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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7539

Senator LUDWIG (Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (2:33 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill, the Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm that over the last four years the budget for consultants and professional services in Defence has blown out from $84 million to $280 million? How can the government justify spending $280 million in 2001-02 on consultants and professional services? Doesn't this represent 30 per cent of the total civilian salary bill? How many of these people are in fact ex-Defence employees who were made redundant a few years ago and are now employed doing the same work at a far greater cost to the taxpayer?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Consultants are of course listed in the annual report, and the honourable senator is able to look at the detail of who is being given the consultancies. If he wanted to ask about any specific consultancy, the appropriate place would obviously be the estimates committee. In relation to an overall increase, I do not think that that is surprising in view of the sophistication of the platforms that are being acquired under the present acquisition program and the desire to make the best decisions according to the technical knowledge that is necessary. I looked at the consultants and I have to say I was pleased that Defence was down the list in terms of consultancies across government departments as a whole. I suspected that it may even have been higher than it was in view of the task that has to be done. Therefore, in summary, the honourable senator can get the information from the annual report, he can ask specific questions in relation to any particular consultancy and he can satisfy himself that taxpayers' money is being well spent.

Senator LUDWIG —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, how is it that the government can find $280 million to spend on consultants and professional services in Defence but it will not spend enough on ammunition to allow troops to train properly?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —You have to wonder, if the ADF does not have bullets, how well it is doing in the field. Its operational record is outstanding. When these questions were asked some time ago, I thought we had put the honourable senator's mind to rest that in fact the ADF is provided with the resources in terms of munitions that are necessary for training, for operations and for war stocks that are kept for the events that we hope will never occur.