In a speech distributed by the Opposition Leader today, Kim Beazley confirmed that Labor is "keep(ing) open the option of follow-on submarine capabilities to either replace or complement the current Collins fleet".
The Opposition Leader has said that he supports the Defence White Paper, and by implication, its major capability purchases.
However Mr Beazley also said today that "keeping force structure options under review is entirely consistent with the Government's White Paper", thereby implying that this will allow him to blithely add two submarines to these purchases if he becomes Prime Minister.
This is a desperate fallacy.
The White Paper quite rightly envisages an annual review of the Capability Plan to allow Defence to consider changed strategic circumstances, technological breakthroughs and changed priorities but not wholesale changes.
As the White Paper says the whole idea of the Capability Plan is "to provide the Defence Force with clear long term goals for the development of our armed forces."(White Paper p. 77)
And, "The key to this approach is the Government's decision to provide, for the first time, defence funding commitments covering the whole of the coming decade matched to a planned set of capability enhancements." (White Paper p. 77)
It was never envisaged that this Capability Review process would be used to camouflage the repeal of the entire naval enhancement program - which would be the consequence of spending up to $1.5 billion dollars on two additional submarines.
(The White Paper identifies the entire capital expenditure for capability enhancements to maritime forces over the next ten years at $1.8 billion.)(White Paper p. 97)
Mr Beazley clearly has in mind a complete overturning of the White Paper but he is not prepared to declare his policy until after the next election.
Mr Beazley is as unable in Opposition as he was in Government to have a clear plan for Defence finances.