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Program 3--Army

Senator HOGG --I want to raise an issue relating to a response to a question taken on notice relating to subprogram 3.2. My original question went to the savings of $16.104 million identified as government savings initiatives. I asked for that to be broken down into domestic and international travel, et cetera. The response came back with the travel savings in the $16.104 million reduction as follows: domestic travel, $8.974 million and overseas travel, $0.92 million. I am very interested in the domestic travel figure which is quite substantial. It may mean that the effectiveness of a particular program is going to suffer. If so, which program is going to suffer? I make that out to nearly 9,000 individual flights at $1,000 each. Could you give me some direction as to where that is impacting?

Mr Lush --I think we should take that on notice.

Senator HOGG --It is a very substantial figure. If a program is going to be impacted on by decisions internally I can understand where that figure might come from. If not, will it be impacting therefore on the general operational capacity of the army?

Major Gen. Hartley --We will take that on notice.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Can I indicate that the one area we had for the air force related to the sexual harassment inquiry which we have dealt with. If the air vice marshal wanted to let the air force officers return to duties I suspect we will not have any questions under the air force section.

CHAIR --Officers associated with program 4 need not stay.

Senator WEST --What is the current situation with the ready reserve. Are the latest figures available for the ready reserve transfers?

Major Gen. Hartley --These figures are constantly subject to verification. At this stage, of the 3,000 ready reservists who are presently serving, 431 have sought to transfer to the regular army, 758 will transfer to general reserve units in their home states, a further 1,100 will remain in their present units which will be general reserve units but will continue to serve under ready reserve conditions of service, 331 will take their discharge and 263 still have to make an election. Some of those are overseas and not presently contactable.

Senator WEST --Of those who are going to be transferring to the reserves in their state--that is, the 758--have you any breakdown of what state they are going to be going to?

Major Gen. Hartley --Yes, I certainly do. Some 110 will transfer to Western Australia, 85 to South Australia, 204 to Victoria, 237 to New South Wales, 32 to Queensland, 13 to the Northern Territory and 41 to Tasmania. I am sorry, there will be a further 59 beyond what I told you to Queensland.

Senator WEST --Queensland seems to be down as opposed to the other states. What is the reason for that?

Major Gen. Hartley --In addition to those people who are actually transferring out of the present Enoggera based 6th Brigade, a further 923 will remain in Brisbane. So those soldiers will actually remain in the units in which they are presently serving in Queensland. The numbers that I gave you as an addition to Queensland were in fact going to North Queensland.

Senator WEST --So 177 of the ready reserves who were going to stay in their present units are going to North Queensland; is that right?

Major Gen. Hartley --Yes, 923 will remain in the Enoggera area, in the units located in south-east Queensland, and a further 32 plus 59 will transfer to other units in Queensland.

Senator WEST --Do you know whether they were their home states?

Major Gen. Hartley --Yes, I think a large number of them would be in their home states. It would be very much the case that those returning would be going to their home states. A percentage of those who are remaining in south-east Queensland would have come from interstate but have probably married, have girlfriends or, for one reason or another, wish to remain in south-east Queensland.

Senator WEST --Those going back to the various states would be home basing?

Major Gen. Hartley --Yes.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Obviously, the major development since we last met has been the release of the ministerial defence statement. Could we start by taking a bit of an overview of that. What other information is available to members of parliament and the general public regarding the changes proposed beyond the ministerial statement at this stage?

Air Vice Marshal Cox --Perhaps I could indicate that I am aware a public document is being prepared. When it will be released I cannot indicate. There is to be some further publicity on the matter.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Is that document to take the form of publicity or is it going to be a detailed explanation? These are quite major changes to an organisation.

Air Vice Marshal Cox --The release will be at the discretion of the minister. Until he has advised accordingly, I cannot indicate.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --I take it that the Army 21 report then is still not to be released.

Air Vice Marshal Cox --That is my understanding.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So this is now called the restructuring the Australian Army. The only documentation available to us at the moment is this ministerial statement. Perhaps you could help me with an overview of the financial arrangements. The ministerial statement at page 6, about the fourth paragraph, states:

These costs will be met from within the Defence budget reflecting the army component of savings from our $125 million cuts to administrative costs, savings from the closure of the ready reserve scheme and from reallocations within the army budget.

