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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 13098


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (16:40): I speak in support of the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011 and the Customs Amendment (Military End-Use) Bill 2011. This comes about because of a treaty that was signed in September 2007, known as the Australia-US Treaty on Defence Trade Cooperation. I intend to deal with what the legislation has to say and then localise the issue and deal with the implications and the consequences for one particular Australian company and one particular platform, or what the Minister for Defence Materiel describes as one of Australia's war-fighting assets, the Super Hornet, 24 of which are located in my electorate of Blair at the RAAF base at Amberley.

Both of these pieces of legislation are important. The Department of Defence conducted a series of information sessions around Australia in December 2010, the first stage of stakeholder consultation. It is important that we improve our relationship and continue our cooperation with the US. As the member for Chifley pointed out, about 50 per cent of the assets that we use in the defence of our great island continent come from the United States and, according to the Minister for Defence Materiel, we anticipate increasing that to 85 per cent in the next few years as we continue to embed ourselves in our relationship with the US. It was a Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin, in the dark days of World War II who committed Australia, without fear or favour and with true dedication, resilience and commitment, to fight alongside American troops. Since that time we have fought in wars with the United States as our allies and we continue to do so in Afghanistan.

This is an important piece of legislation because it enhances the free trade cooperation between our countries and makes sure that our relationship is strengthened in certain defence contracts. As best as possible, it gets rid of bureaucracy and red tape and reduces delays. It removes the need for export licences within an approved community—which includes government defence organisations, the Department of Defence and private companies—of government facilities and private companies both in Australia and the United States, and that is important. We are committed as a matter of priority to all steps necessary in relation to this ratification. We think it is important. In fact, I notice that the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade released a joint media statement welcoming the treaty.

It was also discussed as recently as 2010 at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, known as AUSMIN, and was mentioned in the 2010 joint communique of AUSMIN. So it is an important treaty and it has a long history, as previous speakers have said, going back four years, and creating a framework or an apparatus for a two-way trade cooperation between the United States and Australia between what are described as trusted communities without the need for export licences.

In March 2008 the implementing arrangement of the treaty was signed and tabled in parliament for consideration. It was looked at by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, and in September 2008 the committee recommended that the Australian government implement the treaty in domestic law. We are following that and I am pleased that the coalition is supporting it. In September last year the US Senate recommended the ratification of the treaty, and this was followed by the passage of the treaty through the US Congress on 28 September 2010.

As I said, what are described as the approved committees will consist of government agencies, companies approved as community members and their eligible employees. There is an opportunity for the community to opt in. I do not imagine that too many companies will opt out, particularly in view of the fact that this is an arrangement whereby they no longer have to apply for a licence to trade in certain defence related articles and technology to the United States. I cannot imagine that too many companies will want to opt out of that type of arrangement. There are, by virtue of the Defence Trade Controls Bill, some additional controls over defence related goods, technology and services, and this will implement our commitments as a member of the multilateral export control regime.

The second piece of legislation amends the Customs Act to include a power whereby the Minister for Defence can issue a notice to prohibit the export of specified non-regulatory goods to a particular place or person if that minister suspects the goods may be used for a military end use that would prejudice our national security, our defence or international relations. So that is a good piece of legislation as well. There are a number of issues that were raised during the stakeholder consultation, and the bill and the explanatory memorandum make that point. The consultation was led by Mr Ken Peacock AM, an experienced former CEO of a major defence company, as the minister said in his second reading speech.

This legislation is particularly important for my electorate of Blair, and particularly for companies that operate across major capital cities and provincial cities. I am privileged to have RAAF Base Amberley in my electorate. It is geographically right in the middle of the city of Ipswich, of which I represent about 70 per cent. All through my childhood growing up in Ipswich I lived next door to RAAF personnel, and there are literally thousands of people living in the Ipswich and West Moreton communities who were former members of the RAAF base and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley is also the location for a number of defence companies who have established themselves there to support the base. The base is not just a RAAF base these days, though it continues to be called RAAF Base Amberley. The 21st Construction Squadron is also there, as are the 9 FSB armed units of the Army, who played a role in Afghanistan as recently as this year and who continue to play a role in supporting our defence forces over there.

The RAAF base at Amberley was the home of the F111. The F111 was an aircraft beloved by the people not just of Australia but also of Ipswich. The dump and burn was a particular favourite in South-East Queensland. The iconic F111 was a familiar sight around the region. We relied on our international relations, with Defence contracting with American companies to provision it. It was an American aircraft originally; we came to love it in Australia and for 40 years it was on our skyline. I am pleased to say that we will have two retired F111 jets on display as part of the aircraft museum at RAAF Base Amberley.

The Australian Defence Force is of course a vital part of the Ipswich and Somerset communities which I represent and creates additional jobs on the base. The F111s have now been replaced, mothballed after 40 years of fine service. They were affectionately known as the flying pigs in the area, and people in the local area wore baseball caps to support them. We named our football teams and other sporting teams after them; we call our Rugby League team the Ipswich Jets and our basketball team the Ipswich Force. It was an indication of the extent to which the RAAF base is loved.

RAAF Base Amberley is now the home of 24 Super Hornets. The Super Hornets were built by Boeing at its production line in St Louis in Missouri. They were first flown by the US Navy in 2001. The Super Hornets give the Royal Australian Air Force the capability to conduct air-to-air combat, to strike targets on land and at sea and also to suppress enemy air defences and conduct reconnaissance. That is a point that was made by the Minister for Defence Materiel in a press release he issued jointly with me in July 2011 when we welcomed a fourth batch of the Super Hornets. The interesting thing about the Super Hornets is that there is the creation of 74 jobs at the RAAF base at Amberley for three years as a result of the sustainment contract with the Boeing company. Companies like Thales, Raytheon and Boeing are well known to members of this place in circumstances where there are Defence installations in their communities. The sustainment contract has been vital to the RAAF's fleet of Super Hornets and has been particularly important for the creation of jobs. At the RAAF base at Amberley we have an aerospace industry that is thriving and the base has grown magnificently and massively, to be honest with you, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have committed $2.5 billion for the entire fleet of Super Hornets, with 24 at the RAAF base at Amberley. We have committed $110.1 million for facilities to support the Super Hornet fleet and $331.5 million for the redevelopment works at RAAF base at Amberley in the last year or so. That is an indication of the tremendous commitment of this federal Labor government to the RAAF base at Amberley. These important platforms or assets like the Super Hornets will protect our air lines but will also enhance the economic development of South-East Queensland. It is commonly said that the RAAF base at Amberley brings in about $1 billion a year to the economy in the western corridor between Brisbane and Ipswich, and I can believe that, with thousands of personnel working on the RAAF base at Amberley.

In relation to the Super Hornets, it is important to note that the spare parts and other equipment necessary to keep these wonderful jets in the air come from the United States. The treaty that is the subject of the legislation here has the potential to make it easier for Boeing Defence Australia to get access to these materials, which are important for jobs and for timeliness in maintaining the capacity of the jets to be in the air. It will save the company time and money. The Super Hornets were delivered on time and on budget by this federal Labor government.

I have made the point that the Super Hornet sustainment contract is worth about $20 million per year and creates about 74 jobs at the RAAF base at Amberley. I said that I wanted to talk about the local aspects, and that is a perfect example of why this legislation is important in my community and in South-East Queensland. I dare say there are other members who could stand in this place and say similar things about how important this particular legislation is for particular assets which we have got from the United States and which are maintained by Australian companies or subsidiaries of United States companies. It is that localism and that financial impact in my community which brings me to the conclusion that this legislation is good not just for our nation but for the local community of the Ipswich and West Moreton area, and I support it.