TRANSCRIPT: SPEECH AT THE LAUNCH OF THE 2013 DEFENCE WHITE PAPER
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 3 May 2013
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you, Prime Minister. Can I acknowledge my Ministerial colleagues, Warren Snowdon and Mike Kelly. Can I acknowledge the Chief of the Defence Force, General Hurley, and the Secretary of the Department, Dennis Richardson. Can I also acknowledge the Service Chiefs and the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, the CEO of the Defence Materiel Organisation, other heads of departments and agencies, members of the diplomatic corp, friends all.
It's a fundamental responsibility of any national or Commonwealth Government to protect and defend the national security interests of the Commonwealth. To do that, you need an effective and capable Australian Defence Force. This White Paper sets out a framework to continue to defend the national security interests of the Commonwealth and to have an effective and capable Australian Defence Force.
The White Paper makes the point that the Government sees four priority tasks for the Australian Defence Force. Firstly, to be capable of the defence of Australia. Secondly, to be capable of operating and taking lead responsibility in our immediate region, the South Pacific and Timor-Leste.
Thirdly, to be capable of operating with our partners in our region, the Indo-Pacific, in particular, South East Asia. And finally, to be in a position to make a contribution where our national security interest warrant it to a broader operation or a global operation of which Afghanistan is a current examples.
The White Paper talks in terms of the need for joint force capability and that's absolutely right. But let me make some remarks about some of the individual service capability decisions in the White Paper.
Firstly, air combat capability. The Government has made it clear for a number of years that we will not allow a gap to occur in our air combat capability or superiority in our immediate region. We currently have 71 Classic Hornets which are ageing, 24 Super Hornets, and the Government today announces that it will purchase 12 new Growler aircraft. The electronic air warfare combat capability. Potentially, the most significant capability we've purchased since the F111.
There's no change to our Joint Strike Fighter timetable as published in last year's budget, which reflects and replicates the timetable for the United States' Joint Strike Fighter project. And we expect to see, on the basis of no further delays in that project, the first of our three squadrons arrive in 2020, with two planes being handed over to us for training purposes in the United States in 2014-2015.
This will give us a mixed fleet of 12 Growlers, 24 Super Hornets, and over time into the 2030s, 72 Joint Strike Fighters. In the 2030s, the Government of the day will be able to make a decision whether the 24 Super Hornets can be replaced by Joint Strike Fighters. But in the end, we have always said that to maintain our air combat capability and superiority, we need to draw from a fleet of about 100. That remains the case.
The Growler, as I say, is a very effective air electronic warfare capability, we'll be the only country other than the United States to have that. It will be effective either with Classic Hornets, with Super Hornets, or with the Joint Strike Fighter.
So far as Navy or sea is concerned, we continue to progress carefully, methodically, but determinedly our 12 new Future Submarines. We have now narrowed our consideration to two options. An evolved Collins or a brand or wholly new design.
This is a significant decision. It accepts our analysis that an off the shelf submarine is not capable of giving us the operational requirement and capacity we need for our maritime country and maritime continent. And that work will now focus on an evolved Collins design or a brand new design.
Significantly, we have determined that the combat system to be used in our new Future Submarine will be a United States combat, weapons, and communications system. Effectively, a modern version of what we have in the Collins. That is significant for compatibility purposes with our alliance partner, for inter-operability purposes, but also it is a deeply significant decision so far as the design and build of the submarine itself is concerned.
We're also continuing to pursue in a detailed way our land based testing system for Adelaide.
So far as the Collins Class is concerned - you would of course be aware that our Collins Class fleet, the first submarine went into the water in 1996, the last in 2003. On paper, the Collins had a 28 year life of type. On paper, taking us from 2024 to 2031. Part of our very substantial work over the last couple of years to remediate and get better availability and performance from the Collins has also been life evaluation work.
There's no reason why the Collins can't last for a further cycle, a further seven year cycle, seeing the Collins potentially being available to us from 2030 to 2038. That points out to you the period of time over which we have to deal with what will be, so far as Future Submarines are concerned, the largest single capital works program, not just Defence has engaged in, but our nation.
On other Navy matters, the 2009 White Paper left open the prospect of the build of a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer. On the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force and the Chief of Navy and Defence generally, the Government has come to the conclusion there is no compelling strategic reason why a fourth Air Warfare Destroyer should be constructed.
There is, of course, so far as our third Air Warfare Destroyer is concerned, a reallocation of blocks for the third AWD to the Williamstown Naval Shipyard, which will see work at that shipyard on the third AWD continuing until at least the middle of 2015. In the meantime, we are bringing forward replacement of our patrol boats and replacement of our supply ships, Success and Sirius.
We've also put off into the future consideration of the so-called multi-role vessel on which not enough work has been done either here or in other jurisdictions.
