Labor’s Plan for Defence
(Source: Australian Labor Party; issued Sept. 20, 2004)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The text below consists of selected excerpts from the ALP’s defense plan. The full text is available on the ALP website,


The primary responsibility for any Australian government is to secure, protect and defend its people, territory and national interests.

The foundation of Labor's defence policy is the principle of Australian self-reliance. Labor believes that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) must be able to defend Australia without relying on the combat forces of other nations. Self-reliance fundamentally reflects Australia's sense of itself as an independent nation.

Defence policy is a core component of Australia's national security strategy. In an interdependent world, national security cannot be achieved without effective international relationships — bilateral, regional and multilateral.

Labor's approach is based on three pillars:
--Australia's membership of the United Nations.
--Australia's alliance with the United States.
--Comprehensive engagement with Asia.


Labor believes that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile delivery systems is a serious threat to international security. Effective efforts to combat these developments require sustained multilateral cooperation and diplomacy.

As a unilateral response to the problem of ballistic missile proliferation, national missile defence is disproportionate, technically questionable, costly and likely to be counterproductive. National missile defence has the potential to undermine non-proliferation and accelerate the development of missile capabilities that could threaten Australia's national security.

The Howard Government's poorly-communicated decision to commit to Australian participation in the US missile defence program has already generated severe disquiet in the region, which could undermine Australia's capacity to contribute to regional activities in the war against terror.

A Federal Labor Government will ensure that all efforts are made to protect ADF personnel deployed on operations.

The Defence Capability Plan includes the acquisition of three air warfare destroyers to provide a maritime in-theatre missile defensive capability by 2013.

Labor strongly endorses the need for this capability, which will provide in-theatre missile defence for convoy operations, littoral operations and complement anti-missile defences for deployed forces and key strategic assets.


The Howard Government has politicised and compromised the integrity of the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) through its interference in the strategic basis for the Plan. Decisions have been made to satisfy the Government's short-term political objectives rather than Australia's long-term strategic priorities and capability needs.

Defence Update 2003 — which was supposed to underpin a revised DCP in light of changes in Australia's strategic environment since the 2000 White Paper — was nothing more than a lightweight news summary. Rather than provide a clear statement of Australia's changed circumstances and capability requirements, the Defence Update merely attempted to justify the Howard Government's decision to participate in the United States led war in Iraq.

As a product of the flawed Defence Update, the current DCP lacks credibility, transparency and strategic direction. Although the new Plan is quite different from the 2001 DCP, the Howard Government has done nothing to fix the problems which led the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to describe the earlier Plan as '"undeliverable, unaffordable and uncertain".

The ADF is now suffering because of the Howard Government's failure to effectively manage the DCP. For instance:

--Not one of the top 20 equipment projects that were planned when the Howard Government came to office has been delivered. Four projects have been cancelled, and each of the rest is an average of six years late and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.

--34 projects that were in the 2001 DCP have been abandoned.

--The budget for the 65 equipment projects carried forward into the 2004 DCP has increased by 20 per cent, and these projects are now running an average of between nine and 15 months late.

--In the 2004 budget, it was announced that $884 million worth of planned new equipment projects had been delayed to 2008-09 and beyond. This now means that a total of $2.2 billion worth of equipment projects promised by the Government in the 2000 White Paper has not been delivered.

Howard Government mismanagement has resulted in important capabilities being delayed or abandoned. As part of the review process which culminated in the current DCP, the Government announced that it would send the F-111s into early retirement in 2010, decommission two warships, and mothball two of the new mine hunters, all of which are needed in the war on terrorism.

A Federal Labor Government will review the Defence Capability Plan to ensure that military acquisitions over the next decade deliver the necessary capabilities for our Land, Sea, Air and Special Forces.

The early retirement of the F-111s in 2010, coupled with the likely delay in the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter until after 2012, will produce an air combat capability gap. Labor is seriously concerned by this prospect because any gap in air combat capability destroys the basis of Australia's self-reliant defence strategy.

A Federal Labor Government will ensure that there is no air combat capability gap.

Without superior combat aircraft in the ADF's inventory, Australia's ability to control the air and sea approaches to our nation and implement a maritime strategy is greatly limited. In these circumstances, Australia's capacity to contribute to future coalition operations is also limited.

Labor supports the acquisition of an amphibious capability for operations in our neighbourhood. The Howard Government has failed to justify its proposal to acquire two very large 26,000 tonne amphibious ships. Two ships are too few to guarantee that the ADF is capable of undertaking the 2000 Defence White Paper's requirement of two simultaneous operations in different locations. More than two amphibious platforms are required.

Labor is committed to a more robust amphibious capability and will review the Howard Government's current flawed proposal.


The Howard Government has wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars through its gross mismanagement of defence procurement.

Despite eight and a half years of reviews and reform programs, four Ministers and unprecedented staff turnover within the Defence Department, delays and budget blow-outs are still accepted by the Howard Government as the norm rather than the exception.

The constant cycle of delays and mismanagement means that the ADF is not receiving the new equipment that it needs. As the Government's own review of defence procurement concluded in 2003:

"…continuing delays in the delivery of major defence equipment mean that the ADF has failed to receive the capabilities it expects, according to the schedule required by the Government."

