Topics: Army personnel moved from South Australia;
28 September 2023
David Bevan: Okay. We’re just joined now by Simon Birmingham. He’s the Federal Opposition Leader in the Senate, a former [finance] minister and the most senior Liberal in South Australia. Good morning, Simon Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, David and good morning to listeners.
David Bevan: Thank you for stepping out of a meeting. I think it was into the into Qatar, isn’t it? That’s going on.
Simon Birmingham: A Senate committee hearing that’s running live at present into how and why the government chose to reject more flights and more options for Australians.
David Bevan: Well, you need to get back into that quickly. But what do you think when you hear the news that the army under the direction of the government is going to shift 800 personnel out of Adelaide and there’s a promise that by 2027 will be back to the same numbers.
Simon Birmingham: Well, David, understandably, from a South Australian perspective it’s a point of concern. But I think South Australians are mature enough to know there is a much bigger interest and a national interest at play in terms of defence strategy and that we need to make sure our defence resources are deployed to do the job that they are there to do. But there are a couple of issues – that I in the seconds that I heard before – sounds like you’re seeking to unpack. One is understanding in terms of the rationale for this decision because these troops were based in Adelaide and actually some of them moved from northern Australia initially on the argument that they were going to be able to train more frequently, more routinely and therefore have better preparedness by being based in Adelaide rather than losing the sort of training and preparedness opportunities that the monsoon season interrupts from a northern base. So I think it’s got to be very clear from Defence as to what’s changed in that regard and how they are going to make sure they’re achieving those outcomes for our national defence to be able to have those troops back up north. I hear the suggestion that the alternative that will be based in Adelaide, providing the highly technical skilled capabilities around missiles will grow to the same numbers. If that is the case, that’s welcome. That will certainly be something we will be scrutinising through the Senate estimates process because I’m surprised in some ways to hear that the same numbers of personnel will be required as those who are leaving Adelaide and South Australians of course will be concerned that it’s not just the personnel who move and leave, but it’s families, it’s children, it’s all of those additional movements that create a loss of population in a state where under Steven Marshall would only just reverse the population decline.
Stacey Lee: Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time. We know you’ve got to get back to that Senate committee hearing, so we appreciate you stepping out for us.