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Prime Minister sails into stormy seas over de -

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LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Kevin Rudd has sailed into stormy seas by flagging that the navy might be moved from Sydney harbour to other ports like Brisbane, Townsville and Darwin. Military experts have slammed the idea saying it's at odds with the government's own defence white paper. And the NSW premier is furious at the possible loss of four thousand jobs from Sydney, claiming the announcement is aimed at winning marginal seats in Queensland. Political editor Chris Uhlmann looks at Kevin Rudd's past and present defence promises.

CHRIS UHLMANN, REPORTER: National security and the economy are the two big guns in federal elections. Kevin Rudd recognised that in 2007 when he promised to keep Defence spending at two per cent of gross domestic product and increase it at three per cent above inflation for nine years.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINSISTER: To maintain real defence expenditure into the future by at least three per cent real annually out to 2016. At least three per cent real annually out to 2016.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Today he reaffirmed part of that pledge.

KEVIN RUDD: Our objective remains to Defence expenditure at two per cent of GDP.

CHRIS UHLMANN: That might be the Government's objective but it's utterly at odds with its deeds. Between 2009 and 2013 about $20 billion of promised funding was cut from the Defence Budget as Labor scrambled to build a surplus. Defence spending has fallen from about two per cent to 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product, its lowest level since 1938.

JAMES BROWN, LOWY INSITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Defence spending is now at historically low levels. It's scheduled to come up to about 1.6 per cent over the next 12 months. That's a long way shy of two per cent. That's at least $8 billion by my count that needs to be found just to get us to where the PM thinks we should be.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Today the PM made another election pledge, to set up a task force to plan for moving the navy out of Garden Island in Sydney Harbour.

KEVIN RUDD: The task force will provide advice on the timing, proportions and implementation of moving some or all of fleet base east to Queensland and Perth and developing upgrading or expanding Darwin and Broome.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The idea is based on a recommendation in last year's Defence Force posture review and the PM said it sat well with Australia's strategic objectives.

KEVIN RUDD: Our national security challenges in the future lie to our north east, to our north and to our north west.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The review recommended examining a supplementary base, not relocating everything and the Defence Minister expressed concerns about the plan at the time.

STEPHEN SMITH, DEFENCE MINISTER: Navy is an important economic contributor to Sydney. As well, we have in Sydney, in Fleet Base East very substantial Navy and Defence assets which is difficult, if not impossible to imagine being replicated elsewhere.

CHRIS UHLMANN: In May the Defence white paper ruled out the idea because of a range of problems from environmental to strategic and its $6 billion price tag.

NEIL JAMES, AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE ASSOCIATION: The idea that you can suddenly move all the Navy out of Garden Island is farcical. How do you replicate the largest dry dock in the Southern Hemisphere, for example and all the industrial support Sydney provides.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And then of course, as the Defence Minister noted, there's the value of the base to Sydney's economy and that put the Prime Minister on a collision course with the NSW Premier.

KEVIN RUDD: How are you, mate?

BARRY O'FARRELL, NSW PREMIER: Good morning, Kevin. A phone call would have been helpful.

KEVIN RUDD: It's called a national security decision.

BARRY O'FARRELL: 4,000 jobs.

KEVIN RUDD: And you've said you want more cruise ships.

BARRY O'FARRELL: I'm happy to share, your predecessor could share, you should learn to share.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Premier's mood didn't improve as he usurped the PM's stage.

BARRY O'FARRELL: I'm angry. From the moment I read it at 5:00 this morning. No phone call, no notice in direct contravention of the same Government's commitment in May, 4,000 jobs to be thrown on the scrap heap all to save Labor seats in Queensland, it's outrageous.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Barry O'Farrell's suspicions about the motive behind this move appear to be confirmed when the Prime Minister flew to Brisbane and held another press conference at its port flanked by the candidate for the marginal seat of Bonner.

KEVIN RUDD: For Queensland it's basic. For Queensland we want to build the new industries and the new jobs of the future including those in Defence industry, including those associated with the Royal Australian Navy.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Those jobs won't arrive in a hurry.

KEVIN RUDD: We're not talking about a Lanning point here short of 2030.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Which puts it the same class as yesterday's promise.

KEVIN RUDD: 1,750 kilometre high speed rail project from Sydney to Melbourne by 2035.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Or the pledge to establish a low tax zone for businesses setting up in northern Australia.

KEVIN RUDD: I've said what my personal preference is which less is for it to be third less, and my preferred commencement date - which 2018.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So the $144 billion high speed rail hope, the $40 billion something in extra Defence spending and the unquantifiable plan for a low tax zone spanning northern Australia all fall outside the 4 year budget forward estimates that means they can be floated and not costed and when asked about when the PM would hit his goal of getting Defence spending back to two per cent of GDP he said this:

KEVIN RUDD: What I find remarkable in this election campaign is that our positions well known, well documented, clear, out there, Mr Abbott picks one out of space here, plucks another one out of that tree over there and talks about something he might do in the by and by.

CHRIS UHLMANN: It's a sentiment that sums up this campaign.