Australia — Force protection measures in Afghanistan

Stephen Smith MP, Min­is­ter for Defence:“I thank the mem­ber for his ques­tion. It is one of the government’s high­est pri­or­i­ties to ensure that we do every­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect our troops in the field in Afghanistan. This is also one of the high­est pri­or­i­ties of the Chief of the Defence Force and the ser­vice chiefs gen­er­al­ly.

The mem­ber asked me about mea­sures which are being imple­ment­ed. Mem­bers might recall that in the May bud­get of this year the gov­ern­ment announced, after a review request­ed by my pre­de­ces­sor, Min­is­ter Faulkn­er, the adop­tion of a $1.1 bil­lion pro­gram to imple­ment enhanced new force pro­tec­tion mea­sures for our troops in Afghanistan. This added to about half a bil­lion dol­lars of exist­ing mea­sures. In the bud­get this year, we saw over the finan­cial peri­od 2009-10 to 2012–13 $1.6 bil­lion of enhanced mea­sures for force pro­tec­tion. Of the 48 mea­sures announced or effect­ed in the bud­get, the depart­ment and the CDF imple­ment­ed a very tight timetable, a rig­or­ous sched­ule and a rig­or­ous sys­tem of mon­i­tor­ing to ensure that these mea­sures were intro­duced as soon as prac­ti­cal­ly possible.

There is some inter­est in the imple­men­ta­tion today because, yes­ter­day, as a result of a num­ber of media out­lets request­ing the incom­ing gov­ern­ment brief from the Depart­ment of Defence, a redact­ed version—in oth­er words, with nation­al secu­ri­ty and sen­si­tive mat­ter eliminated—was sup­plied to media out­lets which con­tains a sched­ule of the imple­men­ta­tion of these mea­sures. Of course, some time has elapsed since the pre­sen­ta­tion of the incom­ing gov­ern­ment brief. The advice I have from Defence yes­ter­day and today is that, of the 48 mea­sures that were announced effec­tive­ly in that bud­get, 36 of the 48 have either been com­plet­ed or are on track. There are 12 about which our mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram has issues of con­cern, a cou­ple of which go to tim­ing. So far as tim­ing is con­cerned, there are con­cerns about the delayed imple­men­ta­tion for addi­tion­al pro­tec­tion mea­sures for build­ings that our troops occu­py or live in and some high­ly tech­ni­cal mea­sures for the elec­tron­ic trig­ger­ing of impro­vised devices. 

Mr Speak­er, as you would expect, it would not be appro­pri­ate to deal with some areas of these mat­ters in pub­lic. That is also reflect­ed in the redact­ed nature of the deci­sion made by the free­dom of infor­ma­tion deci­sion-mak­er. All of these mat­ters par­tic­u­lar­ly go to enhanced anti-impro­vised explo­sive device measures—the road­side bombs that our troops and patrols encounter, over­head sur­veil­lance, mine clear­ance, improved hel­mets and armour, and the like. 

As I said at the out­set, the gov­ern­ment and the ser­vice have no high­er pri­or­i­ty than ensur­ing that every prac­ti­cal mea­sure we can rea­son­ably take is in place for the pro­tec­tion of our troops. The Chief of the Defence Force has con­sis­tent­ly made it clear, most recent­ly at esti­mates, and the gov­ern­ment has made it clear, that these mat­ters are under con­tin­u­al review because cir­cum­stances always change. The threat is ever there; the threat is ever present. We con­tin­ue to expe­ri­ence both dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous cir­cum­stances in Afghanistan, and the tech­niques used by Tal­iban change. So these mat­ters con­tin­ue to be under con­stant review.” 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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