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Review of Defence programme

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2nd AUGUST 1973


(Statement by the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for

Defence, the Hon. L.H. Baxnard)

The Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Defence,

Mr Lance Barnard, said today that he had decided to provide some

of the background against which the Government's current

consideration of the programme was proceeding.

The Government will maintain an adequate defence capability

Mr Barnard recalled that on assuming office he had called for a

thorough re-assessment of the strategic forecasts on which Defence

planning and preparations were made. The principal findings were

clear. The general situation, globally and in those areas of direct

strategic interest to Australia, was developing favourably. The

prospect of any significant Australian military involvement in the

shorter term appeared unlikely. There are, as always, uncertainties

about the longer term. However, the strategic assessment was

reviewed regularly so as to provide for timely decisions ensuring

that Australia would be able to adjust its defence preparations

against any adverse developments that might arise in the future. .

Certain naval improvements against the uncertain

contingencies of the 1980s would be authorised this year. The

strategic outlook is, however, only one factor in the shaping of

Australian Defence forces and other support. It was clear,, that

there was scope for much needed economies and more efficient use

of resources through close scrutiny of levels of manpower and of

stock-holdings and of other areas of defence management.

In this context, the Minister recalled that he had referred

last week to his concern at the worsening "tooth to tail" ratio

of the Army's Field Force in relation to the manpower demands of

the Australian Support Area. There had been a disproportionate

growth in this ratio during recent years. As a result of the

Government's examination, the volunteer element of the Army Field

Force will be increased substantially in 1973/74 from the present

levels, and efforts would be made to rationalise and economise

on manpower in the support area.

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The Minister forecast that in restructuring the Defence

Forces to improve their capability and economise on resources, there

would be some reduction in civilian employment. There would also bt

a small reduction in Navy and RAAF manpower. No decisions to change

the manning level of particular establishments have yet been made.

"The Government was also reviewing policies governing .

the Services' stock-holding of munitions, clothing and other

items. These policies had remained unaltered since 1963

despite the great changes which had taken place in Australia's

strategic situation during the decade. The review is expected

’ to lead to greater efficiency in the use of Defence funds and :

to reduce the costly maintenance and manpower involved."

Referring to equipment proposals, Mr Barnard said that

some of these were still under investigation, and these were

being examined very closely against the current strategic outlook.

Mr Barnard said that at this stage he would not be drawn

into anticipating specific proposals on any major items in the

Defence Budget.

"Let me summarise;" went on Mr Barnard. "The position

is that the Government has been reviewing the shape and size of our

forces, and their future needs."

"The outline of the Government's Defence thinking and

Defence Programme wi-li ha announced in the Budget, and will

subsequently be developed in detail by myself to the Parliament

during the Budget Session."

"I can say, however, that out overall objective is to

ensure that the total Australian defence force structure will consist

of well-equipped modern Services. We will achieve this with

economies which will make more effective use of resources and

which will not adversely affect our capability. The Government is

determined to ensure that the Services have adequate weapons systems,

and that these systems will be operated-by well paid, volunteer

Servicemen, properly housed and accommodated.