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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5671

Mr BALDWIN (6:05 PM) —Minister, I would like to address the issue of the ADF gap year, a program which was initiated by the Howard government. In its first year, it was planned to have 700 people in the program, with a split of 100 Navy, 500 Army and 100 Air Force, and that target was achieved. In fact, the coalition thought that program had great benefits not only for recruiting prospects, but also in providing a taste of military life for those who may go on to university and want to come back to the military.

Minister, I note that the budget papers of 2008-09 showed that you dropped from 700 to 623 participants. Further, when I look at the 2009-10 budget I note that you are down to 549; 2010-11, 509. This is a long way back from the original 700, and indeed nearly half of the original 1,000 participants the program was supposed to grow and develop to.

Minister, I would like to point out some numbers which I am sure you would be aware of that show how positive and successful this program is, despite recruitment being an issue from time to time. In the financial year ending 30 June 2009, from the 647 people involved in it, 187 had transferred to the permanent services which was made up 41 to the Navy, 125 to the Army and 21 to the Air Force; 278 had transferred to the Reserves which was made up of eight in the Navy, 231 in the Army, and 39 in the Air Force.

Minister, given the amount of money that is spent on recruitment advertising, wouldn’t you agree that having those numbers come together out of such a program is a relatively inexpensive way by comparative standards to attract recruits? Wouldn’t you agree that not only do these young people get the opportunity to observe and experience military life, but, more importantly, the military get a chance to observe those young people and pick out potential star recruits for ongoing training and development?

My question overall in relation to this is: why, when your government talks about employment opportunity and, in particular, the rhetoric about the importance of ADF personnel, are you cutting back on a very successful program that has led to great recruitment into permanent and Reserves? I have heard my colleague, the shadow parliamentary secretary for defence, raise questions about Reserves and sustaining those reserve forces. It appears that your government has a very strong track record in saying one thing, but doing something entirely different when it comes to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force. Minister, could you please answer those questions. And I would also ask you—if you cannot answer it now, then I would ask you to take it on notice—to deliver to me the exact economic benefit from having people in the ADF gap year and what you would consider the number of people transferring into the Reserves and permanents saves you in your recruiting budget?