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Senate Estimates Committee hears about missing military equipment.



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AM

 

Wednesday 25 May 2005

Senate Estimates Committee hears about missing military equipment

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Opposition has used Senate Estimates to embarrass the Def ence Minister over billions of dollars of missing military equipment. 

 

Labor questioned staff from the Auditor-General's office over their finding that some sensitive military equipment as well as trucks, ambulances and guns could not be accounted for. 

 

Then there was a question about missing tanks, which led to salvos from Senator Nick Sherry, and return fire from the Defence Minister Robert Hill, who said the problems were already well-known. 

 

Louise Yaxley reports. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Ian Goodwin from the Auditor-General's office told the Senate Estimates Committee billions of dollars worth of military equipment couldn't be found. 

 

IAN GOODWIN: The following (inaudible) line items general stores inventory for $2 billion; explosive ordnance inventory for $845 million; repairable items, which is a component of specialist military equipment for $2.8 billion; military provisions, which is the entitlements for military personnel, for $1.2 billion; land and buildings for $1.4 billion. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Warren Cochrane from the audit office gave some options on the whereabouts of the defence equipment. 

 

WARREN COCHRANE: These pieces of equipment couldn't be found during the stocktake. Whether they're there somewhere, or defence has lost them or misplaced them or sent them off from the unit without accounting for them, we don't know. And neither does defence. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Goodwin was reluctant to detail all the material that was covered in his audit. 

 

IAN GOODWIN: There are other items of military equipment that I'm not sure that it would be appropriate to go through and publicly say what they are in this forum, and probably deal with them in writing. 

 

NICK SHERRY: Why not? We're not talking about nuclear weapons here obviously? 

 

IAN GOODWIN: We're talking about sensitive and regulated items. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: But Labor Senator, Nick Sherry, pressed the auditors about exactly what was missing. 

 

NICK SHERRY: Trucks? Trucks are a pretty major item not to know where it is. 

 

ROBERT HILL: That's just being stupid. 

 

NICK SHERRY: No, it's not, it's a very serious matter. What about tanks? Were there any missing tanks? I understand there were.  

 

ROBERT HILL: Is this just designed to fill in the night is it, with a lot of nonsense? 

 

NICK SHERRY: Well, you might think it's nonsense. Missing tanks, that's part of the problem. 

 

ROBERT HILL: There are no missing tanks. 

 

NICK SHERRY: I'm asking the officer. 

 

ROBERT HILL: Next thing you'll say ships and aircraft… 

 

NICK SHERRY: My understanding is that there were tanks that couldn't be identified as to where they were. Is that correct? 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Warren Cochrane from the audit office moved to explain. 

 

WARREN COCHRANE: Yes, there are missing items of specialised military equipment. I'm not saying tanks or identifying any particular piece of equipment, all we're saying collectively, because we couldn't find clothing, trucks, ambulances and SME that we couldn't actually verify the total balance for the purposes of the accounting records. 

 

NICK SHERRY: SME, what's SME? 

 

WARREN COCHRANE: Specialised Military Equipment. 

 

NICK SHERRY: Does that include guns, grenades? 

 

WARREN COCHRANE: All those sorts of things, yes. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Senator Hill told the committee there are too few tanks for one to be stolen. 

 

ROBERT HILL: I can promise you there's no tank been stolen. 

 

NICK SHERRY: No I didn't just ask about tanks, I asked about ambulances, trucks… 

 

ROBERT HILL: We haven't got enough to get stolen for starters… 

 

NICK SHERRY: …all the items, guarantee it. 

 

ROBERT HILL: We've only got a handful (laughs). 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Senator Hill protested that the result of the Defence audit was already well known and that Labor was simply using the estimates process to raise an embarrassing issue again. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Louise Yaxley reporting.