Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Defence White Paper
That the Senate—
(a) notes evidence provided at Senate Estimates on 28 May 2012 by the Secretary of the Department of Defence (Mr Lewis), regarding the 2013 Defence White Paper process not including a community consultation process, but instead engaging peak organisations, industry groups and think tanks; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) detail which peak organisations, industry groups and think tanks will be afforded the opportunity to provide input into the 2013 Defence White Paper and the criteria for their selection,
(ii) state the reasons for not incorporating a public consultation component into the development of the paper, and
(iii) advise the Senate whether the Government is interested in hearing from the Australian public on the development of the paper; and if so, how.
The coalition could not support that last motion, although it had a number of matters which we could support. The reasons are as follows. The 2009 white paper was an extremely exhausting process, with 30 public meetings across all states and territories of Australia, engaging more than 600 people personally and by way of submissions. The 2009 white paper has had the shortest shelf life in Australia's history. The 2013 white paper, as brought forward by this minister, is simply window-dressing to show the government is interested when in fact the only real interest in defence and the Defence portfolio this government has is to treat it like an ATM to extract money to appease its financial woes.
I thank the chamber for leave to make a few brief comments, as this was my motion. I invite Senator Johnston to come back if there are some elements of this motion that he could have agreed to. What motion 904 sought to do was re-introduce some context of public consultation to the white paper process. The 2009 white paper was flawed, and it is not only the Australian Greens but also people right through the defence community who are saying that. They believe that the 2009 white paper was unfocused, overly ambitious and focused on exotic hardware at the expense of sustainment and the troops that we put into the field. But, at least, for all its failings it attempted to get a view of the Australian people on defence spending, on strategy and on what we think the security challenges of this century are.
The coalition has just voted against a motion—as has the government—which was asking how the Australian public can get involved. I think we are going to need to revisit this issue and make sure the views of the Australian people are heard.