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Wednesday, 9 October 1991
Page: 1566


Mr LINDSAY(5.01 p.m.) —-The speech just made by the honourable member for Mayo (Mr Downer) deserves a response but, according to the exigencies of this debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and particularly with regard to the Department of Defence, time does not permit it and I must confine my remarks to other areas.

I have often said in this House that the fundamental duty of any Federal Government is to provide for the security of Australian citizens, and this Budget discharges that obligation. The Australian defence forces are becoming more battle capable than ever before. The 1991-92 defence budget has been prepared against a decision by this Government to set defence planning guidance at zero percentage real growth over the 1992-95 Forward Estimates period. This financial year, the defence budget is $9,435m and it represents approximately 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product. This year's defence allocation represents an increase of $369m over 1990-91 or a 4.1 per cent increase but, after taking account of inflation, the defence allocation this year represents zero real growth over last year.

In the context of expenditure constraints in almost every area of Federal Government activity, the maintenance of the current level of defence outlays is evidence of this Government's ongoing commitment to sustain and improve the combat capability and effectiveness of the Australian Defence Force. Funding for capital equipment projects this financial year is over $607m. There are a number of items of particular importance which have received priority in this Budget. For example, new major capital equipment projects include Raven combat radios, wheeled armoured fighting vehicles and RF/F-111C simulator upgrading and replacement.

During exercise Kangaroo `89, one glaring deficiency identified was the poor state of field communications equipment in the Australian Army. It was found to be deficient to the extent that it would adversely affect the combat capability of fighting units. The Raven combat radio represents a huge increase in communications capabilities within the Australian Defence Force. The first 85 sets have been issued to 3rd Brigade, Australian Army, in Townsville. During the next 12 months, more than 3,000 radio sets will be issued on a regional and priority basis to units throughout the country. In addition, more than 3,500 VHF radio sets are expected to begin entering the service in mid-1993. They will be phased in over a two-year period.

The new Raven radio compares favourably with any other combat radio system in service worldwide. Raven radio is capable of handling a wide range of traffic, including voice; teletypewriter; low speed data, up to 300 bits per second; high speed data, up to 16,000 bits per second; and morse code. I am advised that increased survivability against enemy jamming is also an add-on feature of the new radios, which can be fitted with hopping units programmed to change frequency many times per second during transmission. This makes enemy interception of messages more difficult. Apart from having a communications range for HF radio sets in the hundreds of kilometres, the Raven radio has exceptional survivability, being able to operate in virtually any environment, even after undergoing water immersion and damage by electric shock. I congratulate the Australian Defence Force on its acquisition of the Raven radio. It will ensure that the Australian Defence Force will remain at the forefront of communications technology well into the next century.

Continuing capital equipment allocations include $657m for the Collins class submarines, $338m for the Anzac ships, $89m for the new FFG frigates Melbourne and Newcastle, $65m for the F111 avionics update, $52m for small arms and $28m for Harpoon missiles. Apart from the items I have just mentioned, many other important projects will receive funding under the continuing capital equipment program.

The Budget also includes a substantial allocation for new capital facilities. For example, in my own electorate of Herbert over $1.3m is allocated to complete a clothing and dangerous goods store. This sum is a follow-on to more than $28m expended last year on capital defence works in Townsville. The number of permanent Defence Force personnel funded under this Budget is 67,664. This is in line with the force structure review policy announced by the Government earlier this year. The reserve forces have been funded to a target strength of 29,017, and the funded strength target for the first year of the new Ready Reserve is 1,298.

The decision by the Government to maintain in real terms the level of expenditure for housing compared with last year's allocation is especially welcome. The provision of housing for defence personnel is one of the essential conditions of service for members of the Australian Defence Force. The Government is to be congratulated on its continuing commitment to improve the quantity and quality of defence housing and assistance. Honourable members will also be pleased to learn that about 87 per cent of total defence expenditure this financial year will be spent in Australia. This can only encourage local contractors and has the added benefit of increasing Australia's self-reliance.

I congratulate the Hawke Government and the Australian Defence Force on their continued commitment to the Kangaroo series of defence exercises. From March to April next year, more than 12,000 defence personnel from all three Australian services and the United States will take part in Kangaroo 1992. The exercise will be held across the Top End of Australia and it is designed to test the overall capability of the Australian Defence Force to defeat small scale raids. Many honourable members attended Kangaroo 89 which was the largest peacetime defence exercise ever held in Australia. Exercise Kangaroo 92 is about half the size of exercise Kangaroo 89. Whereas Kangaroo 89 involved brigades of more than 3,000 troops in various exercises across the Northern Territory, Cape York Peninsula and north-western Australia, Kangaroo 92 will involve units at company level and, on rare occasions, at battalion level.

Nevertheless, Kangaroo 92 is designed to provide realistic training for members of the Australian Defence Force in dealing with opponents operating in small units. Not only will next year's exercise test the tactical skill of units, but it will also challenge the formidable logistic demands of units operating in a vast area with little civilian infrastructure. I hope that honourable members of this House will avail themselves of the opportunity to visit units in the field during exercise Kangaroo 92.

In this speech I have dealt with some of the highlights of the budgetary allocations for defence this year. Nevertheless, I take this opportunity to voice my concerns about the number of recent media reports concerning attempts by Australia to set up new regional security arrangements. I believe that Australia should be very cautious in exploring the opportunity to develop bilateral or multilateral security arrangements between Australia and the countries of South East Asia. Notwithstanding the reservations sometimes expressed about the effectiveness of the ANZUS Treaty, the indisputable fact is that the ANZUS Treaty guarantees the national sovereignty of Australia. For that commitment by the people of the United States, Australia has an important responsibility to fulfil its obligations under the treaty and, accordingly, Australia should not do anything to compromise in the slightest degree its ability to fulfil its ANZUS responsibilities.

I have grounds for suspecting that a number of South East Asian countries would prefer Australia to withdraw from the ANZUS Treaty. Their motives remain a mystery to me because the ANZUS Treaty is a defence treaty designed to resist aggression. Together with the ANZUS Treaty, Australia's membership of the five power defence arrangement has helped maintain regional security for 20 years. Whilst I support Australian officials having discussions with their counterparts in South East Asian countries on cooperative arrangements with respect to air and sea surveillance, intelligence exchanges and training exercises, to date there has not been one valid reason put forward why Australia should enter into any fresh bilateral or multilateral security pacts with the nations of South East Asia.

It seems that Australia has yet to develop its vision as a regional South Pacific power within the so-called new world order. I suggest that this vision must be articulated on the foundations of the ANZUS Treaty. We must never allow ourselves to be lulled into believing that the so-called attractions of regional security cooperation outweigh the inestimable benefits of the ANZUS Treaty. (Time expired)