Defence Minister Richard Marles says major military projects $6.5bn over budget with 97-year delay

Defence Minister Richard Marles says his portfolio has been one of the worst offenders in terms of budget blowouts as he makes huge reform promises.

Mr Marles confirmed 28 major military projects including the Hunter-class frigates are running behind schedule by a cumulative 97 years and over budget by $6.5bn.

The minister said it would be a “real challenge” to get these projects back on track and to reduce the Defence Department’s long-running strain on the federal budget.

“I think Defence has been a pretty significant offender over the last 10 years and we certainly mean to change that going forward,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

“We know that defence spending is increasing, we know it represents one of the medium- to long-term pressures on the budget – and what the long-term requires is that the quality of spending needs to be excellent.”

Mr Marles said Australia “can’t afford” to have gaps in its Defence capability, promising to improve delivery with monthly reports to be provided on each of the delayed projects.

He sought to blame the Coalition, saying the Albanese government “inherited a complete mess” from its predecessor.

Mr Marles argued the Coalition had focused on the “hoopla” of Defence announcements while allowing the delivery of projects to get out of control.

The Opposition is expected to retaliate by saying Defence spending fell to its lowest amount in GDP terms since 1938 under the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.

The Albanese government earlier this year ordered an independent review of the Defence Department which is due to provide its recommendations by March 2023.

Defence expenditure is set to increase to more than $80bn by 2032.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers last week warned Defence was one of “big five” cost blowouts facing the federal budget amid debate over whether the “stage 3” tax cuts should be pared back.

Mr Marles said on Monday that wasteful defence spending must “come to a stop” but he insisted Labor hadn’t changed its position on the tax cuts.

The stage three cuts will abolish the entire 38 per cent tax bracket from 2024, meaning anyone earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will pay only 30 cents of every dollar they earn in tax.

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