Question Without Notice - Force Protection Measures

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28th October 2010, 09:27pm - Views: 496







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MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

STEPHEN SMITH, MP


QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE


FORCE PROTECTION MEASURES



28 OCTOBER 2010


I thank the member for his question. It is one of the government’s highest priorities to

ensure that we do everything possible to protect our troops in the field in Afghanistan. This

is also one of the highest priorities of the Chief of the Defence Force and the service chiefs

generally.

The member asked me about measures which are being implemented. Members might

recall that in the May budget of this year the government announced, after a review

requested by my predecessor, Minister Faulkner, the adoption of a $1.1 billion program to

implement enhanced new force protection measures for our troops in Afghanistan. This

added to about half a billion dollars of existing measures. In the budget this year, we saw

over the financial period 2009-10 to 2012-13 $1.6 billion of enhanced measures for force

protection. Of the 48 measures announced or effected in the budget, the department and the

CDF implemented a very tight timetable, a rigorous schedule and a rigorous system of

monitoring to ensure that these measures were introduced as soon as practically possible.

There is some interest in the implementation today because, yesterday, as a result of a

number of media outlets requesting the incoming government brief from the Department of

Defence, a redacted version—in other words, with national security and sensitive matter

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eliminated—was supplied to media outlets which contains a schedule of the

implementation of these measures. Of course, some time has elapsed since the presentation

of the incoming government brief. The advice I have from Defence yesterday and today is

that, of the 48 measures that were announced effectively in that budget, 36 of the 48 have

either been completed or are on track. There are 12 about which our monitoring program

has issues of concern, a couple of which go to timing. So far as timing is concerned, there

are concerns about the delayed implementation for additional protection measures for

buildings that our troops occupy or live in and some highly technical measures for the

electronic triggering of improvised devices.

Mr Speaker, as you would expect, it would not be appropriate to deal with some areas of

these matters in public. That is also reflected in the redacted nature of the decision made by

the freedom of information decision-maker. All of these matters particularly go to

enhanced anti-improvised explosive device measures—the roadside bombs that our troops

and patrols encounter, overhead surveillance, mine clearance, improved helmets and

armour, and the like.

As I said at the outset, the government and the service have no higher priority than ensuring

that every practical measure we can reasonably take is in place for the protection of our

troops. The Chief of the Defence Force has consistently made it clear, most recently at

estimates, and the government has made it clear, that these matters are under continual

review because circumstances always change. The threat is ever there; the threat is ever

present. We continue to experience both difficult and dangerous circumstances in

Afghanistan, and the techniques used by Taliban change. So these matters continue to be

under constant review.







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