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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 153

Defence Personnel

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (14:43): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Defence. What effects did the previous government's defence budget cuts have on ADF personnel in my electorate of Solomon, and what is the coalition's plan for delivering a strong Australian Defence Force?

Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (14:44): I thank the member for Solomon for her question. I acknowledge that she, like so many members on our side, actually understands that a strong Defence Force is built on the shoulders of the strong men and women who serve. With personnel outlays being 40 per cent of the defence budget, the previous Labor government cuts have had an egregious impact on the personnel in the member's electorate.

It is not just us saying this. Last night the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dennis Richardson, said, when talking about Labor's severe cuts to the defence budget, that they had led not only to a moving of the goalposts but to their cutting down and being used as firewood. The secretary's comments, of course, show what we on this side have known for a long time and what this mob have denied for about five years: that the cumulative cuts of $25 billion that Labor hatcheted out of the Defence budget have had a disproportionate impact on the personnel, not only in the member's electorate but in electorates right across the country.

It was this mob that reduced Defence expenditure as a proportion of GDP to the lowest levels since 1938. The 1938 levels are what they have left our country's Defence budget at, and the impact is considerable. Keep in mind that it was that Labor government that callously tried to cut the entitlement for return travel for members to go home for Christmas. We blocked that, we stopped that, and 1,500 single members of the member for Solomon's electorate will get to go home this Christmas because of the changes we wrought against what that government did.

Keep in mind it was that Labor government that promised, for six years, to have free ADF health care and only delivered a trial. I say to the member for Solomon: in 48 days we will actually start free ADF health care. In 48 days 3,200 spouses and dependent children from the member for Solomon's electorate will have all out-of-pocket costs for GPs and up to $400 per individual for allied costs covered. In 48 days we will implement that.

It was that Labor government over there that decided to cut the ADF gap year. It was a gap year that included 40 per cent of women coming through. We will put it back. We will restore the budget integrity for Defence. We will get it back to two per cent of GDP in the next 10 years. We will ensure there are no cuts. There is one side of this House that understands Defence men and women. It is this side and it is this government.