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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11133


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (16:55): I rise to speak on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade's review of the Defence annual report 2010-11. I thank the member for Fadden for his solid commitment to the defence and veterans community in Australia in his role as shadow minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel, and for being the coalition's go-to representative for the defence and veterans community in this House.

As the annual report notes, the 2010-11 period was an incredibly busy time for the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force. There were ongoing operations in Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands, and the ADF provided support to communities affected by natural disasters in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria as well as in Pakistan, New Zealand and Japan. Defence also contributed strongly to border protection and other smaller operations. These operations and contributions were during a time of significant cost reductions, and the concurrent execution of the Strategic Reform Plan was one of Defence's highest priorities. In 2010-11, Defence noted that they reached their target of just over $1 billion.

With regard to Afghanistan, as I have noted previously in the House, the review for 2010-11 includes comments from Defence indicating the strong relationship between Australian and coalition forces and the people of Afghanistan, and notes the important role Australia plays in transitioning the operations from the International Security Assistance Force to the Afghan National Security Forces.

The committee also considered the very important role that Defence played during the natural disasters in 2010 and 2011, including the floods across Queensland in early 2011. Defence indicated that approximately 1,976 personnel assisted in some way. I know that the people of Ryan—in Bellbowrie, Indooroopilly, Fig Tree Pocket, St Lucia, Taringa, Auchenflower and Rosalie—strongly appreciated their efforts in the immediate aftermath and during the reconstruction process, as I know the member for Moreton's constituents did as well.

It is important to consider this review in the wider context of defence funding. As a result of the Gillard Labor government's economic incompetence and unwillingness to support Defence, they have most recently torn a $5.5 billion hole in the defence budget, with a total cut of $25 billion over the last five years. Clearly, Labor have been treating—and will continue to treat—the defence community with contempt.

Mr Perrett: Madam Deputy Speaker D'Ath, on a point of order: I find that term offensive, and I would ask the member to withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs D'Ath ): The member for Ryan?

Mrs PRENTICE: I withdraw. Clearly, Labor has been treating—and will continue to treat—the defence community with a lack of concern that they do not deserve.

The member for Fadden and the shadow minister for Defence, Senator the Hon. David Johnstone, had a big win recently, forcing the government to abandon its shameful cuts to the Australian Defence Force personnel travel entitlements. This stunning backdown is recognition of the poor policy development on the part of this incompetent Labor government. The backflip will now mean that more than 22,000 ADF personnel over the age of 21—personnel who are prepared to put their lives on the line for our country—will now be able to travel home to see their families. The member for Fadden worked diligently with the defence community and people such as Paul Murray at 2UE to introduce a disallowance motion into the House on Monday, 25 June 2012 which would have blocked the travel entitlement cuts. The Gillard Labor government did not allow that disallowance to go to a vote. Instead, Minister Smith simply rolled over—and he has been very quiet about why it took so long to actually listen and do the right thing.

Many ADF members from Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera, in the Ryan electorate, and indeed from the wider defence community have communicated privately to me their displeasure and expressed their concerns about this Labor government and their now strained relationship with it, which commenced immediately with the former Prime Minister, the member for Griffith. Owing to the sensitive nature of their jobs and depending on their rank, it can be difficult for our troops to raise publicly many issues about which they are concerned.

The consequences of this Labor government's failure are clearly evident when you consider that Australia has had three defence ministers in five years, 15 reshuffles in the portfolio and four defence secretaries in four years. This week, Mr Duncan Lewis clearly had had enough and, after a strong and positive contribution to the ADF, resigned one year into a five-year term.

Unfortunately, it is not just those members on the opposite side of the House who have failed the ADF; it is also their partners in crime. The member for Lyne is very good at coming into the House and introducing motions about fair indexation for DFRB and DFRDB and feigning his support for the defence and veterans community. But, when it comes to an actual vote, the member for Lyne simply abstains from having to make what should not be a difficult decision. The member for Lyne showed his true colours again last week, as I understand that, regarding the cuts to ADF members' travel entitlements, the coalition had the support of the member for New England, the member for Denison and the member for Kennedy, and, yes, even the member for Melbourne and the Greens—but not the member for Lyne. He did not even support the veterans community when it came to the member for Fadden's amendments to the Veterans' Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill. Nor did he support the coalition's ultimately successful move to reinstate travel funding for 22,000 of our troops.

The defence and veterans community expects the coalition to honour its commitments and promises should we win government, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with the defence and veterans community at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera and throughout Ryan and continuing to represent their concerns and wishes in parliament. Only the coalition is committed to properly resourcing defence. Only the coalition is committed to supporting our defence personnel. And only the coalition is committed to properly respecting the contribution of our veterans.