INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cabinet Duped On Defence Force Options

Published: Thu 30 Aug 2001 04:46 PM
Answers to ACT questions in the House today revealed that the Minister of Defence misled Cabinet after a back-room meeting with Army personnel, ACT Defence Spokesman Owen Jennings said today.
"The Government's two most senior advisers on military issues - the Chief Of Defence Forces and the Secretary of Defence - recommended a purchase of 55 LAVIIIs with the option of 50 vehicles later, at a cost of around $337 million.
"As a result of the Minister's last-minute 'briefing' by Army officers, he decided to deliberately not tell Cabinet that the Chief of Defence Forces and the Secretary of Defence had made the recommendation.
"The current proposal is $309 million more expensive than the advisers' recommendation.
"Mr Burton bent to Army pressure, misled his colleagues and treated taxpayer money with complete disregard.
"Cabinet Ministers desperate to fund such important areas such as health and education were never properly informed that the less expensive option was put forward as the only and best proposition by their most senior advisors.
"Those Cabinet members must now be horrified to learn that an extra $309 million has gone in to an Army-lobbied initiative that did not have the full backing of the Chief Of Defence Forces and the Secretary of Defence.
"If Minister Burton has a shred of integrity, he will resign his position. He has fallen victim to a backroom plot aimed at bypassing the Chief Of Defence Staff, an Air Marshall.
"And if the Coalition Government has a shred of integrity it will require Mr Burton's resignation and hold a full enquiry into this sordid saga," Owen Jennings said.
Ends

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