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Poor planning by the Defence Department has left us with the East Timor levy.



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MEDIA RELEASE

Senator Meg Lees

Leader of the Australian Democrats

3/12/1999 99/674

 

Poor Planning by the Defence Department has left us with the

East Timor Levy

 

The Australian Democrats have called on the Defence Department to fund from their internal b udget military aspects of the East Timor Operation as from next year.

 

Senator Meg Lees, Leader of the Australian Democrats said: “The Defence Department should be saving a fund from their $11 billion annual budget to cover peacekeeping operations such as East Timor.

 

“We think that Defence’s operating costs exceed the funding to the Department. Instead of properly restructuring and seriously cutting back on expenditure, as other Departments have been forced to do, the Defence Department has just allowed the situation to compound.

 

“The Defence Reform Program, which was supposed to address this issue, reduced the Army from 26106 in 1996 to 23000. Now the number is being increased again to 26000. This is obviously not a result of good planning.

 

“In addition, at the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Estimates hearing yesterday, the Acting Chief of the Army said that the Timor Operation was an unexpectedly large mission. Given that the ADF is supposed to be “structured for war and adapted for peace”, this operation should be well inside the planning program for the military.

 

“The Prime Minister in his statement said that the Army’s numbers needed increasing to maintain acceptable levels of overall defence readiness. The Democrats are having difficulty seeing what that readiness is for, if an important peacekeeping operation in our near region is beyond our current capabilities.” Said Senator Lees.

 

The Democrats believe that peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance should be seen as core activities for the ADF, particularly as the South East Asian region moves towards democracy. While the regional environment is less benign than in the past it is far less likely to threaten Australia with conventional warfare. The Democrats urge the Defence Department to recognise peacekeeping as a central role in their future planning.

 

For further information: Jane Errey on 0413 589 832

Australian Democrats www.democrats.org.au

 

att  1999-12-06  09:57