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Australian White Paper on Defence released today

RELEASE OF THE DEFENCE WHITE PAPER

See below for statements by the Prime Minister John Howard and Defence Minister John Moore.

Prime Minister John Howard's Statement

This Defence White Paper, "Defence 2000 - Our Future Defence Force", represents the most comprehensive reappraisal of Australian defence capability for decades.

It recognises that Australia's most basic strategic premise and a fundamental responsibility of government is the defence of Australia by Australians. It also recognises that the ADF has in recent years faced new and increasing demands for operations such as humanitarian relief, evacuations, peacekeeping and peace-enforcement and that this trend is likely to continue.

The White Paper announces major increases, over a long time scale, in defence spending. And it complements the Government's strategic view of the circumstances in which Australia is now placed in our region and beyond. To meet those demands, this White Paper contains more than just a vague wish list - it provides a definite program for capability development through the Defence Capability Plan.

As a result of its decisions, the ADF will be a more effective, better trained and equipped force, available for a range of operations at short notice, and one that can be sustained on deployment over extended periods. It also provides for investment in longer-term capabilities that serve as an insurance against future challenges and uncertainties.

This White Paper demonstrates the Government commitment to the men and women serving in the ADF and our intention to support them as fully as possible in their endeavours. We have outlined a major new and expanded role for the Reserve and the Paper also contains provision for enhanced support of the Australian Services Cadet Scheme.

Perhaps most importantly, today's White Paper adds another major element to the Government's wider vision for Australia. Our defence policy is not just about the nuts and bolts of our armed forces - important though they are. Working together with our foreign, trade, economic and social policies, our defence policy will help Australia continue to develop as a country which is confident and self-reliant and engaged within the region as a cooperative, respected and influential partner.

Statement by Defence Minister, John Moore

The Federal Government today released its Defence White Paper, entitled Defence 2000: Our Future Defence Force. It is a blueprint for the future security of Australia and a stronger, more capable Defence Force.

"The White Paper provides long-term direction and support to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), as well as unprecedented commitment to the future security of our nation, our citizens and our interests," Mr Moore said.

"It reflects the Government's response to Australia's changing strategic circumstances. There is provision for an increase in the number of permanent Army infantry battalions, improved sustainability and we have brought forward the acquisition of armed reconnaissance helicopters.

"One of the key planks of the White Paper is an increase in Defence funding of an average 3 percent per annum in real terms over the coming decade, with an immediate increase of $500 million in 2001-02, and $1,000 million in the following year.

In all, Defence spending over the decade is expected to increase by a total of $23.5 billion in real terms.

"This is the biggest funding increase for Defence in 20 years. In return, the Defence Department and the ADF will be expected to continue the reform program begun two years ago, and to make further gains in efficiency and in financial management.

"The release of the White Paper follows an extensive review of our defence and security policies that incorporated the views of the Australian public through a community consultation process," Mr Moore said.

"The White Paper reflects the strong view held by Government, Defence and the majority of Australians who participated in the review process, that the defence of Australia should remain the ADF's top priority.

"That means being able to control the approaches to Australia and engaging any adversary as far from our shores as possible. Improvements to our existing capabilities will ensure that the ADF is able to meet these requirements."

Key points of the White Paper include:

> Enhancement of Land force readiness and sustainability. Firepower, logistics and mobility will be improved. The number of battalions held at high readiness will be increased from four to six.

> Two squadrons of armed reconnaissance helicopters and an additional squadron of troop-lift helicopters will be purchased.

> The Reserves will play a more important and challenging role in direct support of our deployed forces. Given the likelihood of deployment by the ADF, the Reserves will become an increasingly important element of force sustainment and a source of additional, specialist skills.

> Maintaining Australia's air combat capability as the best in the region. We will acquire four AEW&C aircraft, with the option of three more later in the decade. The F/A-18 upgrade program will continue. The Government has made provision for the acquisition of up to 100 new aircraft to replace the Hornets and possibly the F-111.

> Enhancement of Australia's strike capability with improvements to the F-111 electronic warfare self-protection system.

> Strengthening of maritime forces. All six Collins Class submarines will be brought to a higher level of capability. A new class of at least three air-warfare destroyers will replace the FFGs.

> Maintaining our commitment to the knowledge edge, the recruiting and retention of skilled personnel.

> Retaining Australia's alliance architecture with the US as a key strategic asset.

"One of the key differences between this White Paper and its predecessors is the fact that the Federal Government's long-term funding commitment is specifically tied to a Defence Capability Plan," Mr Moore said.

"The Defence Capability Plan, as set out in the White Paper, addresses shortcomings in some ADF capabilities. This will enable Defence to maintain a balanced force, ready to deploy at short notice and able to present the Government with a wider range of options.

"The men and women of Defence will have the resources they need to do the job being asked of them by Government," said Mr Moore.

The Capability Plan also will give greater predicability in acquisition, planning and contracting which will give industry a more certain basis for business planning.

"Capability enhancements also will enable us to make important contributions to the security of our region. The community clearly expects us to continue a positive engagement with the region to support our interests and to render humanitarian assistance where we can help.

"Peacekeeping roles present unique challenges to the ADF and it is likely Australia will be asked to deploy to these situations on a more regular basis. The Government and Defence will be prepared with a clear, long-term plan for how the ADF is structured, equipped and funded."

ENDS

See also www.defence.gov.au and www.australia.org.nz

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