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Press conference: Parliament House: Friday 7 November 2003: Defence Capability Review.



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TRANSCRIPT SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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PRESS CONFERENCE

Committee Room 2S3, Parliament House

1:45pm, Friday 7 November 2003

E&oe__________________________________________________________Defence

Capability Review, topic, topic

Senator Robert Hill

Thanks for coming along. As you know the Government has for some time been conducting a Defence Capability Review. This was a follow on from the strategic update that we concluded earlier this year. In that process we recognised that whilst the fundamentals of the White Paper in relation to its strategic assessment remain sound, we also now needed to factor in important developments of the last few years, in particular global terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and some deteriorating circumstances within our own region. We also needed to factor in the experiences of high operational tempo of recent time. And also now being some three years on from the White Paper and the Defence Capability Plan that was attached to it, more mature costings in relation to some projects, particularly projects that were some years out. We therefore said that we would do a review of the DCP and we hoped to have that concluded in October. That process has been a thorough examination. It’s still not quite complete but nevertheless Government has taken a number of decisions this week. And in view of a certain amount of speculation and also interest to industry in particular, we thought we should announce the decisions that Government has made and that’s the purpose for which this press conference was called. I’m pleased to be joined by a mass of talent here in the Secretary of the Department, the Chief of the Defence Force, the Vice Chief and the three Service Chiefs and they will no doubt be able to answer any technical questions that I have difficulty with.

Basically in relation to the Army, the advice that was received from both the CDF and the Chief of Army, has been accepted. I suppose for some the most interesting announcement will be our decision to replace Australia’s ageing Leopard tanks with a modern tank. Which tank and how many are decisions yet to be made but we intend to move to that decision making process now really quite quickly. This decision has been largely based on experience of recent operations and the importance that tanks have, the important role that tanks have played in the protection of forces, particularly forces on the ground. That advice has been accepted and looking at our existing tanks, in particular their light armour, it was decided that the time had come to replace them.

Of just as great interest to me in relation to Army are the extra projects that we’re taking on to accelerate networking of Army communications processes, identification of vehicles and the like, some of which I detail or mention in this paper and the Chief of Army could take it further if you so wish.

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In relation to Navy, we have particularly looked at the defence and warfare capability and have made some important decisions in that regard. Whilst recognising that upgrading the SM1 missiles to SM2s on the FFGs is a challenging project, we’ve nevertheless taken that decision and we’re going to apply it to four of the FFGs. That will provide an interim capability towards the introduction of new air warfare destroyers. We’ve taken the decision that we will be proceeding to acquire three air warfare destroyers. We have decided to limit ourselves to US air warfare systems, which will probably mean a derivation of the Aegis system but there are some other possibilities in that regard and work has already commenced on an examination of those alternative. We do see the threat that’s associated with long range missiles launched from the air as a growing threat. And we see no other alternative, in order that we able to answer that threat, but to move to this new capability. And the timelines we have for these ships are really quite demanding but we’re going to make every endeavour to stick to those timelines. It’ll mean decisions in relation to designers for example will have to be settled in the very near future.

We’ve also made some other very important decisions in relation to sea lift. We have decided to replace the oiler Westralia. We’re going to replace it with another oiler. We’re going to buy one currently on the market but one that nevertheless meets the new environmental standards and we will then refit that in Australia. Whilst that will replace the Westralia, it was less than what was originally intended and therefore there’ll be some savings from that decision.

Those savings will then be contributed towards a decision to purchase larger amphibious lift ships than was previously anticipated. That need has come about from a re-examination of the White Paper by both Army and Navy who’ve concluded that replacing our amphibious lift ships by those of much the same size as what we have already will not achieve the lift requirements of the White Paper and that’s why we’ve decided to move to larger ships. The first to be replaced will be Tobruk then one of the LPAs and then finally there’ll be another, a final sea lift ship decided. The form of that ship is not a decision that’s been taken to date. There’s a number

of different options in that regard.

This will very significantly increase Navy’s capability to transport troops and in conjunction with the air warfare destroyers significantly increase the capability of protecting those troops during the course of deployment.

