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Ray says Defence is "Very unimportant"

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"The Defence Minister Senator Ray is quoted in today's Sydney Morning Herald as saying that Defence is "very unimportant for most of Australia."

"This is the Defence equivalent of Prime Minister Keating's famous remark about the recession we had to have", said Shadow Defence Minister Alexander Dower.

"Coming from Senator Ray's own mouth, this statement is an inditement of the Defence Minister's lack of interest and performance in this key area of Government"

"It is disappointing that the Minister thinks his own portfolio is 'very unimportant', but Senator Ray's statement does make more understandable the judgement in the Australian newspaper's editorial yesterday that the Senator

'has been an undistinguished Minister, who ... has made little intellectual contribution to the defence debate.'

"Senator Ray's assertion yesterday that there is not much difference between Labor's defence policy and the Coalition's policy, A Strong Australia, is little short of nonsense.

"The Coalition's policy is everything Labor's is not. A Strong Australia is up to date and provides a coherent framework for long-term defence.

"By contrast, Labor continues to pay lip-service to the out-dated 1987 Defence White Paper, while Defence policy has become subject to random decision making without sufficient thought or strategic analysis."

"Labor has also made an unseemly rush to adopt elements of the Coalition's defence policy where it has suited them.

"The latest example of this is Senator Ray's announcement yesterday that he has hired a consultant to report on possible areas for spending cuts in the Defence bureaucracy.

"Having attacked the Coalition for proposing these cuts, Senator Ray now intends to look at the same areas himself. As in other areas of Government, in Defence policy Labor is doing little more than reacting to Opposition policy initiatives."

(ends) 21 Oct 1992 (55) More Information: Peter Jennings (06) 277 4145.

Parliament House, Canberra, AC T 2600 Telephone (06) 277 4145 Facsimile (06) 277 2143 After Hours Telephone: (08) 339 5152 or (06) 286 1504 COMMONWEALTH

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5 The Sydney Morning Herald ' Z ( / O ^ T g > i 5 € e /3 * 7 <2-

Libs’ defence strategy draws salvo from RayBy TONY WRIGHTForeign Affaire W n te rCANBERRA: A war of words has erupted between me Minister "or Defence, Senator Ray, and his opposite number in the Coalition, Nlr Alexander Downer, over the Opposition's new defence policy, vhicb Senator Ray claims is an "unfunded spending spree".Senator Ray released a 42- page critique of the Coalition's new policy yesterday, portraying >0 per cent of it as endorsing Government policy and much of ;he rest o f it as financially unachievable.In an apparent effort to down-1 orade the significance of the I Coalition's policy, which has | -received some acclaim in defence „circles. Senator Rav said defence» •policy was ’very unimportant fo FT most of Australia1''The next election would not be fought on defence issues: the people would make up their minds on the goods and services tax. economic poiicv and indus­trial relations, he said.Mr Downer replied with a newSenator Ray . . . "black hole”.document which he said showed Labor's assessment was inaccu­ra te and half-baked.I Senator Ray claimed the Coali­tion policy showed extra spending of 5600 million over three years, plus the Fightback commitment to return 5450 million to consoli­dated revenue.This meant the C oalition would have to save $350 million a ear. but "some of Mr Downer's VMr Downer . . . “inaccurate”.savings options are little more than a joke”, Senator Ray said."It’s a big black hole and I don't think Mr Hewson is going to be too pleased when he reads it in detail It's going to mean another big hole in Fightback.”If the Coalition planned fund­ing the hole with “savage staff cuts”, redundancy paym ents would mean no savings in the first year and less than full savings in the second year. He pointed also

to the Coalition’s claimed saving of $126 million by postponing the proposed helicopter support ship.

In fact, this was non-existent, because the G overnm ent had earmarked only $2 million for the program over the next three financial years.

Mr Downer said Senator Ray's comments m ade it clear the Government had abandoned its own commitment to the helicop­ ter support ship to pay for its decision to buy 18 used F-Ii l fighter bombers from the US.

Mr Downer said also that his policy was carefully costed, and equipment purchases would be funded from $9 billion of un­ allocated defence capital funds available during the rest of the decade. This figure was calcu­ lated from figures in the Govern­ ment's 1989 Force Structure Review, which showed that of the | projected $35 billion available for i defence equipment, $9 billion had i not been earmarked.

Mr Downer said his policy ■ : proposed spending only $2 billion , of this figure on new equipment.