Opinion Article – Aelaide Advertiser – Defence Supplement

The first priority of a national Government is the safety and security of its citizens.  In recent times we have faced complex national security challenges which remind us that Australia is not immune from emerging global threats.

This government is making significant investment in the safety and security of all Australians and central to this investment is the defence industry in South Australia.

Recently the Government announced an investment in the order of $50 billion for Australia’s Future Submarine Programme. This represents the largest Defence procurement investment in Australia’s history.

South Australia is set to benefit significantly from this investment.  There will be more jobs, more opportunities and long term certainty for South Australia.

There will be more than 500 new high-skill jobs for the life of the programme – for decades into the future – the majority based in South Australia.

In South Australia, it is likely that significant work will be undertaken during the build phase of the future submarine including combat system integration, design assurance and land based testing. There will also be opportunities arising from the support and maintenance of the submarine through its life. In dollar terms, this often accounts for two thirds of the total investment.

For South Australian defence industry, these decisions provide a clear pathway so that local involvement in this programme can be maximised.

A sustainable naval shipbuilding industry that supports shipbuilding jobs is also priority for the Government.

The recent request for tender for an Australian-made replacement for the Pacific Patrol Boats is a further significant investment in Australian defence industry worth $594 million in addition to the life sustainment and personnel costs estimated at $1.35 billion over the next 30 years.

The Government wants to maximise Australian industry opportunities where that is possible.  Local defence industry contributes significantly to Australia’s sovereignty and national security, and is a major contributor to the economy.

The way forward must balance the need to get the best equipment for our defence personnel, at the right price for the taxpayer, whilst also giving consideration to the need of Australia’s defence industry.

In the recent past, the Labor government oversaw $16 billion of defence funding cut or deferred. Poor management led to 119 defence projects being delayed, 43 projects being reduced and eight projects cancelled, risking critical capability gaps. The Australian defence industry shed more than 10 per cent of its workforce because of budget cuts and deferrals, procrastination and lack of opportunity for Australian suppliers.

South Australians should rightly be angered at Labor’s ‘valley of death’.  Through Labor’s inaction and indecision, shipbuilding jobs have been put into jeopardy and in all likelihood, this could be felt for many years to come.

Once again, it is up to a Coalition Government to fix Labor’s disaster.

A strong relationship between Defence and industry groups, which encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, is vital to breaking down any barrier to domestic or international competitiveness.

A sustainable defence industry is possible and this Government is determined to do what it can to bring that about.