In relation to Air Force, we haven’t had to make so many decisions in relation to new equipment because so many of the critical decisions have already been made. We are on the path towards the Joint Strike Fighter which will be our principal combat aircraft in due course. We are as you know in producing our, we’re out in tender at the moment for new tanker aircraft and our AEW&C aircraft are currently being produced. And as I note here and I’m pleased to say that project, actually I didn’t say it, I said it’s on schedule. It’s three months ahead of schedule which is particularly pleasing to see.

Some existing capabilities we believe in these circumstances can be brought to an end. We plan to conclude the service of two of the FFGs as the last of the ANZACs are delivered. In the current strategic environment we believe that we can lay up two mine hunters. They can be brought back into operation in necessary but we don’t think they need to be in operational state at the moment. And in light of the increasing strike capability that’s going to be attached to principally the F/A-18’s, but also the Orions as I’ve detailed in this paper, it’s believed that the retirement date of the F-111’s can be brought forward a few years. That’s a decision, that’s

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guidance that’s been given to government by Air Force and guidance that government has accepted.

We believe that these changes, not surprisingly, will lead to enhanced capability for the ADF well into the future. They provide for a balance force which we think is necessary in these times of great uncertainty and times when it’s very difficult to predict the threat that we might face, particularly that threat into the future to any extent.

I’d just like to conclude my few words by thanking those who worked on this project. The officials in the Department and all the service personnel. It’s been a complex and demanding task but having got to this point the Government’s very pleased with the decisions that we’ve been able to make and we’re very confident that they are the right decisions. CDF, do you want to say something?

Chief of the Defence Force

Thanks Minister. Ladies and gentlemen I’ll be very brief. It’s been a lengthy process getting to this point but it was well worth the wait from our point of view. The Chiefs and I are delighted with the outcome of the Defence Capability Review.

We feel that the adjustments made to the capability plan have been of the sort that will guarantee that the Australian Defence Force will be an organisation able to meet the wide variety of defence and security needs of the country and more to the point that our people will be equipped in the decades to come. We have leading edge technologies and weapon systems and platforms to enable them to do their job appropriately. We, the Department and the ADF, have got a lot of work to do now to just fill in those gaps that Government has sent us away to continue to work with and we’ll do that without delay. We’ll resolve the issues to do with tanks etcetera quickly and report back to Government as soon as we can. But I just want to stress that we’re very happy indeed with the outcome. Thanks Minister.

Journalist

Could you explain the strategic thinking underlying the need for tanks to replace those tanks and how much is this going to cost?

Senator Hill

We have developed a project which we’re not announcing at the moment because we would prefer to settle that at the next stage of the process when we examine specific recommendations from Defence as to each of the three types that we’re looking at. And tactically it’s often better to not be disclosing a budget upfront to a vendor. In relation to the capability issues and to expand further on what I said was the reason for this decision, I’ll get General Leahy to have a few words.

Chief of Army

The rationale for the tank is very much in line with the combined arms approach in Army and that is that the infantry, armour, artillery engineers and Army aviation in concert with other elements of the joint forces is the Army and the Airforce, provide a solid force that can protect and support each other. We see that Army will be required, as we have been in the past, to engage in close combat and our appreciation is that the best way to do that is with a balanced combined armed force. The tank provides balance within that force. We currently have a tank. It’s been argued for in all the White Papers leading to this and now this review has reaffirmed the approach of combined arms, close combat and the tank is an important part of that. It’s the reason for replacing the current tank.

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Journalist

(Inaudible) part of the Army is based in the tropics (inaudible)?

Chief of Army

It’ll certainly be one of the factors that we consider when we look at the three types of tanks that are contenders to replace the Leopard.

Journalist

(Inaudible).

Senator Hill

We’ll have a look at the exact number as we go through the study.

Journalist

Can I just ask a question - the cost question again. You said you wouldn’t reveal the cost of the budget for the tanks and I think that the whole program, this whole rebalance. I mean can you tell us one how personnel and operating costs are

moving, how within three per cent real increase a year this will fit, how manageable is it given expectations of the cost of things like air warfare destroyers, the early JSF spend etcetera?

