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Cabinet papers: Recruiting to cover the loss of defence personnel

A graduating ceremony of Army Reserve Officers at Royal Millitary Collage Duntroon in Canberra. Photo: Chris LaneThe Hawke government cut armed services personnel so deeply that it was forced to recruit 4100 men and women as “Ready Reserves”, a term, regarded with disdain by regulars, which the cabinet had engaged a firm of consultants to come up with as “an appropriate marketing name”.

In May 1991 the cabinet approved a Defence shake-up that involved axing 10,000 regulars and contracting support services out to civilian industry.

The new recruits could be drawn from either former permanent or current reserve members, of trained standard, or new enlistees who would undergo about 12 months’ full-time training. Experienced personnel could serve part-time for five years while newcomers were to be taken on for one-year full-time and four years part-time.

Defence Minister Robert Ray told the cabinet that military exercises had “confirmed the need for greater numbers of army and air force combat personnel for the conduct of protracted and widespread operations in the North”.

“The corresponding reduction in permanent force strength may draw criticism on the basis that it degrades Defence capability and the new scheme may be considered to reduce the status of the current reserves,” Senator Ray said.

“Defence commentators should welcome the scheme as responding imaginatively to strategic, societal, economic and demographic realities.”

Cabinet records release

Cabinet records for 1990 and 1991 held by the National Archives of Australia became eligible for access from January 1, 2016. Information about the cabinet records, lists of the documents and copies of key cabinet documents, including selected submissions and decisions, are available on the Archives’ website (naa.gov备案老域名). Click on the “Collection” tab, then “Popular research topics”, then “Cabinet”.

Requests for access to records not already released may be made via RecordSearch on the Archives’ website.

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