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Transcript of Robert Hill on the Defence Budget

This is a transcript of AM broadcast at 0800 AEST on local radio.

Robert Hill on Defence budget

AM - Monday, May 13, 2002 8:08

LINDA MOTTRAM: Well on the budget substance, Defence is set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars tomorrow night but the Federal Opposition claims it is a pea and thimble trick.

It says that so far the Government has allocated less than half of the five hundred million dollars earmarked in the white paper for this financial year, while also allowing the Defence Department to stash more than three hundred million dollars in the bank.

Defence Minister Robert Hill has been speaking with Matt Brown in Canberra.

ROBERT HILL: What we've done is commit extra money over ten years, substantially increased capital for the purchase of new equipment, you know upgrading the whole of the equipment base of the Defence Force. Half a billion dollars extra last year, a billion dollars extra this year.

MATT BROWN: But has that half billion dollars in the last financial year actually been allocated?

ROBERT HILL: Well it's all allocated, yes and it will all be spent. My challenge is to achieve the capital commitment we've made within the funding that's going to be available and that's going to be my challenge. There will never be money leftover.

MATT BROWN: Never money leftover and yet at a Parliamentary hearing last week we were told that Defence has more than three hundred million dollars lying around in the bank.

ROBERT HILL: Well you didn't hear it had money lying around in the bank. What you heard is, it has sufficient cash to be able to pay its commitments as they fall due which I think would be what the Auditor General would expect of us.

MATT BROWN: But last year it only needed around fifty eight million dollars for that process.

ROBERT HILL: Well maybe it didn't have sufficient cash last year to meet the commitments as they fell due. What the Secretary of the Department said last week was that it had cash that would meet a week's commitments.

MATT BROWN: But other departments, big spending departments, Family and Community Services for example only have in that order of last year's amount, around fifty million, tens of millions of dollars not hundreds of millions of dollars.

ROBERT HILL: But they have a different sort of commitment don't they? They can be much more sure in their weekly, monthly outgoings because they're paying pensions and the like.

What we have is we're making commitments on very major capital projects and the sums will vary. You don't have an even profile during the course of the year.

MATT BROWN: So the Defence isn't pulling and you aren't pulling a pea and thimble trick crying poor whilst there's money in the bank and money not being allocated the way it should be under the Defence White Paper?

ROBERT HILL: Well you seem to be suggesting that Defence is flowing in cash which would make my life a lot easier.

My challenge is to be able to achieve what we need to be able to achieve in both operations and in building our plant and equipment for the future within the funding that's available and the Opposition is having it both ways aren't they? They're saying on the one hand you've got excess cash and on the other hand they're saying you're skimping in Defence.

MATT BROWN: I guess come tomorrow night you'll feel a lot more comfortable about meeting those commitments?

ROBERT HILL: Well what we got in additional estimates was a contribution towards the increased operational tempo. What I am expecting to get in this budget is increased income to meet the same sort of thing.

Now we've got troops in Afghanistan, ships on the sea in the Northern Persian Gulf, we've still got fifteen hundred men in East Timor and so it goes on and that costs a lot of money. What I expect is the Government will enable us to be able to pay for that commitment.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Robert Hill the Defence Minister speaking to Matt Brown in Canberra.


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