-Marshal Mel Hupfeld steps into Vice-Admiral David Johnston's current post as Chief of Joint Operations.

The current Chief of Navy, Tim Barrett is also stepping down to be replaced by Rear Admiral Michael Noonan.