QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE -- Defence Personnel


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:35): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence Science and PersonnelI think, today, that is Senator Evans. Can the minister confirm reports today that the government is planning on cutting essential funding to 9,000 young Australians who are members of the Royal Australian Navy Cadets and Royal Australian Air Force Cadets

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:35): I thank Senator Macdonald for his question. Like all areas of government, the Australian Defence Force Cadets organisation is working hard and is providing world standard youth programs, though we are always focused on making sure that the programs are affordable. I know Senator Feeney is providing strong leadership in this regard and has spoken to me a great deal about the cadet program and his support for it is.

The program has been expanding, with newly formed units across the country. Recent data shows that the Australian Defence Force Cadets have increased across the three services by over 1,000 cadets. However, funding within the Australian Defence Force cadets has been prioritised to ensure that the three services can still deliver a world standard youth development program. Claims that the Australian Army Cadets supervision has been cut by 30 per cent are untrue. Claims that Navy and Air Force cadet units will be amalgamated and may be closed down in a sweeping or widespread manner as a result of budget cuts are untrue. Experience has shown that, from time to time, cadet units close as a result of a lack of cadet volunteers or community support, just as new cadet units emerge because of renewed interest.

I understand up to six Australian Navy cadet units may have to close due to lack of staff, cadets and community support. The claims of widespread cutbacks et cetera are not true. There have been some changes in relation to cadet instructors and the allowances paid to them in the Army. Apparently there are no changes to the allowances in Navy or Air Force, but there have been in the Army. As I say, the broad (Time expired)

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:38): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank Senator Evans for confirming that there will be no cutbacks to the cadets arrangements in Australia, which is very good news. I ask the minister again to confirm that for all those young cadets who are now worried about their futures. The minister mentioned in his answer that there was a lack of staff cadets. Minister, is the reason for the lack of staff cadets the fact that there is no money to pay them because there is a $5.2 billion cutback in Defence spending by the Labor government

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:38): I am not sure the characterisation made by the senator is what I said. I did indicate that there was strong support for the cadet programs and that some of the claims made about widespread closures are not true. I did indicate that they were impacted by broader budget decisions and I referred to the allowance changes in Army as one of those changes where, if you like, savings are made as a result of decisions taken. But, as I have indicated, the cadet program remains one that is highly valued. There has been recent growth in the system and all the major high-value activities of the three cadet organisations will continue to be conducted. As part of the general effort across government and across Defence there may well be measures that impact on cadets, but fundamentally there remains strong support for the program.

 

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (14:39): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can I ask the minister to clarify. In one breath he is saying there will be no change for cadets and they will continue on; in the next he says they will bear part of the brunt. I refer the minister to Senator Feeney's comments encouraging young people to join the cadet services, and yet here the government is in the same breath cutting funding to Defence and cutting funding to the cadets. How can these people join the cadets when the funding is being cut for the people that train them

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:40): I indicated both in the primary answer and in the secondary answer that some changes are being made but that the fundamental commitment to the program remains, that there are not going to be the large-scale closures that were reported. I indicated to you one of the things that was happening in Army relates to the allowance for instructors. The truth is there is strong support for the cadet program, both inside Defence and inside the government.

As a former air cadet myself, I hold the cadets close to my heart. I gave it away when the short haircut was not working for me socially in my mid-teens, when long hair was the fashion. So my promising career was cut short. I still have the cap, Senator. I will bring it out. But our support for the cadets remains strong and we continue to see them as an integral part of the development (Time expired)

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