Half of Australian defence force's munitions of no use

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Australian Leopard AS1 tank during exercises

An audit conducted by Australia's Auditor general has found AUD $1 billion worth of munitions (bombs, explosives and ammunition) stockpiled by Australia's defence forces are unusable in their present state. Australia holds $2 billion worth of munition stock.

Of the $1 billion considered unusable, $300 million is unrepairable and needs to be disposed of. The unusable munitions are waiting to be detonated at the Woomera weapons range in remote South Australia.

The audit also found that the defence department did not have the knowledge to safely store and maintain bombs and other ammunition.

Following the report being tabled in parliament today, the government has ordered a review into the process by which munitions are purchased by the country. Speaking to a defence industry conference in Sydney, Australian defence minister, Brendan Nelson said the government would be conducting a three-month inquiry into how Australian defence forces purchase munitions and equipment.

At present defence supplies are purchased by the Defence Materials Organisation (DMO) with no firm policy or guidelines from the government.

The federal opposition has seized upon the audit saying it also mentioned that payments made to contractors prior to supply had not been adequately explained by the DMO.

Senator Mark Bishop, the Opposition defence industry spokesman said that the DMO paid more than $20 million on a $26 million contract for missiles prior to being supplied. Senator Bishop also said that the DMO "negotiated a series of benefits that never materialised".

Senator Bishop said that the DMO could not justify the payments to the auditor general. "The DMO could not provide documentation to justify these prepayments and the auditor questions the validity of the prepayments," Senator Bishop said.

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This audio file was created from the text revision dated 2006-05-21 and may not reflect subsequent text edits to this report. (audio help)