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Defence 2000 and the Defence of Australia

Defence 2000 and the Defence of Australia.

April 1, 2001 MIN 081 /01

Defence 2000 and the Defence of Australia

I am pleased today to release a discussion paper: Defence 2000 and the Defence of Australia.

This paper sets out the strategic thinking and objectives which underpin the Government’s decisions in the defence portfolio.

I also seek to explain how the Coalition approach differs from the Opposition and, more
particularly, from the approach of the Opposition Leader - as judged by Mr Beazley’s public pronouncements on defence over time.

The paper provides an overview of the recent past, the present and the possible future of our Defence Forces, and seeks to explain how the Opposition fails to provide a sound policy alternative.

The paper provides evidence that, whilst in Government, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley was prepared
to run down our land forces in order to satisfy a fixation with sea and air forces. His rationale was that Australia would be defended by simply concentrating resources, such as ships and planes, to the air-sea gap to our north.

He subscribes to the notion, as it were, of a blue water Maginot line.

Mr Beazley’s to purchase two additional submarines flows from this strategic outlook.

He enunciated this objective in the ALP 1998 election policy and more recently in an interview with
the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper on July 6, 2000.

The Government on the other hand (and most Defence commentators) holds the view that the area to our country’s north is, in defence thinking, an air-sea-land gap.

As the White Paper makes clear the defence of Australia includes working to ensure regional stability.

Our thinking is underpinned by the belief that we cannot be secure in an insecure region.

The Australian involvement in the INTERFET operation in East Timor illustrates most clearly the role our land forces may be called to play.

When Labor was last in Government two battalions were effectively removed from useful service being transformed into Ready Reserve units with no ability to be sent offshore to areas of danger such as East Timor. (see page 10)

Soldiers lacked ammunition, and equipment was so inadequate that soldiers often bought their own from private suppliers. (p. 15)

The Howard Government has redressed these failures and brought in a host of other measures aimed at
restoring the land forces to an appropriate level of preparedness.

I release this discussion paper in the interests of national debate on defence.

Whilst I know that both sides of politics share a concern for the security of our nation I do not believe that bipartisanship is an aim to be pursued in itself.

Decisions made in the area of defence have enormous consequences for our country.

The Opposition policies in this portfolio are conceived on outmoded scenarios and dated judgements.

The discussion paper is available on the internet at
we will mail you as copy if you telephone my Canberra office on 02 62777800.

For further information contact: Ross Hampton 0419 484 095


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