Doorstop, Lockheed Martin, Williamtown – 16 February, 2015

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Ladies and Gentlemen it’s a great delight to be here this afternoon at Lockheed Martin, with Raydon Gates, with my Parliamentary colleague Bob Baldwin, the Member for Patterson, to officially open this new workshop. This is part of a very significant development so far as Williamtown is concerned. It’s a mark of the competence of the Australian defence industry in terms of new projects, new jobs and overtime a significant boost to the Australian economy. So it’s a great pleasure for me to be here to be able to participate in this, this afternoon. Bob.

BOB BALDWIN:

Well thank you very much for coming up Minister. This is a key and critical piece of infrastructure that supports out Williamtown RAAF Base. What’s exciting about this is the first of many companies in Williamtown; they’ve grown their workforce from eight to twenty-five they use about fifty local companies in their supply chain. And what that means is employment, high tech, high quality, high paid employment for people in our region. As I said before this has been somewhat of a dream of mine to see an aviation business park around here supporting private investment into supporting our defence needs and we’ve started to achieve that. This building and the others around here are just the start of what will be very big around Williamtown RAAF Base.

QUESTION:

Bob you’re already starting to run out of space around here, I mean it’s pretty filled out already (inaudible)

BOB BALDWIN:

Well there’s plenty more land and as I said to the former Defence Minister there’s the land that the Air force bought and the noise affected people in Steel Street, Slades Road and Moxey which is all perfect to become future land for business parks to get more people into the region. I want to see thousands of jobs employed in and around the outside of this base perimeter, that’s for local people and that’s delivering real outcomes.

QUESTION:

What sort of timeframe are you talking; you speak of thousands of jobs…

BOB BALDWIN:

Well when we started off with BAE and the Hawke Fighter, that brought with it initial stages of assembly hundreds and hundreds of jobs it tailored off now it’s in a different sector the work environment. As the JSF arrives there will be more work but can I say this to you, what we need is the symbionic effect where you’ve got one company here and another has come in as support industry and build and grow and then you start to see a massive growth in employment. The opportunities here are endless and people don’t just need to be in aviation to be here around this business park. There can be many defence and support type industries that can be supported here.

QUESTION:

Bob Lockheed Martin is the main contractor for the Joint Strike Fight, how at all does this project here fit in with the JSF?

BOB BALDWIN:

Well this project here is designed to work on the radar systems and other things as needed right but primarily the radar system. So what they will see is the highly trained, highly skilled specialists delivering outcomes and working on our national security interests. I mean with a good quality radar you see it before it comes and that’s why this is a critical piece of infrastructure.

QUESTION:

So is this RAAF Base Radar rather than JSF Radar or can you be more specific?

BOB BALDWIN:

This is RAAF Base and the example outside at the mobile field unit, one of them has already been deployed to Afghanistan for a period of time so they’re currently using all these technologies in our current RAAF System. There is opportunities to grow as we expand and go through further expansion of our military budget and acquisitions, upgrades, the opportunities are here and we as a region need to make prospective investors and employers feeling comfortable so we can altogether grow jobs in our region.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

And can I add that the Joint Strike Fighter is a great boon for this region both here at Williamtown and at Amberley outside Brisbane will be two of the key facilities in terms of the maintenance and repair. So what we’re talking about is a project that has decades of life and therefore that means decades of economic investment in these two regions. Decades of jobs into the future, not just for the Joint Strike Fighters that will be Australian owned but for those in the region as well and indeed it’s opportunities for innovation in terms of actually constructing components that will go into those aircraft not again just for Australia but for all of those aircraft right around the world. So this is an indication of the exciting future for defence industries in Australia, companies like Lockheed Martin and like others at this location are grasping those opportunities and that will be a real boon for people who live at Williamtown and in this area.

QUESTION:

Minister what about Forgacs Shipping as well, they’re in line hopefully to get some defence contracts, they’re talking about the valley of death and running out of a defence contract at the moment. Can you give them any hope?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look, the sad reality is that no ship has been commissioned for construction in an Australian shipyard for six or seven years or more. In fact the last ship that was purchased by the previous Government was purchased from overseas so because no decision has been made the reality is that the Air Warfare Destroyer Program which is regrettably running over cost and overdue but at some stage that will come to an end. Even if we were to commission another ship tomorrow that would be sometime before we could actually get around to building it. This is the regrettable situation which we as a Government inherited, we are trying through our white paper process through determining what the forced capability and structure requirements for the future are to ensure that we don’t have the situation in the future (inaudible) that the program of acquisitions, the program of (inaudible) that is actually on a continuous basis rather than the ups and downs that occurred in the past.

BOB BALDWIN:

Can I make a comment on that. I’ve met with the unions in Canberra, unions of Forgacs and other shipyards in Canberra last week and they’ve complained about the valley of death. It’s been brought on by the economic drought from this Labor Government when they pulled billions of dollars, $22 billion out of the defence budget over six years. That was money that was for future procurement which didn’t occur and as the Minister said no ship contracts have been issued under their government and yet there is a pent up need and demand and a platform requirement that is just not being met.

QUESTION:

And now you’re talking about taking the biggest contract to Japan?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well no decision has been made about the submarines. We’re going through a careful process that will be informed by the white paper which will be assessing what our strategic needs are for the next 20 years, because when you look at these major acquisitions we are talking about usually a timetable of up to a decade from the point of thinking about it to actually making decisions and starting construction, and then you’re talking about vessels, ships, submarines and the like, even aircraft these days have a life of 30 or 40 years. So as the new Defence Minister I’ll go through this process in a very careful, cautious way to ensure that we have the capability that we need in the future. We are quite committed to Australian defence industry and I think this is a great example here at Lockheed Martin where there are real opportunities for defence industries in Australia and as a government we will continue to look at how we can pursue that.

QUESTION:

Minister how insulated is your budget given the difficulties that the government has got getting the legislation for cost savings through the Parliament?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

One of the significant commitments we made was to return defence expenditure to two percent of GDP. My recollection is it’s fallen to about one point five, six or something in that regard, the lowest level of defence expenditure in Australia since 1938. Now it can’t stay at that level we are in a very expanding region so far as world trade is concerned, so far as strategic interests is concerned and therefore we made that commitment and we remain committed to pursuing that goal of two per cent of GDP and that’s what we’ll do over a series of years.

Thank you very much.