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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5670

Mr ROBERT (6:01 PM) —The 2009 white paper says that reserves will be brought closer to the regular force. Can the minister explain what actions have already been undertaken to achieve this? One of the key areas that need to be discussed is: what future actions will be put forward to achieve this and when will the approved Reserve future force implementation plan be released? I know that Army has submitted its Rebalancing Army plan and its options to the government. The government has had it for over 12 months. It has said it is looking at the implementation plan for the Rebalancing Army and an integral part of that, says the government, is the approved Reserve future force. But the question is: why is it taking so long? The government has had options for 12 months. It knows what the options are to rebalance the Army. It knows what options Army has given it to find the 1,721 Army positions that are needed to notionally rebalance the Defence Force.

May I suggest, Minister, that one of the key problems is that the options may be unpalatable. Even though those options may be unpalatable, it is still worthy of you to let the community and, indeed, the reserve force know what the options are because, right now, over 20,000 reservists are thinking that you intend to pull out 400 ARA CATA staff—a reduction of 40 per cent—so you can use those positions to rebalance the Army. Right now, they believe you are looking at disbanding the Federation Guard, that you are looking at combining Pilbara and NORFORCE and that you are looking at converting a regular squadron of air defence down at Woodside to an Army Reserve squadron. Army Reserve units believe that you will be looking to close Army Reserve units. The government has given no indication that it will keep Army Reserve units going and active, and the units are looking for that commitment from the government.

The previous government put in place the High Readiness Reserve. In this government’s last budget—for the current year, 2009-10—it committed to a High Readiness Reserve of 1,360. Without any fanfare and without any discussion with the reserve community, the current budget has reduced that to 800 and then 900 through the forward estimates. The question is: why the change? Why the reduction in the High Readiness Reserve? You committed to six company-sized forces, with all the ancillary of the High Readiness Reserve, but the budget shows you are not prepared to fund it. Minister, the white paper says the reserves will be brought closer to the regular force. All of the actions, all of the rhetoric, all of the failure to release the reserve future force plans and to release what you are doing with rebalancing the Army—all of that is at odds with your stated aim that you will bring the reserves closer to the regular force.