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Coalition fails to back critical capabilities for defence

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Campaign Media Release Minister for Defence Materiel Dr Mike Kelly


Tony Abbott’s Defence spokesperson, Senator David Johnston has again shown he would just not be up to the job of Defence Minister should the Coalition be elected on 7 September.

Senator Johnston has failed to support the early acquisition of two new supply ships that are a critical need for our Navy, and has separately indicated the Coalition is not committed to the Future Submarine program or the Joint Strike Fighter program.

These capabilities are crucial to our future Defence. They will ensure that the men and women of our Defence Force have the best possible platforms to carry out their mission of protecting Australia's national security interests.

Instead of supporting the Rudd Labor Government's announcement on Thursday that construction of the two new supply ships will be brought forward to 2015-16 - a decision that will provide a much needed capability for our Navy and prevent closure of our major shipyards - Senator Johnston instead demonstrated, in a press release, the Coalition's inability to come to grips with Defence matters.

In his release, Senator Johnston falsely claimed the decision to bring construction of these supply ships forward was a cut to the Defence budget. The fact is the Government has already budgeted for these ships through the Defence Capability Plan.

Senator Johnston falsely claimed that 3,000 jobs will be lost before construction starts on these vessels. The fact is the Rudd Labor Government has committed to an accelerated tender and consideration process that will see construction commence in the 2015-16 timeframe and save jobs.

Senator Johnston falsely claimed that the Rudd Labor Government's minimum commitment of a 'hybrid' build (part build overseas, part build in Australia) for one of the vessels will only save 250 to 350 jobs. The fact is that, under a Rudd Labor Government, the successful tenderer will be required to produce an outcome that

delivers on our local skills, jobs and industry capacity objectives as well as providing the capability the Navy will need in the near future.

Senator Johnston falsely claimed the Federal Labor Government had cut $30 billion from the Defence budget since 2009. The fact is the Federal Labor Government has provided Defence with over $114 billion across the Budget and Forward Estimates,

with the Budget growing from $26.2 billion in 2013-14 to $30.2 billion in 2016-17. In dollar terms, this is more than has ever been spent before on Defence.

But Senator Johnston's blunders didn't stop there. During a Defence debate hosted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, on the same day Senator Johnston labelled the Federal Government's decision to acquire 12 new submarines, to be assembled in Australia, and three squadrons of the Joint Strike Fighter as simply being about making 'a big splash'.

His comments during the debate highlight that these programs would be very much up for review under a Coalition government.

Senator Johnston just doesn't get it and this should be a major concern for the whole Defence community, including the critical domestic industries that deliver Defence capability.

Not only does he continually show he has no ability to make the key capability decisions required of a Defence Minister, his failure to support these programs creates uncertainty for the Defence manufacturing industry right across the country.

These programs are worth tens of billions of dollars over decades and will directly employ many thousand Australians.

But instead of delivering the future Defence capabilities Australia requires, and supporting our domestic manufacturing industry, Senator Johnston instead gives a commitment that before any decisions are made by an incoming Coalition Government, it will take half a term to produce a new Defence White Paper.