The Opposition has again today demonstrated its lack of a consistent and coherent position on Defence funding.
On Tuesday night last week 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 in his Budget Reply speech to the Parliament by again stating that further savings could be garnered from the Defence Materiel Organisation.
Today, Mr Hockey in his address to the Press Club stated “we would… identify how we can do better with what we have. We’ve already flagged that, when it comes to the public service, behind the frontline troops, there are savings that can be made.”
Further reductions to Defence funding, including for the Defence Materiel Organisation, as proposed by the Opposition last week are inconsistent with the Opposition’s statements both this week and last week that Defence has made too much of a contribution to the Budget surplus.
Shadow Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston last week criticised the Government for seeking savings from Defence, but refused to commit the Opposition to reinstating this funding.
Last night Senator Johnston said on Sky News that the Opposition would “have to work out where we get the funds.”
Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey have identified where they would “get the funds” – from further Defence savings.
The Defence Budget released last week 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 resulted in a Defence contribution to the Government’s fiscal strategy of $5,454 million across the forward estimates and saw Defence contribute $971 million in 2012-13.
This contribution will have no adverse impact on operations in Afghanistan, East Timor or the Solomon Islands. The provision of equipment to Defence personnel on operations will not be adversely affected and there will be no adverse impact on the number of military personnel in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
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;
- in comparison to G7 nations and China, 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.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392