In Defence of the Defence Minister’s Hubris.

You will be forgiven for thinking that I am going to write a piece absolving David Johnston, the Defence Minister for his very poor judgment last week. Firstly in parliament saying that he would not trust the Australian Submarine Corporation to build a canoe and secondly for going to an expensive dinner in Sean’s kitchen at the Adelaide Casino and charging it to the tax payer. But you are wrong. I used liberal party tactics and said something which I didn’t mean. I sucked you in with a lie.

I am going to do no such thing, but I am going to make some carefully considered comments about manufacturing In Australia and the capabilities of Australian Industry to comply, with a tender process and being given the chance to do so.

In 2013, David Johnston stood side by side with Tony Abbott at Williamstown dockyard in Melbourne and listened whilst Abbott made the claim that the Rudd/Gillard government had taken $21 billion out of defence.

I wrote about it in detail here.

The fact check I did asked BAE if they were in trouble, and asked the Media relations department of Defence if the labor government had taken the claimed $21 billion out of defence.

The two emails replies which effectively show Abbott to be telling Lies.

This article was written about an event which occurred on 27th march 2013.

In fact and in light of other pronouncements by David Johnston after this doorstop, it is worthwhile including the email from the department of defence.

Since 2009-10, savings measures of around 9 billion have been applied to Defence as follows:

– the 2011-12 Budget included savings measures of $2.766 billion over the period 2011-12 to 2020-21, as published in table 11, page 28 of Defence’s Portfolio Budget Statements 2011-12.

– the 2011-12 Additional Estimates included additional savings measures of $0.670 billion over the period 2011-12 to, 2021-22 as published in table 12, page 21 of the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2011-12.

– the 2012-13 Budget included savings of $5.454 billion to be returned to Government over the period 2012-13 to 2015-16, as published in tables 4 and 5, page 17 of Defence’s Portfolio Budget Statements 2012-13.

Defence’s statutory documents are publicly available at http://www.defence.gov.au/budget/.

In the 2011-12 Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements, Defence’s Budget across the Forward Estimates period was $103.4 billion. In the 2012-13 Budget, the Government has budgeted $103.3 billion for Defence across the four year Forward Estimates period.

This level of funding will maintain Australia’s status in the top 15 nations in terms of world Defence expenditure, along with Canada, either 13th or 14th in that list. As a percentage of GDP, at 1.6 per cent, Australia is comparable to Canada, Italy and Germany.

On a per capita basis, Australia continues to be 2nd on the list of military expenditure within the G7 countries and China, with only the United States spending more per capita. In real dollar terms, we spend far greater than any of our regional neighbours.

As part of the 2012-13 Budget, there was also a significant reprioritisation to ensure that funding is directed to high priority areas. Some of the high priority areas targeted for additional funding includes $700 million for the Collins Class submarine sustainment and $270 million additional funding for Navy fleet sustainment.

The reprioritisation of Defence expenditure has been designed to have minimum impact on the delivery of core Defence capabilities and improve the support to critical areas.

Kindest regards,

Media Operations | Department of Defence

On 3rd May 2013 David Johnston, as shadow minister of Defence, appeared on the ABC’s Breakfast program and cited the figure that labor had taken out of the budget as $24 Billion. Later in the program retired general Jim Molan repeated the figure.

Again I wrote to the department of Defence and asked if they stood by their earlier email. Article Defence Pork pies.

Their answer was

Yes – Defence stands by the previous response provided.

In September 2013 David Johnston became the Defence minister in the Abbott government and on 26th November (in the Senate), during debate as to whether the new submarine fleet to replace the Collins class would be built in Australia at the Australian Submarine corporation in Adelaide. Johnston said the following about the Australian Submarine Corporation.

“why, I would not trust them to build a canoe”

He said in his lead up to that comment that they were $350 million over on 2 Air warfare Destroyers and that it could be more than $600 million he didn’t know, because the “data is so bad”

Lets pause and have a look at that Statement.

The Australian Submarine Corporation has a Board of Directors.

Here they are

This Board consists of Two Accountants FCA’s (One with an MBA who is chairman), a Lawyer, a chemical Engineer, A Bachelor of Science, Another lawyer and failed politician, a banker and an Electrical Engineer. One of these others also has an MBA.