Is someone able to provide me with more detailed information? It seems to me, first of all, that the $125 million cut to administrative costs is not a huge amount. I thought we had already used that. Secondly, I thought our questioning at the previous estimates indicated that the ready reserve scheme was going to cost us more rather than less in the short term. So I am a bit perplexed as to how you are going to pay for what I assume will be fairly significant costs associated with such a major restructure. Could someone take me through the big picture?

Air Vice Marshal Cox --I will invite the First Assistant Secretary of the resources and financial programs and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff to collectively answer that question.

Mr Hannan --In relation to the moneys that are identified for 1996-97, of the $125 million in administrative savings, $43.8 million in total went to initiatives associated with the restructure of the army. Some of those are identified within the portfolio budget statements. Others were in fact held within that central amount of money that we discussed at the last meeting pending review, but $43.8 million has been allocated in 1996-97.

In addition, Army was making some internal funding adjustments principally in its minor capital program of $5.8 million. The army is also retaining the savings from the abolition of the ready reserve, which is essentially personnel savings, to re-invest in terms of the new structures, and that is another $10.4 million in 1996-97.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --As I understood from our discussion last time, though, in 1996-97 you did not really get any savings from the abolition of the ready reserve.

Mr Hannan --If I look at 1998-99 as an example, the savings of the ready reserve are in the order of $53 million. There are limited savings in the first year, yes, but there are some. As you can see, there is a growth from 1996-97 out.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Do I take it that the other $60-odd million of the $125 million of administrative costs had been allocated in the budget statements prior to this decision?

Mr Hannan --The programming within the department was undertaken, if you like, in parallel with the government's consideration. Clearly there was a need to make some provision for what we needed to do with the abolition of the ready reserve and so forth. The rest of the money has been allocated, as was indicated in the budget statement, to a range of initiatives associated with inventory enhancements, some capital equipment acquisitions and so forth across the capability areas of the ADF.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Given that this is a new initiative, a reorganisation of the army, how much is available within the army budget to facilitate these changes in the financial year 1996-97? How much money is there that has not already been allocated?

Mr Hannan --My understanding from the army budget is that the amount that has been identified specifically associated with this restructuring is in the order of $60 million.

Mr Lush --You might recall at our last hearing we took a question on notice and we gave a response to that which detailed moneys for this year and the forward estimates period. At this point in the year there is clearly capacity for us to redirect, if you like, funding towards the army restructuring initiative. As has been described in terms of the amount of money that came to army or was within the army bucket so to speak for redistribution, we are managing that money to direct the army restructuring initiative.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --You concur that about $60 million is available for that purpose?

Mr Lush --Yes.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --It would seem to me that is not an awful lot of money given the size of the Defence Force budget to manage such a change. Do I take it that a lot of the restructuring will occur in the out years and there will be further expenses? I want somebody to give me the big picture--what this means for your finances and what is available. I would think $60 million is a fairly modest sum to reorganise the Australian armed forces. I am trying to get a feel for it. Does this mean that significantly larger amounts of money will need to be provided in 1997-98?

Mr Hannan --The ministerial statement identified that in 1997-98 there would be $120 million, growing to $200 million in 1998-99. Yes, it is an increasing commitment. That has been programmed within the five-year defence program.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So the plan announced subsequent to the budget has been programmed and paid for in the budget.

Mr Hannan --A large proportion of the expenditure in the out years is capital investment expenditure which is being managed within our unapproved capital program--the pink book, as it is referred to.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What about the non-capital expenditure?

Mr Hannan --There have been allocations of funding out of the administrative savings right across the forward estimates period.

Mr Lush --There is also savings from the ready reserves.

Mr Hannan --And the growing savings from the ready reserves.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --It just struck me that given the discussion about what the restructuring plan was likely to entail seemed to involve large reductions in the number of personnel at the sharp end, et cetera. That did not occur. Perhaps savings that had been previously identified to fund some of these changes were no longer available. I am just interested that this seems to be a fairly modest financial commitment for restructuring. I am trying to see what is likely to be achieved with this amount of money.

