In news that would come as a major relief for Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. based manufacturer of fighter aircrafts, Australia's opposition coalition seems inclined toward the government's defence procurement plan to buy dozens of new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets. However, another report says, that the Opposition's commitment is not absolute. The opposition coalition Liberal National is pitted against the incumbent Labor for power in this year's Australian election. With election-day approaching both national parties have been trying to outdo each other, demonstrating their willingness to cut government spending.
The Wall Street Journal which reported the news, says Lockheed Martin Corp will be gladdened by Opposition statement as the company is already reeling under major defence budget cutbacks at home.
"We do believe that they're the best aircraft for our future," Coalition Opposition leader Tony Abbott was reported as telling the media on Monday.
"If we want to be interoperable with our best ally, obviously it's best if we're using that same aircraft."
However, the Guardian, in another report, says, that the Opposition has abandoned a long-standing promise to buy long-range unmanned surveillance drones, Global Hawk, which it once said were essential for watching over Australia's vast lands and seas.
Meanwhile, on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, the newspaper says, Abbott indicated Opposition commitment, which he, however clarified, is not absolute. The Guardian quoted him as saying; responsible oppositions should not make commitments to multibillion dollar projects without all the information.
The Journal reported that the Australian Labor government has intentions to procure up to 100 F-35s. However, it has repeatedly complained to Washington about rising costs and delivery delays.
Australia's conservative opposition, favoured to regain power in this weekend's election, won't deviate from the Labor government's plan to buy, the Journal quoted its leader as saying.
The report says, last year, the Australian government postponed some purchases of the Lockheed fighters after China's slowing economy crimped government revenue from commodity exports.
The average price of each plane has almost doubled to US$137 million since development began in 2001, the report said.
The Journal says, "Deep U.S. budget cuts have driven Lockheed to seek alternative buyers for the new jets overseas, but it has faced setbacks."
The main focus of Australia's election campaign has been on the failing economy, an unpopular carbon tax and the rising tide of asylum seekers.
Meanwhile, Guardian said in its report that the Coalition government, if it comes to power, has promised not to make further cuts to the defence budget which Abbott said had fallen under the Labor government to 1.59% of gross domestic product (GDP). It is the lowest level since 1938. Abbott assured that within a decade, defence spending under a Coalition government would be 2% of GDP. That should come as relief for world's defence manufacturers.
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