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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6447

Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (4:42 PM) —I thank the member for Blair for his questions. I am very pleased to comment on the relationship of this government with the United States and the future of the US alliance. As many know, I have served in many operations with the Australian Army in my 20-year career. On many of those occasions I was shoulder to shoulder with my United States brothers and sisters. It was a privilege to serve with the United States Marines in Somalia and it was a privilege to serve when I was actually embedded in US organisations in my year in Iraq in particular. I pay tribute to the sacrifices and efforts of my brothers and sisters in the United States armed forces. There are many great friends and colleagues that are no longer with us, and I would like to pay tribute to their particular memory on this occasion.

It certainly is a central pillar of this government’s security policy going forward that the United States alliance will remain central to that policy. We are now seeing great possibilities in the changes of approach by the current US administration which will enhance that relationship and the effectiveness of our mutual strategic and security policies. From a practical point of view, the Defence Force works very closely with our US colleagues on very many levels. There are constant exchanges in not only what are known as the AUSMIN talks but also at every level throughout the Defence organisation. There are constant exchanges and dealings, exchange postings and, of course, there is the standardisation of a lot of our procedures through the ABCA—America, Britain, Canada and Australia—program. The exchanges also relate to the way we engage in procurement. When we do our procurement processes, and in the analysis that we entered into in the white paper, we had an eye to the interoperability aspects of that procurement process and how we would mesh in future circumstances or even current operations and engagements with our US allies.

I will be delighted to attend on Friday evening the celebration of the 234th birthday of the United States Army. We intend to continue the depth and the quality of that relationship. That relationship goes beyond any one Australian or US administration; it is based and founded in mutual and deeply held values and beliefs that will not be shaken. We have served shoulder to shoulder throughout history—that includes me and many other Australians as well as many of our forebears. In relation to the regional focus, you have highlighted a key challenge that we face in helping maintain stabilisation in the region. The white paper focused on this as an aspect of the demands on the Defence Force.

It was a great pleasure of mine to introduce and establish the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence in Queanbeyan, which will be focused in particular on how we can mesh all the activities and capabilities of all the agencies of the Australian government and, indeed, Australia as a whole, to achieve greater stability within the region. That centre has been doing effective work. It is up and running and engaging very well within the Asia-Pacific region. We understand that there is a very important role for us to play in maintaining stability in the region, from all sorts of mutual interest points of view. We are investing a great deal of effort in that respect.

Regarding future funding, I have outlined the new funding model that we intend to use to deliver not only the $20 billion in savings but also the $104 billion across the estimates and $318 billion across the decade. In relation to the specific areas of savings, perhaps I can highlight those. Those relate to what we call smart maintenance. We think we can achieve a large degree of savings there, through non-equipment procurement areas and workforce areas—in particular, through cutting back on the use of consultants, which is a point of contention I am glad to see we are resolving. Information and communication technology is another area where a great deal of savings is to be made in relation to inventory and logistics management in general and in many other areas that have been identified in Defence.

The leadership in Defence and the government are confident that those savings will be delivered. We will remain closely engaged with the strategic reform program, and there will be dedicated focus on that within the portfolio offices to make sure that those savings are delivered. In relation to Amberley, I have to say that it has a secure future. We are relocating many assets to Amberley. We mentioned 9th Force Support Battalion, and I had the privilege to be at the opening of Vung Tau Lines. In relation to the relocation of the 21st Construction Squadron and certainly— (Time expired)