Mr Hannan --It is a growing amount over the next few years.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --To me, $200 million is a lot of money. In terms of the defence budget it does not look like a terribly large amount of money.

Senator Newman --It is perhaps an indication of the run-down of the army over the last few years that this sort of money can make a big difference. We are talking about many millions of dollars. It might not be much to you and me in terms of our own expenses but for an army that needs extra cash injections this is going to make a substantial improvement.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --I take it that there is no extra cash injection this year.

Mr Hannan --Yes, there is $60 million.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --No. That $60 million is out of savings in the budget, isn't it?

Senator Newman --But that is on the defence portfolio. I think you are missing that point.

Mr Hannan --There is an injection into the army program.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Yes, but in terms of the defence budget there is no extra cash. It is allegedly from administrative savings.

Senator Newman --Our policy specified that it would be $125 million a year, not just this year. Of that, $43.8 million is going towards restructuring the army in this year. In addition, there is $10.4 million coming from savings within the army's own budget for ready reserve and there is another $5.8 million for internal army funding adjustment. That is the composition of the $60 million this year, but each year in the outgoing years you will have more additional funds to spend on the army.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Are you saying there will be $125 million per year for the army?

Senator Newman --No, I am not saying that. The officials can give you the exact figures in the out years but the $125 million is the savings per year from which some of the army extra expenditure will come. It is across the defence budget not just army.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So you are saying they have to find $125 million every year.

Senator Newman --That is right. That is what our policy spelt out.

Mr Hannan --Continuing $125 million.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Is it continuing or additional each year?

Mr Hannan --It is continuing.

Mr Lush --It is not accumulative.

Senator Newman --No. I did not mean to suggest that.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --That is why I asked and that is why I was a bit surprised by the answer.

Senator Newman --I am sorry if I gave that impression. It was not my intention.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --It seems that the minister does not think defence is very efficient. He has announced a private sector review. Do I take it then this review is to identify savings in addition to the $125 million you have to identify each year?

Air Vice Marshal Cox --The press release I think is reasonably clear on the aims of the review, which has been released through the minister's office. The search for efficiencies, which can be reallocated into perhaps other areas of capability, is the intent of the review.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Yes. I am just trying to get clear though that the review is to identify savings in addition to the $125 million.

Air Vice Marshal Cox --That is my understanding. I mean, $125 million was found and has been identified throughout the out years of the program, as we have just been discussing. Any findings or efficiencies would be over and above that. That is my understanding of the way it will be.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Do you have any understanding of where they are going to be able to find those savings?

Air Vice Marshal Cox --I would not wish to pre-empt any findings that that review committee might make. The reason they have been put together is to do exactly that job--find out where there might be some efficiencies which could be harvested and reallocated.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --How many members of the defence forces are involved in this committee?

Air Vice Marshal Cox --There are various levels of endeavour which will be associated with the review process. At the higher level, if I could call it that, is the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Walls, and the Chief Defence Scientist is represented as well from the civilian department.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --And the other members are from private industry, I gather.

Air Vice Marshal Cox --There is the CSIRO, of course, with Dr McIntosh.

Senator Newman --Who has gone through a similar process in Britain.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Could somebody help me with the reservist training days. I see in the statement that the minister is referring to lifting those to 50 days per year. We had a discussion at the original estimates about how you were funding the increase from 37 days per year to average 42. The minister has now announced 50. Could someone take me through how that is going to work and how that is funded?

Major Gen. Hartley --The intention, Senator, is to gradually increase the number of days over a number of years. In the first year, we will be looking to increase from roughly 37 to about 42. Over a period of years that will gradually increase to 50. So we are not going to go to that increase of 50 straight away.

Clearly, we have to go through a process of determining how best we can use these reserve days. One of the options that we face, for instance, is having a longer period of initial training, which, presently, is two weeks. We might raise that to six weeks. But there will be a period of about a year to 18 months where we will trial a number of these different models before, in fact, going firm on what we think is the optimum outcome. Indeed, the optimum outcome is likely to be a number of options.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What funding is provided in the out years currently for the increased training?

