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Transcript of doorstop interview: 11 May 2012: Defence budget 2012

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Doorstop - Defence budget 2012 May 11, 2012

Senator Johnston: In May 2009, we received the White Paper. That paper set out defence funding would grow

annually by three percent increased from two point five percent. The Strategic Reform Program would deliver $20

billion worth of cuts over ten years and that money could be turned back into defence capability acquisitions.

There were also twelve submarines to be assembled in South Australia and a detailed defence capability plan. The

Coalition signed up and gave bipartisan support to that document. It was a plan; it guaranteed funding into the future

for defence. It was a tangible, understandable policy disposition and as I say had bipartisan support.

Since that time we have seen this Government, and particularly this Minister take Defence funding in completely the

opposite direction, something like $17 billion taken out of defence in the last three years.

The fact is that this budget has taken $5.5 billion from this Defence budget; it returns it to the status in terms of Gross

Domestic Product of to 1.6%. We have not seen such a scarcity to defence funding since 1938.

Nothing this Government says, nothing this Government or Minister says or does is believable anymore. For three

years they have sat on the submarine project, much haunted, very pretentious, relaunched it again last week, now

saying were having 12 submarines is not capability, it does not deliver anything in the Defence of Australia.

Accordingly, given the complete abandonment of the White Paper, we cannot continue to give bipartisan support to

that plan. Of course bipartisanship prevails with respect to operations in the field; we don’t need to say that. Men and

women in combat have the Coalitions complete and utter support, but nothing this Government says about funding in

defence can be trusted.

The defence capability plan has been completely abandoned. The Minister goes out and buys items off the shelf, in

the face of an Australian defence industry that’s on its knees. We cannot continue, as I say, in any other than

operational matters continuing to give bipartisan support to such capricious and fundamentally capricious and

expedient expenditure decision that have no basis in strategic or operational doctrine.

This is effectively the trashing of defence, were not going to stand by and take it. Everything the Minister does, has

done, has been about political spin and what I’m signalling today is that in line with my leaders statement last night,

nothing is believable, nothing will be supported, unless detailed documentation on cost and schedule is put on the

table. A plan for 12 submarines and $214 million to tell us to have a plan is not capability. The gloves are off; there is

no bipartisan support for this Government in the administration of Defence any more.

Journalist: So what will a Coalition Government do for Defence?

Senator Johnston: We will rebuild defence. This budget has dismantled and rocked Defence to its foundation. Can I

tell you that senior Defence officials were not even given the courtesy of advice as to these cuts and the movement,

cancellation and deferral of these projects. This is bad public policy, it is totally unacceptable.

Journalist: So will you commit to restoring the funding that’s been taken away plus the three percent and two and a

half percent indexation?

Senator Johnston: We will commit to restoring the funding as soon as we are able. It is very clear to any casual

observer that this Government is going to leave Australia’s economic situation in dire straits. There is very little

money for anything. But as soon as we can afford it, we will have a credible, funded, transparent detailed plan to

rebuild defence.

Journalist: Including the three percent and two and a half indexation out to 2030?

Senator Johnston: Yes. As we committed to in 2009, as soon as we are able.

Journalist: So when might that be, a decade?

Senator Johnston: Well we have to see what these cooked books. We have to have a look at them, we have to find

out. I want to read the blue book as soon as we get into Government and find out how bad the pain is, particularly in

Defence. This budget has put Defence back probably five plus years.

Journalist: So will you commit to buying 12 submarines?

Senator Johnston: Everybody wants submarines. I have not seen an operational concept document, but can I say,

having an announcement about twelve submarines, twelve mythical submarines that are not adequately described at

the very least, not costed, is not capability. Our plan will be transparent, it will be costed and everybody can see and

will see where we are going with submarines. Adelaide is the only place that has the infrastructure to assemble or

construct in a detailed proper way submarines.

Journalist: So not necessarily twelve submarines, but definitely Adelaide?

Senator Johnston: I want to see what this $214 million report says, I mean we are very, very pro Submarine as a

capability and a deterrent. It is essential for Australians defence and posture. But you can’t simply sign up and

provide a blank cheque to people who are not believable. And this Minister is not believable.

Journalist: How about an off the shelf purchase for submarines?

Senator Johnston: Consider all options; off the shelf purchase solves a lot of problems for us, partnering with a

manufacture from overseas. (inaudible).


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