In a doorstop interview this morning, Shadow Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston made a series of assertions about the Defence Budget that ended with the statement: “Let’s celebrate going to the moon.”
Let’s put the facts on the table.
The Defence Budget
The Defence Budget released on Tuesday was developed following a comprehensive review of the Department’s budget to identify contributions Defence could make across the Forward Estimates to support the Government’s broader fiscal strategy.
This review has resulted in a Defence contribution to the Government’s fiscal strategy of $5.4 billion across the Forward Estimates and will see Defence contribute $971 million in 2012-13.
Importantly, the Government has ring-fenced key priorities from these savings:
- there will be no adverse impact on operations in Afghanistan, East Timor or the Solomon Islands;
- there will be no reduction of the number of military personnel in the Army, Navy and Airforce;
- there will be no adverse implications for equipment for forces about to be deployed or on deployment;
- there will be no reductions in conditions or entitlements for service personnel, other than those already being considered as part of the Strategic Reform Program; and
- there will be minimum impact on the delivery of core Defence capabilities.
Furthermore, there is no fundamental change to our Defence Budget from a strategic perspective:
- in the 2009-10 Budget, the Government, for the first time, budgeted over $100 billion for Defence across the Forward Estimates;
- last year in the 2011-12 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements, Defence’s Budget across the then four years Forward Estimates period was $103.4 billion;
- in this Budget, the Government has budgeted $103.3 billion for Defence across the four year Forward Estimates period;
- this level of funding will maintain Australia’s status in the top 15 nations in terms of world Defence expenditure, along with Canada either 13th or 14th in that list;
- Australia continues to be 2nd on the list of military expenditure per capita basis, with only the United States spending more per capita; and
- in real dollar terms, we spend far greater than any of our regional neighbours.
The Government remains committed to the core capabilities outlined in the 2009 Defence White Paper, including:
- 12 future submarines;
- the Joint Strike Fighter;
- upgrades to Orion maritime patrol aircraft, C-130J aircraft and ANZAC class ships;
- the consideration of the Growler Airborne Electronic Attack capability;
- the Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious ships; and
- the Air Warfare Destroyers.
The Defence Capability Plan
In his doorstop interview, Senator Johnston stated that: “The Defence capability plan has been completely abandoned. The Minister goes out and buys items off the shelf in the face of an Australian defence industry that's on its knees.”
The facts do not support this assertion.
Of the 180 DCP projects underpinning the 2009 White Paper, 170 remain, with only 10 removed, with those being overtaken by related projects or replaced by newer technologies.
In 2011, the Government approved a record 49 first pass, second pass and other approvals for major projects. The previous record was 39 in 2006.
The total value of the 2011 approved projects is more than $6 billion.
Major new projects approved in 2011 include:
- an additional 101 Bushmasters;
- 24 new naval combat helicopters.
- over 900 more G-Wagon tactical vehicles;
- two additional Chinook CH-47D heavy lift helicopters; and
- the upgrade of naval Evolved Sea Sparrow and SM2 missiles.
Continuing to approve new projects like these remains an important focus for Government in 2012.
In addition, other major new capabilities were also introduced in the course of 2011.
We completed the acquisition of 24 Super Hornets: 12 of the Super Hornets are wired with the potential to be converted to Growler in the future. Growler gives the aircraft the ability to jam the electronics systems of enemy aircraft and land-based radars and communications systems. Earlier this year the acquisition of long lead items was authorised to allow the Government to consider the acquisition of Growler this year.
Australia’s amphibious capability received a major boost with the acquisition of the heavy amphibious lift ship the HMAS Choules and the Interim Humanitarian and Disaster relief ship MSV Skandi Bergen, which Senator Johnston today criticises.
The Government announced yesterday that it had agreed to purchase 10 Alenia C-27J Spartan Battlefield Airlift aircraft at an all up cost of $1.4 billion to replace the Caribou aircraft which was retired from service in 2009 after a career spanning more than four decades. The C-27J complements the capabilities of the C-130 and C-17 aircraft and has been widely welcomed by Airforce.
Today Senator Johnston strongly criticises that acquisition.
In contrast, Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel, Stuart Robert, stated in the Parliament yesterday: “…may I commend the Minister for a quick and sound decision. It is a very good capability. The loss of the Caribou was quite a loss in terms of short take-off and landing. The C-27J will add significant capability to our arsenal…”
12 Future Submarines
Senator Johnston today again refused to commit the Opposition to acquiring 12 new submarines, which the Government is committed to assembling in South Australia. Last week, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey also failed to give such a commitment.
In his doorstop interview, Senator Johnston further stated that: “Can I tell you that senior Defence officials were not even given the courtesy of advice as to these cuts and the movement and cancellation, deferral of all of these projects.”
This is nonsense.
In his message on the 2012-13 Defence Budget to Army Commanders the Chief of Army stated: “The Service Chiefs, along with the CDF and Secretary, have been closely engaged in recommending and prioritising the Defence measures in the Budget. Throughout this process we have remained unified in our commitment to building a highly capable joint force.”
Today Senator Johnston tries to make too much about the Government’s Defence savings.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday night after the Budget, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey clearly outlined that the Opposition was considering Defence as a target for even greater contributions to the fiscal position of the Commonwealth saying the Coalition would go “much harder” than the Government on savings.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbot reinforced this last night by stating that further savings could be garnered from the Defence Materiel Organisation.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392