ADA Board of Directors

This background outlines the stringent institutional safeguards covering the governance role, composition and electoral system applying to the ADA Board of Directors. In particular, these time-tested measures help preserve the ADA's independence and non-partisan essence, and it's institutional integrity, transparency and accountability, as a national public-interest watchdog organisation.

These criteria and related governance and accountability matters are discussed further on our frequently-asked-questions pages. 


Board structure and accountability

As with all not-for-profit companies limited by guarantee, the particular responsibilities of the Board are detailed in our constitution.

Members of the Board serve in an honorary capacity. To balance continuity with accountability, they are elected for three-year terms with at least two and up to three retiring (or standing for re-election) at each annual general meeting.

To preserve our long-established reputation as a respected and objective contributor to informed public debate on national security issues we take particular care to reinforce the ADA's independence from sectional interests, staunch non-partisan stance and broad community base nationally.

Membership of the Board therefore seeks — as much as candidacies and free elections allow — to enable a range of geographic representation, political neutrality, cross-disciplinary expertise, civil-military balance and professional, industrial and corporate credibility factors across the whole Australian community.

We have also long sought a better gender balance on our Board. However, since the retirement from the Board of former senator, Natasha Stott-Despoja, some unusual difficulties have been encountered in this regard that are not faced by community-based organisations in other public policy areas.

Most of our female members are currently employed in national security or foreign affairs professions, or otherwise by an Australian government, in functions which precludes them joining the Board under our institutional integrity safeguards (see below). Of our other female members (including those retired from national security-related professions), those potentially willing and able to serve on the ADA Board are generally already directors of businesses and/or not-for-profit organisations and have found it hard to stand for election due to their other commitments.  


Board integrity safeguards

To preserve our institutional integrity as an independent and non-partisan public-interest watchdog, and to avoid even potential conflicts of interest, we also apply several longstanding conventions:

  • No-one holding political office at federal or state level can be a director. None of the current directors holds political office at any level, including local government.
  • The executive director cannot be a member of a political party or an organisation affiliated with a political party. Nor should he or she be reasonably identified in the public mind with either side of politics.
  • Directors who are members of a political party must declare this when seeking election or re-election. Where directors might have strong political affiliations the numbers are limited to an equal number from each side of mainstream politics, preferably no more than one each.
  • Wherever possible, directors are not to be currently employed by companies selling equipment or services to the Department of Defence, an intelligence or security-intelligence agency, or the Australian Federal Police. A majority of directors cannot be so employed. Where a director is so employed this must be declared to the Board and to the membership when seeking election or re-election. If a director undertakes consultantancy work within defence industry, or any government department or agency, they have to excuse themself from consideration of relevant issues so no conflict of interest arises.
  • No director can be, or otherwise represent, a commercial, peak-body or profession-based lobbyist whose clients seek or have a commercial relationship with the Department of Defence, the defence force, the Australian Federal Police or any intelligence or security agency.
  • No director can be a journalist or otherwise employed in the general or specialist defence media. No-one with a significant ownership interest in defence industry media can be a director.
  • No director can be currently serving full-time in the defence force, the federal Public Service, an intelligence or security agency or the Australian Federal Police.
  • Wherever possible, the national president and a majority of the elected directors should not have been through-career members of the defence force, career-public servants in the Department of Defence or through-career officers in an intelligence or security agency or the Australian Federal Police.
  • Unless there are clearly no conflicts of interest involved with their previous duties and decisions, their current employment and the public-interest watchdog work of the Association, elected directors should also not be:
    • recently-retired senior officers from the defence force or an intelligence or security agency (one-star rank up and equivalents); or
    • recently-retired senior officials from the Department of Defence or other relevant departments and agencies (assistant secretary and above). 



Michael Easson


Dr Michael Easson, AM

Michael Easson is executive chairman of a Sydney-based funds management and property advisory company and a non-executive chairman or director on the boards of several major infrastructure and property companies. Prior to this he was an adjunct professor at the Australian Graduate School of Management, secretary of the Labor Council of New South Wales (now Unions NSW), and a vice-president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He has long had a deep interest in international affairs and their interplay with Australian national security policy. He considers the ADA has an important and necessary public-interest guardianship role in bringing independent, long-term and expert perspectives to informed public debate on strategic security, defence and broader national security issues – and in helping keep Australian governments of all political persuasions accountable for their responsibilities in such matters.

