Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 5358

Defence Budget


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, Senator Bob Carr. Is the minister aware of reports of whether substantial cuts to defence announced in the May budget have resulted in a decision to no longer supply the iconic rising sun badge as part of the uniform that Australian soldiers have worn since 1901? Are these reports true?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:01): I have seen no such reports; I discount them completely, and I will seek further advice from my colleague the Minister for Defence.


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:01): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his assurance that the rising sun badge will continue. Is the minister aware of reports that soldiers from the Australian Army Reserve units have reported that they are not being given live or blank rounds for training exercises, and instead are shouting 'bang bang' to simulate weapons discharges? Is it true that the Army Reserve training days are being cut from 100 to 21 per member per financial year to ensure that available ammunition will actually meet operational needs?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:01): I am happy to assure the Senate that the Army advises there is no shortage of blank or live ammunition. Ammunition has not been affected by budget cuts. Army training, whether through dry drills or through the use of blank or live ammunition, continues to be effective.

The 2012-13 defence budget was developed following a comprehensive review of the department's budget to identify contributions defence could make across the forward estimates to support the government's broader fiscal strategy. The decisions taken to determine defence's contribution to the budget bottom line have all been carefully designed to protect our service men and women and our defence operations, and to minimise the impact on core capabilities. This contribution will have no adverse effect on operations taking place, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The short answer is, 'No, they are not', and that is the only— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Macdonald, I cannot give you the call because people are interjecting across the chamber.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, my question, which the minister did not even attempt to answer, was: is it true that Army training days—that is, Reserve training—are being cut from 100 to 21 to allow for the limited ammunition to be available for operational needs? He did not answer that question. He did not even refer to it.

The PRESIDENT: I am not clear: is this a point of order?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Sorry, I did say that I raise a point of order and it is on relevance.

The PRESIDENT: I did not hear that. I will allow the point of order. I believe the minister has been answering the question. If the minister has any time remaining, the minister can address the point of order.







Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I take it from the minister's refusal to answer that the suggestion that they have been cut from 100 to 21 is not true, and I am grateful for that. Is the minister aware of reports that 51st Far North Queensland Regiment, a unit with one-third of its force as Indigenous Australian soldiers engaged in conducting reconnaissance and surveillance and engaging with the community in Northern Australia, has had to cut training operations by 75 per cent due to lack of funding? Are these reports true, Minister?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:04): I will seek further advice on the training days available to the unit he mentions, but the credibility of the senator is—

The PRESIDENT: Order! This is not time to argue. You can answer the question, but it is not a debating time. Continue.

Senator BOB CARR: Mr President, he rested his credibility today in question time on the allegation that soldiers were required to say 'bang bang' instead of firing bullets.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The point of order is relevance. The minister has already, in effect, taken the question on notice by saying that he would seek advice. He cannot now relevantly be permitted to go on to personally attack and reflect upon the senator who put the question.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my right! Senator Evans is on his feet.

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, on the point of order: the minister is 20 seconds into his answer. He is perfectly entitled in answering the question to address issues raised in the question. He is providing an answer to the Senate and the situation is where the opposition continues to try to shout him down and then take points of order after having sought information. Quite frankly, it makes a mockery of question time. They ought to allow the minister to complete his answer.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister has 40 seconds.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, on the point of order: the minister is very kindly giving an answer about my credibility. I did not ask him about my credibility; I asked him about whether the 51st Far North Queensland Regiment training days are being cut back by 75 per cent.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. The minister has 40 seconds remaining.

Senator BOB CARR: He started with the absurd allegation that soldiers were required to say 'bang, bang' instead of firing bullets, and he is wrong. The Army itself advises him and advises this house that the allegation is absurd and entirely wrong. He has no credibility on his subsequent questions. He suggests that the Army is disposing of historic badges of enormous significance to Australians. (Time expired)