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Transcript of doorstop interview: 3 May 2012: Defence funding cuts



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Doorstop - Defence funding cuts May 3, 2012

JOHNSTON - (inaudible)…this government in 2009 promised 3 per cent growth, clearly that promise has been

abandoned. Today’s announcement is just another example of spin and broken promises. Defence of course, I don’t

think was even informed early this morning of this matter, and I note there were no Defence personnel in the room

when the Minister and Prime Minister made this announcement.

It’s a slap in a face for Defence and at a time when Australia’s maritime security as we all know with the boat people

scenario, with oil and gas exports, coal exports and minerals exports is utterly dependent upon maritime security.

Defence, in terms of funding, is going in the wrong direction under this government.

JOURNALIST - What could the consequences be of these cuts?

JOHNSTON - Well I think obviously capability. We have a submarine project announced with great fanfare in 2009 -

12 new submarines. Then for three years the government dared not speak its name, because of the cost. ASPI said

the cost was $36 billion. No Minister, and we’ve had three, has had the courage to even open the file. Now we’ve got

$200 million on the table, great, but too little too late. And what for? For another report.

JOURNALIST - Should we even be trying to build submarines in Australia?

JOHNSTON - Well I think we are very capable in a whole host of areas, but the Collins Class, which I might say

many of the players in the Government now had quite a lot to do with, is clearly a very good reason why we wouldn’t

want to attempt it again.

JOURNALIST - How frustrating do you think these cuts are for the forces on the ground?

JOHNSTON - Can I tell you we have some of the very best people in submarines, in fighter aircraft, in Defence

generally. They are frustrated and their morale is low. And when you see the Coles Report on submarines saying that

safety is an issue, the wives and families of our submariners must be tearing their hair out thinking when is this

government actually do something other than commission a new report.

JOURNALIST - The delays to the JSF, do you think it is Lockheed Martin that has delayed that?

JOHNSTON - I was with Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth the day before yesterday, there are 11 countries participating

on this aircraft, and it is vital that all the countries that said they would stump up, continue to support the project. Now

we are getting our first two in 2014, the following 12 have been put back for 2 years - that is a blow to the project.

This aircraft is highly capable, we’ve had extensive lectures on what it can do, it certainly is a 5th generation fighter,

and it is a regional dominator that Australia definitely needs.

When the decision was made to go with this project it was a very good decision. This Government has dropped the

ball again.

JOURNALIST - How important is it that WA’s resources assets be protected?

JOHNSTON - In 20 years we’ll be providing something between 10 and 20 per cent of the whole of China’s energy,

that’s not counting what we give to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Their problems diplomatically and resource wise

will be our problems. We need a strong, capable navy focussed around force element groups that are a deterrent.

Namely submarines. The Government has just wasted three years.

JOURNALIST - Just in regards to the Force Posture Review, do you think a naval base should be established in the

Cocos Islands and also Broome?

JOHNSTON - I think the problem with Broome and the Cocos Islands is the tidal fluctuations, which makes the

construction of port facilities very expensive. I think Exmouth should be focussed on, I would want to get some

extensive advice from senior Defence personnel as to why we would not have overwatch situation from Exmouth in

WA.

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