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Further defence cuts likely

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Federal Member for McPherson SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE


c o :.;K ';o > ,; wealt: i PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY M ICAH

1 March 1989


The Minister for Defence, Mr Beazley, must move to clarify the future of the two Fill squadrons and the Chinook heavy-lift helicopter squadron, based at Amberley.

Reported statements by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Funnell, have confused rather than clarified the issue.

There is no doubt that the Chinook helicopter squadron is facing the axe. It still remains unclear whether one of the two Fill squadrons is facing the same fate. One reported statement by the CAS says that one of

the squadrons may be disbanded. Another statement says that both squadrons will be retained. Defence spokesmen are unable to confirm what Air Marshal Funnell had actually said and the Minister for Defence remains mute.

The Fill aircraft, with its range and strike

capability is one of the most effective deterrents to war that Australia possesses. The F-18 fighter, sometimes suggested as a replacement for the Fill, does not have the same capabilities.

The Chinook helicopters are also an important part of the Defence Force inventory. They are capable of a wide range of tasks which cannot be undertaken by any other helicopters in service, and in particular they are required

to support the new Blackhawk helicopter in the positioning of fuel and the recovery of damaged or unserviceable aircraft.

The option of disbanding the Fill and Chinook squadrons are only two of the cost cutting measures being considered by the Department of Defence at the direction of the Minister. Other options being considered include taking out of service the Navy's flag ship, HMAS Stalwart, further manpower cuts in the regular component of the Australian

Defence Force, the reallocation of 1 Brigade units, the conversion of regular Army units to reserve units and disbanding one of the F-18 fighter squadrons.

The Minister has directed that by March the

Services provide him with a comprehensive list of cost cutting options. This is the second list demanded by the Minister, the first list submitted not being considered satisfactory.

Further reductions in the Defence budget means that the White Paper has fallen into irrelevancy through lack of funding.

For f u r t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n c o n t a c t P e t e r W h i t e , S h a d o w M i n i s t e r

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