Wednesday, 13 September 2006
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Ian Campbell, the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm reports that the government has dumped a $400 million Defence contract to upgrade the FA18 Hornets with radar and electronic sensors? If this contract has been cancelled, can the minister advise when and why this decision was taken? What capability would be lost to Defence if this project were cancelled, and would it lead to a loss of air superiority in our region? Out of the total budget for the project, how much public money has already been spent? Are there any provisions for damages in the contract so that taxpayers could recover at least some of the money if the project is abandoned?
I thank Senator Hogg for a very important question about a project that is very important to the future security of Australia and our air defence capabilities. Senator Hogg would no doubt be aware that Defence is seeking to acquire joint direct attack munition guidance equipment. The focus of that is to enhance the accuracy of its inventory of iron bombs. The new equipment converts a standard iron bomb into a highly accurate guided weapon through the use of global positioning systems, generally known as GPS. The improved accuracy reduces risks of collateral damage and produces much greater effectiveness from each load of weapons on our aircraft. The improved accuracy of smart bombs’ use of global positioning systems will increase weapon effectiveness while also minimising the risk of collateral damage, as I have said. I can report that recent tests of the joint direct attack munition systems have been successful. Senator Hogg has asked in relation to the amount of money that has been spent to date. The total investment to date in specific development, integration and testing of the system for the Hornet is just under $94 million, and no decision has been made on the future of the ALR2002B program at this time.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of the minister’s response that no decision has been taken, can the minister confirm that the current provider was selected against the advice of Defence? Can the minister also indicate when the government will make a decision about whether to proceed with this important project?