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Transcript of interview: ABC Lateline: 3 May 2013: Defence White Paper

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Transcript - ABC Lateline May 3, 2013

RE: Defence White Paper

EMMA ALBERICI: To discuss the Government's White Paper we were joined a short while ago by the Opposition's

spokesman for defence Senator David Johnston.

Senator David Johnston, thanks so much for joining us.

DAVID JOHNSTON: Pleasure Emma.

EMMA ALBERICI: Has the Government got the strategic direction for defence right?

DAVID JOHNSTON: Well I think they've got the strategy more broadly in terms of our diplomatic and defence posture

correct. The bit that worries me is the very difficult and complex bit of where the money is coming from.

EMMA ALBERICI: You said today the generals and admirals you've met tell you there's a crisis in Defence. Can you

define "crisis" in that context for us?

DAVID JOHNSTON: Defence is very dependent on a pipeline of projects which deliver capability that's up to the

minute in terms of cutting edge technology that gives us an advantage in battle, in aerospace, on the water and under

the water. It is called broadly readiness and capability. That is a very expensive pursuit but one of which we must

undertake if we're going to be a viable participant and be able to do the things we want to do in defence.

EMMA ALBERICI: You agree with the Government broadly that defence spending should be at around two per cent

of GDP. On today's numbers it is currently around $7.5 billion short of that target. Where is the gap in your view?

DAVID JOHNSTON: The gap is right back to 2009. We've been saying and we adopted the bipartisan position of

saying three per cent real growth, two per cent of GDP is about right for Australia's Defence Force. We have been

saying that for four years. Now what we have been watching is this Government with all the problems it's had across

other portfolios reaching in, they've removed, Emma, $25 billion from defence in the last four years.

EMMA ALBERICI: How has that affected, my question is where is the gap in terms of what the money should be

being spent on and isn't?

DAVID JOHNSTON: The Defence Capability Plan which is that pipeline of projects that I talked to you about, is

virtually empty. Air warfare destroyers, landing helicopter dock ships, Joint Strike Fighters, Super Hornets, these are

all John Howard, Brendan Nelson and Robert Hill programs. What has this government done?

We've sat on our hands on 12 new submarines for five years. 2008 the National Security Committee committed to

these 12 submarines. What have we done since then?

Nothing. And of course the defence capability gap is looming very largely as Collins proves to be quite unreliable. It

really is alarm bells ringing. There's just one aspect of the crisis.

EMMA ALBERICI: Does the threat level in our part of the world demand an increased spend?

DAVID JOHNSTON: All of our near neighbours are raising their expenditure levels in Defence. There's submarines in

Malaysia, jet fighters in Indonesia and so on. The point is that in our neighbourhood everybody is swimming a

different direction to us in terms of their commitment financially to Defence.

EMMA ALBERICI: You also said this afternoon if you were Minister, you would be investing in drones to patrol the

north and west borders and that the capital outlay for that would be small. How small?

DAVID JOHNSTON: Year in, year out, I think it is measures in hundreds of millions of dollars which is not large when

your portfolio has an annual budget of around about $25 billion per annum.

Now bear in mind, as you acquire the capability so you make payments in increments year in, year out. The reason

why we're attracted to unmanned aerial systems as we call them, is because they're extremely cost effective and are

able to do a really good job. They're not a panacea on their own. You still have to have the P3 Orion or the new P8 as

is coming on stream in the latter part of this decade, you still have to have coastal radar, you still have to have patrol

boats, you still have to have frigates and so on and so forth.

What the unmanned aerial systems do is give you a lot more flexibility and of course a lot more cost effectiveness in

that they can stay airborne for up to 40 hours in one particular case, which is what we need with respect to Heard and

Macquarie Island out to Cocos and Keeling Islands, something we're not able to do at the moment.

EMMA ALBERICI: Give the budget position if drones are a priority for the Coalition, what programs would you defer


DAVID JOHNSTON: I want to have a look at that. We've had 38,000 people arriving across the water on 640 boats.

We had a boat in Geraldton last week. That really concerns me. Obviously, we have a massive shortfall in our

surveillance capability. This program was cut by Labor. It should be... it should have been much closer to coming to

fruition today. We want to get back into the broad area maritime surveillance program. It is in partnership with the

United States, a very good program. We can't believe this Government cut the program. We want to put it back in

place. What we exchange it for, I can't tell you because I'm in the in the tent, but it is a priority we'll bring forward

because it is necessary and really needed

EMMA ALBERICI: Senator David Johnston, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time this evening.


Page 1 of 1 Transcript - ABC Lateline > David Johnston, Liberal Senator for Western Australia