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Hill must clarify the status of our future air defence.

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Robert McClelland MP Shadow Minister for Defence Federal Member for Barton

4 January 2005


In light of evidence given by Deputy Defence Secretary Shane Carmody to a Parliamentary Committee, it is now up to Senator Hill to clarify precisely what is the status of Australia’s $16 billion contract to purchase 100 Joint Strike Fighters for the frontline of our nation’s future air defence.

Speculation about the viability of the JSF project grew throughout 2005 with the Dutch military dramatically scaling down their involvement and US Air Force Chief Michael Moseley stating that they would not be looking to replace their existing F-15s on a one-to-one basis with Joint Strike Fighters.

Mr Carmody’s has stated that as a result of reduced overseas orders for the JSF the price for each aircraft may increase by millions and thus result in a substantial increase in the price per unit. According to Mr Carmody’s evidence this may necessitate Australia reducing the total number of planes we order to as few as fifty.

There is no escaping the fact that our national defence relies upon maintaining superiority over our northern land and sea approaches.

As many Defence experts have already argued, replacing our existing squadrons of FA/18s and F-111s with only fifty JSFs is not only incongruent with the Government’s own strategic planning but is plain dangerous.

The basics of any competent contractual negotiation are to identify the product being obtained, the quantity of that product, the price and the delivery date. These basics seem to have been ignored in what appears to be yet another example of Defence management incompetence.

For a Government that constantly lauds its economic and national security credentials, the Joint Strike Fighter project stands as another embarrassing case of billion dollar mismanagement.

Reports from the United States suggest that the conventional take-off model of the JSF aircraft, which we are intending to buy, may no longer be produced.

The Defence Minister should also clarify whether there will be any additional gap in our air defence capability as a result of uncertainties with the JSF project. That gap is already acknowledged to be two years as a result of the decision to decommission our F-111s before the anticipated 2014 delivery date of the Joint Strike Fighters.

If the Government slashes the number of Joint Strike Fighters for the RAAF it will be the most alarming example to date of project mismanagement curtailing vital Defence capability.

Further information:

Tom Cameron 0417 147 932