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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4454

Senator MARK BISHOP (3:10 PM) —This government has a number of clear and major successes on the table resulting from its hard work over the last 18 months, since it was elected in late 2007. In no particular order I refer to pension fairness, economic management, successive stimulus packages and education grants. There is work in progress going on in critical areas that were deliberately ignored by the previous government in the area of broadband and climate change. Those matters are all well known, and they are all on the public record and open to public discussion and debate. One area where this government can claim a great deal of credit—and it really is unsung—is its attention to the area of national security, defence and military procurement. In those areas, generally under the heading of ‘national security’, this government has gone quietly and effectively under a range of ministers and parliamentary secretaries to reform the dog’s breakfast that had been created and sustained by the previous government over a period of some 10 or 12 years.

Senator Johnston referred to matters relating to national security and pinpricked one or two matters that have been in the press in more recent times. What he did not address, what he did not discuss, was this government’s commitment to military spending, to defence reform, and the publication of the defence white paper some two months ago to almost unanimous approval amongst those people who take part in debates around defence, national security and military matters.

Senator Johnston referred to national security and some minor cuts in defence outlays, border protection and immigration. What are the facts that need to go on the record on Australia’s national security and the protection of Australia’s borders? What does this government say, what funds does it allocate and what are its areas of priority in protecting and advancing Australia’s national security and protecting our borders? Firstly, we say without equivocation that protecting Australia’s national security and the integrity of our borders is the highest responsibility of the national government, without exception. Even in a global recession the government have continued to invest in protecting our borders and strengthening our national security. As the Prime Minister said in his national security statement to the House of Representatives last year, the Rudd government have a long-term national security reform agenda and have been clear in our national security policy framework now and into the future.

What are those elements of our national security plan and national security policy framework? They go to defence matters, particularly the white paper, and remedying the huge problems we have in procurement. We were paying tens and tens of millions of dollars for items one after another that were delivered late, not on time or without the capability that government had contracted for and expected. Secondly, in the area of defence reform, we have paid an enormous amount of attention to remedying the black hole of people choosing not to join the armed forces. In Army and in Air Force, particularly, recruitment and retention rates have gone through the ceiling and we are hitting all of our targets. Navy is significantly improving as well. In the area of national security and border protection, the government provided more than $1.3 billion over six years for non-defence national security, border protection and anti-people-smuggling measures in the 2009-10 budget. This included—listen to it—$654 million for a whole-of-government strategy to combat people-smuggling and strengthen border security, the precise matters that Senator Johnston criticised. (Time expired)