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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3856

Senator JOHNSTON (2:50 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner. Defence analysts have roundly criticised the lack of funding accountability in both the defence white paper and the 2009-10 budget. ASPI’s highly regarded Dr Mark Thomson said:

As the first budget after a new Defence White Paper, there is a glaring absence of substantive information on funding, investment and reform.

The best that can be said is that the budget is consistent with a White Paper that’s silent on when anything will occur or what things will cost.

Minister, why were detailed costings of future procurements not presented in either the defence white paper or the 2009-10 budget, particularly in circumstances where the Chief of the Defence Force has indicated those procurements cost something between $245 billion and $275 billion?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —I thank Senator Johnston for his question. On Tuesday, 12 May, as part of the budget, the government delivered a new financial plan which will fully fund the 2009 Defence white paper. The government will spend approximately $308 billion over the next decade. Let me say this: the government’s new financial plan has two important elements. The first is a new funding model and the second is a comprehensive program of reform and savings.

Let me go to the first. The government’s new funding model for Defence will provide greater long-term funding certainty and will ensure that Defence has the funds it needs when it needs them. The foundation of the funding model is a new, stable indexation arrangement including the maintenance of the government’s commitment to three per cent real growth on average out to 2017-18, followed by a commitment of 2.2 per cent real growth on average for the life of the white paper.

Let me go now to the second element in relation to reform and savings. This program is planned to cut wasteful Defence spending. The strategic reform program, as well as other savings initiatives, will deliver around $20 billion— (Time expired)

Senator JOHNSTON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In the interests of transparency, accounting and guidance for Australia’s defence industry, when will the government publish the eight or nine companion reviews and the Pappas review that were necessary adjuncts to the Defence white paper?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —In relation to the companion reviews to the white paper, including the Pappas review, at this stage I have not had, in the few short days I have been Minister for Defence, an opportunity to read all those reviews in detail. I suspect, Mr President, that is not going to come as a very great shock to Senator Johnston. I of course, amongst a great deal of other reading material, am planning to read them at the earliest opportunity. When I do so, I will give consideration to what is appropriate to be released into the public arena and what is not. But I do not intend to make judgments on those matters in advance of my own personal, comprehensive examination of that— (Time expired)

Senator JOHNSTON —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. My final supplementary is: will you, as minister, give a commitment to publish a full 10-year, fully costed defence capability plan—as the coalition did on a biannual basis—and not a piecemeal four- or five-year defence capability plan which is of little use to anyone, particularly Australia’s capital intensive defence industry?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —The government is planning to deal with the issue of the Defence Capability Plan next week at the D and I conference in Adelaide. I will be making a wide-ranging statement at that time in relation to the Defence Capability Plan. At this stage, in advance of the conference, I have got no intention of saying any more on that issue. But I respectfully suggest to Senator Johnston that he will very interested in what I have got to say on this matter next week.