Email: National President



Neil James

Neil James is executive director of the ADA and our sole official spokesman. Prior to taking up his current position with the ADA, in May 2003, Neil served for over 31 years with the Army in a wide range of regimental, intelligence, liaison, operational planning, operations research and teaching positions throughout Australia and overseas. Every day he tries to put into practice his belief that vibrant and informed public debate is essential to Australia's national security, and to our development and retention of effective defence capabilities for the future.

Speaker biography           Download photograph

Email: Executive Director


 Peter Jones


Peter Jones, AO, DSC

Peter Jones served for 40 years in the Royal Australian Navy retiring as a Vice Admiral. During his career he served at sea as a Task Group Commander in the Iraq War and later filled a range of capability development roles within the Department of Defence. Since retiring from the RAN in 2014 Peter has been President of the Australian Naval Institute, served on Victoria's Defence Advisory Council, and is currently an Adjunct Professor within the Naval Studies Group at the University of NSW in Canberra. He is the author of Australia’s Argonauts: The remarkable story of the first class to enter the Royal Australian Naval College (in 1913). Peter has an ongoing interest in Australia further developing the capacity of our industrial and infrastructure base to support national defence efforts, and in nurturing the non-partisan and otherwise broad national consensus needed to sustain such efforts over the long term. The ADA continues to play a necessary and important role across the governmental accountability, community education and informed public debate spheres.

Email:  Peter Jones



Professor Peter Leahy 


Professor Peter Leahy, AC

Peter Leahy is the director of the National Security Institute at the University of Canberra. He retired as the Chief of Army in July 2008 after a 37-year career encompassing a wide range of command, training and staff appointments. He was fortunate enough to command at almost every level in the Army, and to serve on exchange in Hong Kong with the Gurkhas and in the United States at the US Army Command and General Staff College. His six years as the Chief of Army were marked by the continuous global deployment of Australian soldiers on high-tempo, complex and demanding combat operations. This was also a period where he was responsible for the rapid expansion and development of the Army, including the Special Forces, to enable it to cope with the many changing demands of modern conflict and a changing strategic security environment. His focus in developing the Army was to provide a hardened and networked Army with increased adaptability and flexibility and the ability to provide a broad range of domestic, expeditionary and development options to Government. His particular experience as a senior ADF commander led him to value the ADA's joint-Service focus, its long-term perspective both past and future, and the criticality of its national watchdog work in contributing an apolitical, independent and objective "voice of reason" to public debate on strategic security issues.

Email: Peter Leahy


 Tom Magee



Tom Magee

Tom Magee is the retired founding principal of a Melbourne-based organisational advice and executive search company specialising in the resources, and infrastructure sectors. Prior to this he worked in a variety of executive roles in the resources industry, predominantly in the metalliferous field. In his earlier career Tom served as an infantry officer in the army for 16 years until 1993 and counts his time with 3RAR establishing its parachute capability, and his three-year secondment to the PNG Defence Force, as the highlights of his time in the ADF. Both these resources industry and defence force careers focused his belief on the importance of Australia having an integrated approach to planning our national security and national prosperity. A ‘specialist generalist’ but with a good background in strategic workforce planning, Tom sees the non-partisan honest broker role of the ADA as bringing an essential element to public debate of national security issues and to the practical outcomes such debate needs to generate.

Email: Tom Magee


Steve Meekin 


 Steve Meekin, AM

Steve Meekin retired in 2016 after 43 years’ service in the Australian Army and the Department of Defence. Prior to retirement he was Deputy Secretary Intelligence and Security, a position he held since 2012. Steve began his working life on the waterfront in Brisbane and joined the Citizen Military Forces (now Army Reserve) on turning 18. He gained extensive operational and intelligence experience serving in the infantry as a soldier and as an artillery and intelligence officer. He completed a number of Middle East operational and peacekeeping deployments and also served with the British Army in West Germany and West Berlin. In retirement Steve is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, a researcher with the Official History of Australian operations in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and a member of several other boards including the Royal United Services Institute and the Charlie Perkins Trust. Steve strongly believes that Australian governments of all political persuasions have a responsinility to provide for a well-resourced and capable defence force and, where possible, Australian taxpayer dollars invested in doing so should be spent in Australia. As the relevant, independent and non-partisan national public-interest watchdog organisation, the ADA has a serious role to play in keeping our governments accountable for such responsibilities.

 Email: Steve Meekin





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