Mr Lush --In terms of this year, we are talking of the order of $15 million. The following year it is jumping to $27 1/2 million.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Is the $15 million to get us from an average of 37 to 42, and is the $27 million over your base in the following financial year to assist you to get towards the 50?

Mr Lush --To progress higher, yes.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Is block training more expensive than weekly training? I gather you have a number of systems. You were talking about the six-week block. Is that more expensive or cheaper than the other options?

Major Gen. Hartley --A lot will depend on how we do it. If we concentrate people, then clearly there is an added expense of moving people to that concentration area. Alternatively, in some instances we will attempt to do it in the home base where the troops are based anyway, in which case it will not be as expensive. Of course, something which will need to be taken into account is that block training, if we can do it, by and large, will probably be more effective in the long term. So it is a difficult question to answer specifically.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --I suppose the other issue there is availability of people to attend those block trainings, isn't it?

Major Gen. Hartley --That is absolutely correct. This is all part of this first year to 18 months in which we are going to trial a number of these models. In some areas, quite clearly, it will be better for people to do six weeks, which would be our preference, because I think that, at the end of the day, is more effective. But, at the end of the day, if we are not able to attract people to do that early training, we will probably go back to three two-week modules or a combination between six and two weeks.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --You would expect to have 50 days training in place within what, two years, do you think?

Major Gen. Hartley --That would be the idea, yes. But a lot, as I say, will depend upon the outcome of the first year to 18 months of this business.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Also in the ministerial statement the minister talks about 1,000 full-time troops going from base support into the combat force. Could someone indicate where those troops are coming from and how that is to work?

Major Gen. Hartley --The majority of them will come out of our present logistic and training commands and some will come from the executive. We will be reviewing a number of other organisations, in particular the Defence centres in the capital cities. So it is going to be from those sorts of establishments that this 1,000 people will come from. We will not be doing that instantly. I suspect that a good figure would be 200 in the first year. It will probably take us somewhere between three and five years to bring this about. Many of the troops that we will want to transfer are not of the right trade or, indeed, age or rank level for the sort of people that we want to get in the sharp end. There will be a period over which we will waste people out, so it will not be done overnight.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Have you identified which functions will have to be downgraded in order to facilitate this?

Major Gen. Hartley --We have provisionally identified about 30 functions which we certainly now need to look at much more closely.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What sorts of functions are they?

Major Gen. Hartley --Mainly in the logistic area. Some of them are in personnel support areas.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Does this involve looking at outsourcing or employing more civilians to replace army personnel in these functions?

Major Gen. Hartley --Certainly that is an option. Absolutely. That will be the primary option, in fact.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --I presume that they are functions that are necessary; otherwise you would not be doing them.

Major Gen. Hartley --I think so. At the end of the day, if we have to find 1,000 people, we may identify functions that we will not perform that we presently perform. Until we have actually done that examination--that will take us some time--I cannot be firm on that.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --The ministerial statement talks about 6th Brigade ready reserve and 7th Brigade general reserve combining to the 7 task force. Who is going to make up that task force; who is transferring from where?

Major Gen. Hartley --That task force will be a combination of the units that are presently in 7th Brigade, and they are general reserve units in south-east Queensland, and a number of units which are currently in 6th Brigade, which will also include those 900-plus ready reservists who are going to transfer into their existing units. In addition to that, in each of the units there will be a regular component which will be larger than the normal cadre. For instance, in each of the infantry battalions there will be a regular company. So it is a combination of regular troops, ready reservists who are continuing their service in the general reserve and existing general reserve units that are in 7th Brigade.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Will this full range of units--artillery, armoured vehicles--all be included?

Major Gen. Hartley --That is correct, yes.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Are there any not to be included?

Major Gen. Hartley --It will have all the units that you would associate with a task force which is based upon a brigade.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --How is this integration going to work?

Major Gen. Hartley --That is one of the trials that we are looking at as well. It is to trial integration. We have trialled integration on numerous occasions in the past, but we have not done it as extensively as this on a task force basis. So, from the middle of next year, units will actually be formed. Over the next 18 months after that, we will be putting them through various stages of exercising, gaining some understanding of their administration, and so on, to determine what is the best and most effective mix in terms of integration.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Do you have a range of integration options?

Major Gen. Hartley --That is correct, yes.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Have you identified those?

