TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH LIAM COCHRANE, AUSTRALIA NETWORK
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 4 MAY 2012
TOPICS: Defence Budget; Force Posture Review.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well there'll be no adverse impacts for our overseas operations whether it's Afghanistan, whether it's our stabilisation mission in the Solomon Islands or whether it's our stabilisation mission in East Timor.
But it's also the case that over the next few years you can see a drawdown, an orderly transition in Afghanistan, and also the potential for an orderly drawdown and transition of the two stabilisation forces in the Solomons and in East Timor.
And that's one of the reasons why we've brought forward the White Paper to 2013, because we need to contemplate the security implications of a drawdown from Afghanistan, but also a drawdown from those two stabilisation missions in East Timor and the Solomons.
LIAM COCHRANE: It's been noted that there were no military personnel with the Prime Minister when she made the announcement yesterday. Does the Australian military back these cuts?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well it's just a nonsense, there are plenty of press conferences that I do about defence matters where I have the Chief of the Defence Force or the Secretary with me and plenty that I don't. I've been working very closely with senior people in defence on these matters, just as I've been working very closely with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and the Finance Minister.
So there's no basis to that suggestion at all. I've seen overnight one of the commentators say that these savings will be difficult for defence but manageable, and I agree with that because in addition to ring fencing our overseas operations, we're also making sure that the kit and resources required for our overseas operations continues, there's no attack on conditions and entitlements of our service men and women. But also importantly that there's no attack or reduction on the numbers in our military forces. There's been some analysis recently in the aftermath of Vietnam we made two mistakes, firstly we reduced military numbers and secondly, we didn't take the strategic look at where we would end up after Vietnam.
Well we're not making that mistake, this is not an attack on military numbers and with the bring forward of our White Paper to 2013 we can contemplate what the world will look like, not just for Australia but for the Australian Defence Force with that drawdown from the Middle East and from effectively the Pacific. And at the same time we've published our Force Posture Review, which makes the point that we need to be focussing much more on our northern and western approaches and the support and the logistics we have to the north and to the west.
LIAM COCHRANE: Just one final question Minister, will these cuts affect the military cooperation with other countries armies at all?
STEPHEN SMITH: No, I was on the phone to my US counterpart, Leon Panetta yesterday, we had a conversation about Afghanistan and Chicago. I took the opportunity of alerting him to these matters and made the point that there'll be no adverse implications in this for our cooperation with the United States on its Global Force Posture Review, including the rotation of Marines into Darwin and greater air traffic and ultimately greater naval traffic through HMAS Stirling.
LIAM COCHRANE: What about some of the other cooperation programs; Indonesia, Cambodia, those sort of Asian-
STEPHEN SMITH: No we're not proposing to disturb those, the Force Posture Review makes the point, which I released yesterday with the Prime Minister, that one of the very good things that defence does is its international engagement, and that's very important. And that engagement in the Pacific and in Asia in forthcoming years will be even more important, and that will be very much I think a focus of the deliberations of the White Paper 2013.