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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 688

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (12:33): As someone who represents a defence community in this place, the Holsworthy Army Barracks and the School of Military Engineering, I am very pleased to second this motion moved by my colleague and my neighbour along the Georges River, the member for Banks. Defence is just another sorry mess that we have inherited from the previous Labor-Greens government. The member for Banks raised a very good point when he highlighted the fact that defence funding was simply used as a personal ATM by the former government—stripping defence funding to its lowest levels of GDP since 1938. May peace be in our time. It is a sad indictment of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments that they saw the men and women on the frontlines of Australia's security as an easy target to rip cash out of so that they could pay for their roof batts, their school halls and many other examples of horrendous and wasteful expenditure that we saw through those six embarrassing years.

Let us start with the facts. The former Labor government cut defence spending by five per cent in the 2010-11 financial year. The following year, 2012, it made a further 10.5 per cent cut. This is something unprecedented in the past 50 years. In fact, we have to go back to the end of the Korean War to find a time that a government of this country cut Defence spending as the previous Labor government did. The background to this is that in its 2009 white paper Labor promised, going into the 2010 election, to increase Defence spending by three per cent annually every year on to 2017-18. That was the commitment; that was the promise; that is what our Defence Forces were told—a three per cent annual increase. But what did we see? We saw five per cent ripped out in the first year and 10.5 per cent ripped out the following year.

It is interesting to see what our nearest neighbours were doing at that time. They were doing the exact opposite to the previous Labor government. While Labor was taking the axe to Defence spending, our northern neighbours were increasing their defence spending significantly. One thing that I find most difficult to comprehend is that, while Labor was cutting our Defence spending to the lowest level since 1938, at the very same time they gave away $416.4 million to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in foreign aid. That is all very nice—our foreign aid budget is important—but last year, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam reportedly purchased 12 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter aircraft from Russia for $450 million. Let's not forget that those 12 advanced Sukhoi fighter aircraft will add to the 20 the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have purchased since 2009. And that is on top of Vietnam's recent purchases from Russia of six new Kilo Class submarines, costing approximately $3 billion, and four new Russian built Stealth Frigates, costing $350 million each.

As I have said, I am a supporter of foreign aid, but when rash cuts were made and reduced the Defence budget to the lowest levels of GDP since 1938 and when the Labor government was hopelessly in debt should we really have been sending $416 million to a country that at the same time could afford to buy expensive and highly sophisticated military weaponry? Do they really need Australian taxpayers to pay for their roads and bridges, when we have to borrow that money? In reality we are borrowing money from China for our foreign aid. We cannot afford it—we are in debt—and then we give the money to countries like Vietnam, which frees up their budget so that they can afford to buy advanced Russian fighter jets. I have some great concerns about this policy. Defence is very important, and the coalition has made a commitment. The difference between the coalition and Labor is that when we make a commitment, we will stick to it.(Time expired)