Major Gen. Hartley --Not specifically. It is a bit early in our planning business at this stage. But it is likely that the three infantry battalions will have different levels of regular manning in each, and that will then give us an ability to make some comparison.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What is the readiness level going to be then for this new task force?

Major Gen. Hartley --Ultimately we will build up to 90 days, but, in the meantime, there will be subunits--roughly company size units, 100 to 120 man units--which will be on various degrees of notice. Those units which are essentially ready reservists who have transferred to the general reserve will maintain their 90 days notice, and the regular units will be at 90 days but will drop over time to, say, 30 or even 60 days. Our challenge then is to build up the rest of the general reserve to a 90-day notice.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --But you will have basically a mix until you get full integration.

Major Gen. Hartley --Correct.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So it is not possible to identify the readiness and capability of 7 task force at this stage?

Major Gen. Hartley --No, not at this stage. Until the middle of next year, 7 task force will not come into being. Until 7 February, we will continue with the present 6th Brigade. We then have a period of about four or five months in which we will do the integration. From the beginning of next year, we will start to lower the level of notice of that brigade.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What are the implications for your facilities and locations, et cetera?

Major Gen. Hartley --We will clearly make maximum use of the existing facilities that are in Enoggera. There will be some rationalisation of reserve facilities in Brisbane. But I really cannot say more than that at this stage.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Do you think you will need additional facilities to have 7 task force?

Major Gen. Hartley --I do not believe so, not beyond those which are on the books to be constructed.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Are there plans for expansion at Enoggera?

Major Gen. Hartley --There is a continuing works program to bring on new facilities, but all those will be incorporated into the 7 task force.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What is the future of the Kelvin Grove site?

Major Gen. Hartley --I might ask Mr Corey to lend support here. The intention is not to build anything new at Kelvin Grove. That certainly is on hold. Until our 7 task force is developed, then clearly we will rationalise requirements for Kelvin Grove.

Mr Corey --I really do not have any more to add on that. Kelvin Grove is planned for disposal in the longer term, once we have moved the units out of there that are presently in there. There is planning for one of the units to move to Enoggera. The reserve field hospital unit will move in next year. With the further rationalisations going on, Kelvin Grove will gradually empty. At this stage, disposal of the site at some stage is planned.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Do you have any idea of when that is likely to be? Is it a two- or three-year proposition, or is it longer?

Mr Corey --We will have to look at the impact of what is happening with the restructure in the army generally to make a decision on whether the site is required. Our planning has been under a previous regime of where we are going, and that may change.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --But, at this stage, the plan was to dispose of the site.

Mr Corey --At some time, yes.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --In relation to the movement of 5th Brigade from Lidcombe to Holsworthy, I think that you gave Senator West some answers earlier about numbers. Did we cover the numbers?

Senator WEST --That is all done.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --According to the ministerial statement, 4th Brigade in Victoria will have priority for additional resources. What is the rationale for that? What is occurring there?

Major Gen. Hartley --One of the outcomes we are looking at from restructuring the army is to ensure that the reserve, the general reserve in particular, is able to play its full role. The restructure of the army is very much dependent upon having an effective reserve service. We have chosen the 4th Brigade in Victoria to conduct a number of experiments to see whether we can get the most out of the reserve.

These experiments will involve trialling a number of different types of employment. I spoke earlier about the possibility of a six-week induction course. The brigade itself will receive additional cadre, additional training days and, in the next two to 2 1/2 years, an influx of additional equipment. It is as much a method of seeing whether we can--and this might be too strong a term--revitalise a reserve formation. Clearly, the outcome of restructuring the army is dependent upon having a very effective reserve.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Why was the 4th Brigade in Victoria chosen?

Major Gen. Hartley --I think the 4th Brigade is a unit which has not necessarily in the past enjoyed particularly good recruiting or retention rates. Therefore, it was not seen to be one of the better brigades. If we could do it with the 4th Brigade, clearly, we could do it with better units.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So the army chose 4th Brigade for that reason.

Major Gen. Hartley --I am not quite sure how 4th Brigade was chosen, but, certainly, we looked at many options and that came up as the preferred option.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So that was army's decision.

