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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17058

Mr HAWKER (3:19 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Can the minister inform the House what the government is doing to enhance and modernise Australian Defence Force reserves?

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —I thank the honourable member for Wannon for his question. I also thank him for his commitment to our Defence Force reserves and for his active involvement as chairman of the subcommittee in the last parliament. This is a great news story. Since 1996 the coalition government have fundamentally changed the role of our Defence Force reserves. We have made them more valuable, more modern and a relevant asset to our Australian Defence Force capability. In the first term, we introduced the common induction training for our Army reservists and our regulars alike. This was to ensure a similar standard of basic training, thereby improving the capability of our reservists. Since the 2000 Defence white paper, the reserves have played a key role in supporting and sustaining the ADF's military capability, especially in our operations in East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bougainville and other parts of the world. For example, I am sure the members opposite would be interested to know that 1,000 of our ADF reservists actually served for us in East Timor—the reserve unit from the 5/7 Battalion group. This was the first time we have deployed such a reservist unit on operations since World War II, and they have done an excellent job. The good news continues. We have also supported the employers of reservists. In two years since the introduction of the employers support payment scheme over $19 million has been paid to over 1,700 employers of reservists to compensate them for the loss of the service of their reservists when they are on active Defence duty.

We have already delivered on our election commitments to introduce the high readiness reserves, the first establishment of which will be raised by the Army on 1 July—the reserve response force. These forces will be trained to complement existing ADF elements, conducting short-notice responses to domestic security incidents. This is a significant milestone in the enhancement of our ADF. This modernisation of our reserves has also encouraged many more Australians to participate in our reserve forces. I am pleased to advise the House that our Army reservist enlistments have increased over 60 per cent in the past three years. This government has made our ADF reserves an integral part of our Defence Force's operational capability. There has never been a better time for any Australian to be part of our Australian Defence Force reserves.

The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler is warned!