Senator Hill

We developed this project on a budget neutral basis, recognising that we’re receiving that three per cent real increase per year. Because only seven years of the 10 years remain, we’ve taken it out an extra three years. So the new DCP when it’s released will be for a 10-year block again basically starting from this year. And with the savings that we we’re able to make and with some movement of projects that - and that’s some of the detail that we’re settling at the moment - it’s obviously our view that we can achieve these outcomes within that budget.

Beyond that, there are other cost pressures. As I’ve said before there’s no secret in that. There are some pressures on personnel costs, some pressures on logistics, some pressures on management of the Defence estate. And the like and each of those issues is being developed further through the whole of government budget process. So it’s not - they are not affected by any decisions that we’ve made this week. And we are not having, we have separated them in terms of the process that we’ve adopted for update of the DCP.

Journalist

Minister what - I think that personnel operating costs in the White Paper were factored in at about two per cent a year. What are they moving at now?

Senator Hill

They - I think you’re right, they factored in about two per cent and I think - and we were funded for that and obviously inflation. At the moment they are running a little over that and that’s one of the issues of further cost pressures as I indicated that we are addressing in detail. So in some ways this is not surprising in that through the earlier defence reform plans the emphasis was on outsourcing, in effect lower value the tasks. You therefore expect within the Defence organisation to end up with more higher cost individuals, the ratio starts to change. Perhaps it’s factors such as that that have led to personnel costs running a little higher than what was anticipated. So basically we’re analysing the reasons. We’re looking at the various options for addressing that particular issue and as I said that is going to be resolved through the budget process.

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Journalist

On tanks Minister, what has been the specific changes in circumstance for the Government since the White Paper that’s caused it to change its mind on the need for heavy armour?

Senator Hill

Well I mentioned operational experiences and the practical observation of the importance of tanks for protection of the force. But again I’ll ask the General if he wants to expand on it.

Chief of Army

I don’t think there’s a change at all from the previous White Paper. The previous White Paper suggested that we needed the combat weight to ensure that our forces would be able to achieve their task without undue risk. The Leopard is an ageing tank. We have growing concerns of its survivability on any type of battlefield that we might be engaged in in the future. The proliferation of a range of anti-armour weapons now readily available, has given us that concern. So if we go to the White Paper of 2000 and apply what is in there, to me it is logical that we replace the tank with something that can make sure our soldiers on the battlefield can survive without undue risk.

Journalist

Can I ask a quick question on the - a couple of questions on the amphibious ships, the larger ones that you said you now wanted to get. Can you give us some idea of the design design ideas that you have already for them in terms of what type of requirements they need to have, for example how many helicopters you want on deck, that type of thing. And also was that sort of borne out of the experience of the Solomon’s and Timor and some of the limitations that Manoora and Kanimbla showed in those …

Chief of Navy

I think the sort of design requirement we have is really predicated on the Army’s lift requirement which is a battalion and a company left ashore in any one particular time. So that dictates the number of aircraft and you’re probably talking about five or six aircraft at a time.

Journalist

(Inaudible).

General Leahy

We’re looking at a large amphibious ship that carries helicopters.

Journalist

Will all these ships that are mentioned here, apart from the oiler, be built in Australia?

Senator Hill

Well that is - we say it in the document here - that is still our preferred position. That final decision will be taken when the detailed acquisition proposal is put forward but we retain a strong preference for that.

Journalist

So no second hand American ships?

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Senator Hill

No.

Journalist

The AP3 Orion replacement - when and what with and how do you spend a lot of money in upgrading the ones we’ve got?

Chief of Air Force

Yes we spent a reasonable amount of money upgrading the P3 to the AP3 standard. But the reality is that the airframe will only last until about 2015 and will then have to have some form of replacement. Now the way of thinking at the moment is that what we need to replace the maritime patrol capability, which obviously involves an awful lot of surveillance, is to go for a mix of unmanned and manned platforms. So what we’ll be looking at is some sort of project where the mix of unmanned aircraft, probably about five, and somewhere in the order of eight manned platforms. And the manned platform would be capable of performing all the operational tasks that the AP3 currently do. In other words it will be capable of doing underwater warfare and also anti surface warfare.

