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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4863

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (3:12 PM) —It is very hard to see the point of this motion to take note. Certainly, the arguments were not set out by Senator Evans. We face some of the biggest challenges in defence in our postwar history and certainly since the Vietnam War. I might say that in my role as Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee I found Dr Hawke to be a very competent and capable public servant. But he has been in the job for three years, and over those three years he continued to face probably one of the biggest jobs in Australia. Defence is one the biggest land-holders in the nation and it is one of the biggest purchasers in the nation. It is one of biggest businesses in the country. I think that Dr Hawke did the job well. But three years is a long time and contracts are contracts, and he chose, for the reasons that the minister has explained, not to continue.

Defence needs all the support that it can get because it faces enormous challenges. It faces the challenges of the white paper, the capability plan and the annual review by the CDF. It is also challenged by a very substantial procurement program. In its commitment in its operational capacity at this time we have the considerable challenges of the war against terror. We have vessels in the Persian Gulf in the food for oil program, we have a company of the SAS in Afghanistan and we have aircraft in Kyrgyzstan. That is all in addition to the commitment that we have in what might still be regarded as our arc of instability in the Pacific and East Timor. At this time we still have 1,200 troops in East Timor doing the very important job that the UN has set us in that particular and ongoing responsibility. We also have peacekeeping operations around the world with a number of troops involved—small in number perhaps but still important—and we still have our commitment in Bougainville.

The Department of Defence is an enormous organisation. It takes a considerable amount of energy and expertise. We have good people involved and we need to have the very best advice that government can get. I commend Dr Hawke on the role that he played, but it is now time to move on.