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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 916

Senator CALVERT —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. I refer the minister to the Estimates Committee B hearings of 24 May at which it was revealed that the actual savings in facility costs to be achieved by the closure of the HMAS Huon naval base represented only around $140,000. Does the minister consider that it is sound economic practice by the government to close HMAS Huon to save $140,000 on the facility and then to spend at least $250,000 to relocate the base to Anglesea Barracks? Does the minister acknowledge that the major cost savings which will accrue from the closure are those which will result from the restructuring of personnel and, if so, why was it not possible for the same restructuring to occur whilst allowing the base to remain open? Does the minister now recognise that to allow HMAS Huon to remain open with a reduced complement of personnel would have provided the greatest net savings to the government and will he instigate action to ensure that this occurs?

Senator ROBERT RAY —The evidence at the estimates committee hearing indicated nothing of the sort. I also point out to Senator Calvert that we are talking about year on year costs, not a one-off saving. Even on his assumption, it would be more logical to spend $250,000 in one year to save $140,000 year on year. Nevertheless, the closing of HMAS Huon enabled us to restructure staff far more extensively than if we had left the base where it is. The fact is that two years ago the navy looked at building up a hurt list if the budget were reduced. It found that the three most expendable areas are the three bases we are closing. It was the navy's choice of priorities, not the government's. We accepted its recommendation, HMAS Huon will close in June and I will not be reconsidering the decision.