Journalist

Air Marshall can I ask about the F-111’s. What is the date that we actually are going to envisage for their retirement because it’s not specific in this announcement. And what are your own thoughts about this prospect of a gap opening up before the arrival of the JSF?

Chief of Air Force

There will be no gap and I think that’s the important message to get across. Essentially the F-111 will not be withdrawn until such time as we’ve fully operated the F/A-18. We have the much more capable tankers. We have the AEW&C. We’ve upgraded our weapons. The F/A-18 will be capable of dropping not only laser guided precision munitions but also satellite guided precision munitions and will also be capable of delivering a follow on stand off weapon, which will also be fitted to the AP3C.

Journalist

But was the plan to retire the F-111 before the arrival of the F-35?

Chief of Air Force

Well what will dictate the retirement of the F-111 will be the achievement of a suitable capability to replace the F-111. Now we think that will be somewhere from 2010 onwards. And we’re very much focussed on the capability that the Joint Strike Fighter will provide. And of course what you’ve seen in recent times is the increasing fragility of our F-111 capability. By 2010 it will be almost 40 years old. And our studies suggest that beyond 2010 it will be a very high cost platform to maintain and there’s also a risk of losing the capability altogether through ageing aircraft factors.

Journalist

So will they be probably totally phased out by 2015? Is that the sort of window you’re looking at, phasing out between 2010 and 2015?

Chief of Air Force

We estimate at the moment it will be somewhere between about - from 2010. But as I said it all depends on how we go with gaining those other capabilities.

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Journalist

(Inaudible).

Chief of Air Force

No I don’t think you will and frankly I, as the Chief of Airforce, would not want to see it flying beyond 2015. Because I think we’ve got a very old platform there and the risks of capability failure will increase with age. By 2020, if we were to go that

far, the F-111 would be 50 years of age. That’s a pretty old platform.

Journalist

So are we understand that the upgrades that were planned for the F-111 in the previous capability plans, some of those will not now be carried out.

Chief of Air Force

That is correct. There’ll be one or two of them will be proceeded with but the rest will be ...

Journalist

Can you say what will be proceeded with?

Chief of Air Force

Well I think we should wait until we come out with the full report of that because it is quite a complex upgrade program and I’d like to get it to you in absolutely correct detail.

Journalist

Senator, can I just seek your clarification …

Senator Hill

Can I just say that the existing projects such as the AGM142 will continue.

Journalist

Senator Hill, in the press release you say that the three air warfare destroyers are needed primarily to upgrade anti ship missile projects. Yet in your statement unless my ears heard something incorrectly, you said we do see the threat of long range missile attacks. Now what I’m asking you, is the acquisition of three air warfare destroyers necessary to counter a potential long range missile attack on Australian soil?

Senator Hill

No that’s not what I was saying. What I was saying is the threat to ships and troops that might be embarked on ships from longer range missiles. What I was saying, missiles fired from the air. Now either the missiles have got to be destroyed or better still the aircraft firing those missiles. And it’s the capability to be able to do so effectively that’s achieved through the systems on an air warfare destroyer. Admiral, is that - I’ll just get some technical support here.

Chief of Navy

No that’s correct Minister. You’re doing very well.

Journalist

In the uncertain environment post-September 11 climate has in any way the possibility of some missile strike upon Australian soil been taken into the thinking in relation to these upgraded capabilities? Has it been a factor?

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Senator Hill

Well it’s not - let’s say there is no possibility of that, we would still be making the decisions we have made. But it is true that those who are looking to protect against the sort of threats you’re talking about, are looking at high capability air warfare ships as perhaps one of the pieces of the jigsaw that can combat such a capability. But you’re looking at an even more capable air warfare system plus an even more capable missile. I think the SM3 they talk about don’t they. But there is the possibility in the future for upgrading to that type of capability if the need is there.

Journalist

…boundaries in terms of time and cost of the air warfare destroyer project?

Senator Hill

The times …

Chief of Navy

It’s as it is in the White Paper, 2013.

Senator Hill

I don’t think we’ve changed the times. While not surprisingly they were a little more expensive than what we might have first thought but we have factored that into the revised plan.

Journalist

What’s the going rate for a smart little air warfare destroyer?

