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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1568


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (10:29): I move:

That this House:

(1) congratulates the Government on honouring its election commitment to change indexation arrangements for Defence Forces Retirement Benefits and Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits military pensions;

(2) condemns the $17 billion in cuts made to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under the former Labor Government to its lowest level since before World War II;

(3) recognises:

(a) that those budget cuts caused job losses among the 3000 small and medium businesses which service the ADF; and

(b) the extra risk placed on Australian service personnel by Labor's failure to purchase new artillery;

(4) condemns the cuts by the former Labor Government to entitlements of unmarried soldiers for flights to see their families;

(5) recognises the depletion in force readiness caused by Labor's reckless decision to cut reserve training days by up to 30 percent; and

(6) repudiates the decision to cut funding to the Australian War Memorial.

Madam Speaker, the liberties we enjoy in this country come at a cost. They were fought for and defended by thousands of Australians, many of whom laid down their lives in service of their country. We on this side of the House recognise that those of us who enjoy these hard-won freedoms have a debt we can never repay in full. But that does not mean we should not try.

As I have noted previously in this place, my electorate of Ryan is home to the second largest military base in Australia, Gallipoli Barracks, home of the 7th Brigade. I am proud to be able to serve the brave men and women of that base. It was gratifying that the Prime Minister acknowledged my representations on their behalf during the latest pay negotiations. I am also proud to have strongly advocated for certain leave entitlements to be retained in the latest ADF pay deal. At any time our defence forces could be called into action and they need to know that we at home support them.

The challenges to the defence budget are firmly sheeted home to Labor and the Greens. They took defence spending in Australia to its lowest level since before the Second World War. They tore a multi-billion-dollar hole in the heart of the defence budget—enough to actually build Australia's next generation of submarines that they kept promising but never delivered. Did they spare a thought for the flow-on effect those cuts would have on the 3,000 small and medium Australian businesses directly affected? Of course not. These cuts cost people their jobs and sent businesses to the wall. They even banned the ADF from using local businesses for basic support such as vehicle repair, forcing them to send vehicles to the other side of the country. So they were slashing the budget on one hand and wasting money on the other.

As part of the billions of dollars worth of cuts came other reckless decisions which directly endangered the lives of our military forces. They cancelled the planned purchase of new, modern self-propelled artillery for our Defence Force, lessening the force capability of the Australian Defence Force. Self-propelled artillery is longer range, has a higher ratio of fire, can manoeuvre into a firing position, is faster and is crewed by fewer personnel than 'towed' artillery currently in use. What did Labor do? They cancelled it.

Labor's shambolic approach to the Defence Capability Plan, including program cuts and delays, was a recipe for disaster that would leave our troops without the equipment they need—when they most needed it. Our armed forces are some of the best trained forces in the world, yet Labor cut the number of training days to our reserves by 30 per cent. Our training regime means that we experience fewer deaths in conflicts which have claimed more lives in other countries' militaries. Training is also what makes Australian armed forces respected the world over. It is incomprehensible to me that a government would cut back on training. Yet Labor did just that.

Not only did Labor wilfully lower Australia's force readiness and capability but also it cut funding in real terms to the Australian War Memorial by not increasing their funding for the entire term of their government. That is the contempt they have shown to the place where we honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Their contempt for serving personnel was not just limited to cuts in force readiness and capability but to morale as well. The Gillard government cut the entitlement of single personnel to have flights to see their families at Christmas. That cut affected 22,000 serving men and women. Fortunately, the coalition, and particularly the member for Fadden, working with the crossbenches, successfully forced Labor to withdraw this mean-spirited act.

The Abbott government has honoured its commitment to change the indexation arrangements for DFRB and DFRDB military pensions. Labor promised but never delivered. I will always fight for the rights of our Defence Force personnel to have the best possible equipment, training, pay and conditions, as I did in the last round of pay negotiations. If those opposite want to join me in providing those things for the people who defend us, I urge them to pass the government's budget measures. My support for our Australian Defence Force is unwavering. I commend this motion to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded.

Mr Vasta: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.