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Budget 2003: Meeting the challenges of a new strategic environment.

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BUDGET 2003-04 SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate


Tuesday, 13 May 2003 52/2003

MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF A NEW STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT The 2003-04 Defence Budget reaffirms the Howard Government’s commitment to take the steps necessary to maintain Australia’s security in a changed strategic environment, Defence Minister Robert Hill said today.

Senator Hill said the Budget reflected the challenges identified in Australia’s National Security: A Defence Update 2003, the first major review of Australia’s strategic environment and Defence posture since the 2000 Defence White Paper.

Additional funding has been provided to ensure the Australian Defence Force is capable and well equipped to respond to the twin global threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, to operate in coalition operations, to respond to regional contingencies and to assist civil authorities.

“The strategic environment has changed, and the Defence Update identified the need for some rebalancing of our capabilities,” Senator Hill said. “Our involvement in Iraq has confirmed the importance of readiness and mobility, of interoperability and of developing important new capabilities.

“The 2003-04 Budget will contribute to a more flexible and mobile ADF with more options to meet the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, deal with regional contingencies and contribute niche expeditionary forces for future coalition operations.”

To meet these new challenges, the Budget includes funding for the new Special Operations Command and faster growth in ADF personnel numbers. The Government has also approved purchase of new air-to-air refuelling aircraft, Electronic Warfare Self Protection for a range of tactical aircraft, and enhanced logistical support.

The conflict in Iraq underlined the vital role of Special Forces. The Special Operations Command launched last week will be established with an injection of $156.8 million over four years. The SOC will further enhance Australia’s capacity to respond to contemporary threats at home and abroad, boosting our Special Forces with about 330 combat and associated support personnel.

“The expanded Special Forces counter-terrorism capability will ensure we are ready to respond to any terrorist threat quickly through non-conventional war fighting means,” Senator Hill said.

Defence will get an extra $102.8 million over three years to recruit more Army and Royal Australian Air Force personnel and improve retention rates in the Royal Australian Navy, accelerating growth towards the White Paper target of 54,000.

“In the past year, ADF personnel have been deployed in 13 separate operations around the world,” Senator Hill said.

“The strength of Australia’s military forces has always been the quality of its people. The Defence Update recognised that retaining trained personnel and recruiting and

Media contacts Catherine Fitzpatrick (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7800 0405 351 245

Anna Marsden (Defence) 02 6265 6934 0410 626 702


training new professionals are key to turning our weapons and systems into capabilities that can meet the challenges of the new strategic environment - a judgment borne out by the ADF’s performance in Iraq.

“The ADF is experiencing better recruitment and retention than it has for some years. With current personnel numbers above planned levels, the increased funding will allow the Government to increase the force size earlier than planned.”

The Government has approved the purchase of electronic warfare self-protection systems for the C-130H Hercules transport aircraft, Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters and ballistic protection for Sea King helicopters at a cost of over $250 million.

“The changed strategic environment and continuing uncertainty in our immediate neighbourhood mean that ADF involvement in our region is somewhat more likely than in the past,” Senator Hill said. “Electronic warfare self-protection measures are an important factor when determining the size and type of forces we could contribute to regional operations and potential coalition contributions.”

The Government has approved the purchase of a new fleet of air-to-air refuelling aircraft capable of refuelling F/A-18, F-111 and Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft —a project worth over $2 billion. The new fleet is expected to come into service in 2007.

“Air-to-air refuelling is a key capability for air combat operations as it is able to extend the range and endurance of combat aircraft,” Senator Hill said. “Our ageing B707 tankers played a valuable role in the war against terrorism, while the conflict in Iraq demonstrated the effectiveness of a precision air operation in overcoming the

enemy and minimising casualties.”

An extra $1,145.1 million over five years will be spent to boost logistics support to the ADF, recognising the increased repair, maintenance, training and operating costs of our high operational tempo. This includes $244.3 million in 2003-04 to

meet the costs of spare parts, repairs and maintenance for a range of major platforms, equipment and ordnance stock.

“The Government has recognised the need to boost logistics funding as a result of the high levels of activity and operational tempo of the ADF over the past two years,” Senator Hill said.

“The extra money will ensure that the ADF continue to be able to maintain the most reliable platforms and equipment for current and future operations. It will also provide more ordnance stocks to provide increased training opportunities for soldiers.”