Senator Hill

Go and ask those who might have them on the market.

Journalist

Are we talking upwards of $4 or $5 billion?

Senator Hill

They’re not commonplace but they’re becoming more commonplace. As you know apart from the Americans now, the Japanese have them, the Korean’s are getting them, the Spanish have got them and the Norwegians have got them. I think so they’re becoming really an essential and affordable capability and that’s why we have firmed up on that decision.

Journalist

Senator Hill what is …

Journalist

…about the state of the Navy overall, after this review. I’ve just been trying to do a rough calculation. I mean you gain three air warfare destroyers. You gain a couple of amphibious ships, I think an extra oiler. My sum might not be exactly right. You do lose the two oldest FFGs, you have two mine hunters laid up. What will the status - is it your view that after this you will have more or less ships available to really send in to harms way and in to high intensity conflict?

Chief of Navy

When we play off the two FFGs, I mean one of the reasons for doing that is to sustain the frigate force and that will be sustained at 12 ships. It’s more than we’ve got now. I think we’re about 11. More than we’ve had in all my time in the Navy.

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The amphibious force stays about the same size and so does the tanker force. It’s just that they’re newer and more capable ships.

Journalist

(Inaudible).

Chief of Navy

Well big enough to put six aircraft on.

Journalist

In tonnes? 20,000 tonnes?

Chief of Navy

In the order of 20 or more.

Journalist

20 plus. Roughly the size of Manoora?

Chief of Navy

The Manoora is about six or seven. It’s a much bigger ship we’re talking about.

Journalist

It’s sort of a mini aircraft carrier.

Chief of Navy

Large amphibious ship.

Senator Hill

I think they’ll be equivalent to the smallest of the American ships.

Chief of Navy

And there’s not aircraft carriers down at this size any more either.

Journalist

But can I ask the Chief of Navy, has there been any consideration given in that context to replacing those ships to Vstol type aircraft?

Chief of Navy

No. This is an amphibious capability and the purpose of it is to provide the lift in the first case for a battalion and to provide the transport ability ashore to a company at the time.

Journalist

Senator Hill, where is the Geelong and what’s it doing?

Senator Hill

It’s somewhere north of Australia.

Journalist

What’s it doing?

Senator Hill

I think it is - right at the moment I’m not sure what it’s doing. I think it’s …

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Journalist

(Inaudible).

Senator Hill

Sorry?

Journalist

Any reason for secrecy? What’s the story?

Senator Hill

Well what - I think that there’s a number of processes taking place at the moment. On the whole of government basis we’re communicating with a number of different parties and it’s probably better that we be allowed to complete that process.

Journalist

Can you tell us what it’s been doing to date?

Senator Hill

As when?

Journalist

As when the last information you had.

Senator Hill

The last information I had was that it was towing a boat further out to sea.

Journalist

How far out?

Senator Hill

I don’t know how far.

Journalist

For what purpose?

Senator Hill

It - to move it further away from Australia.

Journalist

(Inaudible).

Senator Hill

Beg your pardon?

Journalist

Who are the parties.

Senator Hill

I haven’t been talking to any parties.

Journalist

No, you referred to speaking to parties, the Australian government has been speaking to parties.

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Senator Hill

Well you should direct that to the Immigration Minister and maybe the Foreign Minister. It hasn’t been a Defence responsibility.

Journalist

Minister, what time was your information?

Senator Hill

Earlier this afternoon.

Journalist

So is the process of towing earlier this afternoon, how long had it been towing, how far had it travelled?

Senator Hill

I don’t know.

Journalist

(Inaudible) towed further away from Melville Island. It was towed then it was repaired. Then the crew disabled it and now they’re being towed further out? Is that the way you see it?

Senator Hill

It was disabled. It has been repaired. It’s been, as I understand it, adequately repaired to be able to move itself, but not fully repaired. And so if it needs to go anywhere under its own propulsion it can do so.

Journalist

Is it going anywhere or is it just going away from Australia?

Senator Hill

I think it will ultimately go somewhere but I think you should wait for that.

Journalist

Minister on another matter, LET is now a banned terrorist group. What concrete proof do we have that it poses a threat to Australia? What can the Government tell us on that?

