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Australian Government welcomes report into Army

Aus Government welcomes report into Army

MEDIA RELEASE

THE HON. JOHN MOORE, MP Minister for Defence

Monday, 4 September 2000 MIN243/00

Government Welcomes Report into Army

The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today welcomed the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, From Phantom to Force: Towards a More Efficient and Effective Army.

"The Government currently is conducting a wide-ranging review of Australia's Defence policies - including public consultation - regarding the future of our Defence Force. The Committee's report is a welcome addition to that debate and consultation process," Mr Moore said.

"The Government's response to the report's recommendations will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Defence White Paper.

"Modernising the Australian Army has been a major priority since I became Minister. In the past two years, the Government has put in place policy initiatives which have revitalised the Army - increased their readiness, their ability to deploy and their combat capabilities," said Mr Moore.

The initiatives include:

* raising a second brigade to a higher readiness notice of 28 days, to increase the range of response options available to Government. The 1st Brigade, based in Darwin, was used as the basis for this increased preparedness, giving the Government the flexibility to mount the INTERFET deployment to East Timor;

* increasing the number of fully operational infantry battalions from four to six, by bringing to combat readiness an additional two, full-time Army battalion groups, raising Army's combat strength by 3,000 to 26,000 full-time personnel;

* enhancing the role of the Army Reserves by amending legislation to enable the call out of Reserves in peacetime, and providing appropriate, associated protection and incentives to both Reservists and employers;

* expanding amphibious mobility and deployability through bringing the catamaran HMAS Jervis Bay into service and fixing the LPA Amphibious Transport ships.

"Without these initiatives, Australia would have had considerable difficulty mounting and sustaining the INTERFET and UNTAET deployments to East Timor, particularly while maintaining our other commitments," Mr Moore said.

"These initiatives are in sharp contrast to the record of the previous Federal Government, which allowed Army's combat capability to run down. Two full-time infantry battalions were downgraded to Ready Reserve battalions which, remarkably, cost almost as much, yet couldn't be deployed if required."

The Minister said that the role and structure of the Australian Army would be would be further defined in the Defence White Paper, due for release before the end of the year.

As recently as last month, the Federal Government announced that the Army would acquire up to 150 additional Australian Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAV) and 51 ground surveillance radar systems, which will enhance Army's capabilities to conduct significant operations.

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