Shadow Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston, today again confirmed the Opposition’s bipartisanship approach to Defence spending.
As the Leader of the Opposition said in his formal National Press Club address on 31 January, one of the Coalition’s “big policy commitments” was that: “There will be no further reductions in defence spending”.
This formally adopts the Government’s 2012-13 fiscal position for Defence funding over the four year Forward Estimates period.
When asked on 7 February whether the Opposition would commit to increase Defence spending, Senator Johnston replied “… I won't do it.”
Today, Senator Johnston on ABC NewsRadio again confirmed the Coalition’s position: no commitment to increase, no commitment to reinstate Defence funding.
When asked whether the Coalition was only committed to an aspiration to increasing the Defence Budget, not to achieving it, Senator Johnston replied “Certainly... we can’t commit to anything…”
This aspiration also reflects a bipartisanship approach to Defence spending: as I have said before, of course I would prefer to see spending closer to 2 per cent of GDP than 1.59 per cent.
Senator Johnston also claimed that the Coalition’s “aspiration” to Defence funding of 2 per cent of GDP was achieved by the Howard Government.
Under the Howard Government Defence funding was over 2 per cent of GDP in 1996-97 and 1.72 per cent of GDP in 2007-08.
Defence funding increased to 1.94 per cent of GDP in 2009-10, when for the first time, the current Government budgeted over $100 billion for Defence across the Forward Estimates.
As a percentage of GDP (at 1.6% in 2012-13), Australia is comparable to Canada, Italy and Germany.
Reflecting all of this, at Defence Senate Estimates yesterday, the Opposition did not in any real way take up Defence funding or budget issues.
Minister Smith's Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392