With the New Year upon us and less than five months until the next federal budget, now is the time the Gillard Government must categorically rule out any further cuts to the already plundered Defence budget.
Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Technology and Personnel, Stuart Robert, said with Defence spending as a percentage of GDP at its lowest level since 1938, now was the time for the Government to categorically rule out further cuts. ‘The Government has treated the Defence budget as its personal ATM, cutting it whenever it needed to prop up its broken promise-budget surplus or pay for its reckless spending programs in other portfolios,’ Mr Robert said.
‘I call on Prime Minister Gillard and Defence Minister Smith to make a public commitment to stop pilfering the Defence budget and restore funding in line with its election commitment, which was three per cent real growth per annum.’ Mr Robert said Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard, Treasurer Swan and a cavalcade of Defence Ministers had all committed Labor to a minimum three per cent average real growth in the Defence budget on at least 38 separate occasions.
‘Labor has not only cut the Defence budget but it has broken successive election promises to provide three per cent real growth in the Defence budget,’ Mr Robert said. ‘The reality is over the period 2008-09 to 2012-13 Labor has only managed to deliver an average increase in the Defence budget of 0.99 per cent,’ Mr Robert said. ‘This is in stark contrast to the Howard Government which over the period 2001-02 to 2007-08 provided an average per annum real increase in the Defence budget of 3.26 per cent.’
‘In all the Labor Government has cut at least $25b from the Defence budget since coming to office in 2007, that is equivalent to an entire year’s funding for our Defence Forces.’
‘This financial year alone saw $7.16b cut from the Defence budget, which included the Government forcing Defence to absorb $1.66b in project costs associated with the acquisition of Bushmaster vehicles and E/A-18G Growler conversions for our Super Hornets.’
‘Labor’s Defence budget cuts are having a very real impact on our Defence capability and on the employment conditions and morale of our military personnel.’ ‘Only the Coalition understands the importance of maintaining a Defence Force capable of responding to a range of contingencies and only the Coalition is committed to properly resourcing Defence.’