So far as Army or land is concerned, we've almost come to a conclusion of our deliberations on the replacement of all of Army's protected and unprotected vehicles. Some 2700 vehicles. We expect to be in a position to make a formal announcement on that in the middle of the year.
Can I make this point about Army; there are no proposals on the part of the Government to reduce military numbers and that is particularly important so far as Army is concerned. Under appreciated in my view is the very substantial work that has been done by the Chief of Army and I in December of 2011 on the reorientation and reorganisation of Army under Plan BEERSHEBA, giving us three multi-role battalions based in the north and the north east of Australia. Darwin, Townsville, and Brisbane.
This is a significant reshaping of the modern Army and a deeply significant project. And the re-fleeting of Army is a deeply significant project which is about to come to fruition.
So far as Army is concerned and the multi-role battalions, that leads me to a most significant part of the White Paper. A part of a White Paper and deliberations which we have not seen for over a quarter of a century, our Force Posture Review. Enhancing our presence and our posture in our northern and western approaches.
This arises as a result of the strategic need to bring the White Paper forward by 12 months to deal with our draw down from Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and Solomon Islands; the further consolidation of our part of the world as the place where economic, strategic, political, and military weight is occurring; and the White Paper now refers to our part of the world not as the Asia Pacific of the Indian Ocean Rim, but the Indo-Pacific.
And so in addition to the Global Force Posture work we have done with our alliance partner, the United States, deeply significant work to enhance our presence and our posture in our northern and western approaches through the Force Posture Review.
I commenced my remarks by saying that it's a fundamental responsibility and obligation of a Commonwealth Government to protect and defend the national security interests of the Commonwealth. For that you need a capable and effective Australian Defence Force. But for that, you also need a sensible, clear sighted, forward looking strategy. And the White Paper outlines the consistent course of the Government's strategy, which we've seen reflected in earlier documents, the National Security Strategy or the Asia Century White Paper.
The rise of China. The rise of India. The emergence of Indonesia as a global influence. The rise of the ASEAN economies combined. All of this sees a consolidation of strategic forces in our part of the world. Central to this will be the bilateral relationship between China and the United States. And that relationship is essential for stability, peace, security, and prosperity in our part of the world and we welcome the ongoing efforts on the part of China and the United States to have a positive, productive military, strategic, political, and economic relationship.
In addition to the wider strategic changes in our region, the draw down from Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and the Solomon Islands enables us to also do what Australia is great at doing. Australian diplomacy and Australian defence diplomacy. And the White Paper maps out a substantial re-engagement in our part of the world through bilateral engagement, through regional engagement, and multi-lateral engagement.
And yesterday, the Chief of the Defence Force and I engaged for the first time in a meeting of South Pacific Defence Ministers in Tonga. Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea with observers from Chile and France, given their interest in the Pacific. That sort of engagement is what the White Paper will not just encourage, but demand, as we re-engage in South East Asia and in the Pacific. Essential in our long term strategic interests.
So far as our returning soldiers are concerned - the Prime Minister touched upon this - we will see as we draw down from Afghanistan in the coming years and decades a larger number of returned service personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq than we've seen since Vietnam. And we need to do - as a Government, as a Defence Force, as a community, and a nation - everything we can to ensure that our wounded warriors are cared for and respected.
Not just those who suffer from physical wounds, but those who suffer from mental wounds, from post traumatic stress disorder. I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement today and I congratulate Warren Snowdon on the good work that he continues to do in this area.
Finally, so far as finance and budgets are concerned, we live in difficult times. We live in the time that former US Secretary of State for Defense, Leon Panetta, described as the new fiscal reality. Contrary to speculation, which you may have seen, the forthcoming budget will not contain further reductions for Defence.
The forward estimate years for the forthcoming budget will match, indeed, have a modest increase on the forward estimates for the previous budget. We will continue to provide the Australian Defence Force with over $100 million in the forward estimate years.
I see a lot of reference to two per cent of GDP as an Australian Defence spend. I would much prefer to be closer to two per cent than to 1.5 or 1.6. But it is the case that this is an aspiration that the Government has and an aspiration that previous governments have also had. Australian Defence spending has not touched two per cent of GDP since 2000. So, we have had an aspiration as a country for two per cent of GDP since the year 2000. We have not met that over those years.
But despite those difficult circumstances, the decisions made in the White Paper and the capability decisions and purchases, which the Government has effected since the last budget, continue to see a capable, effective, Australian Defence Force continuing to see both air, land, and sea superiority in our immediate region.
Can I finally, Prime Minister, take this opportunity of thanking the Chief of the Defence Force, the Secretary, the Service Chiefs, my Ministerial and Parliamentary Secretary colleagues for the work that they have done on allowing this White Paper to be published in a timely manner today.
Can I particularly mention Deputy Secretary Brendan Sargeant and his team for the diligent work that they have engaged in over the last 12 months.
I look forward to you reading and savouring the 2013 White Paper. I look forward to your critique and comments. Thank you very much.