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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1227

Mr GAYLER(9.57) —The Opposition is seeking short term political advantage when we should be considering the long term planning of our defence forces. The Opposition's tactics are affecting the morale of the Defence Force. I draw to the attention of honourable members the former Government's record on defence and the cutbacks it made in this area over a long period. The former Government talked up defence and then subsequently cut back spending. In 1976 it announced a major re-equipment program in its White Paper. In 1978 that program was abandoned. Training time was cut and equipment programs were delayed or quietly abolished.

I would like to quote what was said by Dr Robert O'Neill of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University. In 1978 he said that every time there is a Budget crisis the Government looks around for some way of saving money and the only way in which it can do it is by reducing equipment procurement for defence. In 1980 the then Prime Minister announced a new defence program. It was presented in detail by the then Minister for Defence in August of that year. That presentation was in response to the invasion of Afghanistan. Major announcements in that program included the following: A second underway replenishment ship and-I say this with some parochialism-10 more patrol boats; structural refurbishment of the Mirage aircraft; increased funds for maintenance and personnel for increased life of equipment; increased field stock holdings; more training time; more flying hours; steaming time and more track kilometres. That program was introduced by the former Government but it left those matters unattended.

Mr Braithwaite —Who provided the patrol boats?

Mr GAYLER —I do not want to go into the question of patrol boats now. I will speak about that matter at some future time. We got a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation boat. There was quite a bit of pork- barrelling in the electorate of Leichhardt when it was decided not to go ahead with the 10 patrol boats.

Progress reported.