Senator David Johnston, Shadow Minister for Defence, today claimed a number of ‘home truths’ about the Defence Budget.
The one home truth he won’t talk about is the one that came from his leader, Mr Abbott, at the National Press Club on 31 January, namely a bipartisanship approach to Defence spending.
As the Leader of the Opposition said in his formal address on 31 January, one of the Coalition’s “big policy commitments” was that: “There will be no further reductions in Defence spending”.
No commitment to increase, no commitment to reinstate and precisely that same response from Senator Johnston today.
When asked today whether the Opposition would commit to increase Defence spending, Senator Johnston replied “… I won't do it.”
This home truth from the Leader of the Opposition formally adopts the Government’s 2012-13 fiscal position for Defence funding over the four year Forward Estimates period.
Senator Johnston claimed that Australia is ranked 65th in the world for Defence spending as a percentage of GDP: Defence spending as a percentage of GDP is not the only measure.
As a percentage of GDP (at 1.6 per cent in 2012-13), Australia is comparable to Canada, Italy and Germany.
As outlined in the Government’s 2012-13 Budget Overview, in a G7 (United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy, Germany and Japan) plus China comparison, Australia continues to rank second on a military expenditure per capita basis, with only the United States spending more per capita.
In real dollar terms we spend far greater than any of our neighbours in the immediate region.
According to the same source which Senator Johnston has used, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Australia was in the top 15 countries with the highest military expenditure in 2011 – at number 13. In 2012-13, Australia will remain in this relative position.
The problem for Senator Johnston is that whatever his analysis about Australian Defence funding, it is the same outcome for his Leader’s policy as it is for the Government’s policy: they are both based on the same level of Defence funding over the four year Forward Estimates period.
Mr Smith's Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392