Senator Hill

Well that’s - I’m not sure where you’ve been the last few days.

Journalist

(Inaudible) - Australian presence? Concrete proof that it has an Australian presence?

Senator Hill

Obviously the Government believes that it should be proscribed to give us that capability to utilise the ASIO resources in protection of Australian citizens.

Journalist

(Inaudible).

Senator Hill

In this instance the parliament agrees with us.

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Journalist

(Inaudible) who was trained in Arabic and became a convert to Islam, later married a French terrorist?

Senator Hill

Well I haven’t determined that this individual is a French terrorist. I read in your newspaper that he is a French terrorist. Your piece I think. He’s certainly being investigated. I don’t think that we can determine who Australian soldiers marry. I’m pleased to say, and as you know, the advice from ASIO and the AFP is that she’s not in any way regarded as a suspect.

Journalist

Can I ask just back on the review, can we conclude from the decisions that have been taken this week, and from the problems youe had with the blow out in operation and personnel costs, that we - it will dictate higher defence spending in real terms in next years budget?

Senator Hill

No you shouldn’t conclude that because with these cost pressures, many of these cost pressures have been with us a long time and we’ve managed. There are often choices other than simply getting a bigger budget and all of those options are being examined. What we have said is that the high operational tempo which is almost becoming the norm at the moment, Defence is an expensive business. And the government has been supplementing defence for each of its operations. And as I said in the estimates committee this week it’s rather pleasing to see that the estimated cost of operations is turning out to be very accurate. And I think that that reflects perhaps a somewhat different approach to internal budgeting than may once have been the case. I know the Secretary is on record of wanting to encourage a culture of economy and I think that that’s a loudable objective and want to support him in that regard. So simply to come up with cost pressures and expect supplementation for those cost pressures is not enough. You can’t therefore reach the conclusion that you suggest.

Journalist

Well talking around the traps there seems to be an assumption that there’s a good deal of slippage in the way that costs have been calculated as part of the revised DCP - DCR I should say. And it will be the out years that - okay you may manage in the next year or two but there will be very considerable pressure on the budget in the out years over this 10-year plan. To accommodate all these new capabilities.

Senator Hill

There will be pressure for further out but there’s funding further out as well. Because what we’ve - it is true and I’ve said this before, that when the graphs were projected three years ago, they forecast a greater expenditure in the first few years than has turned out to be the reality. And when you think about it, it doesn’t seem surprising to me if you look at the huge projects like the Joint Strike Fighter, air warfare destroyers, the tanker aircraft, the new amphibious capability and so forth, the big spending requirements are further out. But provided the Government is prepared to reschedule money that is anticipated to spend in the first few years for the task further out, it should be adequately covered and Government has been prepared to do that.

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Journalist

Minister this review has come about three years nearly after the White Paper. It was supposed to happen every 12 months. Will you be doing another one from now on? Will there be another Capability Review in 2004? Are you going to keep doing this as an annual refresh?

Senator Hill

Well I don’t think - I’ll get myself into trouble because I think we said in the election we’d do an annual strategic review, an update of the DCP. And certainly to do it, even though you thought our strategic update was a little light, we thought it was a lot of work. And this project’s been a lot of work. And to be sure that we don’t allow ourselves to be driven by process, so I would like to see a little bit of time between these reviews and therefore the focus being on delivering the outcomes.

Journalist

The ADF’s strategic doctrine. Can you encapsulate it for us Minister in a few sentences?

Senator Hill

The ADF’s strategic doctrine?

Journalist

The new, you know, the strategic doctrine for defence?

Senator Hill

How do we see the security environment - strategic for Australia?

Journalist

The capability that we have just had presented before us?

Senator Hill

Well I’m not sure whether you read the paper of February which is the document of which we set all this out and I’m quite happy to send you a copy. It reinforces what we’d said in the year 2000. It saw a decline in conventional threat to Australia. Nevertheless recognised that our primary responsibility is to protect Australia. It saw, as I said a while ago, it saw new threats in terms of global terrorism. New threats associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and it saw a deteriorating situation in some instances in our region. So what we seek to do is to provide a suite of capability that will enable the ADF to respond to each of these situations as requested by government. And that’s what we mean when we talk about rebalancing the Defence Capability Plan.

