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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1577

Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (11:04): Like others who have spoken before me, I rise to support the Defence Force motion moved by the member for Ryan, Mrs Jane Prentice, and to congratulate our government on Defence Force Retirement Benefits and, particularly, Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits pensions. It is unfortunate that the member for Bruce has already left the chamber. I have known him for probably longer than anyone else in this parliament, through strange circumstances. It is good to see him defending the Defence Force, but it is a little strange that he left out what happened during the six years of the previous government in terms of support for that same Defence Force and its role, so much so that it causes me to have to draw the House's attention to Labor's record, because that is what we have, in a sense, the unenviable but responsible job of correcting.

The previous government, the now members of the opposition, spent a lot of time promoting their responsibility for and outstanding treatment of our Defence Force. But, unfortunately, it was nearly all talk and, certainly, it was a fabrication. They showed a total disregard for Australia's national security and the thousands of people involved in delivering that. Time after time, they failed to deliver on their promises; they reneged on funding announcements and agreements; they cancelled, changed, downgraded vital equipment purchases—and I will come back to that and the consequences that can have not just for our security as a nation but as a trading nation; and they had countless policies that led to thousands of job losses. But possibly the biggest untruth from Labor came when they reduced the defence budget to its lowest level as a percentage of GDP since 1938. That is a heck of a long time ago. It is nearly 80 years.

Does that sound like a government that has considered the best interests of the Defence Force and Australia's security and all that they involve? Of course it does not. If we learnt anything from the Rudd-Gillard government it is that that government could not be trusted and that Labor could not and still cannot be trusted. Unlike the opposition, we can show the proof of that. For example, in 2010, Labor under Prime Minister Gillard declared they would continue to provide budget certainty for defence. They promised to honour the defence funding commitment. Unfortunately, what they did, as I said earlier, was reduce the defence budget as a percentage of GDP to its lowest level since 1938.

That is what happens when a government gets itself and the nation into so much trouble by promising a budget that will show surplus, which it did not. The one thing a nation elects a government to do is look after its defence and security. Those opposite ignored that in order to try to keep to their commitment that they were going to show a budget surplus. They let Australia's security go down the gurgler because of that. What they actually did was deliver was a disjointed and unfunded disaster. They did things like cancel the purchase of new self-propelled artillery from Korea because they were trying to get the budget in surplus, or not to make the deficit as bad as it was. In doing that, they so upset the Korean government that it would not negotiate with Australia on a trade deal, which badly hurt our beef industry, amongst others. I am not talking about beef just because I am a farmer. What an example! They left us hanging in the air under America because they simply could not deliver. (Time expired)