Senator David Johnston

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Another capability falls victim to defence cuts

May 8, 2012

The protection of Australian troops has taken a back seat to political expediency this week with the announcement that the Defence Minister has cancelled the acquisition of self propelled howitzers.

The Land 17 project was identified in successive updates of the Defence Capability Plan and the 2009 White Paper as a capability that would enhance the combat power available to the Army as they are able to fire precision munitions at very long ranges.

Shadow Defence Minister David Johnston declared the decision to cancel the project as a short sighted one that would hamper the ability of artillery to affectively contribute to the modern battlefield.

“Our troops will continue to perform their tasks in the open without any level of protection and the self propelled howitzers would have provided the Army with a marked lift in capability with a range nearly double that of a towed gun,” Senator Johnston said.

Senator Johnston called on the Minister to reveal the operational advice he received before cancelling the project, which still cost the Government millions of dollars in the past four years looking at the competing bids for the project.

“There is no doubt that cancelling this project was 100 per cent political and nothing to do with what capabilities our troops need,” Senator Johnston said.

“Last week we were told by the Prime Minister that our strategic circumstances have changed, but Labor’s response was to cut more than $5 billion from Defence – even for Labor this is a low watermark for neglect and mismanagement.”

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