Govt on track with defence spend promise

The Australian Defence Force has been given an extra $750 million to fund military operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, but more money will likely be needed amid expectations of extended deployments.

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A total of $31.9 billion has been outlayed for Defence in the 2015-16 budget, as the government pushes towards delivering on a promise to increase expenditure in the portfolio to two per cent of GDP by 2023-24.

An analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has shown that spending in 2015-16 has already reached 1.92 per cent of GDP.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews says the 2015-16 budget delivered on the government’s pledge.

“This path for growth reverses the damage done by Labor, which ripped $16 billion from Defence, reducing spending as a percentage of GDP to the lowest level since 1938,” he said.

But with a defence white paper due in August Mark Thomson, a senior defence analyst with ASPI, told AAP the 2015-16 budget was one with few surprises.

“On the eve of a white paper, this is what you’d expect,” he said.

“Defence funding is in a holding pattern pending the outcome of the decisions we’ll find out about in August.|”

Dr Thomson confirmed the 2015-16 budget put the government on track to meet its two per cent funding commitment.

The $750 million in additional funding to extend and expand military operations comes as the ADF takes part in efforts to counter terrorism, following the rise of groups such as Islamic State.

While the money goes to the ADF, it also featured in glossy release that showed the government had earmarked a massive $35 billion in 2015-16 for defence, national security and law enforcement.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said that “overseas, our military personnel are leading the fight against terrorism”.

The $500 million in savings in border protection had helped pay for the extra money for ADF operations.

WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET FOR DEFENCE

WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET FOR DEFENCE (CORRECTED) ¶

* $31.9 billion in 2015-16, and total of $132.6 billion between 2015-16 and 2018-19. ¶

* Government on track to deliver on promise of defence spending being two per cent of GDP by 2023-24.¶

* $750 million in 2015-16 in new money to extend and expand military operations in Middle East, taking total in operations expenditure in 2015-16 to $910 million.¶