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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6443

Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (4:26 PM) —I thank the honourable member for his questions; I acknowledge his support over the years for our defence personnel, his keen interest in security and defence matters and his relationship with our personnel and their bases in Townsville. Firstly, turning to the air aspect and issues relating to bases at Amberley, Edinburgh and other places within Australia where there is the issue of sharing facilities with civil aviation, it is the priority of Defence that our operational requirements and needs take priority. Sometimes there is an interest and a possibility to balance those needs with civil aviation, as we do, for example, in Williamtown, which is a combined military-civil terminal. But we have, as the member for Paterson knows, worked out arrangements in Williamtown over the years that meet the needs of both requirements. But the overriding necessity, concern and determinant for decisions will be the operational requirements of the ADF. We have a generation of new airframes coming forward now. We will be working out the balance across the nation in terms of where they are based and how they are supported. All of our decisions will be put in the context of the support of those new airframes.

In relation to the estate criteria, I can tell the member that we settled on five strategic principles to determine the future of the defence estate. We are actually running up against some critical decisions in some respects because of the underinvestment in infrastructure over the years. Those five strategic principles are clear. Firstly, we intend to align our defence estate with a strategic posture in relation to supporting our national operations and prudent posturing for contingencies. The second principle relates to aligning the defence estate in relation to structural and functional commands, the joint and single service unit structures, for a more efficient alignment of our personnel, our units and our organisation and perhaps relating to a greater concentration of those to support other issues. Thirdly, we wish to align the estate to better relate to our infrastructure and defence industry support to achieve efficiencies and synergies in that respect. The fourth strategic principle, which is very important and features on my agenda, is that the estate should also complement defence family issues. That is, it should be focused on delivering family friendly outcomes to our personnel to aid in recruitment and retention. The final strategic principle is that the defence estate should support a regional base for encouraging and retaining our reserve personnel, which is a matter very important to me. I am in fact continuing as a reservist myself. The reserve capability will only increase in importance as we go forward, so part of the posturing of our defence estate will relate to that.

The issue we face with crewing submarines is a very important and challenging issue, as is the maintenance of those submarines. It is correct that we intend to drive forward to acquire 12 submarines, which will obviously be a high-end capability and will require a creative approach to crewing. That is very well understood. The current Chief of Navy is pursuing creative new solutions for crewing submarines which relate not only to pay and conditions but also to the lifestyle of submariners, which is a key issue—ensuring they are not overloaded and overstressed and that there are sufficient numbers associated with the crewing of a vessel to ensure that it can remain operational at all times.

In relation to the capability that $245 billion will deliver for us, I think that is well spelled out. You can see in the white paper material and subsequent discussion what will be delivered. That is across the range of our three services in terms of greater firepower and integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the Army, more protective vehicles, investment in supporting and protecting our personnel in all of the naval capabilities that we have outlined, and in the superb airframes that we will be acquiring in relation to surveillance, in relation to AWACS, in relation to the fighter capability support for our troops and in air transport and airlift. It is all laid out there in some detail.