The worst examples of the Howard Government's procurement bungling include:

--Its decision to buy eleven 40-year old Seasprite helicopters that were used in the Vietnam War at a cost of $1 billion — double the original price-tag. The delivery of these aircraft is three and a half years late.

--The $1.4 billion upgrade of the Navy's six guided missile frigates is running two years late. Despite this, the Government still agreed to pay the contractor a bonus of up to $14 million so long as the project was delivered 'only' two years late.

--Its decision to pay $161 million extra for the Bushmaster infantry mobility vehicle project, even though the ADF will now only get 299 vehicles instead of the planned 360. This project is also four years late.

Absurdly, for the latter two projects, the Howard Government renegotiated the contracts to allow for the massive delays rather than penalise the contractors for failing to deliver.

Labor believes that an effective and efficient system for evaluating, acquiring and maintaining defence equipment is central to the effectiveness of the ADF, and ultimately to Australia's national security.

Fundamental change is needed to overcome the shambles that defence procurement has become under the Howard Government. The efficient and timely delivery of new equipment is more important than ever at a time of increased demands on Australia's defence resources.

A Labor Government will appoint a Minister for Defence Procurement to be responsible for the delivery of major equipment projects on time and on budget.

The Minister for Defence Procurement will set the strategic direction for the defence purchasing agency, the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO); approve the organisation's annual budget; and oversee the production of an annual business plan.

In contrast to the Howard Government, Labor will enforce penalty provisions in defence contracts when agreed delivery deadlines and budget milestones are not met. This is standard commercial practice in the private sector, and there is no reason why Defence should manage its business any differently.

A Labor Government will penalise contractors if they fail to deliver new equipment on time and on budget.

Labor will ensure that the DMO implements fully the recommendations from the 2003 review of defence procurement. To ensure that this occurs, Labor will commission an independent evaluation of these reforms to report by the end of 2006.

Labor will also strengthen parliamentary oversight of the major defence acquisition program. Currently, regular reports on major defence projects are provided to Cabinet, but are not made public. Public release of these reports, subject to any security caveats, will help to ensure that major projects are delivered on time and on budget.

Labor will also task the Australian National Audit Office to undertake independent evaluations of major defence equipment projects on a regular basis.


The Australian defence industry plays a vital role in supporting the ADF.

A competitive Australian defence industry is a vital element of Australia's defence capability and integral to Labor's policy of defence self-reliance.

Given the amount of spending on defence, at over $16 billion each year, a vibrant defence industry creates highly-skilled jobs, generates investment and makes a major contribution to economic development and growth.

Australian industry involvement in defence acquisitions has fallen considerably over recent years, and is now at its lowest level in decades.

The Australian National Audit Office recently reported that the Defence Department is unable to monitor accurately the extent of Australian industry involvement in major and minor equipment projects.

A Federal Labor Government will ensure that as much of the defence budget as possible is spent in Australia.

As part of the selection process for defence contracts, Labor will emphasise a strong preference for Australian content and require all tenderers to develop strategies for involving Australian industry to the greatest extent possible.

To ensure that Australians receive maximum benefits from their defence spending, Labor will introduce new reporting obligations on Defence to include in its Annual Report a specific section outlining Australian involvement in major defence projects.

Labor supports the development of defence industry sectoral plans for aerospace, electronics, and land and weapons. Labor believes that the sectoral plans represent a sound strategic approach to defence industry policy that will enable Australia to sustain key industry capabilities necessary to meet our national security needs.

A Labor Government will also:

--Publish the Defence Capability Plan on a regular basis to better inform Australian industry about major acquisition projects.

--Implement new systems to provide better access for Australia's small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to information on minor capability projects.

--Formalise assessment processes in the Defence Materiel Organisation for unsolicited capability proposals that are submitted by industry.

--Review the existing arrangements for defence exports in consultation with industry to maximise opportunities for the Australian defence industry.

--Further expand and encourage the links between the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the Australian defence industry, to ensure better technology transfer to Australian industry.


Government investment in the shipbuilding sector is an industry policy priority for Labor. A dynamic naval shipbuilding, maintenance and repair industry adds to the economy's skills base, creates jobs and brings broader economic benefits.

A Federal Labor Government will maintain a competitive Australian naval shipbuilding, maintenance and repair industry. This sector is a strategic asset and a vital element of Labor's self-reliant defence policy.

It was Labor that re-introduced a naval shipbuilding capability to Australia, and Labor will continue to promote the strategic value of this industry.

A Labor Government will ensure that Australian shipyards undertake future naval ship construction, maintenance and upgrades.

Labor's commitment to Australian-built naval ships provides much-needed certainty about the future of the shipbuilding industry. This commitment will also secure the future of the naval shipbuilding workforce and ensure that the existing skills base is maintained and developed.

Labor is also committed to maintaining a viable Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), which is vital to Australia's strategic interests, given its unique role in servicing and supporting our Collins-class submarine fleet.

Labor believes that the Australian Submarine Corporation is a strategic national asset. Labor recognises that the long-term future of the ASC will not involve public ownership.

A competitive ASC ensures that the economic benefits from Australia's investment in the submarines are maintained and employment in the sector continued — it is also consistent with the strategic requirement that a strong submarine industry be maintained in Australia.

A competitive ASC will also be well-placed to compete for shipbuilding work in the Defence Capability Plan.


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