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Airborne early warning and control project.

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

5 March 2004


Labor notes that the Minister for Defence today opened new headquarters for Australia’s airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.

Labor strongly supports this project, worth $3.3 billion, which will provide Defence with enhanced surveillance and control capabilities.

But Labor is seriously concerned that the Howard Government still has not decided whether it will take up a contract option which would enable Australia to gain a 50% increase in capability for a 7% increase in price.

Under the terms of the project contract, Defence will acquire four AEW&C aircraft. However, there is an option to buy two more planes for an extra $US180 million ($A230 million).

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has described this option as ‘a bargain by any measure’.

It is inexplicable that the Government still has not made a decision about what is a vital strategic choice for Australia’s future Defence.

The capability provided by six AEW&C aircraft would be a significant addition to Australia’s efforts against terrorism.

Labor calls on Robert Hill to make it clear once and for all whether the option to acquire extra AEW&C aircraft will be taken up.

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