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Has Peter Reith actually read the White Paper?

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  Australian Labor Party   National ALP

Stephen Martin - Has Peter Reith Actually Read The White Paper? Wednesday, 21 March 2001

Has Peter Reith Actually Read The White Paper?

Stephen Martin - Shadow Minister for Defence

Media Statement - 16 March 2001

Defence Minister Peter Reith needs to be set straight on a few things that are contained in the Government's own Defence policy, Stephen Martin, the Shadow Minister for Defence, said today.

In an article published today, the Minister for Defence, Peter Reith, made a number of puzzling statements on Defence Strategy and the Defence 2000 White Paper, including a derogatory reference to Labor's Defence policy whilst in Government of defending Australia's air-sea gap.

I would like to draw the Minister's attention to page 47 of the Government's own Defence 2000 White Paper:

'The key to defending Australia is to control the air and sea approaches to our continent, so as to deny them to hostile ships and aircraft, and provide maximum freedom of action for our forces. That means we need a fundamentally maritime strategy. Our strategic geography, our relatively small population and our comparative advantage in a range of technologies all dictate that our defence should focus on our air and sea approaches.'


"Does the Minister disagree with the military strategy in the White Paper? If so I would like to know what the new military strategy is? I would also like Mr Reith to outline an alternative," Dr Martin said.

"With regard to his accusations that Labor ran down the army, this Government has overseen a decline of more than 1800 full time army personnel and more than 5,500 Reserves.

"This Government started with 58,000 full time service personnel and originally intended to reduce this to 42,700. Thankfully the service chiefs were able to intervene to maintain


some semblance of a critical mass required for an effective ADF.

"Furthermore, the Government gutted the 7th Taskforce, (which was meant to be the jewel in the Army's crown) to fill the equipment and personnel shortages in1st Brigade. In so doing the Government effectively ruined its own Army restructuring plan. The Government only raised two new battalions the year before last because of the circumstances forced on them by the East Timor situation.

"Pitching one service against the other does not serve defence policy well. "The Minister needs to learn that the modern military requires a co-ordinated tri-service approach.

"The Government's Defence Review Program (DRP) is one of the greatest impediments to maintaining skilled uniform personnel. This program has also had a detrimental impact on morale and compromises the deployable capability of the ADF.

"Not only is the Minister demonstrating ignorance of the Government's defence strategy, but his silly little politicking is compromising broader Commonwealth interests.

"The Government is the sole shareholder in the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) that builds the Collins Class Submarines and is currently seeking a buyer. The Minister would be well advised to desist from talking down the company's product when they are trying to sell the company. The new Minister would also be better served by developing an understanding of what a crucial strategic capability the submarines are.

"It is Labor that has led the Government on defence policy during the last five years and Minister Reith knows it.

"It is Labor that pressured the Government to produce the White Paper.

"It is Labor who agitated for community involvement in the White Paper process to ascertain what kind of Defence Force Australians want," Dr Martin said.


Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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