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Tuesday, 22 June 1999
Page: 7110

Mrs GASH (9:25 PM) —I hear what the member for Reid has had to say. Why does the member for Reid not pronounce some of the good things that the Howard government has done, such as setting in place a range of wide-reaching reforms designed to improve efficiency and to free up resources for re-investment in combat capabilities and operational readiness. On maturity the Defence Reform Program will realise ongoing efficiency in excess of $900 million per annum and a one-off saving of $500 million with all these resources being redirected to capability enhancement, preparedness and personnel costs.

The government has recently established a high-level DRP strategy management and reporting team to enhance the profile and maintain the momentum of the Defence Reform Program. This joint service and civilian team will facilitate the implementation of the Defence Reform Program and manage an ongoing integrated change management strategy.

The Howard government has also overseen significant project approvals, negotiated major defence contracts and has taken delivery of important equipment that will enhance defence combat capability and readiness. In addition, important defence facility projects have been progressed which will provide substantially improved support to operational training and logistic components of the Defence Force. Some of the major capital facility projects include: air operational facilities at RAAF Darwin and RAAF Learmonth; development of Bradshaw Field training area, Northern Territory; redevelopment of HMAS Albatross—of course in the Gilmore electorate, providing considerable jobs and expenditure, and opportunities for small business; the Lavarack Heights Barracks stage 2 and RAAF Base redevelopment at Townsville; the RAAF Base redevelopment at Amberley; the sales of stores depots at Zetland in Sydney and Laverton airfield in Melbourne; the sale of surplus defence properties, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne; AEW&C facilities at RAAF Williamtown near Newcastle; continued development of Army facilities in Darwin; and Russell redevelopment and completion of RAAF Scherger and RAAF Tindal stage 4.

It also has increased preparedness. A second army brigade size group and supporting naval and air assets are being brought to 28 days notice to move by 30 June 1999 in order to ensure that the government has options to respond at short notice to the range of demands and developments that could arise. This increased level of preparedness is to be sustained for an initial period of two years. These include the lease of the high-speed catamaran to enhance Navy's amphibious capabilities, the so-called HMAS Jervis Bay, again providing jobs for our area.

In strategic policy, on a broader scale the Howard government conducted a searching review of Australia's strategic situation. In November 1997 the government endorsed the strategic review 1997: Australia's strategy policy—and this policy was the key document in the government's efforts to ensure that Australia has a modern, relevant military—gave defence policy a more outward looking focus and established a future direction for Australia's defence planning into the 21st century.

Following this strategic review, the government developed a force structure priorities paper to provide a structured framework for the assessment of individual capability proposals. Also a new defence white paper is in preparation, which the government will release in the year 2000. The government has improved defence strategic policy making and increased the frequency of internal strategic assessments in response to changing international conditions. Stronger links have been built between strategic assessments and the decisions made about the kinds of military capabilities that the ADF needs. These changes have improved Defence capacity to plan military strategies and to highlight areas where new or improved defence capabilities are needed.

An Office of the Revolution in Military Affairs has been established to provide a focus in Defence on these most important military, technology and intellectual developments. In addition to normal training tasks and operational readiness preparations, the Defence Force has successfully undertaken a wide range of unforeseen operational assistance tasks that have rigorously tested capabilities and readiness, and the ADF has responded to these demands efficiently and effectively, displaying the highest degree of dedication and professionalism. Indeed, I think we have done extremely well with the Defence portfolio.