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Monday, 17 June 1996
Page: 1674

(Question No. 64)

Senator Margetts asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 13 May 1996:

(1)(a) Can the department confirm the report in the Mercury , dated 15 April 1996, `State of the art weapons on defence shopping list', in which it was stated that: (a) attack helicopters and spy satellites will be part of a multi-million dollar buying spree plan by the Australian Army; (b) the `Army 21' blueprint for the next 15 years recommends the purchase of a spy satellite such as a Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite; and (c) the LEO satellite would operate in conjunction with the proposed airborne early warning aircraft.

(2) Is the department examining the possibility of purchasing Attack helicopters with missile capability such as the Apache used in the United States during the Gulf War; if so, why.

(3)(a) What would be the approximate cost of purchasing up to 50 Attack helicopters; (b) would any modification be needed for Australian conditions; and (c) what would be the additional costs for this.

(4)(a) What is the approximate cost of implementing the `Army 21' proposals; and (b) what increase in the Defence Budget is being asked for.

(5) Will the Government stick to its proposed cuts of $125 million from Defence given the foreshadowed increase in spending from the `Army 21' blueprint; if not, why not.

Senator Newman —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a)(b) & (c) The Army 21 report has not been considered by the Government. Recommendations on Army 21, including capability and resource options, have yet to be addressed through the Defence planning process.

(2)&(3) The need for and cost of purchasing helicopters suitable for Australian operations cannot be determined until all options for meeting the ADF needs for reconnaissance, battlefield fire support, mobility and utility tasks have been considered.

(4) See (1) above.

(5) The Government will be implementing its proposal as set out in our policy `Defending Australia' to redistribute resources within Defence from efficiencies within administration. These transfers will be redirected to higher priority Defence activities including the enhancement of combat capabilities of the ADF.