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

The particular responsibilities of the Board are detailed in our constitution.

Members of the Board serve in an honorary capacity. 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, 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 find 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 one 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 one from each side of mainstream politics.
  • Wherever possible, directors are not to be currently employed by companies selling equipment or services to the Department of Defence. 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 they have to excuse themself from consideration of relevant issues so no conflict of interest arises.
  • No director can be, or otherwise represent, a 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, the Australian Federal Police or with an intelligence or security agency.
  • A majority of the elected directors must not have been through-career members of the defence force or career-public servants in the Department of Defence.
  • Unless there are clearly no conflicts of interest involved with their previous 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 departments (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.

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Email: Executive Director


 Neil Grimes


Neil Grimes

Neil Grimes is a Melbourne-based senior executive with an ASX-200 listed mineral resources company. He has long had a deep interest in national-level strategic issues based on his experiences in the resources industry – with our inherent dependence on being able to export bulk commodities over secure sea lanes for its success – and its overall contribution to Australia's security and prosperity over the long term. Neil believes that planning Australia's future strategic and economic security needs to be comprehensive and integrated and that this in turn requires a national community-driven approach that can help guide political and bureaucratic policy-making processes. He considers the ADA's independent and informed perspectives continue to benefit informed public debate on strategic security, defence and broader national security issues, especially in helping to protect the long-term public interest. Neil also served with the Army Reserve for 31 years across a range of regimental, staff and instructional postings. This included command of an infantry battalion and, in 2009, command of the multinational military task force in the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Email: Neil Grimes


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 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


Rob Walls 


 Robert Walls, AO

Rob Walls served with the Royal Australian Navy for 42 years including exchange service with the Royal and US Navies, and combat duties in Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam. After retiring as Vice Chief of the Defence Force in 1997 he was chairman, director or advisor to a range of Australian and foreign companies in the defence industry field. For some years he was also a member of the advisory council of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU. As a former senior commander in the Australian Defence Force he is a firm believer in the need for effective and continuing public debate on national security issues – and of the importance of the ADA's impartial and informed contributions to such discourse.

Email: Rob Walls





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