A federal parliamentary inquiry has been set up to look at whether to deliver what one Government senator is calling “the holy grail” of Defence policy.
Liberal senator Linda Reynolds will chair the inquiry into the risks and benefits of a long-term, bipartisan agreement on funding and planning for Defence projects.
She said it would give much-needed certainty to Defence.
“That is something that Defence have never had because they’re always just looking over the next year or two to the next federal election, with some degree of dread, and thinking well, what are we going to be told to do next,” Senator Reynolds told AM.
“This certainty, I’d call it the holy grail that Defence has been looking for, for 116 years.”
There is generally bipartisan support in Australia for Defence deployments, but Senator Reynolds said that does not always extend to budgets, the strategic instructions given to Defence, or the military hardware to be purchased and built.
“Which has caused great churn in the department, and also a great deal of wasted money and Defence has never been able to deliver, completely, any Defence white paper,” she said.
“Because it takes 10, 20, 30 years to implement these policies, they need certainty.”
The inquiry will investigate whether any such agreement could be made binding on future political leaders, and it will investigate the approach of other countries, including the United States and Denmark.
Senator Reynolds said she was not arguing against regular reviews or contestability in developing defence policy, but wanted to find ways to make the process more efficient.
“It’s not just an issue for the Department of Defence and our personnel, it is an issue also for politicians, because, inadvertently, we make worse when successive governments come in and keep changing the goal posts on the department all the time,” she said.