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Government unable to detail its own budget measures for reserves.

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Government Unable To Detail Its Own Budget Measures For Reserves Laurie Ferguson - Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel

Media Statement - 5 June 2000

Last week's Senate Estimates hearings have revealed that the Government is unable to detail its own Budget measures for Defence Reserves or indicate a timetable for their implementation.

Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Laurie Ferguson MP, has accused the Government of dithering while the parlous situation of the Reserves further deteriorates.

'Those concerned about the state of the Reserves might have hoped that the Budget allocation of $20 million was the first sign that the Coalition was willing to face up to the situation,' said Mr Ferguson.

'These hopes have been well and truly dashed by the revelations that Defence has yet to put to Cabinet any proposals to improve the Reserves and may not do so until the finalisation of the Defence White Paper - which is itself behind schedule.

'This is despite many months of media coverage of the collapse of recruitment for the Reserves, including further official evidence on Friday to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (JSCFADT).

'Senator Newman, the Cabinet Minister representing the Government at the Senate Estimates hearings for Defence, notably failed to clarify the Government's intentions.

'Presumably because she was completely in the dark herself, Senator Newman left it to Defence finance official Dr Ian Williams to reveal that:

...there have been a number of concepts developed within Defence for how we might improve the reserves. Those have not yet been put to government for agreement... Prior to, probably, the white paper, I do not think there would be an indication from government as to what they intend to do.


'In this regard it is worth recalling just how many times the Coalition has promised to act, and completely failed to do so.

'On Anzac Day last year Minister Moore told Meet the Press that he had commissioned a plan to rebuild the reserves, which was due in June 1999 - a whole year ago.

'Then on 11 August Minister Scott promised the Parliament that he would 'shortly' release a discussion paper outlining 'a clear and public plan for integration of reserves into our defence capability'.

'At the time, the Minister said that such a paper was 'much overdue'.

'In December Minister Moore then promised to introduce new call out legislation for the Reserves when the Parliament resumed in February - 4 months ago.

'All of these undertakings have since been dishonoured by a Government that has completely taken its eye off the ball as far as the Reserves are concerned.

'In the meantime, the position of the Army Reserve continues to deteriorate.

'In 1998-99 the Army only managed to meet 51% of its recruitment target for reservists. Indications are that the outcome for 1999-00 will be even worse.

'Official figures show that the Army Reserve was 3,395 below strength in 1999-00 and that personnel numbers will fall by a further 583 in 2000-01.

'The Government could begin to redeem itself by supporting Labor's Private Members Bills to properly protect the civilian employment position of reservists and to restore Defence leave as an allowable award matter.'

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.