Refugee policy general named next Australian defence chief

CANBERRA (AP) – An Australian army general who led a secretive military operation to stop asylum seekers from coming to Australia by boat was named yesterday as the country’s next defence force chief.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Lieutenant General Angus Campbell will replace Air Chief Marshall Mark Binskin as chief of the Australian Defence Force in July. Binskin will retire after four years in the top job.

Campbell came to public attention as the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, an operation established by a newly elected conservative government in 2013 to stop thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia from reaching Australian shores in rickety Indonesian fishing boats at a rate of 37 boats a month.

No asylum seeker boat has reached Australia since July 2014, although the government is secretive about what tactics are used to stop them.

From left: Australian Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne address reporters outside Turnbull’s office at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia yesterday. – AP

Campbell was promoted to chief of the army in 2015.

Turnbull said the appointment came at a critical time, with Australia undertaking the largest modernisation of its defence capabilities in its peacetime history.

Turnbull announced the appointment before flying to Britain, France and Germany for security-focussed talks with government leaders.