Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:10): I want to make a few remarks on this report and note with interest the words of the chairman of the committee. I particularly liked his comment about the number of bureaucrats growing like Topsy and I hope that he will have a bit of a chat to Senator Furner about the expansion of the bureaucracy. I know that Senator Humphries, who is the coalition's spokesman on the Defence Materiel Organisation, will want to contribute to this debate but unfortunately he is in a committee hearing at the moment and so he will do that at another time this week when this matter is called on again.

I simply say that Labor's mismanagement of defence procurement mirrors their mismanagement of the green loans, the pink batts, the mining tax and the carbon tax. Everything that the Labor Party touch seems to turn to lead. As Tony Abbott often famously says, it is the Midas touch in reverse. The same applies in the defence area. Do you know, Mr Acting Deputy President Ludlam, that more than half of our armoured personnel vehicles are now in mothballscannot be used, no petrol or other fuel for thembecause of the Labor government's mismanagement of the financing The Labor government have asked Defence to bear a cut of $5.2 billion and, accordingly, Defence cannot do the things that Defence should be doing. A great percentage of our Abrams tanks are now also in mothballs. They cannot be used because there is no money for fuel, there is no money for ammunition and there is no money for training.

I have raised a number of times how there is a shortage even of blank ammunitionnot live ammunition but blank ammunitionfor training. Take the 51st Far North Queensland Regiment, which does the surveillance work up around Cape York and the Torres Strait into the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is then taken over by NORFORCE going around to the Northern Territory and the Pilbara region and the north-west of Western Australia. Their training days are being cut back because there is no money. If you are asked to prop up this government's illusionary wafer thin $1.5 billion surplus that even they have now stopped talking aboutbut they pretended at the last budget that there would be some sort of a surplusyou know where it has come from: the $5.2 billion that Defence is being asked to give up to provide the $1.5 billion surplus that Mr Swan talks about. So whilst this report on the DMO is very interesting and I congratulate the chairman on a rather refreshing commentary on the report and on the evidence, and on some of the administration of procurement in Australia, it will be interesting to see just how this report from the committee is dealt with.

The fleet auxiliary vessel HMAS Choules was purchased by the Labor government with great fanfare. All of their other supply ships had broken down because of mismanagement, lack of maintenance, lack of money and lack of planning under the Labor Party's watch, so they got HMAS ChoulesHMS Largs Bay, it was called at the timebrought it to Australia and changed the name, but the ship broke down. It is now out of operation for what is it: three, four or five months We paid $100 million for it. The Minister for Defence thought he was getting a real bargain. I happened to be over in the United Kingdom at the time when the announcement was made, and you could see the smirks behind the hands$100 million for this ship! You can now tell why they were smirking.

You always hear the Labor Party talk about looking after the workers in Australia and helping the shipbuilding yards in Australia, but of course the landing helicopter decks are being constructed in Spain in Spanish shipyards and are coming out to Australia to have the fine bits done, if I can call them that; the top bits are supposed to be constructed in Adelaide and Melbourne. There is complete mismanagement there at the present time as well, and because of cost overruns there will be delays.

We only have to look at the Submarine Corporation and the poor old Collins class. I am toldand I had a look at it and it was explained to meit is a pretty good submarine; it is just that it has not been well managed or well maintained. I raised the question of why the submarine is sitting there, ready for maintenance, but there is no work being done on it. Without giving away too many secrets, it was indicated to me that the reason there was no work being done on it is that the clientthe Department of Defence; the Gillard governmentcould not pay for the work to start. It had to be delayed for six months until after 30 June next year so that Mr Swan could pretend that he had a surplus in his budget.

As the chairman, in his presentation of this report, has indicated, there are a lot of things that need to be looked at in relation to the subject of this committee report. I certainly look forward to reading the report in more detail, and I know that Senator Humphries will want to have some words on that. With that, I will conclude.

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