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Ammunition shortage: soldiers lives at risk.



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MEDIA RELEASE

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

Embargoed until 6am 19 March 2002

AMMUNITION SHORTAGE - SOLDIERS LIVES AT RISK

A leaked report from the Army identifies widespread shortages of ammunition, and highlights that as a result training has been undermined and lives put at risk.

“The Government has failed to give the Army the ammunition it needs to train properly, putting the lives of Australian soldiers at risk,” said Senator Chris Evans.

“These shortages are particularly critical for those soldiers currently serving overseas.

“The report specifically notes that Australian operational commanders are raising concerns about the safety of their troops.

“The report identifies the real risk of ‘fratricide’, the accidental killing of friendly soldiers, as a result of the shortages identified and resultant lapses in training.

“Australian soldiers have been denied access to ammunition, including grenades, which means they simply do not have the opportunity to practice in their use.

“The Government has failed to act despite repeated warnings about the shortage, which the report notes will continue into next year.

“The Minister for Defence should immediately explain why the Government has allowed this critical shortage to occur and commit to addressing it immediately, with troops scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan and East Timor.

“Robert Hill has conceded Australia will be increasingly involved in operations overseas but at the same time the we are failing to give our soldiers the training they need.

“The problem has remained hidden from the public because of the secrecy surrounding Defence funding.”

For comment: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Tim Friedrich 0438 983 908