Journalist

Minister it’s clear from the announcement today that we are absolutely locked in to the JSF purchase. What do you think that’s going to cost us and how many aircraft are we going to get, given that we’re planning to retire already some of our fleet in the expectation of its arrival.

Senator Hill

The figures we look at are still up to 100 aircraft. Are we locked in? We’re certainly not technically locked in. Our date of decision is 2006. But we’re investing in the development project at the moment and I think every indication is that it’s confirming our expectations. It may even be enhancing them in terms of the capability and the flexibility of this weapons system, particularly when operated in

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conjunction with the other sort of equipment that we have. But why don’t I give the Air Marshall the opportunity.

Chief of Air Force

I don’t think I could offer any more than that.

Senator Hill

You express it better than I do.

Chief of Air Force

No I don’t think so. I feel you’re doing very well Minister. The JSF - that we are very focussed on the JSF for the future of the Airforce and indeed the future of the ADF. I think the JSF will effectively be networked in with not just Air Force capabilities but also the air warfare destroyer and all the other capabilities we’re

going to get into the ADF in the future. And I think it’s exactly the right sort of multi-role platform that a relatively small nation like Australia needs in its Air Force. It’ll be highly flexible, very adaptable and ideally suited to the network warfare of the future.

Journalist

How do you find a program that Australia will see? Are the UAV’s that you’re talking about in surveillance areas the way of the future and also can you tell us a little bit more about the size of those. Are they going to be a Global Hawk type size or are we talking about the predator type arrangements?

Chief of Air Force

I think if we look way into the future, I think unmanned vehicles will be - will proliferate. They really will. As to whether that’s the end of manned combat aircraft, I wouldn’t want to make that prediction at this stage. I think it’s too early to tell. In terms of the UAV’s that we might get for surveillance, I think we need something of the Global Hawk type. It can stay up for over 24 hours and with two Global Hawks, or that sort of platform, you can do the work of five, six or seven P3’s with much reduced man power. So it’s a very persistent way to provide a surveillance capability.

Journalist

How do you - on the JSF, how do you determine whether you’re going to get 60 or 80 or 100 or any other number?

Chief of Air Force

I think at this stage of the proceedings, up to 100 is exactly what we need to be focussed on. Obviously a lot of studies have to be conducted to determine exactly what our requirements are into the future.

Journalist

Minister can I ask, on the tanks, the Leopards we have, that have never left Australia I think, never fired a shot in anger. What is the relevance of what we would do in Afghanistan and Iraq, to an Australian requirement for tanks? What has changed? And I salute that there has been some change in the way we think in 2000. Where do the dots actually add up in terms of needing this requirement?

Chief of the Defence Force

I think it’s important to take lessons from all the modern theatres of war but not necessarily to take a lesson back to the that same theatre. What we know is that

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anti-armour weapons are proliferating in the hands of otherwise lightly armed troops so they’ll knock out a light armoured vehicle quite easily. There’s an immediate limit to how much armour and protection you can provide by either the armour itself or the mobility of the vehicle to the light armoured vehicle. So what you need is something more powerful, with better armour to lead the way and brush away people with anti-armour weapons and to therefore provide protection for your people if you’ve got to get a job done. So the age of the tank has not yet left us. There is probably a new generation of something coming in the period 2020 or so and in the meantime our old Leopards have had it in terms of their - they are also costing a lost more money to maintain. There’s a cost benefit about upgrading them. It’s very difficult to put new armour on them. So in the alternate you just need to get something tank like and that’s what the Government’s decided.

Journalist

Colonel Denis Bourke was saying on ABC radio recently that when he was in charge of a cavalry regiment in Darwin he was tolerant of marijuana for the locals, some people like to drink, some people like to smoke - it was up to them.

Chief of the Defence Force

They’re lucky I didn’t know it at the time hey.

Journalist

Is zero tolerance in the military forces real?

Chief of the Air Force

Yes I think Colonel Bourke probably - would be even in those days - in those days or these days that would not have been an action we would tolerate.

END