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The Defence capability plan with no costings.

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Senator Chris Evans Labor Senator for Western Australia Shadow Minister for Defence

7 November 2003


Labor is seriously concerned that the Defence Capability Review compromises major capabilities that were identified for the future Defence of Australia.

Robert Hill has attempted to dress up these cuts as a rebalancing of the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) in response to the threat of terrorism.

But the Review is as much a cost cutting response to the blow out in Defence finances as it is a plan.

The Howard Government has been unable to address the reported $12 billion dollar blow out in the Defence Capability Plan. Its solution has been to make major cuts to Australia’s long-term Defence equipment priorities.

Most of the new capabilities identified today were already in the existing DCP.

Today’s announcement will see the scrapping of many important Defence of Australia capabilities.

The RAAF’s F111 aircraft will be retired early, at least five years before the new Joint Strike Fighter replaces those planes.

The Navy will lose five ships, including two new, existing minehunters. These ships cost over $200 million each to build, meaning that at least $400 million has been wasted.

The decision to retire two of the FFG Frigates early will see naval capability diminished. These frigates played an active and critical role in recent deployments to the Gulf.

The Howard Government has spent over $800 million on a major upgrade project to the FFG fleet, and now much of that money has been wasted.

While a new mobile armoured capability may be desirable, the Minister has again failed to explain how heavy replacement tanks fit into Defence’s strategic priorities of defending Australia and promoting peace, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

The whole basis of the DCP was to provide a fully costed program of Defence equipment projects.

The Howard Government’s failure to provide any costings today means that the revised DCP may go the same way as the original DCP, and end up being unaffordable and undeliverable.

Labor is also concerned that the Minister has again failed to deliver a strategic vision for Defence to underpin the changes to the DCP that he has identified today.

For information: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Mathew Stephenson 0408 577 617