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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1706

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (13:45): I rise to mark a black day in the history of the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers—the passing, after 117 years of service, of the regimental band. The commanding officer announced on Saturday that this would be the last year the regimental band would be in service. This can be traced to the drop in defence expenditure we saw under the last government. Defence expenditure is currently at 1.59 per cent of GDP, the lowest level since 1938. We are seeing the effects of this on things like regimental bands.

The 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers has 21 battle honours, the most battle honours of any regiment in the Commonwealth. Its band is a vehicle for people not just to play their musical instruments but to serve their nation as soldiers. All of that history and heritage will now be lost.

The coalition has a different plan in relation to defence. We have a plan to restore expenditure to two per cent of GDP within a decade—to undo the damage done by the previous government and to ensure that vital parts of our military history are retained. We have a plan to ensure that our Defence Force is treated with absolute respect, that they are not insulted and that they do not have their budget cut by a government—like the last one—which has no understanding of defence. It is a black day for the regiment, it is a black day for Parramatta and it is a black day for all those young men and women who play in the band—and it is something the coalition will fix.