Major Gen. Hartley --I am not sure that I can specifically answer that. It was one of those options which was certainly discussed. Defence was involved. I cannot recall, quite frankly, whether it was a preferred army option or not.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --So 4th Brigade will obviously get some additional resources and energy put into it. Have you got the breakdown, state by state, of reserve recruitment for the last few years?

Major Gen. Hartley --I certainly do not have it with me, but I can provide that to you.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --That would be good because you have identified that as a particular problem.

Major Gen. Hartley --I might just check to see if the chief of personnel has it. No.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --It is no big deal. Obviously you have made the point that the retention problem was one of the reasons why you targeted it. I was just interested to see the comparative performance. What about their readiness? Will that be affected by this decision?

Major Gen. Hartley --Once again, the long-term intention is to raise the readiness of all those brigades, firstly, to 180 days and then to 90 days. But it will take some time for that to occur.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --In terms of 9th Brigade in South Australia and Tasmania, I gather they are going to have a small increase in their numbers as a result of the closure of the ready reserve system; is that right?

Major Gen. Hartley --Yes, that is correct. I gave those figures earlier. They will also have a small regular army cadre which will accompany those units as well.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Where are they taken from?

Major Gen. Hartley --From the existing 6th Brigade.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Are personnel choosing to return to their states?

Major Gen. Hartley --The ready reservists are, certainly.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What about the full-time cadre? What is the rationale there?

Major Gen. Hartley --They will go as instructors. The company commander, for instance, of the ready reserve subunit will be a regular soldier. Each of the platoon sergeants will be regular soldiers and so on. They do not get an option of where they go to; they are just told.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What about their readiness? What is the impact of these changes?

Major Gen. Hartley --The ready reserve companies we will attempt to retain at the same degree of readiness they presently enjoy--90 days.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --What about the Western Australian regiments? What is the impact of these changes on them. I gather we are looking at a fairly large increase in total personnel.

Major Gen. Hartley --That is correct. In Western Australia, the intention is to develop one of the general reserve battalions, the 16th Battalion of the Royal Western Australian Regiment, to be an integrated unit. That will have a regular company of about 120 men and some increase to the headquarters and the support company. In time, it is intended to increase that unit by about 200 regular soldiers with a further 50 regular soldiers going to the brigade itself. Those people will be posted largely into that unit at the end of next year.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --I think that is the extent of my questions on the army.

Major Gen. Hartley --Madam Chair, I may have confused an earlier answer. Could I just correct it?

CHAIR --Yes, please do.

Major Gen. Hartley --I was asked by Senator West about the number of ready reservists in various states. Every state I gave was correct except Queensland. I confused Queensland with North and South Queensland. Within Enoggera there will be 982 ready reservists remain in their units in South-East Queensland and a further 32 will be posted to Central and North Queensland. They were just slightly different from the numbers I gave you.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Madam Chair, I said I had no questions on the air force, but I wanted to ask a couple of questions on the sale of Avalon airport. I just wanted to check where I would best do that given my earlier undertaking.

Senator Newman --They stayed behind, so they must also be able to read minds.

CHAIR --Unless there are officers here who can answer that, we did move on from that program as you indicated you had no questions on that.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --I was trying to be honest rather than raise it under budget and management or some other area. I was trying to indicate whether the sale was best dealt with in air force or some other area.

Air Vice Marshal Cox --Madam Chair, program 6 might be where that should be dealt with.

CHAIR --That has also been eliminated from the program. I am sorry, Senator Evans. I think you will have to put those questions on notice.

Senator CHRIS EVANS --Madam Chair, I suggest it was not really eliminated. I suggested that the officers could be dismissed and that if I made an error in terms of that I would take the responsibility for that and accept answers given to me by senior officers at the table if the support officers were not available. It was on that understanding that I did that to try to facilitate the release of officers. I would hope, given that undertaking, that I would not then get caught on a technicality. My questions are of a general nature about the sale of Avalon airport. I am sure the senior officers will be able to handle them.

CHAIR --Very well. Are you prepared to do that, Minister?

Senator Newman --Yes. We will see what we can do.

CHAIR --In that case, we will deal with those now, probably under program 7.

[12.15 p.m.]