Most of them have numerous degrees. In all sorts of subjects. The Chair and one director are Fellows of the Chartered Accountants institute of Australia. Two MBA’s sit on the Board. An MBA stands for Master of Business Administration.

So taken in this context, David Johnston’s remarks are very bad indeed. How can two senior chartered accountants and 2 lawyers combined with the expertise of two Masters of Business Administration recipients allow overruns of $600 millions of taxpayer dollars?

But Johnston’s interest with the Defence industry gets even more interesting. It appears he likes fine dining as well.

On 5th November 2014 he and what appear to be two others attended Sean’s kitchen at the Adelaide casino and dined exclusively at the expense of the taxpayer.

Looking at the menu of Sean’s we are delighted with a gourmand’s delight.

The Motto of the kitchen is “Food for the Soul” It has a nice menu.

The three dined well and imbibed in the best wines.

Let me take you through the afternoon until the bill was paid at 6. 49pm Adelaide time

Firstly they started off with 2 litres of Sparkling water at $9.50 per litre.

Then went onto 2 Soda lime and bitters at $4.00 each followed by 2 martinis at $20 each.

Emboldened by the Water, Soda lime and bitters and the Martinis they imbibed in two bottles of SHZ which we presume to be Shiraz at $143 per bottle. As well as a bottle of Pedro Ximinez (presumably a fortified wine for after the meal) at $45.

Starter’s were a fish, 1 Lobster roll at $20 and two Sashimi’s at $22 each

Then came the mains, one eye fillet at $30 and one T bone at $98 which according to the menu weighs 1.2KGs before cooking (but is suitable to share).

Suitable vegetables were added on. 2 Chips (fried in duck fat) at $10 each, 1 ‘Grandma’s’ asparagus at $8 and 1 carrots hollandaise at $8.

Writing this is making me fell very full. As my wife would say “Enough to make a cat sick”. The amount of fluid consumed and the richness of the food and portion size is staggering. Yet there is more.

The trenchermen decided to have a little sweet to cleanse the palate at the end of a sumptuous lunch and ordered 1 Lemon meringue, I apple pie and 1 ice cream sandwich. Each for $12.

So the total Bill came to $662 made up of $264 for food and $398 for drinks.

Apparently this is about 10% of largess that was had by members of the Defence Ministers office and which was leaked.

Naturally the witch hunt is on for the disloyal people who happened to leak such damming information. How dare they tell of the largesse and arrogance of the trenchermen of the Defence Department.

Whilst there is a cut to the real wages of the Defence department because of miserly 1.5% pay rise and reduction in leave (since reversed), we see the minister out dining and drinking at the Adelaide casino on the public purse.

When questioned about it in the Senate, he said that the expenses were within guidelines.

He also said that the Labor government had Taken $16 billion out of defence as part of his answer.

In conclusion, I have to say this. The Chairman of the Australian Submarine Corporation is also a Board member of corporation which owns the Adelaide Casino.

If over $600 millions have been spent in over runs as the minister stated in parliament then why is the board of the ASC not sacked?

The Single Aged pension is $776 per fortnight and for each person in a Pensioner couple is $585 per fortnight each.

The Liberal’s want the pensioners indexation to be lowered to the minimum measure. Effectively giving them a reduced pension over time.

YET here is a fat cat minister with a Fat cat Board of the Australian Submarine Corporation who he says haven’t got the data to substantiate an overrun on a contract of between $350 and $600 millions and he goes out and spends up big on a fat cat lunch at the Adelaide casino. And them with all the Accountancy, law and Engineering degrees by the mile.

Coupled with this and the lies about How much money the labor Government took out of defence, $21 Billion then $24 billion and then last week in the Senate, $16 billion. They can’t even get that lie right.

Tender processes are meant to inform the people who tender for equipment what the requirements of the job are. Why then are the Australian government refusing to put billions of dollars of equipment purchase out to open tender? Surely the tender documents would contain clauses for non performance and maybe even penalties for Late or shoddy work. They are specific list of requirements for the job. To refuse to have an open tender games the process. There must be another Agenda.

Where are the morals of these people? Where is their restraint? In truth they are sad distrustful rorters, The Leaners of the liberal party with the arrogant chip on their shoulder. Australia deserves better.

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