Budget + Policy

Anyone who’s spent time around politics gets to know the lightbulb moment and such was the case on August 22, 2013 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd toured the Williamstown dockyard where BAE Systems was fitting out the first of the navy’s new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships.

Ladies and gentlemen, I had to write that headline to prove a point to DMO CEO Warren King. The media does occasionally listen when the DMO does good things. After speaking at length with King about the reform journey the organisation has been on since its 2000 inception, there are a few things to keep in mind when looking at performance.

The budget honours Tony Abbott’s pre-election commitment to ensure no further cuts to Defence spending and increase over the next decade the current level of Defence spending from 1.6 per cent of GDP – the lowest level since 1938 – to two percent of GDP.

Tony Abbott has become Australia’s 28th Prime Minister, leading the Coalition back into government.

In a nutshell the Budget for Defence this year wasn’t all bad news. Unlike the disaster of last year, there were no drastic cuts and some of the gaps have been slightly filled.

Last year, all seemed lost. The hopes and promises of the 2009 Defence White Paper had been shattered by the headlong rush to deliver a fiscal surplus. Cuts and deferrals posing as savings and efficiencies had slashed funding for Defence by more than $20 billion in the three short years since 2009. Force 2030 had gone from being a tangible goal to a half forgotten fantasy.

It may appear prosaic at first sight, only New Zealand’s Defence Force budget for 2012/13 is especially subtle this year; arguably even a little deceptive.

The Government will provide $214 million for the next stage of the Future Submarine Project, announced Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare the week before the release of the budget.

2012 is the politically magical year where the government will return to surplus. Indeed the headline figure is a $1.5 billion surplus. But cuts had to come from somewhere and Defence has most definitely played its part.

Defence spending slashed by $5.5 billion … largest year-on-year cut (10 per cent) since our withdrawal from Korea in 1953 … smallest share of GDP (1.6 per cent) since the Munich Crisis of 1938. It’s all true, there’s no point pretending otherwise; Defence copped a walloping.

At Pacific 2012, Skills Australia released a Discussion Paper as the first part of their work on a Defence Industry Workforce Strategy. Now it’s time for industry to have their say.

In this overview of Defence equipment projects we have resorted to favouring those we found of interest rather than the merits of their progress through the Defence acquisition labyrinth.

Dr Wayne Mapp was NZ’s Minister of Defence for three years to 2011 when he retired from Parliament. Shortly before last November’s general election he discussed the portfolio with ADM.

Defence is understood to be seeking urgent approval for the purchase of mine detecting vehicles under JP 154 Phase 3 for use in Afghanistan to counter the threat of roadside improvised explosive device (IEDs).

Summing up to Parliament on the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011, Jason Clare said the Bill gives effect to the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty between Australia and the US.