17 Agustus 2010

Labor's $60bn for Military

17 Agustus 2010

3 Global Hawk maritime surveillance version have been proposed for ADF as a frontline weapon in border protection (photo : USAF)

A RE-ELECTED Gillard government would lock in multi-billion-dollar defence orders.

These would include four squadrons of about 100 Joint Strike Fighters, a fleet of 12 future-generation submarines and eight anti-submarine frigates.

The $60 billion modernisation splurge, the core elements of a white paper 2030 blueprint, was reaffirmed yesterday at the formal launch of Labor's defence policy.

The Coalition also launched its defence policy.

Apart from a $21.2 million program of health support for wounded soldiers, Labor's policy contained no new spending outside measures unveiled in the May budget.

Named the Simpson Program in honour of the legendary Gallipoli Digger who rescued the wounded from under Turkish guns, it aims to protect recuperating soldiers from financial problems and provide access to housing and specialist medical services.

Since 2001, 18 Diggers have been killed in action in Afghanistan and 145 wounded.

A re-elected Gillard government would publish a new defence white paper every five years, funding its core promises by guaranteeing 3 per cent real growth in the defence budget until 2017-18.

In its next term, it would pay a $3.2bn deposit to secure a 14-plane order of US-built F-35 JSFs, the first of 100 aircraft, whose cost has risen to more than $16bn. The first squadron is not expected to be operational until 2018.

Since coming to power, federal Labor has approved $8bn in spending on defence programs as part of the white paper blueprint.

Labor would strengthen the US alliance, the cornerstone of Australia's security arrangements. Military and strategic ties across the region would be bolstered , including stepped-up security co-operation with Japan.

Both the government and Coalition want to make greater use of defence force reserves, with Labor committed to boosting the number of females in uniform.

Other defence acquisitions under a Gillard government include new naval combat helicopters, more heavily armed patrol boats, self-propelled artillery, two C-130J Hercules transports and up to seven strategic unmanned aerial vehicles for maritime surveillance.

Defence cyber security will also be beefed up.

The Coalition says it will immediately buy three massive Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, each with a wingspan bigger than a Boeing 737, at a cost of more than $300m.

The Global Hawks will be a Coalition government's frontline weapon in border protection.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston says they will be in service by 2015-16, compared with Labor's commitment to decide by the end of the decade on its purchase. But Labor disagrees.

A spokesman for Defence Minister John Faulkner said Tony Abbott's original announcement about the the Global Hawks was that they would be acquired as soon as possible.

"But the maritime version isn't available to 2015-16, and they have had to push this back," he said.

An Abbott-led government would also establish a $4m defence industry advocate to help local military suppliers and provide free health and dental services to full-time defence personnel and their families.

(The Australian)

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