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Wednesday, 21 August 2002
Page: 5365

Mr QUICK (3:12 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, representing the Minister for Defence. I refer her to comments by Lieutenant General Des Mueller. Given that your government has already paid $800 million for the Sea Sprites, which will not be operational for another four years, given that your government will spend more than $400 million on torpedoes that are too heavy for our submarines and given that your government is two years behind schedule on the $1.4 billion project to upgrade our frigates, when will you finally heed the advice of experts and fix this problem?

The SPEAKER —I remind the member for Franklin that the question ought to be addressed through the chair. If he were to consider the question he asked as a question asked of me, it could have been more appropriately phrased.

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —I thank the honourable member for his question. In June, Lieutenant General Des Mueller, the Vice Chief of Defence Force from 2000 to 2002, circulated a report to senior defence and ADF officers on his reflections on his two years in office. I would have thought that the conduct of the ADF in recent deployments in East Timor and Afghanistan was proof enough of the professionalism and the effectiveness of the ADF and of the broader defence organisation.

Defence has already acknowledged some of the deficiencies identified by the general, including the need to improve information flows within the department, within the ADF and with government, and is making improvements. The suggestion that a chief of staff work with the Chief of Defence Force has already been canvassed by the secretary and the CDF task force. This is also to assist with communications in Defence and exploring ways of establishing such a function. Defence financial management practices and the management of platforms have been undergoing substantial reform, and this continues to be a high priority for the defence leadership. I think that the proof effectively is in the delivery. We can honestly say, `Look at four words', and they are East Timor and Afghanistan.

Mr Sidebottom —That's two words.

Mrs VALE —`East Timor and Afghanistan' are four words.

Mrs Irwin —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order under standing order 145. The minister is not answering the question. I thought it was about torpedoes and helicopters.

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler will resume her seat.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Brisbane!

Mrs VALE —Australia has a Defence Force that is recognised internationally as the very best. They have played strong, done good and they have done Australia proud.