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Tuesday, 26 June 2001
Page: 28561

Mrs DRAPER (3:35 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Would the minister inform the House of the link between the defence capability plan released today and the defence white paper? Minister, what threats exist to the capability plan?

Mr REITH (Minister for Defence) —I thank the member for Makin for her question. One of the reasons that she is interested in defence is that she did her nurses training in the Royal Australian Navy. But she and others on this side are also interested in defence because we are very worried that the Labor Party, if it is ever elected, intends to target defence for expenditure cuts. The defence white paper set out the best plan Defence has had for decades. The budget backed that up with the first tranche of money to make it a reality. I am pleased to advise the House that I have today released the defence capability plan, which sets out in great detail, project by project, the acquisitions which the Commonwealth will be pursuing in the years ahead.

I note a lot of comments about so-called Knowledge Nation and, in particular, the comments of the frontbencher on the other side who is going off with her education bonds to fund some vague set of promises that are about to be revealed. Whilst the Labor Party is talking about jacking up debt, the fact is that within the defence capability program, just in information capability alone, this government is not talking about acquiring capability; we will be spending $8 billion, which is paid for, in the defence of the country and building up Australia's industrial base in this crucial area. This will of course be news to the opposition. Only last week the shadow minister put out a press release saying:

The government wants to have this Global Hawk, but they don't have the money for it.

Not only do we have the money for it provided in the white paper—

Mr REITH —To your great disappointment, you will be interested to hear that in this defence capability plan we have the specifics of the Global Hawk, which the money was provided for in the White Paper. Don't you understand? Don't they understand, Mr Acting Speaker? The fact is when we say we are going to do something, we have got the money to make it a reality, it is funded, provided for, without the income tax increases which are inevitable if you look at the unfunded proposals on the other side.

In conclusion, in this defence capability plan we have a plan for the decade ahead. On the other side, what do we have? Well, we do not have this. We have a list of unfunded promises: free submarines, a free Anzac battalion, a free coastguard, free specialised coastguard vessels, a free bombing range and a free Jervis Bay catamaran. I like the quote from the member for Melbourne, who has picked up some Conroy candour, as one of my colleagues said earlier today. This is what he told workers online:

My role within the Opposition has been to try to prevent us from making promises that are not funded. It is quite easy to get carried away with particular proposals without having them properly assessed.

This opposition is a joke.

Mr Howard —Mr Acting Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.