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AEW&C decision symptomatic of a minister with no strategic policy and no idea.



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AEW&C Decision Symptomatic Of A Minister With No Strategic Policy And No Idea Stephen Martin - Shadow Minister for Defence

Media Statement - 22 August 2000

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Shadow Minister for Defence, Stephen Martin, today criticised Defence Minister John Moore for the decision to defer the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) project and raised concerns as to whether this was the first step towards cancelling it altogether.

Dr Martin said the decision raises concerns as to whether this is the first step towards cancelling the project altogether.

"This decision is further proof that the Howard Government has lacked strategic guidance, policy and force structure discipline in the defence portfolio since it was elected, Dr Martin said.

"The acquisition of AEW&C capability was the basis of the decisions to upgrade the RAAF's FA18 Fighters rather than replace them earlier. The Government must accept that this decision to defer the project will result in Australia further having its air capability edge in the region eroded.

"Not to mention the $25 million spent on the initial tender process which now looks like going down the drain.

"This is highly embarrassing for Australia in light of the recent signing of the defence technology agreement with the US during Defense Secretary Cohen's visit.

"It also threatens the economic and employment benefits of such a large defence acquisition project, and compromises Australia's reputation with the US.

"Australia's former Ambassador, Andrew Peacock, was also directed by the Government to do everything he could to get the US State and Defense Departments to give full access to all the technology and code for the project to Australia. That access may now be compromised.

"The AEW&C aircraft are a critical capability and the project has been in the final stages of contract negotiations for the last few months.

"It is bad enough that the project is being deferred at all, but to be doing it at this late stage will result in an increase in the overall cost of the project if the Government does eventually proceed with it.

"With Defence policy at the forefront of current debate, and after having spent too many years drifting without a rudder, this is a time when Minister Moore should be confirming not deferring key acquisition and capability decisions.

"This is a result of the Howard Government not starting the White Paper process earlier, as Labor has been suggesting for many years.

"The Opposition has repeatedly called for a Defence White Paper to provide a framework for important acquisition and capability decisions since the Government was first elected in 1996 - and we're still waiting."

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.