March 02, 2020

I intend, in my five minutes, to talk about the last part of this motion, the Integrated Investment Plan. This government likes to brag about that program, but this government is already cutting that program. This government has already cut $5.2 billion out of that program a mere three and a half years since announcing it. We've seen a $1.2 billion cut through omitted schedule delays. We've seen $566 million spent on PFAS remediation. We've seen $560 million diverted to wages blowout. We've seen $465 million diverted to an ICT blowout. We've seen $165 million diverted to compensation for Defence's response to the royal commission into child sexual abuse.

The last two of those, and the PFAS remediation, are really important topics and they deserve support, but not out of Defence's capital budget. The government can't talk about this spend in the Integrated Investment Plan if it's then going to use it as a honeypot to spend on other things. The government have made a commitment to the country that they will be spending this money on defence capital acquisition, but they've already breached this commitment. This is made much worse by their mismanagement of the projects. This government likes to brag about how much money it's spending in defence capital acquisition, but it is wasting so much of it. They cannot manage defence procurement.

They have an awful track record. Their last government, under Prime Minister Howard, mismanaged the Seasprite helicopter project so badly that it had to be cancelled. We spent $1.5 billion on a helicopter and missiles that weren't delivered. Sadly, it has got worse under this particular iteration of the coalition government. They have 36 major defence projects that are running cumulatively 74 years late. 74 years worth of delay across 36 major projects. That is an average of over two years of delay to each of these projects. That means that the Australian Defence Force is not getting the equipment they need when they need it, because of this government's mismanagement. This means that the ADF is making do with outdated equipment because this government can't manage defence acquisition. It's not just the ADF that suffers; it's Australian taxpayers that suffer, because these 36 major projects also have a cumulative $10.3 billion worth of budget blowout. 74 years of delay and $10.3 billion of budget blowout.

There's a simple reason for this: the revolving door of Defence Ministers. Sadly, this government has been in power for a bit over six years and they've had five different Defence Ministers. Seriously, goldfish have an average life expectancy greater than Defence Ministers in this government. On average, about one Defence Minister every 14 months. The latest one is a doozy. This Defence Minister, Senator Reynolds, had a total ministerial career of five weeks before being appointed Defence Minister. Five weeks! I'm sure it was a very fruitful five weeks, where she really got to grips with the challenging role of a minister. That's not discounting her role and contribution in other roles, but quite frankly you do need to actually have some experience as a minister, and in particular a cabinet minister, before you take on such an important portfolio as Defence. Five weeks as a minister before becoming Defence Minister!

What we have seen is a complete step back from this government in terms of oversight of Defence. They've had three ministerial projects of concern summits in six and a half years. They've watered down the projects of concern process, which is a key oversight mechanism for making sure that projects are delivered on time and on budget.

We have seen that. There have been 36 major projects delayed 74 years. There is a 37 month delay in the landing helicopter dock. There are 29 months in the MRH-90, 44 months in deployable air traffic management, 42 months in Defence satellites, 40 months for special operations vehicles force the commandos, 28 months for ADF IFF and 18 months for Hercules upgrade. Only this last week we learned about a 12-month delay to JORN, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network, a key early-warning system for this country.

This government likes to brag about how much money it's allocated to Defence. They've already cut $5.2 billion from the integrated investment plan and they've already mismanaged so many projects because each of their Defence Ministers has training wheels on.

View my full speech here.